Remembering the time Nirvana snuck into a TV studio to record a film, 1990
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a rock and roll story that’s bound to make you fall further in love with grunge icons Nirvana.
Following the release of their debut album, Bleach, Kurt Cobain led the band on a risky mission as they broke into Evergreen State College campus during spring break to film some experimental amateur videos.
Knowing that the college had a TV studio and a green screen, Cobain packed with him a variety of VHS videotapes as inspiration and to play as a trippy backdrop in the screen behind them. “I showed Kurt how to edit the stuff he taped off TV to use for background footage in the videos,” cameraman Alex Kostelnik later recalled. “He had broken dolls, dolls on fire, or stuff like in Toy Story where the dolls are all put together wrong,” Kostelnik added.
According to Jon Snyder, who was directing the session, Cobain planned to put together a VHS tape for fans to buy as well as film the band’s first video: “The original concept was to do stuff in the studio, then go to Aberdeen and shoot a bunch of other stuff and turn it into some hour-long thing they would sell to fans,” he said.
“We did no editing, and we did no after-effects. Instead, we figured out a way to have it all happen live,” Snyder continued. “We were switching between cameras in the studio control booth, which makes it look like it’s been edited, and all the effects were running off tapes in another room so they could be combined in as we were shooting. And the sound was live engineered,” he added.
The band recorded two versions but only fully completed one. Snyder eventually sold his collection of the tapes to the Experience Music Project in 2002: “I knew I could not keep them climate-controlled and preserved indefinitely myself and that EMP could,” he said.
The experimental film includes a version if ‘Floyd the Barber’ with the band’s original drummer from Bleach, Chad Channing, in action as Dave Grohl was yet to join the band. It’s a moment of musicality that’s indicative of not only why Nirvana were eventually the juggernauts they became but also Cobain’s artistic intent.