Producer Butch Vig Squashes a Ton of Rumors About Nirvana and ‘Nevermind’
In an interview with the Daily Beast, Vig revealed a ton of interesting information about working with Nirvana – from the relationship between frontman Kurt Cobain and drummer Dave Grohl to whether or not he believes Cobain wrote much of Hole's 1994 album, Live Through This, for his wife, Courtney Love.
Vig also revealed the true inspiration for "Smells Like Spirit," the story of which has essentially become postmodern folklore. The rumor had been that Kathleen Hanna (who was in Bikini Kill with Cobain's then-girlfriend Tobi Vail) once scrawled "Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit" on a wall in his motel room after a night of drinking during the summer of 1990. Cobain allegedly thought it was a reference to the riot grrrl movement and was later humiliated when he learned Teen Spirit was just the brand of women's deodorant that Vail used.
Vig confirmed that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was in fact inspired by the words Hanna wrote on Cobain's wall, but the producer said Cobain just liked the way the phrase sounded. “It didn’t really mean anything, he just thought it was stupid!” Vig said, also disputing the commonly held belief that many of the songs on Nevermind were written about Vail. “That’s just a rumor. Each song had its own thing. Kurt borrowed references from all over the place.”
And while many believe Cobain wrote all of Hole's Live Through This, Vig isn't so sure. “I don’t know… I think Kurt might have helped [Courtney Love] with some of the music, but those are totally her words. And hey, if your husband is a great songwriter, why not get a little help?”
As for the relationship between Cobain and Grohl, Vig said there was never any tension. “Dave was a breath of fresh air because he had this goofy sense of humor," Vig said. "He was so young. He brought this great energy, sang a lot of the background vocals, and had this great voice. There really was no tension at all between Dave and Kurt. All we had to do was capture when Kurt was focused and there 100 percent.”
Read the interview in its entirety here.