Before discovering punk rock, guitarist Pat Smear found God. Born Georg Ruthenberg in Los Angeles, CA, on August 5, 1959, Smear ran away from home at the age of 13 to join a Jesus commune. Smear then attended an academic program for youths who were ostracized by public education. One of his classmates was vocalist Darby Crash, with whom he formed the Germs in the late '70s. Also including Lorna Doom (bass) and Don Bolles (drums), the Germs became one of the most influential punk groups to emerge from L.A.'s underground scene. However, Crash died from a heroin overdose in 1980, abruptly ending the Germs' incendiary existence. In the '80s, Smear began landing small parts in TV shows like CHiPs and films such as Blade Runner, Howard the Duck, and Breakin'. Smear released his first solo album, Ruthensmear, on SST Records in 1987; he recorded the follow-up, So You Fell in Love With a Musician, in 1992. A year later, Smear was asked by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to replace guitarist John Frusciante; however, he turned them down. Instead, Smear toured as a member of Nirvana, establishing a close friendship with frontman Kurt Cobain and his wife Courtney Love. Smear briefly joined former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl's band the Foo Fighters, playing on the group's 1997 album The Colour and the Shape. Smear may not be as familiar as his former bandmates, but he is a punk icon. Sonic Youth paid homage to him in the chorus of "Screaming Skull"; in addition, Grohl idolized him as a teen. Balancing his musical contributions with acting, Smear can be seen in the videos for Prince's "Raspberry Beret" and No Doubt's "Don't Speak." Moreover, he was often featured on MTV's House of Style.
Share this page