Krist Novoselic: Nirvana’s Nevermind masters lost in Universal fire

Classic records from R.E.M., The Roots, and Steely Dan are also believed to have been destroyed in the blaze

Nirvana's artwork for Nevermind
Nirvana’s artwork for Nevermind

    A newly published article from the New York Times details the full extent of damage caused by the 2008 Universal Studios fire, much of which was previously unreported. Citing interviews with former employees and internal documents, the Times estimates that up to 500,000 master recordings were destroyed in the blaze.

    Several current or former Universal artists have since reacted to the story’s publication and provided additional details on some of the lost treasures. Notably, former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic revealed that the original masters to Nevermind are believed to be “gone forever.”

    Questlove said masters for The Roots’ second and third studio albums, Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife, were also lost. “For everyone asking why Do You Want More & Illdelph Halflife wont get reissue treatment,” Questlove wrote in a tweet linking to the Times’ article. “I been dying to find all the old reels and mix the 8 or 9 songs that never made DYWM. My plan for both DYWM & IH was to release all the songs and instrumental/acapella mixes on 45. They sent someone to check out the vault log and then it hit them.”


    R.E.M. is still trying to determine the fate of their masters. “REMHQ is receiving inquiries from many people concerned about the New York Times article on the Universal Music fire 11 years ago. We are trying to get good information to find out what happened and the effect on the band’s music, if any. We will detail further as and when,” the band said in a tweet.

    Steely Dan is also unsure of the whereabouts of their original tapes. “We have been aware of ‘missing’ original Steely Dan tapes for a long time now,” the band’s manager Irving Azoff wrote in a statement to Variety. “We’ve never been given a plausible explanation. Maybe they burned up in the big fire. In any case, it’s certainly a lost treasure.”

    Also lost in the fire, according to the Times, were “almost all” of Buddy Holly’s masters, most of John Coltrane’s Impulse Records releases, and an original master of Etta James’ “At Last”.


    For its part, Universal says the damage outlined by the Times contains “numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.”

    “Music preservation is of the highest priority for us and we are proud of our track record,” the record label said in a statement. “While there are constraints preventing us from publicly addressing some of the details of the fire that occurred at NBCUniversal Studios facility more than a decade ago, the incident – while deeply unfortunate – never affected the availability of the commercially released music nor impacted artists’ compensation.”