If there’s one thing we know about music companies, it’s that most musicians seem to resent them. There are hundreds of subgenres that fall under the larger umbrellas of both rock and heavy metal, but many of them seem to have negative connotations.
How often do you find that a musician who rose to fame during the 80s likes their band being called “hair metal”? Another big one was nu-metal – the majority of musicians who fell within that brand, from those in Cereal and Slip knot to Papa Roach and Deftones, denied any connection with the label. Many artists have too much pride to admit that they share commonalities with any other group, they all claim that their entity is “so unique” and “different” that it is simply blasphemy to put them in a category with others.
Then you have grunge.
To put it simply, “grunge” refers to the collection of bands that rose to prominence within the Pacific Northwest music scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, creating an alternative type of rock ‘n ‘ role. It had punk and metal influences, with most bands using either distortion, drop-tuning, odd time signatures or dark lyrical material, or a combination of them all. When people discuss grunge, they usually think of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mud honey, Screaming trees and a few others.
“Grunge” as a label was first used in the media by Bruce Pavitt from Sub Pop in describing Green River‘s Dry as a bone EP in 1987. Specifically, he called the music “ultra-less grunge that destroyed the morals of a generation”, and the term later reappeared in other outlets as the music began to gain international attention. In 1993, models dressed as Eddie Vedder on the runway and every record label wanted their own grunge band, so a lot of rock acts started creating their own version of it.
So yeah, it was basically a marketing term given to a music scene that was exploding. But like the nu-metal artists, many of the Seattle musicians weren’t thrilled to be lumped into the same category as their contemporaries—at least not at first. In recent years, unlike most nu-metal musicians, many of the grunge rockers have come to appreciate and understand the concept of being part of a “scene”.
See what Seattle rockers have had to say about the word “grunge” over the years below.