[8 April 2009]
Though Greg Prato had never visited Seattle before he started his latest book, something in the city’s music scene from the early ‘90s - from Nirvana to Soundgarden - touched the writer so deeply he decided to submerge himself into its history.
“Music,” he explained, “can shift society.”
For “Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music” (ECW Press), Prato talked to 130 Seattle scenesters, from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament to Sub Pop Records co-founder Jonathan Poneman, about the music’s rise and fall.
Q. Why did you want to write about grunge?
A. In 1990-91, it really opened a door for me. It introduced me to punk music, to alternative music. Those bands really did change things, and I don’t think the genre has been forgotten ... but I don’t think there was ever really a book that was focused on it… . I was talking with Jack Endino (producer-engineer for Nirvana and Soundgarden) ... about how it would be great if there was a book of quotes straight from people who had actually been there.
Q. Is that why you made it an oral history?
A. I was aiming to make it definitive like “Please Kill Me” by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, only about grunge… . For a while, I didn’t know if I had a book. But I kept talking to people and it started to snowball. I just had all these spreadsheets about each topic and quotes from all the people I talked to… . It was a great big puzzle.
Q. But you knew how to pull it together. Had you always wanted to be a writer?
A. It had never crossed my mind. I just started doing a few small write-ups and kept at it until I was supporting myself writing full-time ... if you believe in something enough, you can make it happen.