DJ Riz remembers Nevermind

All day tomorrow on KEXP, we’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind. On the Morning Show, John in the Morning will spin all tracks from 1991; on the Midday Show, Cheryl Waters will play all local artists; and on the Afternoon Show, Kevin Cole will have Jacob McMurray, curator for EMP’s exhibit Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, stop by to share stories, interviews, rarities, and music from bands that inspired Nirvana and were influential in the emergence of the “Seattle Sound.” Tune in all day!

On the blog tomorrow, you’ll read stories from KEXP staff and DJ’s about their experiences and memories of this landmark release, and we’d love to hear your stories as well. KEXP’s DJ Riz was the DJ of the infamous “food fight” CD release party at Rebar. Here’s his account:

i remember the feeling of nevermind 20 years ago sharp on one end and and totally fogged on the other. i got some parts down pat but some others are barely wisps
i did a daytime show back then. drive time on kcmu uw third floor light filled space that felt as warm crammed intimate as the current kexp space today. 20 years ago i also spent a little time working for sub pop. so maybe that’s how it came that i would interview nirvana on an afternoon show. that part remains fuzzy. i can’t remember if don yates was the music director then..or was it kathy fennessy. i can’t remember if i was promotions director then either.. or maybe it was scott griggs. i remember all the dj’s from then and remain good friends with most of them.
.i remember having a severe crush on one of them.
20 years later i marry him..
… 20 years ago.. that’s a lot of time.. a lot of kcmu / kexp time. remember.
i’m going to interview nirvana because they have a new record coming out..actually it was a cd… gosh 20 years of collecting cd’s ( and records too.. i remember that i’ve been collecting music for..well least for 20 years ) i remember there was conversation with jonathan poneman. i wish i remembered the whole of this but the fog returns..he was excited about the record, excited for people to hear it, he was excited for me to hear it. so i get a copy..but i don’t remember if i listened to it at home or if i listened to it at the station.. no in perhaps i didn’t hear it before the interview.. now as i remember. i didn’t hear it until the interview..remembering..i heard it during.the interview.. yes.. with the band.
remembering is so so very exciting now. but i can’t remember what i asked them. i ‘m searching for words to remember what it was like being in that warm crammed intimate booth with them before i heard ‘nevermind’. what did i think of a band called ‘nirvana’ ?
” Nirvāṇa (Sanskrit: निर्वाण; Pali: निब्बान (nibbāna); Prakrit: णिव्वाण) is a central concept in Indian religions. In Sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through moksha. The word literally means “blowing out” referring in the Buddhist context, to the blowing out of the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion ”
i’m thinking it felt small and as normal as five people could be meeting for the first time in the smallest radio dj booth known to man. they were sheepish strangers and we had the sheepish small talk you have when you meet anyone for the first time. stuff like ‘ where y’all from?’ and ‘ how long y’all been playing together ?’. and ‘ which song should i play
first ?
play the first one first.. ‘smells like teen spirit’ and then i get excited.. we’re saying nothing in that room. just listening. i don’t even think i was looking at them. probably just staring down off to the side like i usually do when i’m listening to something for the very first time with people i’ve just met.. down.. off to the side.. it’s cranked, we’re listening together. and it’s over.. and then it’s, like, i’m crushing out on it. these guys are in my room and they’re playing this song for me. i want to give them something cool to drink . i want them to ride the bus home with me. i want people to see us together. i want them to spend the night, sleep in my room. . i want to listen to other music with them. i want to listen to them again..
foggy.. i don’t remember now.. crushes are like that. you don’t remember what you said. what they said.. not all of it.. you’re not that kind of cool anyways.. i mean you don’t know whether this can happen, is happening. you don’t think ‘ is this historic ? ‘ or ‘is this happy ever after ?’ i do remember saying. ‘that was really good’ and they say ‘well thanks.’ and i say’ no..y’ mean that was really good..and they’re still sheepish..maybe even blushing. even that really tall one..even that one with his hands in his pockets..
i played something else.. don’t remember what it was. the aftertaste of smells like teen spirit was still strong and the second song.. i just don’t remember.. which is better. the first kiss . or the second one.? when are we going to spend the night together ?
so i said something very akin to ‘can i have your number so i can call you again?.. or more like can i have something of yours to remember this by ?..
i ask for an autograph. the one with his hands in his pockets says ‘really ?’.. like..’ just got you heard a couple of songs you want us to sign something.. like just our names?. and i say, crushing the world out yes..i really want you to sign this .. i frantically find a pen.. a sharpie.. and it doesn’t write very well. but there’s some momentum and they use the not so good sharpie on the cover
dave writes a little something else and draws an arrow pointing to the circle he’s drawn around the baby’s penis. a not so good sharpie and i smudge it a little when i put the cover back in the case so i can’t really read what it says. i couldn’t then. i can’t now…
..20 years later.

.oh that story..that was 20 years ago yesterday..
so then…
i get this call from jonathan.. man i wish i could remember how he said what he said. i remember how i heard it. i heard through that crush. like..these guys are having a party. a cd release party they’re inviting some people over.. and ,like, do you wanna come over too?.. and like …play some records ?’
except.. no wait.. they’re gonna have this party in my house.. well,, at my job. but i working there like, 2, 3, nights a week, and they’re gonna bring some food, and they’re gonna buy everyone drinks.. and you are gonna play some records..
and , like,.. well.. ‘ yeah..’
‘ are they gonna play too ?
. ‘no.. they’re not gonna play or nothing because they just wanna hang out with people they know and show their new stuff to.
‘ ..yeah.. we’re gonna play the record and .then you’re gonna play some more of your records..’
well… ‘..uhhuhyeah ‘….
god , like these guys i just met and totally like, just called me.. we’re gonna hang out. we’re gonna have a party.. you know crushed out like that.
so we have this party. a week or so later at rebar where i’ve got a couple of nights playing, hip hop one night beat another night.. rebar isn’t the biggest club anyways..but it was smaller then .a bar lounge type of set up on one side and a dance floor on the other. rebar has always been a multi faceted club hosting plays, bands, dance nights, and a rotating roster of local art.. the art in the dance part of it was very prominent and large..colorful to say the least, the artist this particular night carl smool. and carl gace that room a large big top type atmoshphere with huge colorful cutouts hanging from the ceiling, and walls.
meanwhile the bar had been topped with a line of finger food, veggies and fruit, and a halved out watermelon which held what seemed like an ungodly anount of ranch dressing to dip the veggies in.
i get there and there’s a medium amount of people there..50 or so maybe.mostly local record store folks, folks that worked at sub pop, and whomever else wanted to stop by. it was opened to the public i don’t think they were giving copies of ‘nevermind’ away. but i wouldn’t doubt it. sup pop release parties always have something free.they’re generous like that.
we’ve got the cd playing. i don’t remeber peoples reaction to it. i don’t think i listened to ‘nevermind’ in its entirety until then. and even then listening was obscured by conversation and people hanging out. there wadn’t any dancing . they had me play the cd just once. i don’t think i could play any other cd’s because rebar wadn’t set up like that. i played mostly records then. sub pop didn’t give me a record to play.i played my copy. the one they autographed a few days earlier.
after we listened to them, i went up to play some more music. i’m not sure how what happened next happen i believe kurt might have though..cause it was supposed to be a party party, not just some mugs standing around and talking and eatin veggies and stuff. neext thing i knew veggies are getting tossed around and i believe it was kurt chasing people around with the watermelon filled with ranch dressing. he might even tried to pour it over someones head, but the black dance floor. had puddles of ranch dressing and people were sliding around on it and in it. the owner, steve wells, became unglued.. it might have been just my job, but it was his house..they were tossing around food in his house and starting to splatter it on the artwork. steve yells at me to stop the music immediatley and yells at everybody to get out. i think he physically tossed the band out.. on my facebook page the other day some friends reminisce..

pat riley
‘I recall showing up and enjoying about 30 minutes of conversation and complimentary beverages before they were kicked out and I believe one of them took off through the fire exit triggering a very loud alarm.’

corbett cummings
‘I met Steve my first night out drinking in Seattle, he told me the same story about tossing them out to save the art and added: “Kurt was such a little guy he was easy to push out-but Krist Novoselic was huge, I had really put my shoulder into him.” ‘

and just sage
‘I was walking back from the Off Ramp when this happened before I even knew Steve and he was screaming at all of them outside. As I passed I looked at Kurt, Dave, and Krist and said,”Causing trouble again?” and Dave responded by saying, “Apparently so!”‘

i’ve run into krist a few times in the years since , but i haven’t seen him in quite some time..since that night i never saw the band together again. not in our studios . not live.
never again..

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  1. Hochzeits DJ
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 5:03 am | Permalink

    Is it really 20 years I asked myself…yes it is. Am I already this old but still like the music? Yes, I do. There are albums of artists, that do have an impact on your life and so is this record. Unfortunately I was never able to catch the band live due to Mr. Cobain’s early passing. But this article gives me goosebumps and tommorow, I have a wedding where the groom likes a bit harder music. I certainly will play” Smells Like…”. Love the blog and thanks for reminding me of it’s anniversary!

  2. Emch
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Thanks Riz. That’s great! I remember coming to see you play hip hop records there back then when I was in Seattle. I love the thought of that room transformed into a ranch dressing slip and slide by the Nirvana guys.

  3. Rob Nyberg
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    If I remember correctly, you started to play the the record a second time, and Kurt climbed up into the DJ booth, said into the mike that “I don’t want to hear my record anymore”, and put on the Cars. At least that’s what I remember. Boy do I miss Riz’s Soul Church at the Rebar. Thank you!

  4. Tiny Tim
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I remember that night: I was the bouncer that carried out Kurt and wrestled out Krist, got both of them to sign the comp. CD. Grohl had his own entourage which was not involved in the food fight, and when I went towards the back to let him know the owners wanted them all out, he was already moving towards the door with his group. Funny thin was, when I picked up Cobain, all the fight went out of him. Fun night, though I don’t remember Steve doing more than holding the side door open for me. That damn ranch dressing…. Stuffed grape leaves too, that’s what I remember getting thrown around, made a mess when the exploded against the wall/art/people…

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