The Nirvana/Soundgarden Member Who Became A War Hero
Today on Rock N’ Roll True Stories they take a look at Jason Everman, the former member of Nirvana and Soundgarden who became a war hero. Check it out below!
Have you ever heard phrase wrong place at the wrong time? A lot of people have messed up opportunities, but it doesn’t often happen that you leave two of the biggest bands in rock n’ roll right before they both blow up. Jason Everman is a pretty unique guy. He played in and was kicked out of two of the biggest bands of the 90’s: Nirvana and Soundgarden. Combined both bands have sold over 100 million albums worldwide. He wasn’t just Pete Best of the Beatles, He was Pete Best x 2.
So what did Everman do next? Join another band? Stay tuned to find out.
Everman was born in Alaska and spent his early years on a remote island in the state. His father, a fisherman loved nature, while his mother didn’t. According to Everman’s half sister Mimi who told the NY Times “”My mother was extremely depressed, an artistic genius who was also a pill-popping alcoholic. Jason and I learned to walk on eggshells and really learned to take care of ourselves.” Soon enough his parents marriage fell apart and his mother took Jason and his sister and moved to Washington State, His mother would marry a former Navy man.
Like a lot of kids who came from an unstable household, Jason had a period of his life where he acted out, but he also learned to become self sufficient and independent. Everman’s grandmother would put him in therapy to deal with his emotional issues and it was there he showed an interest in music. His therapist who happened to be a huge music fan had several vintage guitars in his office, one of which Jason picked up and started to learn how to play. His therapist hoped that music could be an interest Jason could put his energy into and he did. Soon after, Everman discovered punk rock. He would tell the NY Times “I’d have to say that was the first defining event in my life. In punk there’s an extreme kind of conformity to all the nonconformity. You realize in all this rebellion that everyone’s doing the same thing. But in a weird way, that’s what kind of lets you eventually forget the rules, and you can be yourself.”
During high school, Everman spent much of his free time playing in different bands and it was there he met drummer Chad Channing who would eventually join Nirvana. Channing and Everman would play in a band together called Stonecrow in 1985. Following his junior year, Everman reconnected with his biological father with whom he spent several summers with on his fishing boat.
His friend Chad Channing happened to meet a guitarist and a bassist from Olympia looking for a drummer. That pair just happened to be Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. They called their band nirvana.. Channing played drums for many of their early shows and when Cobain considered getting another guitar player, Channing suggested Everman.
Jonathan Poneman, co-founder of Sub Pop Records, the label that initially signed Nirvana and put out their debut album Bleach, told the NY Times that Cobain introduced Everman as his “surprise” before a sound check in San Francisco. Poneman liked the new guitarist immediately.
Everman was instrumental in helping Nirvana in the band’s early days. Following the recording of their debut album, 1989’s “Bleach,” the band owed their producer money. Their label Subpop was such a horribly managed company they didn’t have money to pay the producer. In fact the label owner Bruce Pavitt called up Cobain asking him for money. Novaselic remembered to the Times “Jason was very generous,”. “And he’d had a job. . ..? You know how it said it was recorded for like six hundred and something bucks on the back of the record? Jason paid for that.” Sub Pop was so supportive of Everman that they printed a limited-edition live poster of him rocking out depsite the fact that he never played on the record.
Jason seemed like a perfect fit: he was a punk rocker, and helped out the band with their producer, but once Nirvana hit the road things fell apart. The band started to tour behind the record in June of 1989 but almost a month in they hit a wall.
Keep in mind, this was before Nirvana had a huge hit with Nevermind so they were slumming it on the road, all piling into a tiny van.. Touring can be downright boring and uneasy for a lot of people. Between gigs your trying to kill the time while being in close proximity to your bandmates. Novaselic would explain “We had some great shows with Jason,”. “But then things went south really fast.” Somewhere along the way, a cloud formed over Jason, an impenetrable inwardness that just hung there. They say he wouldn’t talk to anyone, completely removing himself from the circle” he’d remember.
Even Chad Channing was also perplexed over what happened remembering in the same interview “He doesn’t talk freely when things are bothering him,”It just seemed as if he didn’t want to be there. Cobain and Novoselic wanted to fire the guitarist, but didn’t know how to approach the subject so instead they cancelled the remainder of he tour after new york and drove straight home with all the members sitting in silence for the whole ride back. They simply dropped Everman off and said “All right man , we’ll see you later” and that was the last time he spoke to his bandmates.
Everman would tell author Mark Yarm in the book Everybody Loves Our town how prior to the tour ending he confided in Chad that he was done with the band. Chad in turn went and told Krist and Kurt. According to Everman he would say “I came to the realization my role in the band was essentially going to be the rhythm guitar player. I had the desire and inclination to write as well. Same thing with Chad. It became obvious that wasn’t going to happen. Also we were broke and burned out from touring.”
Craig Montgommery who worked with Nirvana as their soundman on that tour recalled how Jason musically wasn’t a right fit saying in the same book. “The main thing i noticed was that all the guitar sounds that sounded like nirvana were coming from kurt. Jason’s guitar sound just didn’t sound right to me, so I never used very much of it. It was just kinda tinny, white noisy, buzzy whereas Kurt even then had this big beefy guitar tone that was musical. Having Jason seemed redundant to me.
Author Michael Azerrad who wrote the Nirvana book Come As You Are he would claim Cobain got rid of Evermand because and i quote he was a “moody metalhead.” The band never even paid him back for Bleach.
Following his time in Nirvana, Everman wanted to take a break from music and enjoy the money he had saved in the bank and travel the world. Instead he got a call from guitarist Kim Thayil of Soundgarden asking him to come audition for the band.
By late 1989 Soundgarden, parted ways with bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Soundgarden was on the verge of success having signed with a major label in A&M, they were about to release their album Louder Than Love and hit the road to support the record but Yamamaoto wasn’t happy with the band getting so big as he was afraid of Soundgarden losing their independence. In addition to that he wasn’t a fan of touring and. A&m wanted the band on the road to support louder than love for almost a year..He would soon be replaced by Everman. While Everman was a fan of Nirvana, he was a bigger fan of Soundgarden so the gig was a dream come true. Guitarist Kim Thayil would recall that time telling the Times
“We knew things ended with Nirvana on less-than-ideal terms,” “He didn’t fit with Nirvana? Big deal. That’s them. We’re Soundgarden. We’re a different animal.” Jason quickly won over the band at his audition as he came very well prepared.
The next year Soundgarden toured the United States and Europe. Everman was only 22 at the time and was several years younger than a lot of his bandmates. He would tell mark Yarm how he noticed the inequity in the band telling the author how Chris Cornell’s wife at the time Susan Silver was managing the band and how there was a two-tier system, one for Chris who was the obvious stara of the group and a second tier for the rest of the band.
While the band was on tour in Europe the wheels came off once again as according to his bandmates, Jason just wasn’t hanging out with them and trying to establish a bond with them.
Upon returning to America, soundgarden called a band meeting and fired Jason. Chris cornell would tell author mark yarm “we we were auditioning jason he was really shy, withdrawn and really intimated by the whole thing. I figured that given a few months he was gonna roar. It never worked out. Things never gelled and rather than let him fester we fired him.
Everman contends he was fired over the fact that he didn’t get along with Chris Cornell. No fights, it was just tension he would claim.
Everman’s friend Ben Shepherd, replaced him in the band. The group’s next album 1991s Badmotorfinger went double platinum. Of course, Nirvana — after replacing Jason’s friend Chad Channing on drums with Dave Grohl — also blew up becoming the biggest band in the world. Bleach which he helped pay for would sell over 2 million copies, while their follow up Nevermind sold over 30 million copies worldwide and changed music history.
Everman would admit he spent three days holed up in his room upset and compared his dismissals like getting dumped by a girlfriend. Following his firing he would move across the country to New York to play in some other bands including Mindfunk, while also working at a Caroline Records warehouse. Mindfunk would have some success and move to San Francisco with Everman joining them, but by 1993 he quit his band. Unbeknowst towards the end of his stint in the band he was secretly meeting with military recruiters. The military always interested him as his stepfather was a veteran as were both his grandfathers. Of course the people he played music with thought the idea of joining the miitaryr was crazy. Novaselic recalled to the times how he was asked by Everman once if he ever wanted to join the military and the bassist scoffed at the idea.
While sharing a house with mindfunk in san francisco jason started to get into shape and then without warning he quit the band , and by 1994 at the age
of 26 he went to Fort Benning, Georgia where he underwent training to join the Army rangers.
Army Rangers are part of a highly trained and rapidly deployable light infantry force with specialized skills that enable it to engage a variety of conventional and Special Operations style missionsincluding, airfield seizure, airborne & air assault operations, reconnaissance, personnel recovery & hostage rescue, joint special operations, and counter terrorism. If you’ve seen the movie black hawk down they are the soldiers who can be seen fast roping from the helicopters.
Upon arriving to Ranger school, Everman was just another recruit. He didn’t bring attention to his rock n’ roll past. Despite that, his muiscal history would be discovered as During his training the death of Kurt Cobain hit the musical world. Soon enough his drill seargant and fellow recruits discovered his musical past. Tapes and photos started to circulate of Everman with Nirvana and according to him there was a lot of “ok rockstar give me 50”
Despite that, Everman would successfully become an army ranger and while the nature of their work is highly secretive, he did reveal to the Times that his first deployment was somewhere in Latin America as part of the war on drugs. Following his stint with the Army Rangers he returned to new york around 1997 where he worked as a bike messenger. He wanted to save money and travel to the Himalayas and study in a buddhist monastery for half a year and then go to college. But despite these lofty goals he still felt like he wasn’t done with the military.
He would re-enlist in an effort to join the special forces where he would eventually become a Green Beret. He was in training during september 11th and He would soon find himself as one of the first soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in October of 2001. According to the New York Times profile written about him by a friend it would state:
He told me about riding horseback with the Pashtun, helicoptering in for midnight raids, sitting at a base for days at a time with absolutely nothing to do. Everman saw Soviet tanks rusting in the Panjshir Valley. He smelled the poppy fields outside of Kandahar. H Yet he always made a point to say fighting often isn’t what you think. “It’s not like the movies,” he stressed. “It’s slow, deliberate.”
Apart from multiple deployments to Afghanistan he also served in Iraq at the beginning of the war in 2003. Everman would claim Iraq was more like a movie revelaing to avaunt garde magazine ‘It sounds like a cliché, but it really was like “Wow this is like A Bridge Too Far,” something from a classic war movie,’. ‘We were being engaged from the ditches on both sides of the road, the overpasses, helicopters blowing up tanks, tanks blowing up tanks.’ he’d remember
Everman would be honrably discharged from the military in 2006. He would end up using the GI Bill to apply for college Seattle and Columbia University. General Stanley McChrystal who was in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan and joint special operations command or JSOC in the US military wrote him a letter of recommendation and he got into Columbia much to his surprise. At the age of 45 he received a bachelors degree in philosophy.
Years later he would go back to school and earn a masters degree in military history.
In 2014 he was supposedly invited and attended Nirvana’s induction into the rock n’ roll hall of fame. The Daily Beast would publish a profile on Everman which claimed that he sometimes acts as an advisor to the military overseas, while also hosting writing workshops and being a professor. But music hasn’t left his life completely as he plays in a new band as of 2017 called Silence and Night with other military veterans. They released their first full album in late 2019 with grammy award winning producer josh gudwin. The band’s profits would help member sof the special operations community.