We always made mix tapes for each other


“We always made mix tapes for each other. He and I and two friends were going to this party, and we made this pact to make mix tapes. We realized that we’d all put ‘Rocks Off’ by the Rolling Stones on all four tapes. So Elliott invented this game where every time that song came on, we had to yell ‘Rocks Off!’ and name the city we were driving through – ‘Rocks Off, Delaware!’, ‘Rocks Off, Newark!'”

Dorien Garry

You’ve heard of artists and athletes who are so cool and powerful


“You’ve heard of artists and athletes who are so cool and powerful they’re described as “lights out.” And you’ve heard of “unplugged” concerts. Well, the all-time coolest Elliott Smith show in Nashville, which took place the night of May 9, 2000, was LITERALLY “lights out” and LITERALLY “unplugged.”

Here’s what happened: Elliott was touring with an L.A.-based stoner band called Whiskey Biscuit. At 8 or 9 p.m. that night, Wiskey Biscuit opened the show, performing their entire set perfectly normally, although their lead singer looked like he was going to nod off at any moment. Continue reading

Our tour manager was a really good friend of Elliott’s

©David Torres

“Our tour manager was a really good friend of Elliott’s and she brought him around to a few shows of ours when we were out in the Pacific Northwest and there was Elliott on the side of the stage grooving to our music, moving, bopping, pretty much dancing unabashedly throughout our set. The first of these shows he came to and danced on the side, he introduced himself to me and said he was a huge fan of our band and my drumming. He said on more than one occasion that I was one of his two favorite drummers, the other being Steven Drozd. Man, that was something else to hear from someone I admired so much. And he would follow that up with one of the reasons he loved our band was because it always made him wanna dance. It was both really touching and just funny coming from someone like Elliott. His honesty and brashness was something else.”

Russell Simins

The more research I did for this article


“The more research I did for this article, the less I wanted to write it, all aware of the irony – or flat-out hypocrisy – of writing an introduction like this to yet another article on the very subject I am chastising; fearing all I was doing was insensitively adding to this pile and being yet another unqualified person to talk about the life and death of a person whom I never knew or met. Article after contradictory article I read, an overwhelming strand often found tying these together – aside from the more canonizing, unctuous pieces – is the removal of compassion, treating Elliott as though he was nothing but a story, an object, a subject for copy. Continue reading

He did struggle with drugs, alcohol and depression


“He did struggle with drugs, alcohol and depression. That’s all true. But other things that have been written are not true. He was a really complicated guy, but he wasn’t just a sad sack. He had a great sense of humor, and some of his music is very light.  And while he was sometimes depressed, he wasn’t always in that state. People like to construct a personality, particularly after someone has died. They like to be simplistic and say, ‘This led to this, which led to this, which led to that.’ But that reduces the complexity of who they really were. The coroner’s report ruled the death inconclusive. There’s an open police case; it was never ruled a suicide. They couldn’t determine if it was homicide or suicide. … That’s important to the family.”

Marta Greenwald

It’s upsetting just to know that he’s gone


“It’s upsetting just to know that he’s gone. I don’t like thinking about what happened that day – it was the worst day of my life. I wish for his parents that they had a bit more clarity about what exactly happened. But as far as me wanting to go to the bottom of it, that’s not the case. He’s gone and nothing is gonna bring him back. And I don’t think anybody wanted him to go. So whatever happened, I don’t think it was something planned. I think it was an accident.”

Ashley Welch

I’m supposed to be a rebel rock’n’roller


“I’m supposed to be a rebel rock’n’roller who thinks about nothing but rock’n’roll and wants to die, but I like to read – Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, that Kierkegaard guy. Other people always say how heavy and depressing they are, then you usually find out that they’re just good. I mean, Raymond Carver – that’s not any more heavy and depressing than a Nirvana record.”

Elliott Smith

It was recorded in one day

“It was recorded in one day at a house then shared by Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes. Our friend Moira was like, ‘Hey, I’m starting this little label, do you want to do a 45?’ And so we went to Sam and Janet’s house when they were still together, over there off of Hawthorne on 37th and there’s a little setup and we just did it in an afternoon. Elliott did all the engineering and I found all the weird noises. We both had these tunes and there’s a bunch of forks and knives and spoons hanging from a fishing line. It was an actual instrument they had in their recording studio and I was just like, ‘We should put that on there.’ And Elliott had these dumb masks: a bear mask and a weird bat mask. There’s black and white shots of us with guitars wearing these masks. We took the pictures outside of Janet’s basement. We laughed a lot – we both have the same sense of humor – it was just kind of this dumb sense of humor. He had that old Domino guitar.”

Pete Krebs