Georg Albert Ruthenberg, known to millions by his stage name Pat Smear, is one of the few musicians from the 1970s who is still performing today. Born on 5th August 1959, in Los Angeles, California, USA, the guitar legend is best-known for his years playing for Nirvana, and for co-founding the punk band The Germs.
Pat, who was raised in L.A, is mixed-race, as his father was a Jewish German immigrant and his mother had African-American and Native American roots. At a young age, he began taking piano lessons, eventually teaching himself how to play the guitar.
At just 13 years old, Pat left home and joined a commune. He would later study at Innovative Program School (IPS), where he met his future Germs bandmate Darby Crash. Darby and Pat were later expelled from IPS, when teachers feared that they were negatively influencing other students.
1970s – 1990s
In 1976, Pat and Darby formed The Germs with drummer Dottie Danger (who would soon be replaced by Don Bolles) and bassist Lorna Doom. At the time, Pat was the only member of the band with any musical knowledge; however, he didn’t own a guitar during his Germs days, preferring to borrow one from whomever they were playing with. Brian James, Steve Jones and Brian May were just some of Pat’s numerous influences.
In 1979, The Germs released their only studio album, “GI”, which is generally considered the first full-length punk rock album, and earned extra praise thanks to Pat’s guitar work. Two years later, the band were part of the punk documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization”; Darby died prior to the film’s release after intentionally overdosing on heroin, which led to the band’s break up.
1981 saw Pat play briefly with the Twisted Roots, alongside the brother-sister duo Paul and Kira Roessler, considered the best band of the Hollywood punk scene at the time. He later played with Nina Hagen, recorded two solo projects – “So You Fell in Love with a Musician…” and “Ruthensmear” – and was a member of The Adolescents.
As longtime fans of Pat will know, the musician also had bit parts in the movies “Howard the Duck”, “Blade Runner”, and “Breakin’”, where he befriended Courtney Love. Around the same time, he played in the deathrock band 45 Grave, recording tracks that would eventually appear in its 1987 compilation album “Autopsy”.
1990s – 2010s
In 1993, Kurt Cobain personally asked Pat to join Nirvana as a second guitarist for an upcoming tour. Although Pat initially believed that he was being prank called by one of his friends, he’d been told by Courtney that Kurt would be in touch with him.
Pat immediately accepted, performing with Nirvana for the first time in September 1993. He then toured with the band for half a year, contributing to their live albums “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah” and “MTV Unplugged in New York”. Some of his guitar work also ended up on the compilation albums “With the Lights Out” and “Nirvana”.
Belinda Carlisle and Pat Smear, bandmates in the 70s punk group – The Germs, will both be inducted into the Rock & Roll…
When Kurt died in 1994, his Nirvana bandmate Dave Grohl formed a band that would become known as Foo Fighters. Despite being one of the founding members, Pat wasn’t heard on a Foo Fighters album until 1997 with the release of “The Colour and the Shape”. Nevertheless, the guitarist quit shortly after the album was released, due to the relentless touring schedule and tensions regarding Dave’s divorce from Jennifer Youngblood, a close friend of Pat’s.
According to Dave, he begged Pat to stay, and the musician agreed to do so until his replacement was found. He was eventually replaced by Franz Stahl, and Pat announced his departure from the band during a memorable live performance that took place at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.
2000s – Present Day
After leaving Foo Fighters, Pat made sporadic TV appearances and dabbled in music production. He also worked as a creative consultant on the set of “What We Do Is Secret”, a motion picture about The Germs which premiered in June 2007 at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Two years prior to the movie’s premiere, Pat also performed select reunion shows with The Germs and Foo Fighters.
Pat would play with the Foo Fighters as a touring musician until 2010, also providing material to their live acoustic album “Skin and Bones”, and their sixth studio album, “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace”, which were released in 2006 and 2007 respectively. However, the guitarist’s participation was different this time round, as he had no input in the composition of the songs.
Foo Fighters began working on “Wasting Light”, their seventh studio album, in August 2010, uploading recording sessions on its social media platforms. After months of speculation, it was confirmed that Pat had rejoined the band, and was a part of the project. “Wasting Light” was released in April 2011 and was the band’s first album to reach number one on the Billboard 200 chart; it also won the Best Rock Album award at the Grammys, and was even nominated for Album of the Year.
The Californian remained with the band and was part of its follow-up project, “Sonic Highways”, which was released in November 2014, alongside a companion TV series of the same name which detailed the recording process. Similarly, Pat contributed his guitar skills to every track on “Concrete and Gold” and “Medicine at Midnight”, the Foo Fighters’ ninth and tenth studio albums. The latter project won Best Rock Album at the 2022 Grammy Awards; mere months after its release; Foo Fighters were selected as part of the 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction class.
It’s important to note that over the years, the guitarist has also reunited with Nirvana on numerous occasions, with some of the performances being recorded for documentaries or live viewing. The last time Pat performed with the surviving members of Nirvana was in October 2018, in San Bernardino, California. Pat’s latest project has been a starring role in the BJ McDonnell comedy horror film “Studio 666”, which was released in February 2022.