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Music

Hear an early demo for Nirvana track 'Breed'

@TylerGolsen

‘Breed’ is one of the most aggressive and potent songs on Nirvana’s sophomore LP Nevermind. Featuring buzzsaw guitarist and rapid-fire drum fills, Nirvana build a bridge between their more grinding grunge sound from Bleach and the poppier side of the band that would be revealed on Nevermind. Although it could go toe to toe with ‘Territorial Pissings’ and ‘Endless, Nameless’ for fuzz-rock supremacy, ‘Breed’ could also be sung along with in concert thanks to its catchy chorus melody.

In April of 1990, Kurt Cobian, Krist Novoselic, and Chad Channing embarked to Madison, Wisconsin to begin work on Nevermind. The band laid down a number of songs that had been written in the time since Bleach, including tracks like ‘In Bloom’ and ‘Come As You Are’. Tensions were high, as Cobain was dissatisfied with Channing’s playing while Channing was disillusioned that his songwriting contributions were being ignored. Eventually, the band would reach a breaking point, leading to Channing’s departure.

Notably, some crucial elements of ‘Breed’ are intact from the first demo. Those include most of the drum fills, which were later performed by Dave Grohl. Grohl has given Channing credit for most, if not all, of the fills and rhythms from songs that had been written before Grohl’s arrival. Although Grohl himself composed the unforgettable grooves of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, nearly all of the album’s other songs were rooted in Channing’s patterns and ideas.

Also held over to the final version of the arrangement is Cobian’s ear-bleeding solo. Mostly a flurry of chromatic notes and tones, Cobain would often dramatically knock over equipment or fall to the floor during the ‘Breed’ solo, showing that exact lines were the antithesis of what he was going for. Producer Butch Vig was behind the console for the Smart Studio sessions, and he liked the stereo sweep applied to Cobain’s guitar on the demo recording so much that he replicated it during the final cut at Sound City Studios over a year later.

The main difference between the demo and the final cut of the song is in the chorus lyrics. Cobain was notoriously wayward in terms of lyrics, often switching up different words between live shows, recording sessions, and writing spurs.

Instead of finishing the chorus line with “I don’t even care / We can have all three”, Cobian instead sings “We can have it all / we can have all three”. The “I don’t even care” is placed earlier in the chorus, in the spot where “I don’t mean to stare / We don’t have to breed” is sung on the finished version.

Check out the demo version of ‘Breed’ from 1990 down below.