Nirvana's Krist Novoselic, Questlove and Hole Respond to Destruction of Recordings In Universal Blaze

Paul Bergen/Redferns
Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana photographed in 1991.

As news filters down on the true impact of a fire that gutted a Universal Studios vault in 2008 and wiped out some 500,000 master recordings, a string of high-profile artists have weighed in on their own losses.

A massive collection of irreplaceable master tapes originated from several labels, including Decca, MCA, ABC and Chess, and featuring songs from jazz greats Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, to rock n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry and material from a young teenage Aretha Franklin were torched in the calamity, the scale of which has finally come to light in a lengthy expose published by The Times.

The list of lost tapes is a long one, spanning genres and generations of music. Until now, however, Universal Music Group had publicly downplayed the extent of the damage. 

According to the feature, titled The Day The Music Burned, and based on legal and internal documents, works by B.B. King, Joni Mitchell, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Soundgarden and the Roots are among those that went up in smoke.

Now, R.E.M, Questlove, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, Hole, Steely Dan and others are counting the cost.

Responding to a question on Twitter, Novoselic said he thought the masters of Nirvana’s Nevermind “are gone forever,” while reps for Hole told Pitchfork that the band was “not aware until this morning” that their works were destroyed.

The Roots’ drummer Questlove tweeted that the fire was the reason why the band would not reissuing their second and third studio albums Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife.

R.E.M.’s reps say were "trying to get good information to find out what happened and the effect on the band’s music, if any."

Steely Dan manager Irving Azoff said, "We have been aware of 'missing' original Steely Dan tapes for a long time now. We've never been given a plausible explanation. Maybe they burned up in the big fire. In any case, it's certainly a lost treasure."

As previously reported, UMG put the number of music tapes destroyed in the West Coast blaze at nearly 120,000. Randy Aronson, who was senior director of vault operations for UMG at the time of the blaze, told The Times the figure was closer to 175,000. All up, UMG estimated internally that roughly 500,000 songs were lost.