Steve Gullick leafs through his Nirvana Diary, and remembers Kurt Cobain, for this thrilling and moving photo portfolio.
“PEOPLE ALWAYS ASK ME, ‘What was Kurt Cobain like?’” says photographer Steve Gullick. “I never know what to f**king tell them. It’s a conversation stopper.”
In the early ’90s, Gullick travelled the globe photographing the great, good and downright gnarly of the ‘grunge’ era for magazines like Sounds, Melody Maker and Siren, befriending and witnessing the rise of groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Mudhoney from the photo-pit and tourbus.
Along the way, he had a worm’s eye view of the characters and controversies that would later be blown up into legends.
“There was a lot of bad feeling between Kurt and Pearl Jam,” recalls Gullick. “Kurt didn’t like to be associated with bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden because I think he considered Nirvana to be a punk band, and he saw them as being a bit ‘hair rock’. I knew both bands on a personal level, and I liked them both. I did ask Kurt not to be a c**t about it, because Eddie’s a lovely lad, and he certainly didn’t deserve it. Kurt was indier-than-thou.”
Gullick’s forthcoming tome Nirvana Diary collects together his finest work from this era, including iconic shots and hitherto-unpublished photography of Nirvana – along with the groups who followed them out from the underground during those heady days, including Sebadoh, Pavement, Afghan Whigs, The Jesus Lizard, Mercury Rev, and many more.
“I see loads of kids today wearing Nirvana T-shirts,” adds Gullick. “These kids should be exposed to the other stuff as well. You don’t wanna listen to just Smells Like Teen Spirit; you wanna hear The Melvins, and Mudhoney, and Oxbow. That’s what this book’s about. Even though it’s a Nirvana book, Nirvana’s only part of the story. It’s also about all those great bands that surrounded them.”
One of the leading rock photographers of his generation, Steve Gullick has captured some of the most enduring music portraits of the last 20 years. From classic shots of Nirvana, Nick Cave, The Prodigy, Patti Smith, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and many more, his photos have appeared in The Times, Mojo, Rolling Stone, Wire, Q and NME to name but a few. His photographs of Nirvana provided us with some of the most lasting and iconic images, when imagining the band it’s hard not to conjure up an image that was the vision of Steve Gullick.
Now Steve has put together the definitive photo book of his work with Nirvana & the bands that rode shotgun including Mudhoney, Jesus Lizard, Screaming Trees, Hole & Soundgarden. A 196 page coffee table book containing stunning reproductions of the already iconic as well as unseen photographs accompanied with Steve’s recollections and a forward by Everett True.
“NIRVANA entered my life in October 1990 when I heard ‘Sliver’ on the John Peel show, the deal was sealed upon hearing the beautifully brutal session they recorded for John’s show and their first London headline performance at the Astoria theatre that same month. At the time I was a photographer for weekly music paper Sounds, it instantly became my ambition to work with the band.
I was top of the list for the next Nirvana feature when Sounds was unceremoniously closed down, fortunately for me, as I started my journey home, a chance meeting with Everett True on the bridge I was about to leap from led to my services being immediately employed by rival music weekly Melody Maker.
The Maker took to me straight away, inundating me with commissions; in August 1991 I was given the task of photographing the Reading Festival & returning with a tent based cover image, that’s the first time I shot Nirvana, Kurt was proudly wearing his Sounds t-shirt, I so wanted them on the cover of Melody Maker. But it was a dull day and those old inky music papers needed bright and vibrant images so it was a shot I took of Senseless Things on the sunny Saturday which made the cover. Remember, at this point, NOBODY had a clue how Nirvana were about to change music forever…
The NIRVANA diary is a photographic journey through my work with Nirvana & their contemporaries, the timeline runs from the first Sounds commission in February 1990 to a very poignant Melody Maker session with Eddie Vedder a week after Kurt’s death in April 1994.
The heavy focus of this photographic journal is on Nirvana but I feel the story to be incomplete without the other artists that were an essential part of my musical landscape, the likes of Jesus Lizard, Mudhoney, Melvins, Screaming Trees, Hole & Soundgarden.
The photographs are punctuated with my recollections, the book features a foreword by my editor & friend, Everett True.”
– STEVE GULLICK February 2014