Krist Novoselić was sorting through old CDs and VHS tapes when he stumbled upon the recordings. It was summer 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic was keeping the cofounder of the iconic grunge band Nirvana close to home. Novoselić (’16 Soc. Sci.) used the time to practice fingerstyle acoustic guitar in the manner of his hero, the late John Fahey⁠—and to clean out the clutter in the attic.

That’s when he uncovered several riffs recorded back in 2001 with Soundgarden lead guitarist Kim Thayil, Void guitarist Bubba Dupree, and Queens of the Stone Age drummer Alfredo Hernández. And he liked what he heard. “And I sent it to the fellas up in Seattle. And they were excited about it,” Novoselić recalls. “I said, ‘Let’s do some more work together.’”

So, in early 2021, two decades after those rediscovered rhythms were originally recorded and three decades after the release of Nirvana’s seminal album Nevermind, Novoselić was back in Seattle, jamming with Thayil and Dupree. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were working on what would become Third Secret’s self-titled album, released in 2022. Two songs from the 11-track album, “I Choose Me” and “Diamond in the Cold,” are based on those nearly lost instrumentals.

“That first record was a feat of technology,” says Novoselić, who plays accordion, bass, and six- and 12-string guitars with Third Secret. “We put it all together, and we just dropped the record.”

Third Secret shared the album online sans fanfare. “Most people don’t even know we exist,” Novoselić says of the folk-grunge supergroup. “The band really is kind of a secret. We don’t have a label. We don’t do a lot of promotion. We’re just musicians who love to play music. We’re just doing what we do. It’s for the love of music. We’re veterans of the rock world. And we like to play together.”

Third Secret includes drummer Matt Cameron of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam as well as vocalists Jillian Raye and Jennifer Johnson, both of Giants in the Trees, another of Novoselić’s projects. Raye wrote most of the lyrics, and Jack Endino, who produced Mudhoney, Nirvana, Screaming Trees, and dozens of other bands, mixed all the tracks, and recorded or co-recorded most of them, too.

“It just felt right,” Novoselić says, noting the work is reminiscent of rock records from the 1970s when “they would make these 40-minute records, and there’d be all kinds of variety on them. Listen to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. There’s a lot of different kinds of songs. That’s kind of like what we’re doing here.”

The second album dropped online much like the first, with little promotion. The 10-track album, The Second Third Secret, was released last year. “There’s a big Blondie influence,” Novoselić says.

Novoselić worked on both albums in Seattle and at home in Deep River, where his roots go back more than three decades. He moved to Wahkiakum County in 1992, the same year Nevermind went to number one on the Billboard 2000 and Nirvana won MTV Video Music Awards for Best New Artist in a Video and Best Alternative Video for Smells Like Teen Spirit. This year marks 30 years since the death of lead singer and founding member Kurt Cobain, and the breakup of the band.

“There are whole new generations of fans,” Novoselić notes. “The T-shirts are everywhere. And I’m really grateful that people are connecting with the music.”

Last September marked the thirtieth anniversary of In Utero, Nirvana’s final studio album. Novoselić calls it “a really intense record. There’s a lot of different kinds of statements, a lot of different kinds of moods. It’s a little laid-back, but still intense. There’s something about it that’s enduring.”

The thirtieth anniversary deluxe edition features 72 tracks, including previously unreleased music, two complete concerts—Los Angeles, 1993, and Seattle, 1994—and bonus items. “It’s a historical document,” Novoselić says.

The name of his new band “doesn’t mean anything,” he says. “It’s just kind of fun. We call the second album The Second Third Secret, which is nonsense, and you can do that in rock and roll. Rock and roll is rife with tautology.” The idea, he says, is to capture people’s imaginations, leave it up to interpretation, and let listeners decide.

The band isn’t the first Third Secret—or even the second. The Third Secret is the name of a 1964 British neo-noir psychological thriller in which an American newscaster investigates the mysterious death of his psychoanalyst. The film suggests there are three types of secrets. The first is kept from others. The second, from yourself. The third is the truth.

Fans can connect with Third Secret via Facebook and YouTube. The band’s music videos are “all live-to-camera. So there’s no conceptual footage. What you see is what you get. It’s what we sound like,” says Novoselić, who’s released five albums since 2017: two with Third Secret, two with Giants in the Trees, and one with lepidopterist, nature writer, and fellow Grange member Robert Michael Pyle.

What music is Novoselić listening to these days? The latest Bush, Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, and Phoenix. “The Pretty Reckless is good. She”— lead singer Taylor Momsen—“does a song on the new record.” Gift from Above features a duet by Momsen and Cameron of both Pearl Jam and Third Secret.

Novoselić, who turns 59 in May, and his wife, Darbury Stenderu, keep chickens and rescue animals—two donkeys, a horse, a goat, and a huarizo, a cross between a llama and an alpaca—on their homestead, anchored by a farmhouse that’s more than 100 years old. They’re members of the Wine-by-Cougars wine club.

Novoselić enrolled in Washington State University Global Campus after seeing a billboard promoting the online program. He credits WSU with increasing his critical thinking skills. “You’ve got to watch out for confirmation bias. That’s something I learned in my WSU studies,” he says. “I have no regrets about getting my degree. Getting it online was perfect for me. And it was a challenge. I’m proud of my degree.”


Read more

Consider the butterfly (Summer 2020)

Review of Butterfly Launches from Spar Pole (Summer 2020)

Q&A with Robert Michael Pyle (Summer 2020)