Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic answered Courtney Love's lawsuit seeking to break up their Nirvana business partnership Wednesday, accusing Kurt Cobain's widow of being "motivated solely by her blind self-interest."
A source close to Love said in July that the two parties were making progress toward an out-of-court resolution (see "Nirvana Legal Battle: 120 Unreleased Tapes At Stake"), but the latest actions suggest otherwise.
Kelly Corr, who recently replaced Warren J. Rheaume as legal council for Grohl and Novoselic, filed defendants' answers, affirmative defenses and counterclaims to the lawsuit that Love filed May 9 seeking to dissolve Nirvana LLC (see "Courtney Love Sues Grohl And Novoselic, Blocks Nirvana Rarity"). Love formed the limited liability company with Grohl and Novoselic in 1997; it controls unreleased music and requires a unanimous vote on major decisions.
The former Nirvana members' counterclaims state that the LLC has functioned effectively in releasing 1994's MTV Unplugged in New York and 1996's From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah as well as in managing the reputation and assets of the band. They also claim that Love, "faced with a waning recording and acting career," is using her suit "to further her own career goals, not to protect Cobain's legacy as she claims."
O. Yale Lewis, Love's lawyer in the case, called those assertions preposterous. "My client's career is not declining in any sort," he said. "She is sought after as an actress and a musician. I am surprised they would use that, especially when 'waning' could be applied to their own careers."
The papers filed Wednesday also address the box set of Nirvana music Grohl and Novoselic hoped to release this month, which Love's lawsuit successfully stalled. "We believe she is improperly holding it hostage for her own personal reasons," said Corr, who has also represented Seattle rockers Heart.
Grohl and Novoselic are asking Judge Robert Alsdorf of the Superior Court of Washington in Seattle to throw out Love's lawsuit, remove her from the LLC and find someone else to represent Cobain's estate. If that doesn't happen, Corr said her team will begin taking depositions in preparation for a trial, which would start September 30.
Lewis said he believes Grohl and Novoselic are attempting to appear as though they were of equal importance to Nirvana as Cobain was. "That is simply wrong," he said. "The general public doesn't differentiate between Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. He was the lead singer, the lead guitarist and the lead songwriter. He was the will and the force behind that band."
After Corr filed the counterclaims Wednesday, Grohl and Novoselic made their first public comments on the case in an open letter to Nirvana fans. "We have been mostly silent for the last few years as [Love] filed lawsuits, waged a continuous negative campaign in the media and tried to rewrite history," the former Nirvana drummer and guitarist wrote. "It is now time to act and speak out."
The letter says Courtney Love is the only reason the Nirvana box set, which was to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Nirvana's landmark 1991 Nevermind album, has not been released. It notes the multiple lawsuits Love has filed against her and Nirvana's label (formerly Geffen Records, now Universal Music Group) over her recording contract with Hole and claims, "she couldn't care less about Nirvana fans. She is using Nirvana's music as a bargaining chip to increase leverage for her personal gain, without any regard for the Nirvana legacy. Our music is just a pawn in her endless legal battles and her obsessive need for publicity and attention."
"Courtney talks and talks about her 'valuable career,' " the letter continues. "As far as we are concerned, her career is her own affair and of no interest to us. Our concern is when she pastes herself into music she didn't write or perform. By her actions, the Nirvana legacy is becoming tangled up in her own ambitious agenda."
Lewis said he doesn't expect the notion that Love is using one lawsuit as leverage in another to stand up in court. "It is quite possible for someone to be passionate about two lawsuits at the same time," he said. "If she wasn't fighting for her own rights as an artist, if the Kurt Cobain estate was all she had to look after, she would still be doing everything in this case exactly the same, only she would be even more focused."
The letter ends by addressing "You Know You're Right," a song Cobain recorded just before his death in 1994 that was to be the centerpiece of the box set. "We were looking forward to releasing unheard Nirvana material for our personal sense of closure," Grohl and Novoselic wrote. "We only wanted to go on with the assurance of knowing that all of Nirvana's music is where it really belongs — in the hearts and minds of millions of people in the world."
In October, Love filed a separate lawsuit against Universal Music Group that could also give her control of Nirvana's master recordings (see "Courtney Love Sues For Control Of Nirvana's Master Recordings "). It claims Nirvana's contract should have been void after Universal's purchase of Geffen and lists Grohl and Novoselic among the defendants.