Asked if Frances Cobain had a role in choosing material for the album or exercised any veto power, Morgen says that she and Universal “basically just let me do it. I turned it in. The next word I heard, it was approved.” He is grateful for that faith and leeway. “I’m reticient to say that it’s not easy listening,” Morgen says. “But we are asking the listener to really sit down for 73 minutes and go on this journey, get a complete story.
“I think of this project as a companion to the film in that it tells the story in an aural manner,” Morgen contends. “It was constructed to unfold with a loose narrative, to stand on its own. But if you have seen the film, that experience will deepen your understanding of the Montage of Heck album.
“And vice versa.”
The album proceeds, like the film, in a largely chronological way, from a demo of Nirvana’s “Been a Son” and the juvenilia of the early sound experiments to that closing tape of “Do Re Mi,” reportedly the last known song he wrote. Did Kurt leave dates on his cassettes?
He didn’t date anything. But we were able to ascertain for most of the tracks, the year — sometimes within a few months — based on what else existed on the tape. I knew the spoken-word stuff was all recorded at Tracy’s apartment. “Been a Son” was from that period as well. But Kurt did not date stuff. One of the things that made his journals complicated was he would go back and rewrite stuff. Even his journals were not necessarily chronological.
The first half of the album is, I think, a warmer, gentler, more amused and content Kurt. You’re in Tracy’s apartment. The turning point in the arc of the album is the “Aberdeen” story. That deepens the context for everything that follows. What begins as a lighthearted exercise takes on a more serious focus, filtered through that experience.
In the film, it is evident he is reading a prepared version of “Aberdeen.”
He’s definitely performing. He wrote this story out. He did the same sort of editorializing he normally did — scratched a few things out, changed a few words here and there. What made that story unique is that most of Kurt’s spoken-word work was done through laughter. He didn’t take it very seriously. He’d spit the words out, making snide remarks as he did it. The story of “Aberdeen” — he did several takes of it. In the long form, you can actually hear his edit points or him flipping over the papers. His entire cadence, the texture of his voice, are so unique in that story. I don’t believe I heard that anywhere else.