Bleach was recorded during two different sessions. The first was a demo done in early 1988 with drummer Dale Crover, now best known as a member of the Melvins. Later, Krist and Kurt hired Chad Channing and went back into the studio in late ’88 and early 1989. In the end, they included a couple of tracks from the Crover demo on the finished record. Read Novoselic’s interview with Channing.
Novoselic When did you first become aware of this band, whatever we were called at the time?
Crover You guys were playing for a while before I played.
KN Yeah, we were playing with Aaron Burkhard. We played with Aaron at the Community World Theater in Tacoma. That’s as far as we got. He was a great drummer!
DC He was just happy to be in a band. There was pretty slim pickings in Grays Harbor. Not too many people to play with besides those high-school cover bands.
KN Yes, a cultural divide. You could play with people, but there was the mainstream/punk-alt divide. They hated punk rock!
DC Yeah, they were into ’80s mainstream hard rock.
KN You were into the new wave of British metal that was going on at the time.
DC Pretty much. That was like punk because it was underground. It was fast and aggressive. I had never really seen or heard punk rock except the Ramones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. Maybe Motörhead. Nobody in Aberdeen knew of this music except for the guys in Metal Church.
KN Nirvana came out of a punk sensibility, and you were playing with the Melvins.
DC Thanks to you.
KN Oh, yes. Here’s my story. Mike Dillard had quit the Melvins. Buzz [Osborne] asked me if I knew any drummers. I took him to meet Aaron—this was before I started playing with Kurt—then I took Buzz over to meet you and there you have it. The rest is history.
DC They had seen me play before in one of those cover bands. So I joined and we started to tour. And more opportunities came up to play. I was still in high school, so that was a problem. I met with my school counselor and told him about my situation. We looked at my grades and I had straight A’s in music, but everything else was not so hot. He said I could always come back to school, so I should go on the road. I knew what I wanted to do with my life—play music. Luckily, it all worked out.
KN How old were you when you started with the Melvins?
KN I remember those Melvins rehearsals. What a serious affair. Just practice, practice, practice. Other kids would come around and hang around the back porch for those rehearsals. Remember this dude Kurt Cobain?
DC He knew Buzz and Matt from school in Montesano. Buzz says that Kurt was a good baseball player.
KN If Kurt took something on, he was usually good at it. Like, I’d like to watch him play pinball. He’d rack up high scores. I can see him [being] good at baseball. And when he applied himself to art, it was great.
DC Do you remember his apartment in Aberdeen where he painted the baby doll with Alice Cooper eyes and hung it from his window?
KN Oh, my God! That place was trashed. He defaced the hallway with pornographic cartoons. The place was gross. Untidy and unsanitary.
DC Yes, sink always full of dishes! I used to hang with Kurt. I met him only a few weeks after I met Matt and Buzz. Buzz said that I needed to meet this dude from Montesano. They had a lengthy conversation on the bus regarding music. That weekend they took Kurt to see Black Flag in Seattle. And that’s how we hit it off. “You like this kind of music?” “Yeah!” I’d go hang at his place and he played me demos of his songs. He did four-track recordings at his aunt’s house and I liked what I heard.
KN That’s how I got turned on to Kurt’s songwriting. It was the Fecal Matter demo and the song “Spank Thru.” It was great.
DC Even not too long after meeting Buzz and Matt, he started writing songs influenced by the bands he was turned on to. Black Flag, Butthole Surfers.
KN Yeah, like Kurt’s art—he liked music that was a little weird, kinda arty. A little weird if not a lot weird.
DC Like Chim Chim.
KN Yes, Chim Chim, the little rubber monkey he wore on his shoulder. Get it?—monkey on the back!
DC His art was really good. He even did the art for his demo tapes.
KN Kurt and I were going through drummers.
DC Do you remember how you decided to go to [record with Jack Endino at Seattle’s] Reciprocal Recording? Was there an ad in The Rocket?
KN That was the grunge-du-jour place to record. All the happening bands recorded there.
DC It was a new place in town. Skin Yard and Mudhoney recorded there. I remember Kurt calling the studio from my house. And Jack knew the Melvins and how I was playing with you. I think the idea of the demo was for you to find a drummer. At the time, the Melvins were kind of falling apart. Buzz and Matt had a falling-out, and weren’t as good friends as they used to be. We were going to disband—or we did for a while, until we moved to San Francisco. So when we had this break time, I was happy to play with you. I liked the songs Kurt was writing.
KN And Kurt was fun to hang out with. He was a wonderful person.
DC When I lived in Aberdeen and he was around, I always considered him one of my best friends.
KN He was funny and sweet—insightful.
DC Really funny. He had a great sense of humor that most people don’t know.
KN Oh yeah, the sad rock poet.
DC It was always joke after joke.
KN Nonstop—scathing comments on culture and whatnot.
DC He always made me laugh.
KN We recorded songs that got on Bleach—”Downer” and “Paper Cuts.”
DC And “Floyd the Barber.” I remember being jacked up on coffee for the recording. There were even chocolate-covered espresso beans to eat! We’d listen back later—”Aero Zeppelin,” it just kind of takes off faster and faster and almost falls apart, but doesn’t. We tracked everything live—even the vocals, but Jack suggested Kurt re-track the vocals.
KN We couldn’t keep things because the tape cost money. You had to record over songs for the keepers.
DC We recorded this tune “Pen Cap Chew,” and we got to the end of the reel before the song was over. It turned into a fade-out.
KN After the recording, we went to play a show at the Community World Theater in Tacoma.
DC Recorded and mixed in one day, then went to play a show! The set was pretty much what we laid to tape earlier that day.