Former Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age singer Mark Lanegan discussed his first record The Winding Sheet in a new NME interview, which features a Leadbelly cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” recorded with Nirvana members Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic.
Lanegan and Cobain were initially cooking up a half-baked plan to record an EP of Leadbelly covers together. Naturally, Sub Pop – the newborn label who had snapped up Nirvana for an initial outlay of just 600 bucks – were keen to put it out, but when it failed to materialise it was co-founder Poneman who rang Lanegan and asked if he wanted to make a solo record instead.
“I distinctly remember that the offer was for $13,000 for the first record,” says Lanegan.
He also said, “I had never picked up a guitar or anything, but I knew that the records we’d made were for a strict $1,000 budget. I thought I could make a record for a thousand dollars and pocket the other twelve.”
So Lanegan taught himself to write, and then wrote ‘The Winding Sheet’. He included the sole song salvaged from the ill-fated Leadbelly sessions: a version of ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?’, featuring both Cobain and Krist Novoselic. The album was a departure for both Lanegan and Sub Pop, but it turned into a success that would heavily influence the sound of Nirvana’s own famous MTV Unplugged performance. This story illustrates two important facts about Sub Pop: They were willing to gamble, but they knew their shit.