“I just graduated from Lincoln this year and have no connection to Elliott Smith other than having been really affected by his music. The memorial was my idea, to have a visible mark left on the school in memory of his time there, all that he accomplished, and the effect he’s had on so many students there. So few students, even fans, had any idea he had attended there (and even recorded a Heatmiser track on the stage.)
I commissioned a bronze plaque through Just Right Awards, student artist Dash Robb and I designed it (after a meeting of fans voted on the lyric and image), and the student Executive Council funded it. I presented the idea to now former principal Peter Hamilton last winter. He was receptive although he hadn’t heard of him (it may have helped that his own secretary perked up at the name’s mention and lauded him). I found his father’s number in an old directory and got in contact and he graciously approved and has helped out all along. Since then, it’s been pretty smooth sailing although there was concern about the placement of the memorial and whether this would cause a slippery slope of memorials. But it’s up now, which I think makes it the first memorial in Portland.”
“I read a review that said that the material from disc one was recorded from Elliott Smith and disc two was Either/Or. It said a song was acoustic that had drums on it. It said that he was a drug addict at the time, which is definitely not true. I mean, I was fucking there. I can tell you that in 1996 and ’97, I was not dealing with an addled drug addict. I was dealing with a person who, at the most, would go out and have some beers with me. The review made so many assumptions that it was just a bummer to read.
To the point where the writer said that the major label let him have a steady stream of drugs . Oh my God.”
“Some people are afraid that if they don’t seem like some sort of perpetual winner all the time, if they don’t make a lot of money and wear expensive cologne and go to all the right places, that then people are going to think that they’re some sort of loser. But just because people have a range of emotions and thoughts which can coexist at the same time and at times sometimes they get ecstatically happy about something and at other times ridiculously depressed, doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with them when they’re sad and that they are only successful, good Americans when they’re happy, when everything’s going right for them. The media is always telling people to look better and go shopping more and present an image of prosperity and you can only do that so much before you’re presenting that even to yourself all the time. So if you do go see a movie and the ending isn’t happy, it may be a great movie, but you end up feeling inordinately depressed because you’ve been blocking out your own feelings. There must be some reason why I always get these questions, which to me seem like totally surface things about my music. There’s a lot in my music that I find happy and optimistic, in both the melody and the lyrics.”
“He was a nice dude. He was a friend who let me record my first album – Elected – in his studio. He didn’t even charge us for that. The guy was real sweet, real generous. We weren’t the closest friends, but enough to be pretty fuckin’ sad when he died.”
“He was extremely restrained; he didn’t make the kind of brash, anthemic statements rock musicians are often given to. In a way he was an anti-Dylan. He loved Dylan’s music and covered ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ in concert, but he took it away from strident stances and into a personal, ironic place. And he was different from Kurt Cobain because he was not into youth slogans or grandiose statements.
His songs provided at least the illusion of great intimacy with the artist. I think people make the mistake of thinking they afford more intimacy than they do. The real Elliott Smith is a lot more hidden.”
“Well, that was a long time ago, but I can tell you what I remember. My friend (now sister-in-law) Sara Harris, was a violinist and friend of Garrick at Lincoln High School. She had played on some earlier Stranger Than Fiction thing, and she got us together. No, wait there’s another connection! Garrick and I were camp counselors together the previous summer (1987) so he may have just called me himself. Anyway, the session itself took place in a basement of a house up in Portland Heights, near Ainsworth School. A ‘basement on a hill’, as it were. It was probably Jason Hornick’s parents’ house. I remember meeting Steve (not quite Elliott to the real world yet) and he was kind of quiet and intense with a dry and opaque sense of humor. He was serious about the music, though, even though he didn’t really have all the tools yet. And as you can hear from the tape, neither did I! I only played on one track, ‘Chinatown’. I listened to the mix they had, which was pretty much everything but the cello, a couple times and then went into the recording room, which was a little closet under the stairs. There were no charts, and I just had to figure out it was in C minor. I just improvised over the song 2 or 3 times, and they used what they wanted. I guess they didn’t have very good editing tools, because they didn’t do much to save me from embarrassing myself with wrong notes and aimless noodling, but I guess there are one or two good ideas in there. And that was that. One footnote: after graduating from college in 1991, I moved back to Portland for a year, and got a job selling bread and coffee at Le Panier in Old Town. Elliott was making sandwiches in back. I remembered him as Steve, and he told me he was Elliott now, and he really did seem to be much more comfortable with himself. We’d sometimes hang out on break, and he’d make humorous references that would blow right by me. It’s a real shame he’s gone now. Good for him for getting some good music together before he went.”