Kurt Cobain fans have one more reason to see Brett Morgen’s critically acclaimed documentary about the late Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, when it’s released theatrically on Aug. 7: The filmmaker tells Billboard exclusively that he has added a new, previously unheard demo — which features Cobain singing in a falsetto — to the film’s soundtrack.
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Morgen says he inserted the new song without altering the cut of the movie that played on HBO, which has since been nominated for seven Emmys. He declines to divulge where the track appears “because I don’t want to get people out there bootlegging it on their cell phones.” The track does not have a title — in fact, none of the songs pulled from the audiotapes do because, Morgen explains, the cassettes were unmarked — but the filmmaker says there’s some evidence that Cobain recorded it in 1991 because it appears on a tape “on which he was also working on ‘Old Age,'” which was written during the Nevermind sessions and later rewritten and recorded by Courtney Love and her band Hole.
Morgen gave Billboard an opportunity to hear the song, which has the familiar, dense slow-shred-slow guitar sound of Nirvana’s breakthrough album. The lyrics are mostly drowned out by Cobain’s playing — at one point, he sounds like he’s singing “Wonder how I breathe” and “I’m a bad man” — and through much of the song he affects a falsetto that’s faintly reminiscent of the Beach Boys‘ Brian Wilson, but thankfully, nowhere near as weird as his cartoonishly altered vocals on “Beans,” which is found on the With the Lights Out box set.
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Although Montage of Heck premiered on pay-cable channel HBO on May 4, Morgen says the film — which, via Cobain’s writings, interviews and mostly music, takes the moviegoer on a journey through the artist’s creative-but-fragile psyche — “was built as a theatrical experience, so we decided we would bring the film back into theaters.” The documentary will be released in the “top 50 to 100 markets” beginning on Aug. 7, he says.
The documentary features previously unheard demo recordings and snippets of songs that Cobain left on 107 cassette tapes Morgen worked with for the film. In all, he says, there are approximately 30 to 50 demos that were mined from some 200 hours of audio. And, the director adds, Cobain’s method of recording lends itself to the high-definition sound systems of movie theaters today. “Kurt played around with sound collage, particularly with panning effects,” in which the record appears to move from one speaker to another, Morgen says. “And it’s a sensory experience that really envelops you.”