Book explores Nirvana’s music relationships

by Brent Cole

Earlier this year, the documentary “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” was released to much critical fanfare. Published at the same time, though more under the radar, was the book “I Found My Friends: An Oral History of Nirvana,” by Nick Soulsby, a writer and fan based in London.

For the book, Soulsby contacted and interviewed many of the bands Nirvana played with – from the group’s beginnings as a house show band in Aberdeen to the time of Cobain’s death – getting their stories and lending a new voice to Nirvana’s history.

“There are a lot of books out there about Nirvana – looking around my room I see 40 of them,” Nick said, from his home in London. “I wanted to tell it a different way. I didn’t want to get inside the head of Kurt Cobain. I was more intrigued what it was like to be one of the people watching them, sharing the life with them. It was what Nirvana shared with everyone rather than their uniqueness that intrigued me – making them part of a community. My second hope for the book is that maybe the guys in Nirvana might appreciate that.”

Among the bands Nirvana played with were a couple from Bellingham, most notably at the 1992 Mudhoney show in Carver Gym when Nirvana played a surprise show. Medelicious and Saucer, two of the local scene’s biggest bands at the time, got to open for Mudhoney and Nirvana, who at that time was one of – if not THE – biggest band in the world.

Henry Szankiewicz, who still lives in Bellingham, recalls the night being particularly weird. “The feeling behind the stage was actually kind of gloomy,” he said. “Low energy and lots of beer. I remember early on all the beverages were quickly consumed by the band members and hangers on. Aaron (Roeder – owner of the 3B Tavern at the time) from the Monomen drove back to the 3B and returned with a large quantity of beer. I heard that the locker rooms got pretty beat up that night.”

In the book, Scott Harbine, guitarist for Saucer, added to the story of gloom back stage. “I saw a friend named Michelle, who knew Cobain and was good friends with Steve Turner (Mudhoney’s guitarist). She told me she wanted to introduce me to Cobain and I followed her into the shower area. We overheard an argument between Cobain and Love and I saw him sitting down under a shower. Love was telling him he was a “f#$!ing baby” and he was staring down at the floor. When Courtney saw Michelle and (me), she told us to “get f#$!ing lost.” We turned around and left as she continued to yell at him… he looked pretty depressed and defeated to me.”

Szankiewicz added during our interview, “The energy there that night was so weird. Tons of people back stage and the constant echo of music in the gym. When offered I chose not to have my picture taken with them. It just kind of seemed depressing in a way. Kurt did not look happy.”

Twenty years later, Henry is quoted in the book as reflecting on the historical aspect of the night. “What stands out was that they were the biggest band in the world at the time and we were lucky to be so close on the side of the stage to take it all in. More like an event to witness than anything musical at that point… what was the most amazing was that three kids about 10 years old went up onstage and took over bass, drums and guitar. Just banging away on it. People started chanting ‘Smash it! Smash it!’”

Personally, I don’t have a story to add. I was living in Bellingham at that point, but chose not go to the show because the younger version of myself thought it was too big and that Mudhoney were “sellouts” or something ridiculous like that. A friend stopped by my apartment after the show with a huge smile on his face and let me know that none other than Nirvana played as well. I tried to play it cool, but 23 years later, I’m still bummed I didn’t go!

You can see Montage of Heck, presented by What’s Up!, at the Pickford Film Center on Oct. 9 at 9:15 p.m., Oct. 10 at 8:45 p.m. and Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Check out I Found My Friends in bookstores or online.

Published in the October 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine