The first time I heard the name Elliott Smith


“The first time I heard the name Elliott Smith was in America in 1996. I was on a whistle stop trip to Los Angeles with Laurence Bell and Jacqui Rice where we were attempting to convince Scott Kannberg and Stephen Malkmus that Pavement should sign to Domino. At that point neither Jacqui nor myself technically worked at the label. We were there in a more abstract capacity. Over the course of one evening talk inevitably turned to music and Malkmus asked us if we were familiar with the two albums by Elliott Smith. As he said his name Steve’s hands made the actions of finger picking. ‘Acoustic player’, he continued, ‘from Portland’. Our reply was a group effort at the universal caveat of anyone hoping to cover his or her tracks:
‘Heard the name….Yes….. think so…..What label?’
‘Kill Rock Stars’
‘Oh right, yeah…… sure…..Sure’
By then, Elliott Smith had released both ‘Roman Candle’ and his eponymous second record. During 1996 he had concentrated on his band Heatmiser and the release of their major label debut ‘Mic City Songs’, a copy of which Laurence and I had each been serendipitously given at a meeting during our Los Angeles visit. A few months later I was in the offices of an indie distributor in Holland and looked over a newly arrived import copy of ‘Either/Or’. The cover photograph of Smith sitting in the back room of a club and flashing his tattoos seemed to fit with the post-Riot Grrrl definition of punk that might then have been associated with Kill Rock Stars and the Pacific Northwest. There is just a hint of confrontation in the face Smith presents to the camera, an expression that makes the music within all the more startling. Continue reading