Ben Shepherd: How I nearly joined Nirvana
Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd has explained how close he came to being Nirvana’s lead guitarist.
The bassist ran into Kurt Cobain at a party before taking Hiro Yamamoto’s place in Chris Cornell’s outfit in 1990.
Shepherd tells Westword: “The first time Kurt and I met we were the two loners on the end of the couch. There was a guitar there – I would always find a guitar at a party because I didn’t like parties much. So I’d find the guitar and space off by myself.
“Kurt was the same way, so we wound up sharing a guitar that night. I was supposed to play lead guitar for him, but they stead a three-piece.”
He spent time on the road with Nirvana, although he says: “I didn’t really roadie with them; I just went on tour with them. We did all that shit – it was a blast to get out. Then our paths went different ways.”
Despite the success of Soundgarden and their comeback album King Animal, Shepherd says he makes a point of playing inexpensive instruments, and he plans to keep it that way.
“Just go buy the cheapest bass off the wall there is,” he says. “That’s because that’s what a normal kid could get. That’s what they can afford, so that’s the way it should be.”
He admits to a certain amount of disappointment with King Animal: “I like to play bass along to the vocals, but I didn’t get to do that. With bass, you’re a lot more free to do stuff because it’s a song within a song. I’d rather go back and re-record everything. There wasn’t time for that during the recording.”
But that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to grab the opportunity next time. “It depends on the next set of songs,” he reflects. “There’s no goddamned formula we stick to.”