‘F***. I wish I wrote that’: Kim of Soungarden Recalls Hearing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ for the First Time

Bernard Stam, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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As we wrote about recently, Rick Beato has been dropping some interview gems as of late. First, he had a super revealing, intimate conversation with Maynard James Keenan. Soon after, he sat down with grunge legends Kim Thayil of Soundgarden (and frequent Sunn O))) collaborator), Krist Novoselic of Nirvana and legendary grunge and “Seattle Sound” producer Jack Endino.

The trio and Beato discuss a wide array of themes and topics throughout their close to two hours together, so there’s of course a wealth of interesting tidbits for super nerds like us that are children/products of the 1990’s.

We’ve been slowly making our way through the interview, and came across another incredibly cool moment in music history that we thought you all might enjoy, too. Rick pointedly asked Kim Thayil if he could recall his first memories of hearing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and Nevermind.

Kim’s response was rad- it’s hard to fully know what the other pioneering grunge peers from the ‘Seattle Sound’ thought about Nirvana. Sure, they probably have gratitude for Nirvana  kicking the door wide open for everyone else, but it’s always interesting to hear what they think about the music. And Kim basically reacted like everyone else in the world when he heard ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ Here’s his reaction in his own words:

“We [Soundgarden] always believed in Nirvana. I mean, like I said, I tried to get our A&R guys to pay attention. Loved it from the beginning. To this day, Bleach is probably still my favorite album. But, we had a pre-pre-release of Nevermind, and I think we were at Avast [studio] probably demoing something…and it’s like… someone brought it in.

I don’t know if it was Stuart or Matt [Cameron] or Chris [Cornell] had gotten it from Susan [Silver], or whatever. It’s like, here’s the new Nirvana  record! We just stopped… let’s check it out. I think the first thing we heard was ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ I mean we listened to the whole thing, but I sat there and kept rewinding the cassette and listening to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ He continues:

“Everyone went back to rehearsing. I had to hear this again. I had to hear those two notes- the arpeggios. It was kind of something that we [Soundgarden] loved doing from the onset. We usually did three note arpeggios or four notes… and  just those two notes [in Teen Spirit]. And the chorus, which you know, as Chris pointed out earlier, had the chorus on ten, and I heard that and was like this is so hypnotic. It wasn’t just visceral. It was hypnotic and visceral. They did it. It’s in your heart. It’s in your nuts. It’s in your head. This song does it.

And Ben [presumably Ben Shepherd] started laughing and I remember Ben said ‘oh my god, that’s their hit.’ He’s just laughing ‘that’s their hit’ and he’s pointing at it and then Stewart’s like ‘oh yeah, that’s their hit’. Those guys [in Soundgarden] go back to jamming and I’m like rewinding. I’m trying to hear this again like fuck! I wish I wrote that. That’s so cool.”

Watch for yourself below:

Kim Thayil from Soundgarden Did Not Like Early Nirvana