I don’t think Elliott really wanted to die

“I don’t think Elliott really wanted to die. There are people who I think are truly in so much pain that they want to end their lives. I don’t think that was his situation. I don’t think he was going to call Dr. Kevorkian to end his life because he was suffering so much. I think he was in a lot of pain, and I think he was trying to reach out to the universe somehow. And I think that he talked about ending his life a lot, and that was a byproduct of his drug use and the fact that he felt like shit. But he was such a sweetheart, and I don’t think he wanted to die. Continue reading

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The move to L.A. was probably part of the problem

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“The move to L.A. was probably part of the problem, but he also once told me that his girlfriend Joanna told him that if he ever did heroin, she would leave him, and that was the only way he could finally get out of that relationship. He was kind of fed up with the relationship. This is what he told me; he said they were fighting and she said, ‘If you do heroin, I’ll leave you, or become a junkie, I’ll leave you’ – he said that’s about the time he started doing heroin.”

David McConnell

I don’t know how that story developed

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“I don’t know how that story developed around Everything Means Nothing to Me. I mean, I don’t know why he told that story to David McConnell, and I’m not sure I’d like to know. He probably didn’t think it would spread and become some kind of post-mortem statement adding to the nauseating pile of hindsight wisdom meant to “explain” him and his alleged “suicide”. It really bothers me. That song was very important to him, but not in any negative or self indulgent way. When he discussed it with me in early 2000, there wasn’t any blood or drama involved, it was still a “new” song at the time, and he was proud and protective of it. Continue reading

Around the time Elliott was recording what would be his final album

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©Ben McKeown

“So around the time Elliott was recording what would be his final album, I got to visit the actual basement on a hill. Satellite Park Studios. It’s a gorgeous house on the cliffs of Malibu owned by Josie Cotton with, you guessed it, a recording studio downstairs ‘basement’. I got to play Elliott’s guitar, the piano he used, and at the very least look at Tom Waits’ Chamberlin. The next best thing to meeting them I guess. Anyways, I was there with another band who was also recording there and one night, everyone but me had a lot to drink and the engineer opened up and I got to hear a story about Elliott. I was really eager to hear any Elliott stories but I wasn’t about to ask for any so I was glad when he started talking about him. Continue reading

McConnell says Smith’s death and the controversy around it

“McConnell says Smith’s death and the controversy around it, which ran counter to their relationship, almost killed him: it was a battle of who had the right versions of the right songs, more driven by manufacturing some cumulative closing statement from Smith than properly releasing his vision. McConnell says entire chunks are missing from the album. When he listens to the record even now, he listens to the mixes he finished with Smith.”

I think people’s jaws would have dropped

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©David McConnell

“I think people’s jaws would have dropped…. They’d think he was even more profound than they realized, because artistically, the direction that he was going in, he would have definitely had the next White Album, and it would have been the most talked-about thing this year, musically. It would have just been this combination of this insane experimentation with beautiful song structure, everything that’s beautiful about him, mixed with this insane kind of drug-induced, emotionally charged …

There was something else coming out of him on that record, coming from deep inside, something that I don’t witness when I work with most artists. It was definitely magical; it was scary – it was all those emotions in one.” Continue reading

My boyfriend at the time, David McConnell

 

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“My boyfriend at the time, David McConnell, played in the band Goldenboy with Shon Sullivan, who played with Elliott. Elliott came over one day, and he stayed for six weeks. He never left during that time. I was in awe of his talent, so it was a little awkward. He recorded in my bedroom for a while. I’d fall asleep and wake up and there’d be Elliott Smith, singing across my sleeping body. It was an odd situation and terribly upsetting in certain ways. He obviously had a huge substance-abuse situation going on. At various times, I thought he was going to off himself in the house. It was something he talked about a lot, and a lot of it was said because he wanted to hurt DreamWorks.

He wanted to make a point to them by killing himself. They’d record for days and days without sleeping. David would come up and say, “I feel like an athlete who’s been waiting his whole life to run in the Olympics and I’m being told to slow down.” They’d record these really amazing tracks, and Elliott would say, “It sounds too good. Fuck it up, please.” It’s like slashing a painting a little bit if you’re a producer or engineer. Elliott was convinced the mixes he did here were the ones he wanted, and he’d beg David to destroy the masters because he was afraid someone would put out different mixes of the record—which, in fact, they did. David couldn’t bring himself to destroy the masters. I guess the ultimate irony is that Elliott was completely straight at the end. He was not on any substances.

And just to clarify, the album he recorded at your studio is From A Basement On The Hill.
Yes. I actually have the mixes he wanted. I’ve never done anything with them. I don’t know what to do with them.

Has anyone asked?
No. They went to his previous producer and had him re-do everything. [Smith’s original mixes] are rougher, they’re not as polished. He wanted to go back to a more raw sound. He wanted it desperately—all he really talked about was wanting to go back to before they polished him up.”

Josie Cotton