Short-Term Nirvana Guitarist Recalls What Working With Kurt Cobain Was Really Like, Says There Was ’A Lot of Passive Aggression’ in the Band

Jason Everman, who was a short-term second guitar player in Nirvana back in 1989, recently appeared on the new edition of JRE to discuss his life and career. Later also working with Soundgarden, Everman eventually joined the U.S. Army but is still staying true to his old love, the guitar.

During the chat at JRE, Everman touched upon his time in Nirvana, revealing what it was really like to work with Kurt Cobain back in the day. He said (via Music Radar):

“With Nirvana, I guess initially when I came onboard Kurt wanted a second guitar player for the live show basically – have a heavier sound live and take some of the responsibility off him so he could concentrate on vocals and that kind of thing.”

As Everman explains, for whatever reason, he wasn’t exactly allowed to contribute creatively. It all came down to what Kurt wanted. He continued:

“Initially, I thought I was going to be able to contribute to the band creatively and then it got to the point when I realized that wasn’t going to happen. And the same thing happened with Chad [Channing] the drummer, I think.”

Since this was back in 1989, he was probably 21 or 22 years old and so was Kurt Cobain. So we cannot really blame anyone and, as Everman added, he himself was also a poor communicator back then. He said:

“Everyone in the band, including myself, were poor communicators – a lot of passive aggression. We were kids.”

Nirvana - July 18, 1989 - [Upgrade/60fps] - Pyramid Club - (Jason Everman's last show w/ Nirvana)

Looking back at that time, Everman also recalled how his dissatisfaction with the band grew over time. He said:

“On the rare times where we actually rehearsed as a band, which was not a lot, Kurt kind of half-heartedly [asked], ‘Who has ideas?’ and I’d throw a couple of ideas out.”

“And Chad, a very accomplished musician in his own right, would throw some ideas out and then it would just be glossed over and [Kurt] would be like, ‘Well here’s the new song I wrote’ and we’d start learning that.”

Kurt, Krist & Chad On Jason Everman Leaving Nirvana

“So it was very cursory. He kind of like threw it out there but it wasn’t going to go anywhere.”

 Jason stayed with Nirvana for a while but eventually decided to leave the band after doing one tour with them back in 1989. This was in support of the band’s album “Bleach.” And even though he didn’t participate in the recording of the album, he was credited on the sleeve. Additionally, he’s also visible on the album cover.

But although he thought that he was done with rock ‘n’ roll, Everman got a call from another great grunge band of the era — Soundgarden. Offered a bassist spot, he decided to go with it, explaining:

“I got home and I was planning on going trekking in the Himalayas. Kim [Thayil, guitarist] from Soundgarden called and was like, ‘Hey, Hiro [Yamamoto, bassist] quit, do you want to audition for the band?’

SOUNDGARDEN - New York University (NYU) - 1989 - (3 Songs - RARE)

“At that point, Soundgarden was my favourite Seattle band, hands-down.”

However, he eventually parted ways with Soundgarden as well. As Everman adds, he just didn’t really get along with Chris Cornell, explaining:

“It’s complicated. But at the end of the day I wasn’t getting along with Chris [Cornell] that well and obviously, who’s gonna go? It was me.”

Chris Cornell (RIP) and Jason Everman (Soundgarden) Interview from The Foundations Forum in 1989

And, unfortunately, Everman didn’t feel all that great about it because he loved being in that band. He explained:

“It broke my heart. It was a bad spot for me because I loved that band. I never thought they would get as big as they did. Honestly, it was surprising because they were a great band but I always thought they were a little bit too quirky to be huge, despite the Chris factor; a genetically engineered rock star.”

“But I always thought they were a little too weird to have mainstream success. Which was fine with me – I thought they’d be like a big indie band. Like Sonic Youth or Butthole Surfers, that level.”

He also added:

“Getting fired from Soundgarden put me in a pretty bad tailspin. It was a rough patch of my life for sure so in order to cut this tailspin off I had to do something radical so what I did was I ended up moving to New York.”

After playing with a few other smaller bands, Everman eventually decided to join the army. He said:

“I’d always been really intrigued by the military. Both my grandfathers were Word War 2 vets.”

“At the time, in 1993, there wasn’t a lot of books out about special operations and pretty much the only ones that were out there were Vietnam dudes. I devoured every Vietnam War special operations book.”

Jason Everman, Nirvana Rocker-Turned-Special Forces Vet

Everman’s stint with Soundgarden wasn’t a lengthy one either. He was there for the last part of 1989 and the first part of 1990. There aren’t any of Everman’s studio album contributions in the band. However, he did appear on the 1990 EP titled “Loudest Love.” This was allegedly on the band’s cover of The Beatles classic “Come Together” that was a part of the release. Apart from that, he’s also present on the 1989 live video release titled “Louder Than Live.”

Jason also has a few other releases with smaller bands. At the moment, he’s a member of an all-military veteran band called Silence & Light.

Photo: P.B. Rage (Nirvana around 1992), JRE screenshot


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.