Sunday, September 23, 2007
The Courtney Love Interview
I interviewed Courtney some years ago about her solo disc, America's Sweetheart... and I think it speaks for itself. It was done via e-mailed questions which were delivered back to me, although it's unclear whether Courtney sat there typing herself of dictating to a someone or other. All I know is I was NOT disappointed with what came back to me.
In fact, here is the Q&A response, and then the (coherent) feature I turned it into.
Love the love!!!
Love the 'uuugggg'!
1) Was this a "passion album?" How much of it is personal versus fictional or inspired by other people's experiences?
“That's a ‘process’ question - I have never answered a ‘process’ question in my life. I gossip, my process is nobody's business - figure it out!”
2) Did any of these songs begin as Hole songs, or were they conceived exclusively for America's Sweetheart?
“All the songs were conceived exclusively for America's Sweetheart. I didn't write a song for years. I sat home and tried to copy Radiohead’s [album], ‘The Bends,’ then I finally wrote ‘Hold On To Me’ and then I just kept writing.”
3) What did you get to do in solo mode that was different or special than Hole?
“I didn't have to pretend to be in a democracy, even though I do it anyway. I am a people pleaser - uugggg! I gave myself an alter ego for this record, her name is Dirty Baby (she wrote ‘Life Despite God’ - AKA ‘The Plague,’ with Linda)
5) Uncool - what is uncool? Like the anti-gay marriage initiatives President Bush backs up?
“(laughs) No uncool for me. Well, it’s very hard for me to write a straight-up relationship song, probably because it’s hard for me to have a straight-up relationship. There was a time when I snapped at my band Hole. We were in a cubicle at the Billboard Awards and Garth Brooks was in the cubicle next to us, he was grateful to be there, without being ass kissy, and I snapped. I didn't want to be so cool about being on TV, I didn't want to pretend. SELL OUT means one thing - there are no more tickets to my show at Madison Square Gardens [because] I sold it out!!!! It is about Honesty - and if Neil [Young] can do it with ‘Heart of Gold’... Anyway, I want to be on the Top 40, there is no reason for me to have to lie about my demons, I am not living a lie. There is a young artist I know - at the very least she is bisexual - and she wanted to do a duet with me and I said ‘YOU HAVE TO COME OUT’ - at least as a bisexual - and she wouldn't. I do not know why. There is a reason actresses lie about it or just don't comment on it, but I just don't see why a musical star or an executive has to do it. I have tried to come out but nobody believes I am a lesbian - but nobody believes me - it is like I have COCK written on my forehead.”
6) Is your Hole all closed up, or just relaxing after so much action?
“Considering that the #1 plastic surgery in America is tightening the hole, I am just doing my kegel exercises. There will ALWAYS be fire in the hole.”
7) There are dashes of Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks on this album (The Plague and Never Gonna Be The Same, respectively), both being very quintessential rock star gals. How do you compare to those two? And are they your influences?
“That is OUTRAGEOUS – ‘The Plague’ aka Life despite God is a BLUES song - it was 3 hours long, about being left in a whorehouse alone. Get new ears - put your new ears on - DREAM ON!!!! Maybe Janis copying Sonhouse MAYBE or copying Bessie. In that song Linda and I are white woman stuck in a whorehouse - we drank tequila...and that song was born.”
9) There's a lot of actor/singers out there, but they generally have one public image/persona. You have two - the brash rock star, the demure and glamorous actress. Are there two Courtneys? Discuss how you reconcile these two people.
“I never used my sexuality to sell records. I am feeing single, frisky and pretty. I have always wanted to be pretty. As I get older I get prettier. I go between tee shirts and jeans to a person who takes good care of herself. The idea I didn't wax for years freaks me out. I am so big physically - ultra feminine stuff has always attracted me - more than masculine stuff - I am so big I love feeling petite.”
12) Who would be your dream lesbian affair?[
“Somebody really tall and bigger than me and Italian, really dominant - she would have to be 6’2” and have way bigger tits than me and she has to shove me up against a wall!”
15) Which songs did you do with Linda Perry, and how did you like working with her?
“Linda Perry is what I have been waiting for most of my life and when we were in San Francisco at the same time - she is secretly mad at me for us not hooking up at that time - she started rock star. I watched her do these things - watched some fail, some succeed - most successful positive experience of my life. We walk in the room and write songs together. I asked ‘where do you get these magical powers? She has a big black girl tattoo - that may be it - but I am her spirit guide for rock. There is the photo of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick kissing in Linda's studio and when I saw that, I just knew I was home. She bellows, I am flat a lot - we compensate for each other - she doesn't knock into me with the lyric thing. When Linda contributed lyrics (like the first line in ‘Sunset Strip’) she really contributed. I NEVER let anyone in my lyric box, but when I let Linda in, well, it was worth it and she made a difference and she never overstayed her welcome. And Bernie Taupin shares lyrics with me on one song on this album, but he is Bernie and that is different.”
16) Pink told me that Linda has a way or dragging one's demons out and into a record. Did she do the same to you?
“No no no no no. Pink and Linda have a very unique relationship. My job is to drag Linda's demons out. I’m not knocking her ‘clients’ but she drags the ‘clients’ demons out, and I had to wait until the ‘clients’ were done. Then we proceeded to the land of Led Zep and then we would drag out Linda's demons and she helps temper my demons. Like ‘Uncool’ didn't have enough demons, then I made it full of demons, and then it sucked so we tempered it. We write in a very John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] way and sometimes I get to be the John, which is GREAT!”
17) If so, what was her technique?
“I hold everyone down and I let Linda go nuts.”
18) And how was working with Bernie Taupin? Did he share any Elton John gossip?
“Elton John is my friend, a really good friend of mine. He saved my ass on a few occasions. Don't tell anyone, but I once had to sit in a jailhouse for saying the word ‘fuck’ to a stewardess and I guess everyone said to take me off the bill for the show and Elton and I think Peter O’Toole said ‘no way - she is in.’ At one pause when I was on his piano and singing ‘Bitch is Back’ and I looked at Elton and said ‘you're really good in bed’ and he said ‘yeah.’ I was supposed to sing ‘Don't Let the sun go Down On Me,’ which I did, but there was only photos of me in the duck suit. John Galliano loaned me this amazing beautiful dress, which was the greatest thing and no one saw photos - they only saw the duck costume. The Galliano dress was pure perfection. He is Bernie Taupin - it is funny, brilliant and he is a professional. I grew up on Bernie Taupin lyrics, I felt like a 4th grader. There are very obvious NOT ME lyrics, it feels REALLY WEIRD to sing them. I was nominated for a Grammy for my song ‘Malibu’ and Bernie Taupin and Van Dyke Parks had a discussion about the composition of Malibu in the LA TIMES. It was the only piece of press I would save. They seriously discussed the very complicated composition of that song, they got the way I write and it was really neat.”
19) There's plenty of drugs mentioned on this album. Could you talk about that
“Do you want me to censure myself - I try replacing [drugs] with ‘love’ but it sounds lame.”
THE FINAL FEATURE
The Nature of LOVE: Courtney Love Speaks Out!
By Lawrence Ferber
“SELL OUT means one thing - there are no more tickets to my show at Madison Square Garden [because] I sold it out!” proclaims singer/songwriter/actress Courtney Love. Indeed. Never one to mince words or compromise her thoughts – and, often famously, actions – Love’s debut solo album, America’s Sweetheart (Virgin), betrays the same fearlessness, honesty, brashness, outrageousness and passion we’ve come to expect from her. It ain’t always pretty, but that’s the nature of Love.
“I want to be on the Top 40, but there is no reason for me to have to lie about my demons - I am not living a lie,” Love continues, adding that she expects her collaborators to be equally outright, much like pro-gay late husband Kurt Cobain. “There’s a young artist I know, at the very least she is bisexual, and she wanted to do a duet with me. I said ‘YOU HAVE TO COME OUT,’ at least as a bisexual. And she wouldn't. I do not know why. There’s a reason actresses lie about it or just don't comment on it, but I just don't see why a musical star or an executive has to do it. I’ve tried to come out but nobody believes I’m a lesbian – it’s like I have ‘COCK’ written on my forehead.”
The last we heard from Love – musically, that is – was on Hole’s Grammy Award-nominated, platinum-certified 1998 album, Celebrity Skin. Formed in 1989, the alt-rock outfit (which included lesbian drummer Patty Schemel) also made waves with 1991 debut Pretty on the Inside and 1994’s Live Through This. America’s Sweetheart marks Love’s first departure from the band… and its group dynamic.
“I didn't have to pretend to be in a democracy, even though I do it anyway,” she notes. “I’m a people pleaser - uugggg! I gave myself an alter-ego for this record, her name is Dirty Baby. She wrote ‘Life Despite God,’ AKA ‘The Plague,’ with Linda Perry.”
Out lesbian Perry, who recently worked on Pink’s Try This, was one of a handful of Love’s collaborators on America’s Sweetheart, including studio powerhouses Josh Abraham (Staind), James Barber (Ryan Adams), Matt Serletic (Grammy Winner/Virgin Records chairman), and songwriter Bernie Taupin.
“I NEVER let anyone into my lyric box, but when I let Linda in, well, it was worth it,” attests Love. “There’s the photo of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick kissing in Linda's studio and when I saw that, I just knew I was home. She made a difference and she never overstayed her welcome. I asked ‘where do you get these magical powers?’ She has a big black girl tattoo - that may be it - but I am her spirit guide for rock. And Bernie Taupin shares lyrics with me on one song on this album, ‘Uncool.’ I grew up on Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, I felt like a 4th grader [working with him].”
The process of creating America’s Sweetheart started off slowly, says Love, who hadn’t written any songs for years. “I sat at home and tried to copy Radiohead’s [album], ‘The Bends,’” she admits. “Then I finally wrote ‘Hold On To Me’ and I just kept writing.” On the album’s first single, “Mono,” a fiery and fierce Love blasts assured shouts of “I’m so much better than him!” over 80’s-style power rock guitar grinding. “Hello” is also pretty rocking, with sassy boasts like “I’m about to tell you about the difference you will never make.” “Zeplin Song” humorously razzes someone’s overplaying a tune by the legendary rock band (“Why does the song remain the same?” she queries).
Love also comes clean on the album, so to speak, about her chemical addictions. In October of 2003, following an arrest for attempting to break into an ex-boyfriend’s home and an overdose daughter Frances Bean Cobain witnessed, Bean was removed from Love’s custody by authorities (the 11-year-old currently resides with Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor). Love then checked into rehab but her erratic behavior – most recently a three-hour nude jaunt around a rehab center – continues.
Drugs take the fore on songs like “All The Drugs” and “Sunset Strip,” one of the most powerful tunes both lyrically and musically. “Rock star, pop star, everybody dies… I got pills ‘cause I am the worst and best dressed… I got pills for my coochie because baby I’m sore… take all these stupid pills away” she sings. Asked to elaborate upon these lyrics, Love proffers “Do you want me to censure myself? I try replacing [drugs] with ‘love’ but it sounds lame.”
“The Plague,” meanwhile, is anything but lame: it’s boiling with emotional turmoil (“you shoulda loved me baby!”). Just don’t tell Love it’s got dashes of Janis Joplin as well. “That is OUTRAGEOUS,” she gags at the comparison. “‘The Plague,’ aka ‘Life Despite God,’ is a BLUES song! Get new ears - put your new ears on!! It was three hours long. In that song Linda and I are white women stuck in a whorehouse, we drank tequila and that song was born.”
Pink has credited Perry with an ability to drag one’s demons out. However, Love insists that wasn’t the case in these here parts. “Pink and Linda have a very unique relationship,” Love proffers. “I’m not knocking Linda’s ‘clients’ but she drags the ‘clients’ demons out, and I had to wait until the ‘clients’ were done. Then we proceeded to the land of Led Zep and then we would drag out Linda's demons, and she helped temper my demons. Like ‘Uncool’ didn't have enough demons, then I made it full of demons, and then it sucked so we tempered it. We write in a very John [Lennon] and Paul [McCartney] way and sometimes I get to be the John, which is GREAT!”
Speaking of Johns, Love originally wrote “Uncool” with Elton John’s oft-collaborator Bernie Taupin. Love credits Elton John with having “saved my ass” on occasion. “Don't tell anyone, but I once had to sit in a jailhouse for saying the word ‘fuck’ to a stewardess and I guess everyone said to take me off the bill for the show,” Love recalls, referring to her arrest for causing a disturbance on an airplane prior to a scheduled appearance at a star-studded benefit gig for London’s Old Vic theater. “Elton and I think Peter O’Toole said ‘no way, she is in.’” Love made media headlines again that night by showing up in a Donald Duck costume (Elton did much the same in the 70’s), although “John Galliano loaned me this amazing beautiful dress, which was the greatest thing, and no one saw photos - they only saw the duck costume.”
Of course, the world’s vision of Love has included an active artists’ rights activist and the glamorous Hollywood actress who was nominated for a 1996 Golden Globe for her turn in Milos Forman’s The People Vs. Larry Flynt. “I go between t-shirts and jeans to a person who takes good care of herself,” Love says of her dichotomous rocker/glamazon personas. “The idea I didn't wax for years freaks me out. I am so big physically, ultra feminine stuff has always attracted me, more than masculine stuff. I am so big I love feeling petite.”
Love made her big screen bow in 1986’s Sid and Nancy, and appeared in other biopics like 1996’s Basquiat and 1999’s Man on the Moon. In 2001, she played a New Jersey housewife who has a lesbian affair with Lili Taylor in a feature called Julie Johnson. The film’s US distributor, The Shooting Gallery, went bankrupt prior to release, so it remains shelved. According to Taylor, Love would play Mazzy Star while shooting their love scenes.
As for what sort of lady would be Love’s dream lesbian lover offscreen, she muses “somebody really tall and bigger than me and Italian, really dominant! She would have to be 6’2” and have way bigger tits than me and she has to shove me up against a wall!”
Interestingly, Love explores all flavors of sexuality in “Princess Ai,” a series of manga (Japanese comic book) she developed with DJ Milky and Japanese manga artist Ai Yazawa (who was responsible for the queer-inclusive “Paradise Kiss” series). Publisher Tokyopop describes Love’s manga alter-ego as “a smart and talented, yet controversial young woman who utilizes the public stage not only for self-expression but also to hide from her assailants. She is the princess of a mysterious, unknown land, who has escaped to our world and is now taking refuge in the bustling nightclubs of Kabushiki-cho.”
Speaking of nightclubs, Love is planning to put together an all-girl band to tour for America’s Sweetheart. Does this additional solo step mean her Hole is, er, closed up for good? Or just relaxing after a lot of action?
“Considering that the #1 plastic surgery in America is tightening the hole, I’m just doing my Kegel exercises,” Love laughs. “There will ALWAYS be fire in the hole.”
America’s Sweetheart was released February 10th. For more info, go to www.courtneylove.com.