"It broke my heart" – Jason Everman talks about getting fired from Soundgarden, quitting Nirvana and becoming a decorated US Army Ranger

Jason Everman
(Image credit: The Joe Rogan Experience / YouTube)

Even singular elements of Jason Everman's story are remarkable; he was a member of both Nirvana and Soundgarden as a guitarist and bassist, respectively. He even funded the recording of Nirvana's debut album, Bleach. Then he went on to become a decorated US Army Ranger and Green Beret. No wonder Joe Rogan wanted him as a guest on his podcast.

"With Nirvana, I guess initially when I came onboard Kurt wanted a second guitar player for the live show basically – have a heavier sound live and take some of the responsibility off him so he could concentrate on vocals and that kind of thing," remembered Everman of his time in the band and why it didn't work out in the longer term. "Initially I thought I was going to be able to contribute to the band creatively and then it got to the point when I realised that wasn't going to happen. And the same thing happened with Chad [Channing] the drummer, I think.

"Everyone in the band, including myself, were poor communicators – a lot of passive aggression," Everman added. "We were kids."

The musician was only 20 at this time and become increasingly dissatisfied with the situation in the band. "On the rare times where we actually rehearsed as a band, which was not a lot, Kurt kind of half-heartedly [asked], 'Who has ideas?' and I'd throw a couple of ideas out. And Chad, a very accomplished musician in his own right, would throw some ideas out and then it would just be glossed over and [Kurt] would be like, 'Well here's the new song I wrote' and we'd start learning that. So it was very cursory. He kind of like threw it out there but it was;t going to go anywhere."

This won't be surprising to anyone familiar with Nirvana's creative dynamic; regardless of the lineup Cobain was the primary songwriter. Everman saw out a US tour with Nirvana in the late '80s – the band's first national run – before deciding he was done with his rock n' roll "foray". But then Soundgarden called.

"I got home and I was planning on going trekking in the Himalayas," explained Everman to Rogan. By his own admission to Rogan, that was really Everman's childhood dream – not being in a rock band. He'd started buying maps and gear for the trip but got an unexpected phone call. 

"Kim [Thayil] from Soundgarden called and was like, 'Hey, Hiro [Yamamoto, bassist] quit, do you want to audition for the band?'" Everman was back in the game. "At that point, Soundgarden was my favourite Seattle band, hands-down," he recalled.

Everman is humble enough to say he didn't think he would get the gig, but he did and joined the ranks in the fall of 1989. He still ended up getting fired and was out the band again by mid-1990, to be replaced by Ben Shepherd.

Soundgarden in 1989

(Image credit: Krasner/Trebitz/Redferns)

"It's complicated," Everman began when he explained the reasons for his parting of ways with Soundgarden. "But at the end of the day I wasn't getting along with Chris [Cornell] that well and obviously, who's gonna go? It was me." But unlike Nirvana, this time it took a much heavier toll on Everman. 

"It broke my heart," he told Rogan. "It was a bad spot for me because I loved that band. I never thought they would get as big as they did. Honestly, it was surprising because they were a great band but I always thought they were a little bit too quirky to be huge, despite the Chris factor; a genetically engineered rockstar. But I always thought they were a little too weird to have mainstream success. Which was fine with me – I thought they'd be like a big indie band. Like Sonic Youth or Buthole Surfers, that level. 

Everman doesn't feature on any Soundgarden studio albums (or Nirvana, despite being pictured on the cover art for Bleach) but he features on their live EP Loudest Love and the live video Louder Than Live. 

"Getting fired from Soundgarden put me in a pretty bad tailspin," he admitted. "It was a rough patch of my life for sure so in order to cut this tailspin off I had to do something radical so what I did was I ended up moving to New York."

He would eventually get far enough past his negative experience with Soundgarden to go on to join the bands Skunk, OLD, and then Mind Funk, but a few years after his dramatic move from Seattle to New York Everman signed up for the US Army.  

"I'd always been really intrigued by the military" explained Everman, now 55 years old. "Both my grandfathers were Word War 2 vets."  Both shared incredible stories with Everman and it sewed a seed, combined with a desire for growth.

"At the time, in 1993, there wasn't a lot of books out about special operations and pretty much the only ones that were out there were Vietnam dudes," Everman explained about the focus of his military ambitions that would eventually be fulfilled. "I devoured every Vietnam War special operations book."

Everman would end up completing a tough process to be selected for US Army's 2nd Ranger Battalion. After completing his military service and eventually travelling to Tibet to study at a Buddhist monastery, Everman was offered the opportunity to join the US Special Forces, completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Check out his full story on the Joe Rogan Experience episode above. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.