Nirvana Employee Reveals Why In Utero Was ‘Meh’ Album With ‘Recycled Ideas’

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Craig Montgomery, Nirvana’s live sound engineer from 1989-1993, recently did an AMA on Nirvana’s Reddit. Below are highlights.

How do you feel about in utero as an album?

Meh. It has a couple good songs on it, but a lot of them were recycled old ideas. Because of everything that had been going on the previous couple years (all the touring, legal and drug troubles) there wasn’t much writing or rehearsing going on.

I don’t like the sound much either.

What was Kurt like on the road? Was he moody or did he ever have an attitude about doing shows?

He was a funny, smart, witty , sarcastic guy, usually fun to be around for sure. Sometimes quiet and needing alone time though.

He lived for playing shows.

Hi Craig, I missed the AMA so you may never see this, but I wanted to throw in that as a longtime Nirvana fan I feel the version of Aneurysm you recorded with them in 1991 (that ended up as a B-side on the Teen Spirit single) is the definitive and “best” version they ever recorded. It’s such a powerful take. Do you remember much about that recording in particular? Thank you so much!

That song worked out well because they had already been playing it live for a while. All the parts were already written, even the vocal! Kind of unusual for that session. Only Aneurysm and Even In His Youth were finished songs at that point.

Might be a little late here, so if this goes unanswered I totally understand 😊. Do you still keep in contact with Krist and Dave? When was the last time you talked to them?

Not really. Last time I saw Krist was when the Nirvana exhibit opened at the EMP in Seattle. A few years before that, Dave stopped by my work to see Mike Watt playing and gave me a hug.

I was offered a ticket to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, but I didn’t go. I kind of regret that now, but at the time I felt weird about going.

  • Unglued

    In Utero was a great album and I definitely prefer it to Nevermind these days. It showcased Kurt Cobain’s true talent as a musician and songwriter. It has three of the best Nirvana songs ever: “All Apologies,” “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” and “Dumb.”

  • Raj

    Hogwash, Nevermind was super-polished, They used not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4 but 5 freaking guitars on Drain You it was ridiculously layered. Vig had to go to great lengths to persuade Cobain to double his vocals telling him John Lennon did it. In Utero showed more of a collaboration, Kurt incorporated Grohl’s ideas on riffs. In Utero is more stripped, I don’t think it’s recycled ideas.

    • astrocreep7

      I’d say he means recycled as in: a few of the songs were written before Nevermind.

      And why does it matter how many guitars are used? It sounds good. Smashing Pumpkins have at least 10 guitars going on some classic records. (Yes, I know Butch Vig produced Siamese Dream as well)

      • Raj

        Maybe, in bloom was written and performed before even Bleach. However, a lot of the lyrics focus on his reaction on things that happened to him and his band after Nevermind. It does sound good but they had great studios and a big budget to do that. I wonder how Nevermind would sound with Albini and In Utero with Vig.

        • Trovoid

          I never considered that.. Now I’m trying to imagine what they would sound like.

    • Cory Breuer

      What band are you in and how successful are you? That’s what I thought. Fuck off poser! You’re probably a Five Finger Pussy Punch fan hahahaha!

  • Cory Breuer

    These Nirvana employees need an ass beating! Fuck you fucking fucks!

    • Raj

      U r banned

  • negativezero

    lmao what? In Utero was Nirvana at its best. what, does this guy think Nevermind was their best record? even Kurt himself said Nevermind was a “candy-ass” record. it was poppy, easier to swallow for your Average Joe, and honestly a bit overproduced. although, it’s not a bad record by any means. however, In Utero was creative, diverse, and had a very authentic, raw sound to it. it was certainly better than “meh”.

    • cmlukey

      Nevermind “poppy”? Perhaps a bit. Overproduced? Hardly. Nevermind was full of raw energy and is loaded with 3-4-5 chord masterpieces and is as fresh today as it was then. By comparison I find In Utero dark and brooding and at times a bit of a slog. Maybe it represents their evolution, but it is my least favorite of their albums. I will take the raw punk-like energy of Nevermind and Bleech any day over IU. That said, I still like IU, but it’s a 7-8 instead of a “10”. Personal taste.

  • Nick Freno

    I think “In Utero” has better songwriting but some people dont like the raw sound and the way it was recorded. I love it.