The man behind Nirvana's Nevermind, Butch Vig, reveals what it was like to work on

Butch Vig

Butch Vig has returned to SXSW festival for the first time in years.

The producer, known as Nevermind Man, is in Austin, Texas, for the premiere of The Smart Studio Story.

It's a music documentary about the studio, set up in 1984 with his friend Steve Marker, where Nirvana worked on one of the biggest alternative albums of all time, Nevermind.

The studio was based in the US state of Wisconsin.

"The first time I met Nirvana, they came to Smart Studios in Madison," Butch tells Newsbeat.

"They were recording what was going to be an album for Subpop (record label) and they were pretty grungy.

"They hadn't taken a shower or a bath for four or five days. They had been sleeping in a van or crashing at people's apartments.

"They just struck me as an interesting lot, because Kurt could be very focused and charming and then he would just go off into his own world."

Kurt Cobain

Butch learned that you had to leave Kurt on his own when he had one of these "mood swings" and he would join back in when he was ready.

At this point, a guy called Chad Channing was the band's drummer.

Even though you didn't know what Kurt was singing about exactly, you felt an emotional connection to it
Butch Vig

"I could tell Kurt sensed some frustration, the drums didn't sound or feel the way he wanted," Butch explains.

"He called me before he went in to do Nevermind and he said 'I've got the best drummer in the world, his name is Dave Grohl'.

"I'm thinking 'yeah right I've heard that before'… but it turns out he was right."

Butch Vig and Dave Grohl

As for the impact of the album, they never expected or foresaw what it would become.

"None of us who were closely involved in that record really saw that crazy moment," he recalls.

"I knew that the record was good and I sort of got a sense that people were bored and looking for something new.

"I think people were starved for something that felt real and passionate.

"Even though you didn't know what Kurt was singing about exactly, you felt an emotional connection to it.

"I think that is why that record tapped into so many people's psyches."

Kurt Cobain

As for the impact of the Smart Studios on the musical landscape of the 1990s alternative scene, many credit it with being one of the driving forces of that time.

The studio produced not only Nirvana, but the Smashing Pumpkins too.

It also became the headquarters for Butch's band Garbage.

"A studio is more about the people who are there," he says.

"At the end of the day it is about getting performances and getting people to let their hair down, getting a sense of trust from them.

Madison in Wisconsin
Image caption Smart Studios was re-opened in 2013 as Clutch Sound

"Smart (studio) was always like a little clubhouse, it was super low-key, kind of funky.

"We had a vibe there and I think that vibe is what inspired people because they felt like they were so far removed from big cities and from the prying eyes of management."

As for premiering this film at SXSW, Butch says it is the perfect place because it is about music, but he also has a history with the event.

"We used to come here when we started the studio twenty years ago," he says.

"Steve and I would bring cassettes of bands that we had recorded at Smart Studios and walk up and down the street and say 'Hey if you want to record come to Wisconsin'.

"So now to be back here showing the film on Smart Studios is just cool."

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