“So. Elliott Smith went and put a steak knife through his chest this week. That’s what happened. One minute we had a world with Elliott Smith in it and the next we didn’t.
When I first heard it I felt sick and frightened, and I was a little confused by my feelings. Usually when rock stars die I feel maybe a little sad, but that’s about it. Sometimes I grab hold of the “how is this worse than thousands dying in some country I’ve never heard of, as is doubtless happening even as we speak?” ring and hang onto that for a while; sometimes, as when brain cancer claimed Chuck Schuldiner, I get a little emotional about it. But usually I am more moved by such two-line items as one sees in the local paper from time to time, the ones about some anonymous fellow who stood in the path of an oncoming train, or whose car flipped into the ditch during a snowstorm, killing all its passengers instantly.
“I didn’t know him personally, unless our paths crossed when I was in Portland in the mid-eighties, which I don’t think they did. We played on a bill together in either ‘97 or ’99 I think but we didn’t hang out. So I’m not really qualified to give any estimation of him as a person. As a musician he’s a spectacular guitarist and one of the best songwriters of his generation, and also he’s sort of the player from our indie minor leagues who got called up to the big show and instead of fizzling like so many before him, shone. His major label albums not only weren’t disappointments, they were triumphs, and they were kind of…validating, maybe? to people who were writing songs that might have seemed too dark or introspective or bookish for the mainstream. His success suggested that the world had changed a little – not seismically, just a little, but in an interesting way. His death was very hard for me. I have a special fondness for Heatmiser’s Mic City Sons, especially the opening track.”