Edited by Brett Buchanan
Nirvana and Kurt Cobain have been featured heavily in the news and media this year, climaxing with the HBO broadcast of Brett Morgen’s documentary Montage of Heck. Part of Nirvana’s appeal lies in their unique history, emerging out of a know-nothing town from the Northwest to top Michael Jackson in the charts, in a shift of power dynamics that was faster than most political revolutions. The band’s most stable and consistent members were Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl – but their history included a long list of drummers, and later many auxiliary members in the post-Nevermind era. This series of articles will deal with the personal and career history of those members of Nirvana that were skewed away and footnoted by history.
Born March 25, 1966 in Kansas City, Missouri, Melora Creager was born to a graphic designer and physicist, who in their private and professional lives promoted the arts. Creager and her siblings were brought up learning instruments, Melora taking up piano at age 5 and then cello at age 9. She attended Parsons School of Design in New York, where she took cello back up and began to play shows with friends’ local bands as cellist.
Her band and largest project, Rasputina, began in 1989 after she put out an ad in Village Voice seeking “female electric cellists”, with an accompanying manifesto. Originally a huge nine piece, the band’s permanent members have dwindled to just three as of 2015: Melora Creager, Luis Mojica and Carpella Parvo. Hailing from New York City, the band played around the city’s club circuit until landing a record deal with Columbia in 1996.
In 1994, Melora Creager was recruited to replace touring cellist Lori Goldstein for the European leg of the In Utero tour, the latter who had also performed at Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged appearance. The first performance on record with Creager and the band happened February 5, 1994 in Cascais, Portugal. The version of “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” on the With the Lights Out boxset, featuring Creager on cello. Creager, as quoted in Borzillo’s “Eyewitness Nirvana”:
“I got really excited, so all my parts were cadenzas and crazy cello everywhere. [Then] Krist would ask me, ‘ You’re playing like the record, right?’. . . Those guys [Cobain and Novoselic] didn’t really talk much. And in my mind, Kurt’s the leader and he told me to play whatever I wanted, but Krist didn’t like it like that… It was really nerve-wracking!”
The session also featured “Polly”, “The Man Who Sold The World”, “Dumb”, “Where Did You Sleep Light Night” and “Something In The Way”, but these recordings have yet to surface. Creager toured with Nirvana throughout France, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Italy and lastly Germany, where Nirvana played their last show on March 1, 1994 in Munich at Terminal 1 of the old Flughafen München-Riem airport, which had fell out of use by 1992 but the buildings were left and used as venues for concerts and festivals. The death of Kurt Cobain devestated everyone in Nirvana’s inner circle, but like Dave Grohl, Kurt’s death inspired Creager to dedicate herself to working harder on music. Creager laments, “He was an artist, and the world wanted to hear what he had to say, and he shut it off. You can’t do that.”
From left to right: Kurt Cobain, Melora Creager, Krist Novoselic
Nirvana’s subsequent end had Creager return to Rasputina with a determination to make and play music better than she ever had before. Signed to Columbia in 1996, Rasputina saw their first major label release Thanks for the Ether, released later that year. The following year, Rasputina famously collaborated with Marilyn Manson, a collaboration which gave birth to their follow up EP, Transylvanian Regurgitations. Around this time, they opened up for Perry Farrell’s Porno for Pyros during their last tour in promotion of their second album, Good God’s Urge. Their second album, How We Quit the Forest, features Chris Vrenna (aka Tweaker) of Nine Inch Nails/Manson on drums/percussion and producer.
After their first two albums, they left Columbia and signed with Instinct from 2000 to 2007, and sporadically have released albums and EP’s on Filthy Bonnet Records. Many of their recent releases have been self-released and produced. In 2010, ex-member Dawn Miceli directed and produced a documentary on the band, entitled Under the Corset.
Rasputina’s sound steps into a multi-platform time machine, having one foot in the Victorian era, one in the Edwardian, and your head somewhere between 1988 to 1992. While Rasputina has a separate legacy and artistic vision, Kurt Cobain was looking to step into a direction that involved much less of the “Seattle sound” and “grunge” and more of acoustic and classical stringed instrumentation. This is marked by the steady increase of cello instrumentation from Nevermind to In Utero, climaxing with the MTV Unplugged performance. Rasputina’s lyrical subjects were also typically disturbing and profane, not unlike Nirvana’s, though Creager’s themes are often times more historical.
Below are examples of Creager’s live work with Nirvana, and selected tracks from Rasputina’s discography. Look out for more parts in the Lost Members of Nirvana series in the near future on AlternativeNation.net. To learn more about Rasputina, visit their website here.
<h2> Nirvana featuring Melora Creager </h2>
“Heart Shaped Box” from Nirvana’s last show in Munich, March 1st 1994
“Dumb” from the last show in Munich (same as above)
Excellent version of “Polly” from Nirvana’s show in Rome, February 22nd, 1994.
<h2> Rasputina </h2>
“Transylvanian Concubine” from Thanks for the Ether
“The Olde HeadBoard” from How We Quit the Forest
“Holocaust of Giants” from Sister Kinderhook