On October 10, Portland-based alt-rock group Heatmiser, notable as the launching pad for singer-songwriter Elliott Smith’s widely acclaimed solo career, will be inducted into the Oregon Music Hall Of Fame. To help mark the occasion, writer David Greenwald of the Oregonian tracked down all of the living members of the band and got them to speak collectively about Smith for the first time since his death in 2003, and also about their heyday as one of the focal entities within the ’90s Portland underground scene.

“My view of the legacy of Heatmiser is those records… It was a great time in my life. It’s been something that has paid off in my life over and over, far more than it ever paid at the time,” said Neil Gust, Smith’s best friend and most direct musical collaborator. He’s also been among the most press-shy of the many members of Smith’s former inner circle. “Back then, music was so much more tribal, you know? So what you knew about bands and everything sort of indicated what kind of friend you would be. We both really loved Elvis Costello and bands in general.”

The whole article is a treasure trove of information for those interested in piecing together what Smith was up to before he struck out on his own in 1994 with the album Roman Candle. Gust, drummer Tony Lash, and bassists Brandt Peterson and Sam Coomes all provide revelatory insights. Of the more interesting insights was how Smith losing his job at a bakery proved to be the impetus for his greater songwriting output:

“That was like the state giving a grant because for a year, he didn’t work,” Gust said. “All he did was record at his girlfriend’s house. His process just went boom! It was amazing to watch. It was also intimidating because I was working, we had the band and there (were) things to deal with with the band, but he just drifted into his own thing.”

The whole article can be found here.

Advertisement