Fifth and final installment of how I came to interview panelists who will appear at the musician/producer Q&A at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company (Wednesday, October 19, 7 pm.) These blog entries appear here as follows: (Update: unfortunately, Steve had to cancel his panel appearance.)
Jack Endino: Friday, September 16
Rob Morgan: Saturday, September 17
Tom Price: Sunday, September 18
John Leighton Beezer: Monday September 19
Steve Fisk: Today
Each person on the Elliott Bay panel provides a different perspective, which is obviously what I was going for. Jack Endino is the “grunge producer,” having recorded Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, etc. He was also an integral actor in the music scene with his band Skin Yard. Rob Morgan brings the old school Seattle punk ethic to the table, along with a view from outside that grunge circle. Tom Price played in the U-Men, a hugely influential band, and was a participant in the pre-grunge all-ages punk scene. John Leighton Beezer’s Thrown Ups symbolized the grunge aesthetic.
And then there’s Steve Fisk. Like Jack, Steve enjoys prominence as a producer. And, like Jack, he recorded Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Screaming Trees. Steve, however, observed the music community from without…he was not a “scenester.” He was a self-admitted “worker bee.” Steve also brings a perspective none of the other panelists have: Olympia’s Evergreen State College. Before he made his name in Seattle, Steve collaborated with such Evergreen notables as Bruce Pavitt, Calvin Johnson, and John Foster as part of Op magazine, a publication that connected Olympia to underground music scenes throughout the country.
I interviewed him twice, in November of 2006, and then again about a year later. Our dialogue did not follow the typical interview format, that is, I completely ditched the script. Basically, Steve ran the interview. I found myself ruffling through my list of questions trying to figure out if I’d asked them or not.
In addition to production credits, Steve has played with Pell Mell, Pigeonhed, and as a solo act. He also co-wrote the soundtrack for 2007’s About A Son, a Kurt Cobain documentary. He has resided in Los Angeles, Olympia, Ellensburg (WA), and Seattle.
Before our first interview, I had read an article in Backlash, a grunge era fanzine, which traced Steve’s roots to Louisiana. “Somebody was transcribing an interview,” he says, “…and I said I was from LA—and that turned into Louisiana. I’m actually a corndog from Lakewood [California], which is sort of in the armpit of Long Beach. It would be much cooler to be from Louisiana.”
After that, we bounced around various subjects, talking about his influences, his time in Olympia, producing Screaming Trees and Nirvana. My favorite Steve quote relates to the latter band: “When Nirvana played Ellensburg, I walked out on them. I thought they sucked….Different people would walk away from the same show going, ‘I thought they were great. They destroyed everything!’ [or] ‘Yeah, it really sucked. They destroyed everything!’”
I called Steve up about a year later, to get more detail about the Olympia scene, as part of my second chapter, “KAOS in Olympia.” Steve walked me through his experience working with Bruce Pavitt, who had started a little fanzine called Sub/Pop. Three of the fanzines were accompanied by music compilations, and Steve dubbed them onto cassette. Bruce would later turn his fanzine into a full-time record label that would provide platforms for Nirvana and Soundgarden’s success.
So, there you have it…a little background on the Fab Five panelists. I hope you can make it to the reading. If you can’t, we’re going to film the event and hopefully I’ll get some clips up on the blog.