'In Utero' Cellist Speaks For The First Time About Recording With Nirvana
By Katrina Nattress
September 22, 2023
Kera Schaley played the memorable cello parts on In Utero's "All Apologies" and "Dumb," and then never talked to Nirvana again. In fact, she never spoke publicly about her contribution to the album until now. The cellist spoke with Rolling Stone about the recording process to commemorate the album's 30th anniversary.
"I was only there for two days," Schaley, who was producer Steve Albini's girlfriend at the time, recalled. "And it was just me and Kurt [Cobain] 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?' 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."
She also reflected on listening to "Dumb" and "All Apologies" for the first time. "I remember I heard 'Dumb' and then when Kurt came in, I looked at him and I said, 'This is a really beautiful song.' And I think he might’ve thought that was funny, but, but he was like, 'Thank you,'" Schaley said. "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," she continued. "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."
Bassist Krist Novoselic recently spoke about the album for its anniversary, and predicted what he thought the future of Nirvana would've been if Cobain hadn't died.