Sub Pop Co-Founder Bruce Pavitt Talks Henry Rollins, Minor Threat + More
Last summer, Bazillion Points released an expansive chronicle of Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt’s early ‘Sub Pop’ fanzines and column for the Seattle newspaper, ‘The Rocket.’ The resulting book, ‘Sub Pop USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988,’ is a fascinating document that lets us look back on Pavitt's -- the man who signed Nirvana -- insights into music of the era.
With the paperback edition recently hitting stores, Pavitt spoke to the Guardian about his memories and early reactions to the artists who fueled both his zines and columns.
“One of the reasons I love the 1980s and I love so many of the acts in the book is that that period was pre-‘Nevermind,’ which meant that nobody was making money, and because nobody was making money the scene tended to attract pioneer types, risk-takers,” he explained. “Post-‘Nevermind,’ you had business majors starting bands and hiring attorneys before their first rehearsal. But before that you were drawing in people like Ian McKaye, Steve Albini, Greg Ginn, Henry Rollins, Gibby Haynes. These are pioneering types. Risk-takers. The ‘90s had some good songwriters, the ‘80s had the characters.”
Pavitt went into detail about his early responses to a handful of those characters, including Henry Rollins. The Sub Pop founder said Rollins had “the sex appeal of Elvis or James Brown with the psychotic edge of Charlie Manson,” going on to add that Black Flag had an “intensity that was pretty much unmatched by any band of the era.”
When it comes to Minor Threat, Pavitt described first hearing the band as being a “spiritual experience.”
“I remember very specifically that [K Records’ Calvin Johnson] brought over the first Minor Threat single – the track was ‘In My Eyes’ and it was a spiritual experience,” he said. “It was one of the great punk moments.”
And when asked how he felt about calling the Melvins’ debut album “weak and thin and lame” in hindsight, he maintained his original opinion.
“There were some references in my book to the Melvins being the heaviest band in the world, and I think that was an adequate description,” Pavitt conceded. “I just think that record didn’t do them justice. I don’t think that Buzz ever forgave me for trashing his first record.”