Kurt Cobain’s Mixtapes: Montage of Heck

An ostensibly authentic Kurt Cobain mixtape has been sitting on Vimeo for 2 years without being noticed. It was posted by SpaceEcho, who says he got the cassette personally from Kurt. It sounds exactly like Kurt’s experimental art-tape style. Kurt didn’t just make mixtapes. He made strange, William S. Burroughs & Brion Gysin 89influenced cut-ups from sound.

Montage of Heck runs just over 33 minutes and sounds so familiar it reminds me of a primitive version of Kurt’s later sound montages. Those have a much faster editing pace and make cannier choices before jumping into music. Either it’s real, or someone went to great lengths to imitate Kurt’s audio cut-up style.

At 19m10s a female voice tells you get ready to dance “a wild watusi, a frug, or a swinging halli galli”. I’ve heard that same excerpt on a different Kurt Cobain tape, minus the rest of the dialogue that is included before and after the quote above. In other words, Montage of Heck has more of that particular audio sample than what Kurt used of it on another tape. For that reason alone, I would say this is authentic.

Kurt was also known for giving out mixtapes to just about everyone, even to the kids who were around when he was working as a janitor. There’s actually an NPR story about that that I’ll post later.

Montage of Heck on Vimeo

SpaceEcho’s description: “Mind the length of this one. Find yourself submerged into the voyage depths of hell. Experimental Electronic Communication from out worldly sources through the forces of Cassette. Presenting the full version of Kurt Cobain’s “Montage Of Heck. (1986)

You can watch and download Montage of Heck on Vimeo.

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Who Killed Kurt Cobain? Vultures: Courtney Love explains

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In 1995, Courtney Love, in a questionable but more honest interview than most, talked about the immediate reason Kurt killed himself: being “ganged up upon” by selfish, greedy jerks who were supposed to be his friends. Courtney and the vultures that surrounded him staged a “tough love” drug intervention. Any idiot could have told them it would backfire. But they didn’t do it for him. They were trying to shove their cash cow toward the bullpen. He was supposed to be touring, he was cancelling left and right, and millions of dollars were at stake over Lollapalooza alone. And here we have a guy who is not only on smack, he wants to sneak off and record Lead Belly covers. He doesn’t want to be a pop star and make us money. That is unacceptable.

It’s a rare, vintage moment of honesty among a crowd that never wants to talk about why Kurt killed himself, or dispel the myth that fame alone did him in. As if fame is some evil goddess. Even in the same interview, Courtney starts to veer toward that official line. Actually, the twisted, greedy pigs around Kurt and in the music industry are the ones who did him in.

These prohibition-minded, temperance movement style drug and alcohol interventions kill people. At best, they can do serious damage. If the management and money men had just let Kurt do what he wanted with his music, since his decisions are what made them all rich in the first place, and if they’d just put Kurt on methadone James Taylor style, maybe he’d be alive today. Maybe not. Who can say? But in the 1990s, tough love interventions were all the rage. Actually, they’re still going on. Even the disgusting A&E show Intervention ran until 2013: 193 episodes, 13 seasons of exploitation and misery.

Mark Goheen, an addiction counselor, put it plainly: “These interventions backfire because it reinforces the idea that [kids’] parents are assholes.” Great way to help some one, right? Be a total prick to them when they’re suffering.

Remember kids, drugs are bad for you, but it’s prohibition that kills.

at 8m18s

Barbara Walters: Could you have stopped it?

Courtney Love: Yes.

BW: Could you have stopped it permanently?

CL: No, but I could have been diligent…

BW: …Why do you think your husband killed himself?

CL: He was ganged up upon…

BW: …Do you feel his death is your fault?

CL: In this instance, yes.

BW: Because?

CL: Because I didn’t need to call for an intervention. I shouldn’t have called for an intervention. I just panicked.

BW: …Because you tried to get him off drugs…it’s your fault?

CL: He thought he was a waste of space. Yes. I told him he had dropped the baby. And I was mean about it… I told him on the phone, ‘you know, you dropped the baby the other day.’ When he was in rehab. You dropped the baby. He was like ‘what!?’ I’m like, ‘you dropped the baby, you dropped Frances on her head.’ She was wearing a big hooded coat, he did not hurt her. And I did not need to tell him that.

BW: And you think that’s why he did it?

CL: I think that’s a major reason…I do, I think that’s a major reason alright? And also, he felt like a waste of space, and a sell out and he’d made everything too huge and it was his fault that everything was too huge. Do you understand what I mean? I mean it came like a Mack truck. First, it was magical. It was so weird. It was surreal and magic in the air. Everybody my age remembers that period when his band got big. And then huge, and then the grown ups knew and then the boomers knew… and he was too famous.

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Kurt Cobain on how to play guitar

Kurt Cobain, who Rolling Stone Magazine ranked as the 12th greatest guitar player of all time, teaches you the value of music theory in this rare video (at 1m50s):

“I have no concept of knowing how to be a musician at all, whatsoever. I mean, I don’t know the names of chords to play. I don’t know how to do major and minor chords on a guitar at all. I couldn’t even pass Guitar 101. Folk Guitar 101. Everyone knows more than I do. …I never learned how to read the music. I just copied the other people that took the time to learn how to read… [Dave interjects, “He’s a good drummer.”] …if you go by a text you’re kurtcobainjspretty limited, you know.”

“[I’m a] songwriter. I have no desire to become any better of a guitar player. I’m not into
musicianship at all. I don’t have any respect for it, I just hate it. To learn how to read music or to understand arpeggios and Dorian modes. It’s just a waste of time. It gets in the way of originality.”

So, if you are one of the many, many guitarists who think technical proficiency makes you a good musician, then that ostensibly means you and I are probably both better musicians than Kurt Cobain. Except, probably not. So forget music theory. You can have fun sitting in your room practicing your stupid rock solos which all only use the same scales anyway, but the audience doesn’t care how good a guitarist you are. They can’t even tell when you suck. All they know is whether or not it makes them feel something. That’s all that matters.

A Nirvana Reunion Fronted By J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr

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Nirvana just performed for the first time in over 20 years at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, Annie Clark, and Lorde. Joan Jett was good. She could front a reunion tour. But it all just makes you miss Kurt’s wild, cigarettes-and-gravel voice. It was really his band, his songs, on his orders. Still, it’s hard to resist nostalgia made flesh. Then, after the Hall of Fame, there was a secret show at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, with the addition of Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis and Deer Tick’s John McCauley. Watching J Mascis cover School changed my mind. Maybe they could pull off a reunion tour. Here’s why:

1. J Mascis fronting Nirvana on School. It sounds like Kurt’s voice aged, say, 20 years.

Compare that to Kurt playing School live at Reading 1992.

2. Kurt Cobain asked Mascis to join Nirvana. Twice.

3. Style. Mascis’ gear isn’t the same, but it’s close enough and at least it wouldn’t be an imitation. Jazzmasters and also Jazzmasters and then more Jazzmasters. Kurt didn’t play Jazzmasters, but he did play Jaguars. Yeah, J’s sound is different. Personally, I don’t see what Kurt saw in those short scale guitars, but he got a lot out of them. He’s totally underrated as a guitarist. And yeah, J’s technique is very different and more precise. His solo on School is nothing like Kurt’s vicious, sloppy attack in the Reading performance. I prefer that angry, sloppy style, personally, but hey, it’s like David Gilmour and Syd Barrett, only J Mascis can actually play Kurt’s songs.

J Mascis rig rundown (Check out this site to read about Kurt’s equipment)

dinosaur jr – feel the pain

 

Kurt Cobain Murder Theory Flaws: The Overdose

 

Tom Grant and murder theorists contend that Kurt Cobain’s blood levels of morphine were so high when he died he could not have pulled the trigger of his Remington Model 11 20 gauge shotgun because he was unconscious from a heroin overdose with blood levels of 1.52 milligrams of morphine per liter.

Tom Grant writes:

Cobain’s heroin, (morphine), blood level was 1.52 mgs per liter. This would require a minimum injection of 225 mgs of heroin, three times a lethal dose, even for a hardcore heroin addict. The drug Diazepam, was also found in Cobain’s blood system.

The problem is that the reality of drug tolerance renders the theory impossible to prove without knowing exactly what his tolerance level was, which is exactly what the toxicologists have said. Addicts routinely inject huge quantities of heroin and experience no more than typical highs, while nurses at methadone clinics have been known to die from stealing a sip well under 30 mg, the (low) starting dose for an addict; while there are people on hundreds of milligrams of methadone per day. I’ve read of a case of a patient exceeding 800 mg of methadone daily. I doubt there even is a tolerance ceiling to opiates, just increasing side effects. So, one man’s poison is another’s painkiller.

Even when you do overdose, you can often fight to maintain consciousness and stay awake, at least for a while. But most deaths from so-called “heroin overdoses” aren’t caused by heroin at all. They’re usually caused by a combination of drugs, especially alcohol, which is such a toxic poison that it can kill you if you mix it with just about anything.

Did anyone at the Seattle Police Department look for possible signs that Kurt was unconscious before death? The telltale bluish-white skin and blue lips? Who knows if those signs would be observable three days after death, or noticed at all by ignorant, inept SPD investigators (who can be seen contaminating the crime scene in newly released photos), or even noticed by the doctor who performed the autopsy, who was an ex-concert promoter and friend of Courtney Love’s, and who probably didn’t conduct a very meticulous investigation. And if Kurt was given a hot shot, as Grant seems to allege, who placed his works, spoon, syringe, etc. back in the cigar box? Would a murderer do that? At the risk of leaving fingerprints? Unfortunately, the idiots at SPD probably didn’t bother checking any of the paraphernalia for prints. They didn’t even check the shotgun until the following month, and it had already been contaminated by the cop who handled it at the crime scene.

Basically, when you screw up an investigation, you invite conspiracy theories. But the idea of an instant, fatal overdose is far-fetched to say the least.

Kurt Cobain cat

Kurt Cobain’s Heroin Kit

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kurt cobain works

You can tell a lot about someone’s personality with a simple glance at their works. An unkempt cigar box. A dirty spoon. Cotton Q-Tips. The inescapable black marks of carbon from flame on metal. The hyper-real clutter of a ritual made to escape reality.

The world’s most famous heroin kit belonged to Kurt Cobain, and now we can stare at it in misery and angst thanks to the Seattle Police Department and their newly developed crime scene photos that are just back from the lab, twenty years too late.

An old cigar box named after an Irish singer and poet. It isn’t very dirty but it’s a bit spartan. Maybe he didn’t use this kit much. Maybe it was a backup. Maybe he just wasn’t as much of a junky as he’s been made out to be. The spoon is dirty and it looks like it has been used two or three times without cleaning. When he cooked up he let the heroin really cook, which left rings of the drug where the water evaporated. He wasn’t compulsive about it, he didn’t try to soak up every last drop clean from the spoon or save every used cotton. It didn’t matter.

There’s some cut left in the spoon. The heroin is street quality black tar. He wasn’t trying to score better gear. Maybe he just didn’t care.Two standard 1cc BD insulin syringes, but at least they’re fresh and new. Nothing to stir with except the plunger end of the syringe. Not even a cup for the water from the sink.

The cotton in the spoon is a huge misshapen lump. Those adept guitarist’s fingers working the cotton off a dirty Q-Tip and fumbling to make a pathetic cotton ball. The dirty towel laid out. A chunk of the drug chosen and placed in the dirty spoon. Going to the sink to drip water in, no longer caring if it spills. Watching the drug liquefy and cook above the flame of a cheap disposable lighter. Stirring with the plunger, carefully removing the cap, tying up with a piece of towel and sending the drug home, wondering if it will change things but knowing nothing will.

There’s nothing to clean up with. Just the dirty towel. No alcohol swabs. Just the open, oozing tube of Dr. Hauschka’s Rosencreme to anoint the burning, sensitive skin.  It may be a mess, but everything’s in it’s right place. And when the ritual is over, it will all go carefully back in the box.

Put the cap back on the syringe, put the spoon back in the box and close the lid and smoke an American Spirit without an ashtray and write about your life in red ink and stab the words into the dirt in an act of defiance against the terrible and absurd rituals of a life in pieces. That’s who Kurt Cobain was. And if you ever find yourself in the Northwest of the United States, go out at night and head west to the water. Stare into the cold darkness of the Pacific. If you feel that darkness staring back at you, then you’ll understand in the moment before you turn away what it might have felt like to be Kurt Cobain.

 

Kurt Cobain crime scene gear

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