Nirvana 89: Interview with Jack Endino

Clash talks to the 'Bleach' producer

In 1989, Nirvana were a fervent trio driven by punk and metal, eager to break out of their home town. ‘Bleach’ was their first step in defining their place in history.

To mark the Special Edition release of their debut, Clash celebrates the beginnings of this life-changing band with a special collection of memories from those that experienced first hand their fledgling talents.

BEHIND ‘BLEACH’ – An interview with album producer Jack Endino.

In Seattle terms, Jack Endino has been there and done that. The hugely influential producer began with his own band Skin Yard and went on to produce some of the epochal recordings of the grunge era. From ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’ and beyond, Endino had his hands on the studio keys, working with the era’s key players. However in the mid-’80s the city didn’t seem like the hotbed for a musical uprising. “There was a small handful of bands doing their own original, underground rock and there was only a few clubs where they could play,” the producer explains. “I think probably a lot of the audience at the shows in the early days were people from other bands!”

A chance phonecall from a young Kurt Cobain one day introduced Endino to the world of Nirvana. Still without a permanent drummer or even a name, the band nonetheless impressed the soundsmith. Later recording their debut single ‘Love Buzz’ with Jack Endino, Nirvana overcame Sub Pop’s stubborn streak to record their debut album ‘Bleach’. Working with the producer Nirvana blitzed through their then live set, often leaving lyrics to the last minute. “I seem to remember Kurt stopping a few times when he was doing vocals, scribbling things down here and there,” Endino explains. “Correcting, changing a line right before the take. The lyrics I think were probably done at the last minute on some of those songs.”

Let loose in a studio for a sustained period, it seems that Nirvana were excited by the prospect of recording their debut album. “They were quite relaxed and very focused. They knew exactly what they wanted to do,” the producer says. “They thought OK, we’re going to do these songs and we’re going to try to do a better version of this song and then do the vocals on this other song. They knew exactly what they were doing. Which is always a good thing from my standpoint as a producer, I like to see that as it makes things a lot simpler.”

One of Jack Endino’s lasting memories of the album sessions is the sheer fun and vitality Nirvana showed in the studio. “They were very cheerful people in the studio – there was never any sense of a dark, gloomy, sad, depressed side to things at all,” he insists. “Funny people, and they were always in very good spirits when I was in the studio with them – they liked recording, they were always happy doing it, they enjoyed it. They had fun.”

Words by Robin Murray

Read more of Clash Magazine’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’.

A classic interview with Nirvana from 1989 by John Robb
Everett True dispells some myths around Nirvana’s final UK appearance at the Reading Festival in 1992
An assessment of the band’s back catalogue of albums
An interview with Sub Pop records boss Bruce Pavitt

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