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Kurt Cobain, the iconic frontman of Nirvana, is revered as one of the most influential figures in the history of rock music. While Nirvana propelled him to worldwide fame, his musical journey began long before the formation of the groundbreaking grunge band. Before Kurt Cobain formed Nirvana in 1987 and revolutionized the entire musical landscape of the 1980s, the “Spokesman of a Generation” attempted a musical career while still in adolescence with his first band, Fecal Matter.

In 1985, Kurt Cobain was still in the tumultuous period of his adolescence, and for the third time in two years, he found himself homeless. Once again, Kurt Cobain considered joining the Navy, as unemployment in his town was increasingly high, and having a stable job with good pay for a kid who had dropped out of Aberdeen High School was incredibly challenging.


“Illiteracy Will Prevail” Was Kurt Cobain’s 1st Album


In December 1985, while in another foster family, Kurt Cobain began rehearsing some songs with his friend Dale Crover (future The Melvins drummer) on bass and Greg Hokanson on drums. Later, Mike Dillard and Buzz Osborne from The Melvins briefly joined the lineup. Fecal Matter was formed, and the band’s sound was raw, abrasive, and uncompromising, influenced by punk rock, hardcore punk, and the emerging alternative music of the era.

Kurt Cobain and Dale Crover went to Aunt Mari’s house to record some songs. Kurt Cobain recorded his vocals first, then layered the bass and drum parts on top. Kurt Cobain’s aunt witnessed the process and recalls being struck by the content of some lyrics, particularly a song called “Suicide Samurai”. After recording several more songs, everything was transferred onto a cassette. It was the first tangible proof of Kurt Cobain’s musical talent.

A curious and somewhat puzzling fact is that Fecal Matter broke up without ever playing a single gig. After the dissolution of Fecal Matter, Kurt Cobain began passing around the demo tape to his friends, hoping to form a new band. Kurt Cobain was particularly proud of the tape, seeing it as proof of his talent.


The Importance of Krist Novoselic in Nirvana’s Formation Post-Fecal Matter


Despite their short-lived existence, Fecal Matter played a crucial role in shaping Kurt Cobain’s musical identity. The band’s primitive recordings, characterized by lo-fi production and Kurt Cobain’s impassioned vocals, foreshadowed the angst-ridden intensity that would define Nirvana’s sound.

There are reports of a historic live performance of this project. Michael Azzerad recounts Fecal Matter, opened for the Melvins at The Spot Tavern, a beach bar in Moclips.

Months later, in 1986, with no progress for his initial project, Kurt Cobain found renewed hope when his high school friend Krist Novoselic expressed interest in forming a band. Novoselic had listened to the cassette Kurt Cobain had recorded and recalled, “He had this little demo tape and it had ‘Spank Thru’ on it, I thought it was a really good song.” This demo would become one of the most important in 90s music history, as it convinced Krist Novoselic to form a band with Kurt Cobain.


The Most Recognized Tracks from the “Illiteracy Will Prevail” Demo Sessions


Two tracks stood out from the Fecal Mater demos. They later became part of Nirvana’s repertoire: “Spank Thru,” which Krist Novoselic specifically referred to as “the first Nirvana song” in the liner notes to the live compilation album “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah,” released in October 1996. This song also appeared on the compilation album Sub Pop 200, released in December 1988.

The other track, “Downer,” was Kurt Cobain’s attempt at a political song. In it, Kurt Cobain reflects on nuclear war, radicals predicting doomsday, and other issues. Kurt said, “I was trying to be Mr. Black Flag punk-rock guy… I didn’t know what I was talking about.

In addition to these songs, others were recorded in a single session and were released as the Illiteracy Will Prevail” demo tape. Illiteracy Will Prevail is the earliest documentation of Kurt Cobain’s songwriting in circulation, and it helped Kurt establish himself as a composer and performer among his peers in the emerging grunge scene in Washington State.


Listen to a Demo Tape From Kurt Cobain’s Pre-Nirvana Band Fecal Matter

Nirvana would go on to re-record two other Fecal Matter tracks, “Anorexorcist” and “Spank Thru,” both of which would appear in separate rarities collections in the early 2000s. Now, you can listen to the origins of those tracks and the entire “Illiteracy Will Prevail” demo below.

YouTube player


“Illiteracy Will Prevail” remained a highly sought-after and elusive item for collectors as Nirvana rose to fame, becoming extensively bootlegged over the years. Before an incomplete, poor-quality demo version leaked in March 2006, numerous forgeries had surfaced. A week later, three full songs from the demo (“Sound of Dentage”, “Bambi Slaughter”, and “Laminated Effect”) were briefly hosted on a MySpace site. A remastered version is also available.


“Illiteracy Will Prevail” Tracklist

  1. “Sound of Dentage”
  2. “Untitled (Reefer Madness e trechos comerciais)
  3. “Bambi Slaughter”
  4. “Laminated Effect (Made Not Born)”
  5. “Are You Controlled”
  6. “Punk Rocker”
  7. “I Don’t Want You”
  8. “Anorexorcist”
  9. “Accusations”
  10. “Spank Thru”
  11. “Insurance”
  12. “Class of ’86”
  13. “Blather’s Log”
  14. “Downer”
  15. “Instramental (Versão instrumental da faixa 7)
  16. “Turnaround”
  17. “Riffs”




How Old Was Kurt Cobain When He Formed Fecal Matter?

Fecal Matter was formed in 1985 by 18-year-old Kurt Cobain, who had just dropped out of high school. The other members were drummer Greg Hokanson and future Melvins drummer Dale Crover on bass, but the group was short-lived.


Why Did Fecal Matter Disband?

This line-up did not last long due to Cobian’s frustration in Osbourne for failing to buy a bass amplifier. They supposedly played one show on May 3, 1986, in Olympia but under the name “Brown Towel.” The band broke up the same year. After the break-up, Cobain continued passing around demo tapes to his friends.

According to the book “Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana” by Michael Azerrad, Cobain felt that Osborne didn’t take the band seriously. In February, Fecal Matter disbanded, and the Melvins recorded their debut EP. Buzz Osborne said, “Kurt got fed up because I wouldn’t buy a bass system, so he said I wasn’t committed enough.


What’s the Story Between Kurt Cobain and the Melvins?

Kurt Cobain had a close relationship with the Melvins, a prominent punk rock band from Washington state. In the early days of Nirvana, Cobain was heavily influenced by the Melvins’ music and often attended their shows. He was particularly close to Melvins’ members Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover.

The Melvins played a significant role in Nirvana’s early career, providing them with opportunities to perform and helping them gain exposure in the underground music scene. Additionally, the Melvins’ DIY ethos and unconventional approach to music left a lasting impact on Cobain and influenced Nirvana‘s sound and style.

Kurt Cobain also collaborated with the Melvins on various projects, including recording demos and performing together on stage. The two bands remained friends throughout Kurt Cobain’s career, with Cobain expressing admiration for the Melvins’ music and contributing to their success by promoting them to a wider audience.



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