From Nirvana to Special Forces

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A new article in the New York Times Magazine details the mindblowing journey of Jason Everman, who went from being the guy who got kicked out of both Nirvana and Soundgarden to U.S. Army Special Forces to Columbia University philosophy grad.

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Jason wasn’t in Nirvana for long but he made an impression on this photographer.

Only the most devoted Nirvana fans remember Everman, who became the band’s fourth member when he joined as second guitarist for the Bleach album tour in 1989. While a lot of fans loved the metal guitar flair he brought to their sound, things didn’t go well in the van and the band abandoned a tour in New York City they fired him. His tenure in the band yielded exactly one recording session, a cover version of “Do You Love Me” that appeared on a long out-of-print KISS tribute album.

During his brief time in the band, Everman (who was the only guy who’d ever held a job and was therefore the only one with any cash) paid the long overdue $606.17  bill for the Bleach recording session so the band could release the album. They never paid him back.

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His Soundgarden career lasted a bit longer but didn’t include an album recording session, either.

That blow was quickly softened when he was asked to join Soundgarden (a band he preferred to Nirvana) as their bass player shortly after returning to Seattle. That gig lasted about a year before he was fired again for what sounds like the crime of being moody on the bus.

Everman kicked around, took some jobs and played in another moderately successful band before deciding to join the Army. He was in basic training at Ft. Benning when Kurt Cobain killed himself and a drill sergeant recognized his photo from an article about Cobain’s death.

Those of us who worked at Nirvana’s record company at the time knew Jason as “the metal guy” (Kurt’s description) and no one had much idea what had happened to him, although there were incredibly vague rumors that he had something to do with the military.

“Something to do with the military” turned out to be a career in the Special Forces and service in Afghanistan and Iraq. The article is light on details, mostly because Everman didn’t choose to share many details and the writer had access to a lot more background about the punk rock years.

The profile was written by Clay Tarver, a veteran of the ‘80s underground punk scene (and a guy I know from WHRB, our college radio station in Cambridge MA). Tarver first met Jason when Clay’s (excellent) band Bullet LaVolta opened for Soundgarden on tour. Clay later played in the (also excellent) ‘90s band Chavez, became a writer and is now on board to write the screenplay for the upcoming sequel to (underrated ‘00s classic) Dodgeball.

Everman left the service in 2006 and got into Columbia with a letter of recommendation from General Stanley McChrystal. He just earned that degree.

The entire article is a must-read for anyone who followed the underground rock scene of the ‘80s as it became the mainstream rock of the ‘90s.  I personally know dozens of guys who’ve never recovered from their near-miss careers in rock and Jason got kicked out of two of the biggest bands in the world. That he quietly went out and forged a complete different kind of success is a truly amazing tale.

For the doubters, here’s some proof that Jason really was in Nirvana and Soundgarden:

Jason plays “Dive” with Nirvana.

Jason shows up in this Soundgarden record company promo film at 3:42 and confesses to musical instrument abuse.

Nirvana playing live with Jason at the Pyramid Club NYC during the 1989 New Music Seminar. This is probably his last gig with the band.

Soundgarden live with Jason on bass in London 1989.

Here’s a different interview with Jason that’s been hiding out on YouTube:

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12 Comments

  1. sickunclesam says:

    The guy has definitely lived an interesting life.

  2. K-Rico says:

    Shows what you can do when things look dim. Sierra Hotel Jason

  3. GI Joe says:

    Which guy in the two band photos IS he? With so many band members looking fairly similar, it would be nice to point out which guy we’re talking about.

  4. Carrie Anne says:

    GI– he’s the one on the far left in the Nirvana photo and far right in the SoundGarden photo.

  5. Michael852 says:

    Should have stayed with the Special Forces. In the end was probably more his style.

  6. OD375 says:

    Don’t know what you can do with that Philosophy degree, but anything from Columbia will take you far, well done Everman! And, ‘Airborne!’

  7. worldwatchman says:

    Good move Special Forces Brother. Too bad we never met.

  8. ONTIME says:

    OuuuuuuuuRah to a man who has the brains and guts to turn any corner.…never let the bastards get you down…

  9. Christo says:

    What a impressive resume.
    Perfect for a movie.