Interviewing TAD’s Kurt Danielson

Posted: October 13, 2011 in Other Key Interviews

I interviewed Kurt Danielson back in 2007.  He was living in Paris then, a full six hours ahead of U.S. eastern time.  I called him at noon his time, which meant I had to quickly down my coffee since I had been out of bed for maybe fifteen minutes.  The interview lasted four hours, but I never found it boring.  Kurt, having studied English and possessing a vast vocabulary, spoke in a beautifully poetic cadence.

We chatted about his childhood in Stanwood, a small town about an hour and a half north of Seattle.  We also talked about Kurt’s major bands: Bundle of Hiss and TAD.  I will share two of his stories, the first of which did not make the book.

As a teenager, a hungover Kurt and friend had been hanging out in his bedroom one morning.  At the time, the pair was undergoing a “punk conversion,” which then meant abandoning arena rock heroes.  As a part of that, they had been smashing record albums of their former idols, when suddenly…

“A drunken pheasant exploded through the window,” Danielson recalls.  “Yes, there was a drunk pheasant out there…this pheasant apparently had eaten too many berries of some kind that fermented and gotten very, very drunk and he just exploded through the window somehow, shattering two different panes.

“He ended up on my bed,” he continues.  “There was glass everywhere.  And [I] took him outside and…he flew away, of course.  He was fine—but drunk.  And, I was hungover then, too….so you have smashing records, you have exploding windows, you have a drunk pheasant, and you have a drunk friend.  And, what are you gonna do?”

The other story did make the book, but I have to re-tell it—at least in summarized form—because it so exemplifies the Seattle music attitude.

By 1989, Kurt was in TAD with Tad Doyle, Gary Thorstensen, and Steve Wied.  The four-piece had completed their first record for Sub Pop but had struggled to come up with a title.  Just prior to the sessions, Kurt and Tad attended a bachelor party for former Bundle of Hiss-mate Jamie Lane and had screened some low-rent porno.  One of those movies was called God’s Balls, and featured a priest having oral sex with a nun.  “And whenever he was getting a blow job in the film,” says Danielson, “he was always screaming out ‘God’s balls!  Gods’s ballllsss!!!  God’s balls, that feels good!’ in a really cheesy deliberate and awkward way—horrible acting.  He himself was no stud.  And even the chicks were raunchy in this one.  But it was pure poetry to my ears.”

TAD, in the studio with producer Jack Endino, joked about naming their first record after the movie.  Endino gave it his ringing endorsement.

Titling one’s album God’s Balls could create offense for sure, but that wasn’t the point.  Unlike today’s reality stars, or movies like Jackass, Seattle musicians didn’t behave repulsively to get attention.  TAD was simply being who they were.  It was if they were saying, ‘It’s really no big deal.  Take offense to it if you’d like, ignore us, join us—but ultimately we don’t care.’  That’s Seattle.

Three years later, I discussed the record with Endino, mentioning how the title was “so Seattle.”  Not missing a beat, Endino quipped, “Well, yeah.”  Yep, so Seattle.

  1. rachel coburn says:

    Kurt Danielson is the real deal. I’m lucky to call him a friend. Anyone would be.

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