Friday, November 10, 2006

Grunge God Father Jack Endino Interview

Jack Endino back in the grunge days .

By: Rich Tupica

Sub Pop Records may not exist today if Jack Endino wasn't behind the board at Reciprocal Recording in Seattle back in the late 1980’s. That recording studio is where Nirvana, Mudhoney, TAD, Sound Garden, Endino's own band Skin Yard and many other great bands of the time recorded under his ear. Those albums would soon be stamped by the media as Seattle-Grunge!

It's true, the days of flannel shirts and long johns are long gone, however Jack Endino hasn’t even stopped to take a breather. Endino still lives in Seattle and records bands from all over the world non-stop. He has been involved with five platinum records and four gold, one of which is the notorious Nirvana “Bleach” album that he famously got paid a whopping $600 for.
Recently, in-between recording a handful of young bands, Endino recorded his third solo album called “Permanent Fatal Error,” and it’s been getting a thumbs up from Seattle music lovers. Endino’s success as a grunge producer has been well documented, so I decided to get an update of what he has been up to today (post-flannel), not surprisingly, he’s still busy as hell.

When did you first start to record bands?

"Bands other than myself? 1985, in my basement. Then I started working at Reciprocal Recording in summer 1986."

You are responsible for recording a lot of great vinyl ... are you collector?
"No, not anymore. I was a total record collector growing up in the 70s and 80s, but I evolved into a music collector, meaning that I didn't care if I had a reissue instead of the original record, I just wanted the music. Finally I just let it go, it was a bottomless pit."

What was it that made you stop buying tons CDs & vinyl?
"I realized I had enough records and CDs to literally last me for the rest of my life expectancy, so what's the point? And now, I get way more of a buzz from making records than I ever got from passively listening to them... so I don't even buy alot of CDs anymore."

Endino at Reciprocal Studios in Seattle, late 80s

"Permanent Fatal Error"...the new Jack Endino record, why did you decide to go it alone on this record? Did this one mean more to you than some albums in the past?
"Definitely! I felt like I really needed to prove some things to myself, like whether I still had it in me to make a killer hard rock record entirely out of my own head. Years of making records for some pretty kick-ass bands had raised my standards pretty high, so that was pretty challenging as far as my own music was concerned. Intimidating, actually! How am I supposed to top, say, Zeke? Or Zen Guerrilla? And you know, I didn't exactly go it alone except on three tracks... I had some pretty good rhythm section help. I did pretty much write every note though."

How were playing the gigs in support of the new material?
"Kind of strange, even with Dirty Power as my volunteer and very excellent backing band. Just like with my old band, Skin Yard, it became obvious that some songs on the record would work live, some not.

So how did it feel to be the main man on stage?
"Even though I can sing pretty well and I never get stage-fright at all, I am just not by nature a 'front-man' personality type. It really felt odd to be the focus of attention. I've been in plenty of other bands but never as the front-man. At least now I know I can do it; it was another thing to prove to myself and we had a killer Seattle gig."

Will there be another Endino solo album or more shows?
"Yes, but not soon. I'm just getting together ideas for a new batch of songs, but I tend to work pretty slowly. I'm also playing drums in a band called Lateral Drift, and 'helping out' for a while on guitar with some friends in a band called Kandi Coded."

So how is it playing in someone else's band?
"You might not think so, but those activities bear directly on my own music, as they keep me inspired and in the game and keep my playing chops up. For the time I am preparing a remastered, limited re-release of my first solo album, 'Angle Of Attack' from 1989, with some bonus cuts and new cover art by the same artist, Jim Blanchard. It sounds way better than the original release."

What do you feel is the best album you have ever recorded by another band?
"That would have to be an album most people reading this will never hear... 'A Melhor Banda De Todos Os Tempos Da Ultima Semana' by Titas, in Brazil. There's a whole story on my website about the record. I've done five albums for Titas, a huge Brazilian band that's been around for almost 20 years. It's a long story how I got involved with them. That album title, incidentally, translates to 'Last Week's Best Band Of All Time' and the title song is very Portuguese."

So what about American albums?
"In the English-speaking world, I'm pretty partial to Nirvana's 'Bleach', any of the records I did for Mudhoney, Mark Lanegan's 'The Winding Sheet', Bruce Dickinson's 'Skunkworks', The Makers 'Everybody Rise' and the Dirty Power record. Out of 275 or so, I can't really pick one."

Do you ever get tired of the Nirvana Questions?! Or have you learned to deal with them?!
"Oh, whatever, nevermind... I have a FAQ for them. But I try to be nice to people. All the kids doing term papers are getting kind of old though."

How is the music scene in Seattle and Portland these days? Any great bands the rest of the world should know about?
"I think it's great here, but all I know about is the bands I've worked with myself! I'll give a big shout out right now to Upwell and The Lonely Forest, both astounding bands."

Will there ever be a "Jack Endino Collection" released on Sub Pop?
"Not likely, the label has little interest in its own past. Largely because its present, believe it or not, is much more successful than that past was, business-wise. I think Sub Pop is actually very relieved that there was life after grunge and has been running from it ever since. I could be wrong though."

The studio you recorded all the grunge bands in back in the day, what kind of equipment did you use to get that sound?
"The gear all changed every year or so... but the most important piece of equipment in the studio is the guy operating it!"

For years now, you have recorded bands round the clock, what are some projects you recently completed, or are still working on right now?
"Keynote Speaker 'The Musical', The Insurgence, Dragstrip Riot, The Moog, The Grannies, WAD, R-Esistenza, The DTs, Hell On Heels... and probably a bunch of other bands you've never heard of. I try to have the most recent bands I've worked with right on the front of my Myspace page."

If you could go back in time, would you change anything you have ever done in your career or just your life in general?
"Well... it's almost a running joke now because I could have tried to get points on the 'Bleach' record, but more money wouldn't have changed my life all that much. I'm still doing exactly what I always wanted to be doing. To be honest, I don't have too many regrets... instead, there are multiple instances where I can think back and say to myself, 'Whew... Thank God I did THIS back then, and not THAT!'"

J.E. at


Jack Endino on Myspace

Offical Jack Endino webpage
Buy Jack Endino's new album!
Flotation Records - A great Seattle label
Jack Endino interview on YOUTUBE
Definition of Grunge
A different Endino interview

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, man, you are a genius! I love your blog, the title, the motto, and absolutely the subject. JE is so generous with his time and a true musical icon the Rock Hall of Fame will surely ignore. Fuck them : )

Geoff G.
Cedar Grove, NJ

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

Jack....people don't realize what a very sweet, wonderful human being he is--in addition to being one of the best sound engineers EVER. He always takes time for the kids in bands---gives them advice and probably doesn't even realize how much he's affecting the future.
Also--he is absolutely incapable of sitting back and listening to a shitty sound man do his thing--even when he's supposed to be having a fun time at a party--hahaha!
Seriously, though---he's the best!

1:43 PM  

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