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Nirvana, R.E.M., Roots Did Not Know Warehouse Fire Destroyed Their Recordings

Variety logo Variety 6/12/2019 Jem Aswad
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In the wake of a blockbuster New York Times article published yesterday revealing that countless thousands of master tapes from artists ranging from Louis Armstrong to Tupac were destroyed in a massive 2008 fire at Universal Studios in Hollywood, several artists have stated that they were unaware of the damage to their masters.

While safety copies or duplicates of many of the effected recordings had been made, thousands of original master tapes were destroyed — meaning that many outtakes and other recordings and information of historical value are gone forever.

a train on a track with smoke coming out of it © Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock Nirvana bassist said as much via Twitter when asked by a fan:

One of the affected artists, R.E.M., tweeted, “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.”

Questlove of the Roots took to social media, sharing the link to the article and adding, “For everyone asking why [the group’s 1990s albums] ‘Do You Want More’ & ‘Illdelph Halflife’ wont get reissue treatment. 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.”

Steely Dan’s manager Irving Azoff released a statement on behalf of the band. “We have been aware of ‘missing’ original Steely Dan tapes for a long time now,” he wrote. “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.”

And contacted by Pitchfork on Tuesday, a rep for Hole confirmed that the group was “not aware until this morning.”

Universal were quick to comment on the article Tuesday morning, claiming that the damage had been overstated and noting that copies of many of the recordings exist. However, it did not dispute that the damage to the archives —  which saw the destruction of 500,000 recordings, according to an estimate in a 2009 confidential UMG report cited in the article — was severe.

      
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