The Punkest of Almost Rock Stars

What to do after you've been kicked out of two of the biggest bands in rock? Go special forces of course:

Even with more than 20 years of perspective, Everman still doesn’t have a clear answer for what went wrong. “To be honest, I never had any expectations about the gig,” he told me. “It just ended.” In “Come as You Are,” the definitive book on Nirvana, by Michael Azerrad, Cobain dismissed Everman as a “moody metalhead.” Even worse, he boasted about not paying Everman back for “Bleach,” claiming it was payment for “mental damages.” In Nirvana — a band with a lead singer so famously tortured that he would commit suicide — Jason Everman was kicked out for being a head case…

Everman had always liked Nirvana, but he loved Soundgarden. Playing bass for them — on the verge of stardom as they were — was the most-coveted gig in Seattle — even one of Everman’s old friends, Ben Shepherd, auditioned. Soundgarden, meanwhile, had called Jason right away. “We knew things ended with Nirvana on less-than-ideal terms,” Kim Thayil, their guitarist, told me. “He didn’t fit with Nirvana? Big deal. That’s them. We’re Soundgarden. We’re a different animal.” In the first audition, he impressed them all. “Jason was the guy,” Soundgarden’s drummer, Matt Cameron, remembered. “Jason came prepared.” After the disaster with Nirvana, now Everman was playing bass for his favorite Seattle band. He couldn’t believe his luck. As he put it to me, “What were the chances of all that happening?”…

When Soundgarden returned home, they called a band meeting. Jason showed up on Cameron’s porch thinking it was about the next record. Thayil told me, “I thought I would be diplomatic . . . and wasn’t getting to the point.” He said Chris Cornell, Soundgarden’s singer, finally cut to the chase: It wasn’t working out, Cornell said. Thayil remembers thinking: We’re not behaving like a band. I’m not happy. No one here is happy. No one’s talking to each other. Just like that, Everman was fired again…

When he arrived for basic training at Fort Benning, his hair was cut, his nose ring was removed; he was as anonymous as every other recruit. At 26, he wasn’t an old-timer, but he was close to it. Training had been going on for about a month when Cobain committed suicide and Everman’s rock past was discovered, which gave more ammunition to the drill sergeants. There was a lot of “O.K., rock star, give me 50.” Everman insists he didn’t expect anything else…

I wanted to know every detail, but he wouldn’t say much. Or couldn’t. There’s a code among Special Forces: they don’t talk about what they do. I actually think this was part of the appeal for Everman. After having such a public rock face, he went for something that wasn’t just anonymous; it was classified. Mimi once met a couple of Special Forces guys who idolized Jason. “They didn’t approach like the usual fanboys who asked, ‘Your brother was in Nirvana?’ ” she said. “No, they came to me like: ‘Jason Everman is your brother?’ ” One turned to the other and said, “Dude, do you know what that guy’s done?”…

After he left the military in 2006, he used the G.I. Bill to apply to two places: Seattle University and Columbia University. He says he threw Columbia in almost as a joke. General McChrystal wrote a letter of recommendation. To Everman’s shock, he was accepted. “It’s almost like a dare that went too far — and it keeps going.” At 45, he just received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

 

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