EXCLUSIVE – Grunge, for a lifetime: an interview with Travis Hay

Grunge Travis Hay

The special guest of this interview of MentiSommerse.it is Travis Hay, music writer and “Guerrilla Candy” founder.

In Italy, grunge music maintains a halo of charm and nostalgia. How is currently viewed the culture of grunge in Seattle?

Grunge is something that’s a recognized part the Seattle music community’s DNA but it’s not something that’s regularly acknowledged. And when it is acknowledged it’s typically done with nostalgic intent. The history is appreciated but not really celebrated outside of the recently installed statue of Chris Cornell and a few rotating exhibits inside the Museum of Popular Culture.  

Regarding musical issues, can the Seattle of the 1990s be considered a sort of new Liverpool?

It was definitely a watershed moment in time for music and pop culture. I think a better comparison might be to Laurel Canyon in the late 1960s and early 1970s because there were so many different styles of rock music being made that came out of Seattle. It just so happened that putting it all under the umbrella of grunge was an easy way to categorize what was happening. There was dark and melodic rock (Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains), hard and heavy (Soundgaden, TAD), loud and witty (Mudhoney) and there were groups that happened to become the biggest rock bands on the planet for a period in Nirvana and Pearl Jam. All of these artists made records that sounded completely different from each other but the one thing they all had in common was that they were all making music in Seattle.

How did you experienced the phenomenon of grunge during the 1990s in Seattle?

I experienced it as a fan, just like everyone else. I just happened to grow up in Seattle so I was closer to the source material. And like most music fans here I took a little bit of pride out of watching the meteoric rise of so many local bands.

On January 16th, there will be a special tribute to Chris Cornell. Do you have a special memory that you want to tell us about Chris Cornelll?

I was fortunate enough to spend a small amount of time with Chris on his tour bus before an Audioslave concert several years ago. I interviewed him for a profile that focused on his transition from rock star to family man. Our conversation was supposed to last 10 minutes, but he ended up talking with me for more than an hour. We talked about his life in Paris, his family, a potential Soundgarden reunion, his life growing up in Seattle and lots of other topics. As a journalist it was great to have such a broad-ranging conversation with a local icon. As a fan I was practically jumping out of my skin, buzzing with excitement because I was spending one-on-one time with one of my teenage rock idols. It was an experience I cherish and will never forget.

You are a Pearl Jam fan. Is there a special song of Pearl Jam that particularly marked your life? Do you remember your first meeting with PJs?

Pearl Jam has seemingly always been a part of the soundtrack to my life. The songs on “Ten” introduced me to many of the band’s influences at a young age. I skipped class to buy “Vs.” the day it was released. “Vitalogy” was the first vinyl record I owned. “No Code” played a significant role in the courtship of my wife. “Yield,” “Binaural” and “Riot Act” helped me get through college as well as my first few years as a journalist. “Lightning Bolt” was the first record I listened to while holding my newborn son. Pearl Jam has been a constant in my life for nearly three decades and likely will be for countless years to come.

Every time I’ve interacted with any member of the band, be it on a professional level or just as a fan seeing one of them out at a rock show or event, they’re always ridiculously friendly. They appreciate the success they’ve achieved, know how fortunate they are and understand that their music means so much to so many people. I think part of that mindset comes from being fans themselves, which is part of what makes them so relatable.

Corrado Parlati

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