Revisiting Kurt Cobain’s pre-Nirvana band from 1985
Nirvana was not Kurt Cobain‘s first love. The now-iconic grunge musician actually was in a band when he was just 18 with whom he recorded a host of material under the gentile moniker of Fecal Matter. The audio of these first footsteps into music gives a glimpse into the psyche of him at this formative age.
The band was very short-lived, they formed in Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, in 1985 and wouldn’t be active 12 months later.
The band’s line-up consisted of the would-be Nirvana frontman linking up with Dale Crover of The Melvins and drummer Greg Hokanson. Hokanson was removed from the band over his penchant for Schmidt beer and ‘witch speed’ put Cobain and Crover off working with Hokanson again. Future members of The Melvins, Buzz Osborne AKA King Buzzo and Mike Dillard would then appear in a later version of the band during rehearsals the following year.
Cobain was a high school drop-out and social outcast with a lot of pent up anger. While using music as a method of escapism was a common trend throughout his life, but during his time in Fecal Matter, music was all that mattered to him. The band would record at Cobain’s aunt Mari Earl’s house in suburban Burien, Washington where they created their one and only demo that you can still listen to today.
Cobain’s aunt would speak about that period the band spent at her home some years later to NME, where she revealed: “They set up in my music room and they’d just crank it up! It was loud. They would put down the music tracks first, then he’d put the headphones on and all you could hear was Kurt Cobain’s voice screaming through the house! It was pretty wild.”
She added: “My husband and I, we’d just look at each other and smile and go, ‘You think we should close the window so the neighbours don’t hear? So they don’t think we’re beating him or something?'”
Reports differ on whether the band ever graduated from Mari Earl’s home to the live stage, with Cobain biographer Charles R Cross saying they never played a single show. However, some seem to maintain that the original lineup, consisting of Cobain on guitar and vocals, Crover on bass and Hokanson on drums—managed one show supporting The Melvins in December 1985, at the Spot Tavern in Moclips.
Fecal Matter would go on to disband some point in 1986, which Buzz Osborne said was because “Kurt got disgusted with it because I wouldn’t buy a bass system and so he said that I wasn’t dedicated enough.” The mixtape is a fascinating insight into the mindset of an 18-year-old Cobain, who was still developing as an artist. It proves his knack for storytelling was instilled in him from an early age, it would go on to blossom in the years that would follow.
Although the band had ceased to exist, Cobain was clearly proud of the work he made during his time with Fecal Matter and would go on to pass this to his acquaintances in the local underground punk scene. One person who was a fan of the tape that was passed to him was Krist Novoselic, who particularly liked the song ‘Spank Thru’. Novoselic would then propose the two form a band, which of course, would eventually become Nirvana and the rest is history.