Nirvana Once Had Producer Prank Call Eddie Vedder + Gene Simmons
As Nirvana's In Utero celebrates its 30th anniversary, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic have been making the rounds to reflect on the record and during a recent appearance on the Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend podcast that also included producer Steve Albini, the guys made the revelation that they helped pass their time in the studio with a few well placed prank phone calls.
As the guys recall, recording at the Pachyderm Recording Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota wasn't exactly conducive to a lot of outdoor activity. "This was in February, in the dead of winter, in the middle of fucking nowhere," recalls Grohl. "So even just the walk from the house to the studio, which was what - 100 yards if that - you risk frostbite." Elsewhere in the chat, Novoselic and O'Brien joke that it was a "gulag .... with an indoor swimming pool." So that left the band to their own devices for entertainment.
Grohl recalls watching David Attenborough videos, Novoselic turned to tending to the fireplace and there was a whole lot of lighting things on fire. But one of the more entertaining things to pass the time over their sessions was making prank phone calls. And in most cases, it was Albini doing the calling.
The producer says his favorite was one time interacting with KISS' Gene Simmons was his favorite over the period in which they were recording In Utero. "I pretended to be Kurt [Cobain] calling Gene Simmons," Albini revealed. "Gene Simmons had called their management because there was a KISS tribute album being put together, and Nirvana - the biggest band in the world - were friends with the Melvins, and Melvins did a KISS cover, and he assumed that Nirvana would want to do a KISS cover. Gene Simmons can not fathom that anyone on earth is not a massive KISS fan."
The guys egg Albini on as he shares his Kurt Cobain impression with a Simmons impression in response.
"So the word comes down that Gene Simmons is desperate to get Nirvana on this album," Albini continues. "And Kurt is like, I don't want to talk to fucking Gene Simmons, and I said, I'll do it! So I called him back, and I pretended to be Kurt, and I parried the whole thing away by saying that I wasn't making all the decisions because I had a reliability problem. And Kurt is sitting right next to me, listening to me doing an impression of him. [In Kurt Cobain voice] 'Do you know The Wipers? I really love The Wipers'. And Gene Simmons comes back with, 'I don't know The Wipers. I know the Melvins. I love the Melvins!'"
The guys also recall getting a phone number for Evan Dando while The Lemonheads singer was on tour in Australia and placing a collect call in which they posed as Madonna's personal assistant and kept him on hold while they tracked down the pop star who supposedly wanted to speak with him.
And then there was a phone call placed to Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. While they agree that they don't recall why they pranked Vedder, they add that they weren't beefing with Pearl Jam at the time. But in this situation, Albini pretended to be David Bowie producer Tony Visconti. The producer recalled that he'd pretended that the producer had just heard the album and told Vedder he was anxious to get him in a studio outside of Pearl Jam "with a real band, guys who can really play."
Elaborating on Vedder's response, Albini says, "I genuinely don't remember the banter, but I do remember I thought he handled it pretty deftly. I think he acquitted himself well, talking on the phone to Tony Visconti, record producer, who wanted to fire his band."
With the phone call with Vedder coming up, Grohl recalled, "At one point he says, 'Where are you?' and you say, 'I'm in Manitoba.' And you say, 'Do you know where that is?,' and there's this long pause and he goes, 'No....'"
O'Brien begged Albini to eventually put out those prank call recordings, offering to take care of the legal end.
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Gallery Credit: Lauryn Schaffner, Loudwire