I asked if he ever talked about it. Jason shook his head no. Did they find out anyway? “Always.”
The first time was at Fort Benning in 1994, in the middle of the hell of basic training. The ex-cop recruits in boot camp with him said that prisoners had more freedom than they did. There were guys who faked suicide attempts to get out of basic. But Everman never had any doubts. “I was 100 percent,” he told me. “If I wasn’t, there was no way I’d get through it.”
He had three drill sergeants, two of whom were sadists. Thank God it was the easygoing one who saw it. He was reading a magazine, when he slowly looked up and stared at Everman. Then the sergeant walked over, pointing to a page in the magazine. “Is this you?” It was a photo of the biggest band in the world, Nirvana. Kurt Cobain had just killed himself, and this was a story about his suicide. Next to Cobain was the band’s onetime second guitarist. A guy with long, strawberry blond curls. “Is this you?”
Everman exhaled. “Yes, Drill Sergeant.”
And that was only half of it. Jason Everman has the unique distinction of being the guy who was kicked out of Nirvana and Soundgarden, two rock bands that would sell roughly 100 million records combined. At 26, he wasn’t just Pete Best, the guy the Beatles left behind. He was Pete Best twice.
Then again, he wasn’t remotely. What Everman did afterward put him far outside the category of rock’n’roll footnote. He became an elite member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, one of those bearded guys riding around on horseback in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.
I’ve known Jason Everman since we played rock shows together nearly 25 years ago. What happened to him was almost inexplicable, a cruel combination of good luck, bad luck and the kind of disappointment that would have overwhelmed me even at my most brashly defiant. After having not seen him since the early ’90s, I ended up hanging out with him in his apartment in Brooklyn last summer. We had drinks, retraced steps. We once were in the same place in our lives. But mine had since quietly transitioned from rock to parenthood. My changes were glacial. His were violent.
None of it is easy for him to talk about. Jason is one of the most guarded people I have ever met. But when I pulled up to his remote A-frame cabin near Puget Sound last winter, there he was, a sturdy, tall figure in a Black Flag sweatshirt holding a glass of red wine. This was his private place, and he was letting me into it.