7 facts worth checking out before watching ‘Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck’
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is neither a biographical movie about a punk-rock star named Kurt Cobain nor a documentary about a successful band called Nirvana. It’s not a hagiography either.
Brett Morgen made a film on Kurt Cobain using art. In particular, his art packaged as a collage put together with home-video footage, audio recordings, interviews with family and close friends, concert shootings and animations. It gives you the same feeling you get after visiting a remarkable art exhibition.
Without spoiling the plot, here are some facts about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana which might prove useful in enlightening some details presented in the picture.
1. Kurt’s ‘Montage of Heck’ mixtape
‘Montage of Heck’ is one of the experimental sound collages created by Kurt Cobain on cassettes. It features song and sounds from Kurt’s record collection, manipulated radio recordings, scraps of Nirvana demos and sounds created or recorded by Cobain.
The tape was made around 1988 using a 4-track cassette recorder and it was put online 3 years ago on Vimeo.
‘Heck’ is also a euphemistic alteration of ‘hell’.
Brett Morgen’s documentary takes its name from this weird arty piece of work which you can listen below.
2. Dave Grohl was the 6th drummer of Nirvana
While Krist Novoselic was in Nirvana since the beginning, Dave Grohl joined the band 3 years later.
The first Nirvana drummer was Aaron Burckhard, who played at the band’s first live show in 1987. He was replaced by Dale Crover (from The Melvins) with whom Nirvana recorded its first demo.
The third drummer, Dave Foster, was fired because he could not attend the band rehearsals regularly as he was living too far from Kurt and Krist.
Chad Channing played the drums between 1988 and 1990 but due to ‘creative differences’ was replaced by Dave Grohl. The transition was done via Dan Peters from Mudhoney who played only a show before Dave becoming a full member.
3. Kurt’s constant stomach pain
Kurt had suffered from chronic stomach pain ever since he was a teenager. He refers to his stomach problems even in his suicide note where he wrote ‘Thank you all from the pit of my burning nauseous stomach’.
Marijuana and later on heroin were allegedly used to ease his undiagnosed stomach disorder.
4. Nirvana versus Guns N’Roses
For a series of reasons, Kurt showed a continuous hostility towards Axl Rose. Nirvana even turned down the Guns N’Roses’ invitation to join them and Metallica for the ‘Use Your Illusions’ tour. He picked up the fight in 1991 when he declared: ‘We’re not your typical Guns N’Roses type of band that has absolutely nothing to say.’
This lead to one of the most discussed feuds of the ‘90s and reached its peak with an incident at 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. The verbal fight was described by Cobain in details the following day during their concert in Portland (link below).
5. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ lullabies
‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ has been covered by numerous artists among which Scala & Kolacny Brothers, a Belgian women’s choir lead by two brothers: Steven who plays the piano and Stijn conducting the choir.
Their version was released in 2004 on the album “On the Rocks” which also features creative arrangements for Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, ‘Every Breath You Take’ of The Police or ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’ by Garbage.
Another lyrical version, also without drums, belongs to Patti Smith and it was released in 2007.
6. Nirvana at Reading festival
As a reaction to the mass-media coverage on Kurt’s health state and Courtney shooting heroin during her pregnancy, Cobain showed up onstage being pushed in a wheelchair, wearing a blonde wig and a hospital gown that he kept on during the entire concert.
This was meant to be a statement against press comments and speculations that surrounded and invaded Kurt and Courtney lives at that time.
The last Nirvana concert in the UK became one of their most famous and a legendary performance.
7. Kurt’s obsession with dolls
Dolls were one of the many objects Kurt used for his art projects and a constant in his artistic expression.
The first apartment he moved in after high school was full of dolls which he could find at small prices and then paint or transform. Later on, he would model clay into dolls babies. His collection was considerable big.
For the back cover photo of Nirvana’s last album ‘In Utero’, Kurt created a collage with fetus dolls on his living room floor, which was subsequently shot by the longtime Nirvana photographer Charles Peterson.
MORE INFO and further links
Kurt Cobain on 1992 MTV Video Music Awards incident with Axl Rose
‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Scala & Kolacny Brothers
‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Patti Smith
Nirvana at Reading festival – full concert
Photo session for ‘In Utero’s back cover: http://www.feelnumb.com/2012/06/03/kurt-cobains-collage-used-for-the-back-cover-of-nirvana-in-utero/