Cellist on Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’ Speaks Publicly for the First Time
Though cellist Lori Goldston is the primary cello player who toured with the band around that time, she didn't contribute to In Utero. That would be cellist Kera Schaley playing the strings on In Utero's "All Apologies" and "Dumb" — she was in the studio with Nirvana and producer Steve Albini in 1993.
Now, for the first time, she has told her tale of her time with the band and recording In Utero.
"I was only there for two days," Schaley recalls to Rolling Stone Music Now in a Sept. 21 podcast. "And it was just me and Kurt and Steve in the studio. And then me and Steve went first so I could listen to the song 'cause I hadn't heard the songs yet. And so I listened to the songs and I used to come up with parts pretty quickly for songs. And so I showed him what I came up with for the song 'Dumb,' and he was like, 'Yeah, that's good. Can you also mirror what I'm playing for this guitar line?'"
She continues, "I can't remember if I tuned my cello down a half a step or not, but Kurt jokingly said, 'Yeah, all rock songs are in E, we just tune it down a half a step so they sound a little different.' [Laughs.] I'm used to people having very little money and needing to record really fast; I still had that mentality. So it took me like three takes and then I got it. And I'm like, 'I'm so sorry.' And he was laughing."
Cello Player Looks Back on In Utero
Remembering the songs in which she contributed — one in which, "All Apologies," was remixed by Scott Litt after some of Albini's mixes reportedly weren't satisfactory — the cello player details the circumstances around each recording.
"I remember I heard 'Dumb' and then when Kurt came in, I looked at him and I said, 'This is a really beautiful song,'" Schaley says. "And I think he might've thought that was funny, but he was like, 'Thank you.'"
She adds, "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."
Nirvana, "All Apologies" (MTV Unplugged)
But how did she come to get the gig on In Utero?
"I was Steve Albini's girlfriend at the time," says Schaley, who today works as an accredited ACH professional at a credit union. "Kurt told Steve that he wanted a cello on the record, and Steve said, 'Oh, I have a friend who plays cello.' And then Steve's like, 'Hey, if they want a cello, do you want to fly out and do this?' I'm like, 'Yep, that's fine.'"