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Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd Recalls Time When He Nearly Became Nirvana’s Lead Guitarist

Ben Shepherd of Soundgarden
Mary Ouellette,

Did you know that Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd nearly became a member of Nirvana? Before either Soundgarden or Nirvana became grunge legends, Shepherd almost became Nirvana’s second guitarist, but the band chose instead to remain a three-piece until the addition of Germs strummer Pat Smear.

In a new interview with Denver Westword, the Soundgarden bassist described his relationship with the core members of Nirvana along with nearly becoming a full-time member of the band. “I was supposed to play lead guitar for them,” begins Shepherd. “But they stayed a three piece. I knew them before they were a band, too. [Nirvana] drummer] Chad [Channing] never told Kurt [Cobain] that I played guitar, even though the first time Kurt and I met, we were at a party in Olympia, and we were the two loners on the end of the couch, and there was a guitar there. I would always find a guitar at a party because I didn’t like parties much. So I would find the guitar and space off by myself, you know? Kurt was the same way, so we wound up sharing a guitar that night, an acoustic that was there.”

Shepherd continues, “Chad, my old friend, we were in a band together, and I was the singer for a band. Then there was Krist Novoselic walking up to me. This was after my punk band, March of Crimes, broke up … I’d already known him from playing in March of Crimes, and growing up, you had to have a brother band to play gigs with you … We’d run into Krist there because they were part of the same crowd out in Montesano or Aberdeen.”

The bassist goes on to describe how Chad Channing became Nirvana’s drummer. “When we played with this band a couple of years later or something, there was Krist who said, ‘Hey, Ben, dude, do you think your drummer would let us use his drum set?’ ‘F—, I didn’t know you were in a band, Krist, cool. Sure, man. That’s Chad up there. He has those funny looking drums up there. He’ll probably loan you those drums.’ So they did, and that’s how they met Chad, and he ended up joining the band.”

Check out the full interview with Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd at Denver Westword.

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