Nirvana Cellist Kera Schaley Talks Recording In Utero In Rare Interview
Cellist Kera Schaley has played in a number of bands over the years, including Doubt (from Chicago), Diaper (also from Chicago), and Martyr & Pistol (the one from Athens, GA, not the one from Canada). But she’s best known for a gig that lasted all of two days. In 1993, Schaley recorded cello parts on two songs from Nirvana’s In Utero, “All Apologies” and “Dumb,” as well as the Dave Grohl-penned B-side “Marigold.” She’s rarely discussed her experience working on the album, but she goes in depth in a new interview published today.
Schaley’s appearance on the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast is billed as her first interview on the subject of In Utero. That’s not entirely true — she touched on it in an email interview in 2010 — but it definitely seems to be the first time she’s spoken about it.
In the conversation, Schaley says she got the call to play on In Utero because she was dating producer Steve Albini at the time, so she was the obvious first call when Kurt Cobain expressed interest in recruiting a cellist for the record. Here’s her quote about recording “All Apologies”:
The funny thing about “All Apologies” is Steve kept trying to talk him out of putting cello on it… Isn’t that funny? He was going on and on that he shouldn’t put cello on it. And I think I was being snarky, and I was like, “That’s the joy of multi-track recording, I can record it and you can take it out.” But Kurt and I won in the end, and so I got to play that and that one was really just off the cuff. I think I only heard it once and then I had some ideas and I started doing stuff. And I think they just kept the jam part, where I was just playing along. And then later on, he loved the deep sound, like the really deep, groaning sound of the low notes. He was like, “Just lay on that for a long time.” And so I just laid on that low note for him. And I got some noise parts in there. I like making noise on the cello, too. And if you listen for some high screeching sounds at the end, that’s me.
Later, Schaley discusses a perceived insult from Courtney Love in Michael Azerrad’s Nirvana biography Come As You Are. She says she got paid $275 for the studio time but later began receiving royalties that have sometimes arrived at convenient times, like right before her wedding. She says the cello she played was the same one her mom got her in eighth grade. And she explains why she wasn’t called upon to be Nirvana’s touring cellist, denying her the chance to perform on MTV Unplugged and at other shows:
I think what happened is because of my association with Steve. They had a weird thing going on with him after the recording. And so I’m sure they were just like, we don’t want anything to do with her! [Laughs.] Which is sad. Cause I’m actually a really good live performer. I have a lot of fun playing live and I move around a lot, and I would have had fun with them. But it’s okay. I wasn’t that upset.
Check out the full interview here.