In an awesome article for The New York Times, Clay Tarver sat down to interview his old friend, Jason Everman – a man whose name you might not know immediately, even though you should. At different points in his life, Everman was a member of both Nirvana and Soundgarden, two of the biggest and most influential bands in music history.
However, he was kicked out of both bands. The devastation of being kicked out of not just one, but two bands who went on to earn their place in rock royalty, should’ve been enough to drive anyone insane. Everman went a different route as he pursued an always-present curiosity and desire to serve in the military. What he went one to accomplish was amazing and his story is incredibly compelling. Here are some highlights, but feel free to check out the piece in its entirety as well.
Describing how music shaped Everman’s life:
Music changed everything for him, especially after he discovered punk rock. “I’d have to say that was the first defining event in my life,” he told me. “In punk there’s an extreme kind of conformity to all the nonconformity. You realize in all this rebellion that everyone’s doing the same thing. But in a weird way, that’s what kind of lets you eventually forget the rules, and you can be yourself.”
On being kicked out of Nirvana and then joining Soundgarden:
In Nirvana – a band with a lead singer so famously tortured that he would commit suicide – Jason Everman was kicked out for being a head case.
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Soundgarden, meanwhile, had called Jason right away. “We knew things ended with Nirvana on less-than-ideal terms,” Kim Thayil, their guitarist, told me. “He didn’t fit with Nirvana? Big deal. That’s them. We’re Soundgarden. We’re a different animal.” In the first audition, he impressed them all. “Jason was the guy,” Soundgarden’s drummer, Matt Cameron, remembered. “Jason came prepared.” After the disaster with Nirvana, now Everman was playing bass for his favorite Seattle band. He couldn’t believe his luck. As he put it to me, “What were the chances of all that happening?”
Clay Tarver describes the first time he met Everman nearly 25 years ago:
We made it past the bunks to the lounge. And there he was: Soundgarden’s bassist, Jason Everman. You couldn’t look more “rock dude” than he did: all that hair, the dour expression. It was an imposing energy to encounter in tubular mood lighting. And he was the first person I ever met with a nose ring. At the time, I read it as a flashing sign that said, “I will have unbearable attitude.” But he didn’t at all. In fact, he was smart and had a dry wit. He offered me Funyuns.
The rest of that night was just as confusing. We went on so early that people were still arriving as we finished. Mudhoney was great but sounded strange in a cavernous room. And Soundgarden left us mystified. They seemed to have their eyes on a bigger prize, one we couldn’t see yet. As I watched Jason onstage – his rock hair pounding – it dawned on me: “My God, these guys are going to be rock stars.”
After eventually being let go from Soundgarden as well:
I don’t know how he got through the next year. Everman’s friend from home, Ben Shepherd, replaced him in Soundgarden. Their next album went double platinum. Of course, Nirvana – after replacing Jason’s friend Chad Channing on drums with Dave Grohl – became the biggest band in the world. That record he never got paid back for, “Bleach,” eventually sold 2.1 million copies. “Nevermind” sold nearly 30 million copies worldwide and changed the course of rock. Everman, meanwhile, was left behind with no idea what to do next.
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Everman’s past often caught up with him while he was serving our country:
He had three drill sergeants, two of whom were sadists. Thank God it was the easygoing one who saw it. He was reading a magazine, when he slowly looked up and stared at Everman. Then the sergeant walked over, pointing to a page in the magazine. “Is this you?” It was a photo of the biggest band in the world, Nirvana. Kurt Cobain had just killed himself, and this was a story about his suicide. Next to Cobain was the band’s onetime second guitarist. A guy with long, strawberry blond curls. “Is this you?”
Everman exhaled. “Yes, Drill Sergeant.”
Everman goes into detail about his experiences in Iraq after 9/11:
Between Afghanistan deployments, Everman went to Iraq, and that, at times, was like a movie. He was in the front row of one of the biggest conventional military operations since World War II, with helicopters hovering on either side of his vehicle, “the full might of the U.S. forces,” as he puts it, in the column behind him. As he shot grenades from a Humvee, he recounted, “Iraqi tanks were exploding all around, turrets shooting off into the desert. I saw stuff I never thought I’d see. Buildings blew up in front of me, dude.” At one point, he came across a pile of Iraqi Army boots, hundreds of them. “Guys would just strip off everything they had on that said they were army and split.”
Tarver describes the Everman he knows today:
In Everman’s cabin, I saw medal after medal, including the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge. “Sounds kind of Boy Scouty,” he said. “But it’s actually something cool.” I saw photos of Everman in fatigues on a warship (“an antipiracy operation in Asia”). A shot of Everman with Donald Rumsfeld. Another with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. And that’s when it hit me. Jason Everman had finally become a rock star.
Read the full article here.
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