In 1985, in Aberdeen, Washington, Kurt Cobain headed a band named Fecal Matter. He was 18. Some of the members of that band (Dale Crover, Buzz Osborne, and Mike Dillard) were also in a fledgling group called the Melvins, a band that Cobain was known to think highly of. A year earlier he had auditioned to be the Melvins’ new lead guitarist but didn’t make the cut. Instead, the band helped Cobain record his first demo. The inevitable disbanding of Fecal Matter a few months later proved to be a pivotal event in rock history. Right after that the Melvins launched their own recording career in earnest, and the strange and sad story that was Nirvana began to take shape.
By 1987 the Melvins were the underground hot ticket, and their imprint was on everything grunge. Nirvana’s first album Bleach sounded like something the Melvins could have recorded. Their influence on the grunge, punk, and metal scene in the Northwest is well documented, but it didn’t net them much money. Nirvana’s next CD Nevermind would go on to sell upwards of 400,000 records a week at its peak and catapult Cobain into a tax bracket way beyond wealthy, while members of the Melvins still held their day jobs.
Cobain was the best songwriter of the two bands, but the Melvins made a place where Nirvana — and grunge in general — could grow outward from its crude beginnings. The Melvins’ own influences (the Who, Black Sabbath, and Jerry Lee Lewis) are present in the sound of every band from Aberdeen to Seattle. They were the musical ground zero for a generation of rockers, and to this day the Melvins are still grinding it out as if they never got word that sludge/grunge croaked years ago. I don’t think they care.
- Tuesday, June 1, 2010, 8:30 p.m.
2501 Kettner Boulevard,