Guitarist Pat Smear, born George Albert Ruthenberg, began his career in 1977 with the Los Angeles punk rock group The Germs, which he began with vocalist Darby Crash. The group broke up in 1980 after the death of Crash. The Germs released one studio album titled “GI” (1979). After 25 years passed, Smear and two other original members of The Germs, bassist Lorna Doom and drummer Don Bolles, revived The Germs in 2005 by adding Shane West to the lineup as lead singer. The new band has performed in a number of tours in the U.S.
After the disbandment of The Germs, Smear played guitar for Nirvana from 1993 to 1994. He was featured on the group's multi platinum record “MTV Unplugged in New York” (1994) and the platinum releases “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah” (1996), “Nirvana” (2002) and “With the Lights Out” (2004). Smear went on to play guitar for the Seattle based rock band Foo Fighters, founded by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. He joined the group in 1995 as an original member and they recorded the Grammy nominated rock album “The Colour and the Shape” (1997). He, however, quit after the release of the album. Smear rejoined the Foo Fighters in 2006 and they released the album “Skin and Bones” in 2006 and “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” in 2007.
As a solo artist, Smear released two studio albums titled “Ruthensmear” (1988) and “So You Fell in Love with a Musician...” (1992).
George Albert Ruthenberg
Childhood and Family:
Pat Smear was born George Albert Ruthenberg on August 5, 1959, in West Los Angeles, California. He is the son of a German/Jewish immigrant father and an African-American/Native American mother. As a child, Pat was forced to take piano lessons by his parents. A few years later, he added guitar to his endeavors, which he learned on his own. His influences include Steve Jones, Joan Jett, Brian May, Steven Huffstetter and Brian James.
Pat Smear met Darby Crash (born Jan Paul Beahm) in 1972 when they both were teenagers. When they were expelled from University High School, the two decided to start up a band with Crash on vocals and Smear on guitar. In April 1977, the band added bassist Lorna Doom and drummer Dottie Danger, who would later be popular as Belinda Carlisle of The Go-Go's, to the lineup and The Germs was born. However, Carlisle quickly quit and was replaced by Donna Rhia, who performed with the group in three gigs and recorded their first single, “Forming.” Rhia was replaced by Don Bolles in 1978.
The Germs launched their debut album, “GI,” in 1979 on Slash Records. The album, which is often regarded as one of the first full length hardcore punk LPs, marked the group's first and only studio album with Crash on vocals before he committed suicide on December 7, 1980. The Germs disbanded soon after his death. Before he died, Crash and Smear co-wrote the song “Lions Share,” which The Germs performed for the soundtrack of the 1980 film “Cruising,” starring Al Pacino.
After the Germs, Smear briefly joined the punk group The Adolescents as the replacement for Rikk Agnew, who left the band in late 1981. Smear stayed with the group until June 1982. After leaving The Adolescents, he played with many reputable artists, including German singer Nina Hagen, and in 1988, launched his first solo album, “Ruthensmear,” on SST Records. His sophomore solo effort, “So You Fell in Love with a Musician...,” followed in 1992. Around this time, Smear was invited to join the Red Hot Chili Peppers to replace guitarist John Frusciante, who had left the band. He declined the offer when the Chili Peppers refused to stop playing funk.
Besides music, Smear also tried his hand at acting. It was while working on the movie “Breakin'” that he made friends with Courtney Love, the wife of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. His association with the popular rock band began in 1993 when he was recruited as second guitarist for Nirvana's first major tour of the Unites States. Smear also played with Nirvana on “Saturday Night Live” in September 1993 and appeared on their albums “MTV Unplugged in New York” (1994), “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah” (1996), “Nirvana” (2002) and “With the Lights Out” (2004). Smear's tenure with Nirvana came to an end in April 1994 when Cobain committed suicide and Nirvana decided to break up.
In 1995, Smear joined former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl as a guitarist when Grohl formed the rock group Foo Fighters. The group made their live debut on March 3, 1995, during a show at The Satyricon in Portland. They went on their first major tour in spring 1995 when they served as an opening act for Mike Watt. Smear also provided vocals on Watt's 1995 album “Ball-Hog or Tugboat?”
Although he had worked with the Foo Fighters from its beginning, Smear did not appear on a Foo Fighters album until 1997's “The Colour and the Shape,” the group's second album, because the band's first album was a collection of demos recorded entirely by Grohl. Released through Roswell/Capitol Records, “The Colour and the Shape” rose to No. 10 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on the U.K. Albums Chart. It received platinum certification from RIAA and was nominated for a 1998 Grammy for Best Rock Album. The album spawned four U.K. Top 30 singles with “Monkey Wrench” (#12), “Everlong” (#18), which was also a gold single in the U.S., “My Hero” (#21) and “Walking After You” (#20). Smear left the group in late 1997.
Smear kept a somewhat low profile after leaving Foo Fighters. He did serve as a producer for the debut album of the band Harlow and appeared in the MTV show “House of Style” in the mid 1990s, which was hosted by Cindy Crawford.
In 2005, actor Shane West was hired to portray Darby Crash on The Germs biographical film “What We Do is Secret,” in which Smear was hired as a creative consultant. Written and directed by Rodger Grossman, the motion picture debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2007 and had a limited release in August 2008. Smear was played by actor Rick Gonzales in the film.
At a production party for the film, in 2005, Smear and the two remaining members of The Germs, Lorna Doom and Don Bolles, performed together with Shane West singing lead vocals. Shortly after, the band began working together with the addition of West. They have since performed on numerous tours in the United States, including appearances on the 2006 and 2008 Warped Tours.
In 2006, Smear was reunited with Foo Fighters as an extra guitarist on the group's a short acoustic tour across North America. Later that year, he appeared with them on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and at Genentech's 30th Anniversary party, where they shared the stage with Bob Dylan and The Eagles. Smear and Foo Fighters also performed at the Bridge School Benefit Concert, hosted by Neil Young. He was then featured on the Foo Fighters live album “Skin and Bones,” which was released on November 7, 2006, and peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard 200. The next year, Smear performed with Foo Fighters at the V Festival in England, the Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh, and Marlay Park in Dublin, Ireland.
On Foo Fighters' sixth studio album, “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace,” released on September 25, 2007, Smear played guitar on the single “Let It Die.” The song rose to No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks and the Canadian Rock Chart. It also charted at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks and No. 6 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles.
Smear confirmed he had returned to Foo Fighters as a full member at the 2007 European MTV Music Awards. He has since performed with the band on various occasions and on tours.