Although he'll forever be best known for producing such Seattle classics as Nirvana's "Bleach" and Soundgarden's "Screaming Life," Jack Endino is a musician himself, having led the oft-overlooked Skin
Although he'll forever be best known for producing such Seattle classics as Nirvana's "Bleach" and Soundgarden's "Screaming Life," Jack Endino is a musician himself, having led the oft-overlooked Skin Yard during the 1980s and '90s, and recorded as a solo artist. The 13-year-drought since his last solo release will end Oct. 25 with a new album, "Permanent Fatal Error."
"It took so long [because] there were a lot of personal reasons," Endino tells Billboard.com. "I was jokingly going to title the album 'Five Funerals, Two Suicides and a Divorce,' but I thought that was a little too negative [laughs]. I went through a lot of strange things in my life -- there were people who died, both my parents, a couple of friends -- and there was just a lot that took my attention away from making music. Also, my production career took off, and I started traveling and producing other bands."
"Permanent Fatal Error" has an unmistakably early '90s Seattle vibe to it, but Endino is quick to point out that this happened naturally. "That's just the way I write," he admits. "There's some fast rock'n'roll and some slow, slightly prog-y stuff, sort of Soundgarden-y things. I mean, you could say I'm a product of my environment here, but I sort of helped create that environment, so I don't know which way the influences are going there. Skin Yard itself was a fairly influential band, even though we didn't sell a lot of records."
Although Endino supplied vocals and guitar on all the tracks (and even handled all the instruments himself on a few selections), several other musicians lent a hand. "The sessions were very scattered over time," he says. "I had some sessions with Barrett Martin [ex-Skin Yard/Screaming Trees/Mad Season drummer], and my friend Rob Skinner, who used to play bass in the band Coffin Break, and a couple of guys from the Accused -- Josh [Sinder, drums] and Alex [Sibbald, bass]."
Endino also hopes to support the release with live dates. "I have a band who has volunteered to back me up, some friends of mine named Dirty Power, from San Francisco," he says. "Excellent band that I recorded a record for a couple of years ago [2003's 'Dirty Power']. They pretty much called up and said, 'Hey, we want to play your songs -- do you want to do some shows?' So we have, at the end of October, a West Coast tour coming up, where we'll do San Francisco, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle and a few other things. And then we'll see where it goes from there."
Endino has fond memories of working with Seattle's rock titans, and recalls Nirvana's no-nonsense work ethic while recording "Bleach." "We only spent a few days in the studio, just like four hours here, five hours there," he says. "Just another young band wanting to record, not wasting any time, not having much money to waste. They'd come in, set up and get right to it. Nobody screwed around; nobody was partying, doing drugs or being stupid. Very hard working, industrious band. Very serious about their music, able to play very well and work quickly -- I sort of facilitated that as much as I could. And nice guys."
Soundgarden was no less dedicated while making the "Screaming Life" EP. "We had an eight-track machine, so it was very, very low tech," he remembers. "And we made up for it by spending a lot of time being very careful about the sounds, playing, arranging and the mixing. The band was very serious, very thoughtful; they knew exactly what they wanted. We took it real seriously, but at the same time, we didn't get stupid about it."
As a whole, Endino describes this "golden age" of Seattle rock as built on a healthy spirit of competition. "It was pretty exciting," he says. "At the same time, we felt like we had something special, and we sort of had it all to ourselves. Everybody was making records at the same time; a lot of them were working with me. We all knew each other, and there were only a few clubs, and there was a small audience. When the world started to notice, we thought, 'Wow, validation -- this is kind of cool.' And then when it went completely over the top, then everybody started wondering, 'Wait a minute, you've got to be careful what you wish for -- you might get it.'"