Breaking the band in England was a real mission for Sup Pop.
“Well, yes. At the time, the most influential music media was in England, and it was also more accessible. You had three competing music weeklies that were always looking for new material. If you were an American band that could get to the UK, there was a good chance you’d get some ink. In the States, there were the regional weeklies, but everything was spread out so much.
“Trying to get covered in Rolling Stone was next to impossible. But trying to get something in New Music Express? Doable. That was our strategy. We had a UK publicist, Anton, who helped set a lot of that up, and we really felt that getting three of our best live acts together would really do the trick. We had done that previously, in June of ’89, at the Seattle LameFest, and that went over extremely well, so we decided to bring it over to London and try to convince the critics that Seattle had a happening scene.”
You wrote about Nirvana almost breaking up after the show at the Piper Club in Rome. How serious did it actually get?
“We really thought Nirvana were going to break up. The reason why we took a last-minute detour to Rome was because we heard that Kurt was suffering from nervous exhaustion. He was fried; he had just reached the end of his rope. If you see pictures of the van in the book, now imagine nine people with instruments in there, plus merch. That’s tight. One of those guys weight 300 pounds, and another guy was six foot four. Squeeze all of those guys in a van and crisscross Europe for six weeks – that’s enough to break up any band.
“In really thinking it through, I’m amazed the bands did as well as they did. But when we witnessed the Rome show, Kurt had reached the breaking point, so there was a big question mark. We knew that the length of the show was the biggest opportunity the band ever had, so we just did everything we could to get ‘em out there.”