KEXP DJs and Staff Remember Kurt Cobain

It’s a day that stands out in the memory of any music lover: on April 8th, 1994, it was announced to the public that the body of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain had been found on dead in his home on Lake Washington Boulevard in Seattle. Whether you lived in Seattle at the time or not, and whether you listened to Nirvana or not, the tragedy resonated around the world. KEXP DJs and staff share their memories of that dark day below. Share your own memories in the comments below.

John Richards, Morning Show Host/Producer:

I was sitting in my car outside the Greyhound station dropping my sister off to take the bus back to Spokane. She had come over for the Mazzy Star show the night before (where we were sitting a few rows from Krist Novoselic). It was raining, and she and I sat in the car listening in the rain. It was a dark day, as I always remember. We were so sad. It felt like our entire city had just died, and this instant want and desire to go back a few days in time and tell him not to do it set in. You felt like you knew him and felt like you could have done something to stop him. He spoke so directly to me it felt…so it was like your friend leaving you. I learned just the other day that they practiced right next to the Greyhound station….so many of these coincidences make you feel he’s still here.

Leon Berman, host of Shake the Shack:

It was my Mom’s birthday. I remember her saying, “Who is Kurt Cobain?” I listened to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” over and over on my way to doing Shake the Shack. I was genuinely pissed and confused at to why someone with that talent would take their life. I ended up adopting his cat… I really did.

Tom Mara, Executive Director:

I was at KCMU when I heard the news. I remember I was about 12 feet away from the door that Kurt had knocked on to hand us Nirvana’s music for the first time.

I remember none of us could figure out what to say to each other. And I remember then having to share the tragic news with others and then witnessing their sadness, which compounded mine.

Jen Petersen, Administrative Coordinator / CD Project Coordinator:

I worked at the Jim Hadley’s Experience (home of all things Doc Martin, Manic Panic, where skinny jeans have been en vogue since the early ’80’s).

That particular day, I was working at the store on the Ave when I heard the news. The Ave at the time was very much an alternative hangout so the somber news spread fast and the mood quickly matched the gloomy April day it had been. My manager was working at the downtown store and I got a call that she took the news hard and was going to leave work and head to the fountain. That was all anyone could think about was getting to the Seattle Center fountain cause there was a rumor Courtney was going to call. So unfortunately, I had to close the University store and head to the downtown store to take over for my distraught manager.

Hindsight being 20/20 — kinda wish I could have been there as well, but a sista gotta eat and life goes on. I will never forget the weather. It was like Seattle was mourning with its inhabitants. Crying right along with us. I still get goose bumps thinking about his last few hours and his choice to leave us lost.

Quilty 3000, on-air host, Sundays 3 to 6 PM:

I was working for the Art Institute of Seattle, in the Education Department, as an admin assistant. It was a Friday morning and someone had told me that it was Buddha’s birthday. I took a message for an instructor from her husband who worked at KXRX that a body was found at the Lake Washington house. The news that it was Kurt came in bits and pieces over the rest of the morning and spread around school. I distinctly remember how overcast the day was as I chained smoked in the parking garage looking out over Elliott Bay.

I’d been on-the-air at KCMU on Saturday afternoons for just over a year as Mr. Quilty’s Widow. The week before I’d gotten a request, really, more a demand. Someone called and said, “Play Nirvana’s Love Buzz”. So I did. I got the 7” inch Sub Pop single and played it in the next set. (The same single that I learned years later, when reading Heavier Than Heaven by Charles Cross, that Kurt dropped by the station.)

I’ve always been grateful for that request. I cranked the studio monitors loud and thought it was so cool to be playing a rare single and how the station had been playing Nirvana before they were this huge world-wide band. I didn’t know at the time how different it would all be a week later and how I’d never feel the same way when playing Nirvana again.

Darek Mazzone, host of Wo’Pop:

I was in downtown Seattle. Working.
I felt pissed off and thought it was a sad waste of talent and potential.
I was annoyed that I missed seeing them a bunch of times…selfish, I know.
We went to a bar and had whiskey.
I felt bad for his daughter.

Hannah Levin, co-host of Seek & Destroy:

“In the weeks before he killed himself, there was this litany of rumours about local singers dying. There was a rumour that Chris Cornell had died, and then there was a rumour that Eddie Vedder had died. So even though a bunch of my friends called me at work that day and said Kurt was dead, I didn’t really believe them. That kind of shit happened constantly. But then I went out to my car at lunch – I used to go out to my car at lunch to smoke cigarettes and listen to the radio. And – for some crazy reason – my radio was on 107.7 The Edge (sic), which was Seattle’s conventional ‘modern rock’ station. And as soon as I turned the ignition key back, I heard the song ‘Something in the Way.’ That’s when I knew it was true, because The Edge would have never fucking played that song otherwise. It wasn’t even a single.” — excerpted from the Chuck Klosterman book, Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story

In the days following Kurt’s death, calls to Seattle’s 24-Hour Crisis Clinic Line increased by nearly 60%. Those who attended Kurt’s memorial service at Seattle Center may have heard the Crisis Clinic Executive Director speak to the crowd of over 5,000 fans.

Suicide is preventable. If you or a loved one are struggling with feelings of loneliness or anxiety, grief or loss, isolation, depression, personal crisis, or any other emotion that leads you to a place of needing emotional support, there is help. The Crisis Clinic have shared these three things you can do to help a friend in need:

  1. Show You Care. Ask The Question. “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” If they aren’t thinking of suicide, you won’t be giving them the idea. If they are thinking of suicide, you may be the first person who is open to hearing what is going on.
  2. Get Help. Are you worried about someone and are not sure how to talk to them? Are you grieving the suicide of a loved one? Do you need help? We listen to your concerns and can help you with the next step, including linkage to emergency mental health services and our Survivors of Suicide support group.
  3. Get Involved. We depend on volunteers to answer calls from people in emotional distress or thinking of suicide. Volunteers are provided with training, supervision, and a rewarding experience.

24-Hour Crisis Line
206-461-3222 or 1-866-4CRISIS (866-427-4747)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)

More info is available at:

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  1. Joyce
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I was living in a bachelor apartment on Ulster Street in the Annex neighbourhood in downtown Toronto. I heard the news on the radio and immediately called my best friend Scott, an ex-campus radio dj and similarly obsessed with music. He had also just heard and his response was “I’m coming right over.”

    Big Nirvana fans that we were, neither of us grieved Kurt so much as were shocked and knew what a momentous cultural moment this was.

    Having said that, we headed to a downtown bar where my sister was tending that afternoon and proceeded to drink double vodkas and talk about rock and roll until we could barely walk.

    I’m sorry you couldn’t cope or fix the pain in your belly, Kurt. I am still grateful for your music and the memories.

  2. RAsta
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    When I heard about kc my girlfriend called me and told me the news I lived on Denny on the top of Capitol Hill at the time .. Watching coverage on the local news I walked down to Madison after the coroners van pull away from his house. I stood on the corner of 18 th and. Madison til the van passed .. Sad day

  3. Jen Montressor
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I was a freshman at UPS in Tacoma and was working my work study job in The Cellar pizza place on campus. There was a large screen tv playing MTV around the clock. As I was making pizzas and shakes MTV reported the news of Kurt’s death. I’ll never forget that moment.

  4. David Olson
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I was in the common area of a hostel in Quito, Ecuador, on April 8, 1994. At the time, my Spanish was not very good, so when I saw Kurt’s face flash on the television I wasn’t sure what the announcer had said. When someone said Kurt had been found dead, I excused myself and went to the bathroom to cry. It was only the second time the death of a musician and songwriter had affected me so much that I was driven to tears (the first was when John Lennon died). I’m 49, and Kurt was the voice of my generation, much like John Lennon was for his.

  5. Diane Shirley
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I was at work in an office in Ballard listening to Marty Riemer and he said he had gotten some news that a body had been found on Kurt’s property in a mother in law house, they didn’t know if it was Kurt, but things didn’t look good. And you knew.

    As John said, you felt like you knew him, like you were losing your friend. I’m not obssessed with Nirvana or Kurt and just respected them as a band and loved how they gave rock and roll back to us in the early 90’s, after the awful 80’s. But I still feel a bit like I lost my friend, and a tear is rolling down my cheek as I type this. After that morning of hearing of his demise, drove home to Fremont for lunch and cried for about 1/2 hour. Everyone walking around 35th and Fremont ave looked utterly miserable as I drove thru.

    My mom’s family is from Aberdeen/Hoquiam and in the 70’s we were there alot, unaware that a legend was growing up a few blocks away. He was kind of the cool little brother I never had. I’ll always wonder what musical treats he would have had for us going forward. RIP Kurt.

  6. Tony
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I was working in the production department of KTVA in Anchorage at the time. I wandered through the news department, and within earshot, one of the reporters said, “Maybe Tony might know who he was,” (Backstory, I’m from Seattle, and listened to lot indie/punk music at the time.) That’s when I found out. Even from 1500 miles away I could feel Seattle’s collective heart breaking.

  7. Knathan
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I was a senior in high school in 1994, and on spring break that very week. I woke up to my alarm-clock radio announcing the news that he had died. I couldn’t believe it, but I could.
    Nirvana gave me hope and took me away the small farming town I had been raised in and made the 100 miles that separated me from Seattle feel less distant; thus closer to the world… a year later I moved to Ballard.

  8. merry
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I’d just gotten home, just finished my shift at the answering service. I turned on the radio (had no tv in those days) and heard the news – felt like I’d been gut-punched. I could not believe it, but at the same time I knew it was true. I remember being immediately overwhelmed with anger and sadness, and then more anger… I never knew Kurt but I used to run into him at shows all the time around ’86, ’87, mostly Meat Puppets or Screaming Trees shows at the Central in Pioneer Square. It’d be like “Whoa, there’s that cute intense guy again.” Something about those eyes always kept me from talking to him – which I now of course regret.
    It was years before I could even listen to Nirvana again – seriously, years – but in time the anger faded… only the sadness remains. You do just want to step into a time machine and go back to that shitty week in April of ’94, you want to find him, catch him on Broadway and just grab him and hold onto him – handcuff him to a radiator or something, anything – until that lowest moment could pass and he could get back to making music and exorcising his demons… What an amazing legacy, though. His music changed so much in our world, and it’s his music that is immortal. I hope he knows how much he’s loved.

  9. Erin
    Posted April 4, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I was 10 and growing up in Olympia. It was the first– and maybe only– time that I saw Kurt Loder choke up delivering MTV News as well as the DJs on the radio barely be able to speak through their tears. His music and his essence were powerful indeed. What’s most amazing was that he was just a kid from a small crappy town in the pacific northwest with not much to do, just like I was.

  10. Anne Dederer
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    I was driving to work when I heard someone had been found at the house near Denny Blaine Park. My heart sank. Once at work , people seemed to avoid me. After I’d been there only a few minutes , my friend Lance , who’s friend was SPD in Madrona at the time , came into my office without knocking or saying a word, closed the door, looked at me and said “it’s him.” That’s where I was and as I recount the story right now my heart hurts once again all these years later.

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