In late 1990 I broke up with my girlfriend

“In late 1990 I broke up with my girlfriend of the last three years, the punk rock photographer JJ Gonson, and I moved from Boston to San Francisco. I am honored to say that she is still one of my best and closest friends. But for a couple of years after our breakup we had as little as possible to do with each other. She in turn moved to Portland, OR.

In January of 1993 we reconnected and she rather generously offered my band, Ain’t, a show in Portland with Heatmiser and Gas Huffer. She also offered us a place to stay: 2522 SE 16th Ave. on the corner of SE Division, where she lived with her new boyfriend, Elliott Smith, and where his band, Heatmiser, practiced in the basement. Elliott and the rest of the band (Neil Gust, Tony Lash, and Brandt Peterson) were kind of shy and I guess a little nervous at the show as they were performing for the first time for their new label, Frontier Records. I dug their music; it was introspective and melodic yet played through Marshall amps. Neil and Elliott shared lead vocal duties and I liked both voices. I was happy for JJ as well — she had a boyfriend who was nice to her and a band to manage that seemed to be going somewhere. Of course, I was jealous for I had no steady girlfriend and my band was nowhere near as good. Continue reading

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I’ve always thought that photo had a lot of sadness to it

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“I’ve always thought that photo had a lot of sadness to it. Even though I don’t think he was sad at that moment. He was lonely. They were both lonely. He’s tuning his guitar backstage. I think Heatmiser was probably over at that point. I think I wasn’t working for him anymore. So I was sort of visiting. We had worked really hard on Heatmiser, so it was sort of heartbreaking when it fell apart. I was far closer to Elliott than I ever was to Kurt. I feel a lot of sadness about both of them. I feel they were both remarkably gifted. I think they had celiac disease. That’s my theory. They were both in pain a lot. There were a lot of similarities. They were both haunted. So bad that they couldn’t live with it. Lots of people have demons. Their demons were pretty bad demons.”

JJ Gonson

I was working at this restaurant

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©Sluggo Cawley

“I was working at this restaurant and my friend Jason introduced me to this band Heatmiser and I was really interested in this band even though I had foresworn music. I was like “I’m not going to have anything to do with music because it’s evil.” And I was like “No, no, no, no, I don’t want to be part of the music scene ever again.”(…) Then all of a sudden I was back in this insane thing and I went back to America and I told Heatmiser that I would manage them. Continue reading

It was embarrassing to be doing acoustic music

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©Chris Slusarenko

“It was embarrassing to be doing acoustic music. Nobody did it. Everybody was rough. There was no pop going on at that time. Elliott and I used to play Peter Paul & Mary, Beatles, and Captain and Tennille covers together in the bedroom with the door closed, hoping nobody could hear us. I will never forget Neil laughing the first time Elliott played him a solo song, the part where his voice goes up on on “No Name #1”. Laughing. It was just shocking.”

JJ Gonson