The Story of Sub Pop
(or How I Lost the Weight and How I Plan to Keep It Off)
by Matt Olsen (Sub Pop alumnus ‘96-2000)
This much we know for certain:
Olympia, WA, 1979: a young Bruce Pavitt produced a fanzine named Subterranean Pop. As was the fashion of the time, this fanzine produced three cassette compilations of independent bands from around the country. In 1986, Pavitt moved himself to Seattle and released Sub Pop’s first LP, a compilation entitled Sub Pop 100. This was followed in 1987 by the release of the hindsight supergroup Green River’s Dry as a Bone EP. Later that same year, Pavitt met Midwest transplant Jonathan Poneman at a mattress store and the two agreed to jointly release the debut EP from Soundgarden, Screaming Life. This union ushered in what historians the world over have declined to call The Early Years.
(It should also be noted that it was around this time that Pavitt began growing a beard and Poneman finally dropped his fake British accent.)
The next few years were a whirlwind of artfully blurred photographs, beer stains on colored vinyl, and the seduction of the British music press. There were unexpected successes and calculated failures. A world was being readied for domination. Of course it was all a gag, but every pie-in-the-face is thrown with some degree of sincere retribution. Some concessions then:
Yes, there was long hair.
Yes, there was flannel.
Yes, there were fuzzboxes.
Much in the same way that Abe Lincoln will forever be wearing a stovepipe hat, this is what everyone will first and foremost think of when they think of Sub Pop Records.
They called it Grunge.