‘They were not slackers’: Butch Vig on working with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana on iconic album Nevermind4 August 2017
Having worked with some of the most iconic rock acts in the world, Butch Vig has more than a few stories to tell. The man himself has given Pro Sound News Europe the inside track on three of his finest works to date.
First up – Nirvana’s Nevermind. The 1991 album sold more than 30 million copies and played a huge part in bringing grunge music to a mainstream audience. Here’s Vig on working with the band to produce what has now become a massively influential album:
“Nevermind was fast. We did that record in 16 days and probably four days alone were spent just getting Something In The Way in shape. That was a really hard song to do because everything was tracked individually. We tried to cut it live a few times but it didn’t work out. The rest of the songs, we did a sing a day pretty much. We’d just set up and play, and the band would usually get a take in two, three or four takes.
“Then I might do some editing or punch in some guitar if they missed a chord anywhere, I’d have Kurt double track his guitar in spots and then we’d do the vocals. They were not slackers. Before they came to record Nevermind after Dave Grohl joined the band they practiced every day for six months and they were tight as hell. They were ready and focused, and when I would suggest something arrangement wise just to tighten things up or make them a little more hooky they would try and cooperate, there were no problems.
“The only tricky part was dealing wth Kurt’s mood swings. He would go down these black holes that would just pop out of thin air and affect him unexpectedly. He would close down and go into his own world for two or three hours until he’d snap out of it, come back in an go, OK, let’s play.
“It was pretty easy record because it’s simple. At the time, some people said it was over produced, and I just think that’s a laughable comment, it’s just a really simple rock record. Compared to Bleach maybe it sounds more produced, but that’s probably because we had some better microphones, we were recording in a great room and using a Neve console.
They were not slackers. Before they came to record Nevermind after Dave Grohl joined the band they practiced every day for six months and they were tight as hell
“The band was on point, they were playing their asses off every time we’d record, but we just had to navigate some of Kurt’s mood swings and make sure that we recorded… if there was a black cloud hanging over his head I would just find other things to do. I would work on their guitar sound or bass sound or work on a rough mix or change the drum heads. I had to occupy my time until Kurt was ready. Then when he came out of his black hole it’d be like, let’s hit record right now.
“He wasn’t difficult at all, but he would just go into his own zone and he didn’t really talk to anybody. Sometimes he would leave the studio and I don’t know where he went. I just had to let him have his space and make sure I was ready to go when he was ready.”
Read the full-length interview with Butch Vig here.