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Butch Vig Recalls Producing Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’

By Amanda Wicks

Nirvana’s sophomore studio album Nevermind turns 25 this year, and its producer Butch Vig revealed new details yesterday (Sept. 22) about working with Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl to record the music that would launch them into an entirely new stratosphere of popularity.

Related: Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ at 25: A Millennial’s Take on the Era-Defining Album

Speaking with Yahoo Music, Vig recounted the long road between the first session he did with Nirvana (with Chad Channing on drums) at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin, and what they recorded in L.A. some months later, after the band signed with Geffen Records on the strength of those initial sessions. And he stressed that the commerciality of the band’s music was no fluke.

“Kurt wanted his band to be very successful,” Vig explained. “He was very ambitious. If you’ve ever looked through any of his notebooks you’d see that he used to make drawings of the band playing these enormo-domes for 100,000 people. And he put together lists of what he was going to do when they were massively successful. He had a pretty intense work ethic when it came to songwriting and rehearsing. Nirvana may have come across as punk slackers, but that’s definitely not who they were.”

Even though Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl partied hard while working with Vig in L.A., they were still incredibly focused on the songs. “Nirvana had their fun when they were in the studio, but when it came to recording they were pretty focused,” he said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but Dave told me later that they had rehearsed every day for six months and they wanted to songs to be really tight.”

Once the album was mixed and industry execs began hearing what Nirvana had created, the buzz was unstoppable. Vig remembered trying to catch the band in Chicago shortly before the album dropped.

“We got to the gig and there was a massive line around the block. It was oversold and there were a thousand extra kids trying to get in. There was an insane buzz in the air,” he said, adding later, “That was the first time I realized the record was going to take on a life of its own. And it changed my life completely.”

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