Posts Tagged ‘Dave Grohl’

A few days ago, I sat through the 2-hour documentary dissection of Kurt Cobain’s life. The ex-lead singer of 90s grunge band Nirvana, rose to fame, defined a generation, then took his own life. Directed by Brett Morgen, and executive produced by Cobain’s daughter, Francis Bean, Montage of Heck, was full of surprises and not at all what I expected.

The film took a real in-depth look at Cobain’s life, using his old journals, artwork, home videos and the like to paint a very real picture of his tumultuous life. To most people, Kurt Cobain was Nirvana, they were one in the same, but Morgen did a great job of keeping this all about Cobain, while still making Nirvana and his music, footage of earlier gigs and video shoots, an important part of it.

Unlike most documentaries, there wasn’t a lot of narration, or extra information added between takes from the movie makers themselves. They interviewed his mom, dad, stepmom, ex-girlfriend, sister but very superficially. Of course ex-wife Courteny Love made an appearance; Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic offered some insight into Cobain’s mind, and even teared up during the interview. Drummer Dave Grohl was nowhere to be found. There was a lot of audio of Cobain himself talking and telling stories taken from previous interviews, and it felt like he was talking to us.

There was a lot going on at once in certain parts of the film; like sensory overload. Loud images, graphic images, noises, They showed parts of his journals growing up that he kept; words of alienation, loneliness, hate, rage flew across the screen, animated, as though Cobain himself was writing them in that moment, not 25 years ago. Violent figures, distorted drawings, popped up intermittently with no warning, and often seemingly no reason. It felt like you were inside Cobain’s troubled mind.

What was most shocking were the home movies that he and Love made. An extremely invasive insight into their most personal moments. You don’t see a musical genius on screen, but a struggling, confused, unloved kid who didn’t know how to cope with people finally paying attention to him. It was them horsing around, smoking, clearly high on something. Love was nude in more than half of it, prancing around. As a fan, it was really hard to watch. I wanted to remember him as the guy who sang “All Apologies” unplugged, not the guy whose body was deteriorating, while he and his drug-addicted wife tried to raise a newborn.

There was a lot of emphasis on how Cobain was always doing something creative. He just had to write in his journals, he just had to make music, it was the only way he knew how to feel anything. He also loved performing live, even when it sometimes made him sick. That need to express oneself isn’t lost on me, and it made me wonder about the whole idea of musical genius. Whether you like Nirvana’s music or not, you have to at least respect that Cobain’s writing was phenomenal, as dark as it may have been. He died at 27 years old.

Cobain was ignored as a child, likely suffered some sort of mental illness, was addicted to heroin, but was also a fantastic musician. I’ve always wondered if certain artists need/use that struggle to create. Like maybe if he had a happier childhood, he’d have no reason to drown himself in music. What if all his issues were actually precursors to his genius? Or those who believe in a higher power would say he died so young because he had nothing left to give. His impact on the universe was already made, and he had nothing left in him.

I don’t recommend the film for those faint of heart, because there are a lot of disturbing images; not just of him, but of things he wrote, things he drew. The lack of narration made it challenging to put the facts together, like you’re supposed to interpret everything you were seeing your own way; except there was just too much going on. As a fan, I now have a completely different idea of who Kurt Cobain was, and I’m not sure I’m okay with that. Montage of Heck is the perfect title for this film because it really was a mish-mash of Kurt Cobain’s mind, his life, and his chaos, .

Advertisements

Nirvana dropped their often overlooked debut album Bleach in 1989. 25 years later, they were inducted into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame, the first year they were eligible for the honour. Their illustrious career spanned only five years, but what they left behind was legendary.

Nirvana made their first big splash with their single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” off of their sophomore album Nevermind. Sentiments of apathy, angst, and social alienation were put in the forefront, and understood by far more than anyone imagined. Nirvana’s music was raw, painful, emotional, and most importantly, relatable. Especially amongst young people, because let’s face it, all teenagers go through a rough time. The unpopular, the uncool, the unnoticed ones, finally had a voice, and everyone had someone to turn to during darker times. Their lyrics were real, honest , and addressed actual issues. The band’s image was the epitome of minimalist: ripped jeans, t-shirts, plaid shirts, and unkempt hair. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became the anthem for the newly termed Grunge music, and Kurt Cobain was its unintentional poster boy.

Blame it on drugs, blame it on the unwanted fame, blame it on mental issues; whatever the reason, Cobain took his life in 1994, at that magical time, right before Nirvana hit their peak. It was unfathomable that someone in his position would want it all to end, and it was even more difficult to grasp that there would never be another Nirvana album. It felt like they were just getting started. Maybe that’s why their fans never really got over his suicide. Why some people continue to theorize that it was all a conspiracy, and he was in fact murdered. Other grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden also emerged around that time, but none of them were as monumental as Nirvana, and the genre which had been led to the spotlight, slowly faded away.

A large part of my high school years revolved around a music genre essentially created by Nirvana. There was never a moment when those melancholic voices, those angst-filled lyrics, and those heavy distortion sounds, were not around. Every basement birthday party was full of mosh pits and headbangers. Grunge became a culture. Everyone dressed like it, listened to it, wanted to be a part of it. Any time I hear any of their tracks, all I can think about is that particular time, those specific memories, like they became part of that life’s soundtrack. No one knew it at the time, but we were part of something big.

As teenagers, we all think we are invincible, that everything is going to last forever, that nothing is going to change. When Cobain committed suicide, we were stunned because we could not imagine the rest of our lives without them. As adults, we realize we are destructible, that nothing lasts forever, that everything is going to change. I still sometimes wonder what Nirvana could have been, if Kurt Cobain was still around. Maybe what he already gave the world was all he had in him. Maybe he had so much more.

You often hear people talk about what it was like in the 60s hippy era, the 70s funk times. I always wondered what it would be like to witness something like that, to, in a way, be a part of history. To live through the rise and fall of an entire musical movement.  Nirvana allowed me to experience that.  Now 25 years later, all I can do is wonder if my life would have been the same without that music, without that band, without Nirvana.

Hats off to Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic. This was a long time coming.

 

 

 

 

We often hear about celebrities being triple threats. Usually that entails having a music, acting and some sort of entrepreneurial career, ie perfume line, clothing line, etc. Sure these celebrities are somewhat successful in all their paths, but for the most part: actors can’t make music, musicians can’t act and neither are actually all that involved with their businesses (except to use their face to sell them.) So I’d like to turn your attention to those celebrities that truly are dangerous: musicians who lend their talent to several bands, all of which get them recognition.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Dave Grohl. He first appeared as the mad-tastic drummer for Nirvana. A 90s grunge band that defined a generation. After lead singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide, Grohl wasn’t ready to leave music just yet so he decided to make his own band: Foo Fighters. But this time, he was on guitar and song writing. In their illustrious 19-year career, they have won a whopping 11 Grammys, and have released seven studio albums.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            During his stint with Foo Fighters, Grohl took a mini-break and joined Queens of the Stone Age (QotSA) in 2002 as their drummer. He recorded their third and most successful album, Songs for the Deaf, and toured with them in support of it. In 2009, Grohl took another vacation from the Foos and joined QotSA frontman Josh Homme and ex-Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones to form Them Crooked Vultures, with Grohl back on drums. They’ve released one album to date and are currently working on their next one. So that’s four bands, playing two different instruments and even songwriting. He may not have a shoe named after him, but that’s one talented dude.

Emily Haines. Haines hails from Toronto and is best known as lead singer, guitar player and keyboardist for the uber popular indie band Metric who put out their first album in 2003. And she plays a mean tambourine. Prior to forming Metric, Haines was part of the Toronto music collaborative Broken Social Scene: a concept formed by two indie musicians who bring together the best of indie music in Toronto. The band has had as little as three members to as many as eleven. The musicians are typically part of other bands, and just lend their vocal or other music talents when they can.

After releasing two albums with Metric, Haines formed Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, a much more mellow version compared to Metric, and where she more often uses her piano skills. She released one album in 2006 which included the single “Our Hell” which is sure to give you goosebumps. In 2007, Haines got back in the studio with Metric and between then and 2012, have released three more albums, including 2009’s Fantasies, easily one of the best albums released that year. One band, a solo project, and guest starring vocals in an extensive indie music project, mostly consisting of Canadian artists. Plus the ability to play multiple instruments. Can she be any cooler?

Chris Cornell. First known as lead singer/guitarist for prominent grunge band Soundgarden. They’ve been around since the late 80s and have released six albums and won two Grammys. While Soundgarden was rising to fame in 1990, Cornell combined forces with most of the members of yet-to-be-famous Pearl Jam, to form Temple of the Dog, as a tribute to his roommate Andrew Wood, who had passed away earlier that year. They released only one self-titled album which spawned the classic track “Hunger Strike.”

In 1997, Soundgarden hit a rough patch and they broke up, so Cornell went solo. His 1999 debut release wasn’t incredibly well received, but the single “Can’t Change Me” was nominated for a Grammy. Next, he joined Rage Against the Machine’s band (minus lead singer Zack de la Rocha) and formed Audioslave. Another hard rock band who put out three albums and were nominated for three Grammys. Due to creative differences, they disbanded in 2007, and Cornell went back to his solo career, made two more albums, the more recent Scream produced by Timbaland. Again, not critically acclaimed but it was Cornell’s highest charting solo album.

Finally, in 2010, Soundgarden reunited, put out an album and are touring. Cornell writes all his lyrics, his vocal range is out of control and he has also lent his voice to several soundtracks, including my personal favourite “Sunshowers” from Great Expectations. So three bands, a solo career, writing credits and having his music in movies. Bonus: if you ever see him live, it’s like seeing four bands at once.

Anyone who wants to become a celebrity will find some way to do it. With all the mediocrity we see out there, all the reality-show-fabricated talent, all the YouTube sensations, it becomes increasingly difficult to recognize true celebrity: being famous/recognized for being amazing at what you do best. Not being average at several avenues leading to celebrity. These three musicians are a breath of fresh air, a sight for sore eyes because they are so talented and live for music so much so that they will find any way to be able to create it. And for us who long for what’s real, without all the glitz and glam, it’s a reminder that it still exists. And that’s a beautiful thing.