Courtney Love Opens Up About Kurt Cobain’s Death In 1994, In The Loder Files

The Hole frontwoman is a natural star because you never know what she'll do next.

When you’ve been interviewing people for, oh, a hundred years or so, you build up quite a backlog of banter and chat. A lot of this stuff is inevitably ephemeral — the day will surely never come when anyone cares what Vanilla Ice ever had to say about anything. On the other hand, it is kind of interesting to look back on the vintage natterings of people who are still on the scene and still entertaining us, either with their work or with their dotty behavior.

We’ve been exhuming a ton of this stuff over the last several months — interviews from the vaults going back not only to the early ’90s, but even beyond. Most of these ancient tapes are fun in one way or another; some are scary, which is even more fun. We’re going to be posting these old interactions every Tuesday from now on, and if some of what you see seems a little silly at times, well, the past is filled with silly things. Much like the present.

May you never have a year as awful as Courtney Love’s 1994. It started out fine, with Love and her band, Hole, putting the finishing touches on their second album, Live Through This. But then Courtney’s husband, Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain, committed suicide (his body was found on April 8 at their home on Lake Washington, near Seattle), leaving Courtney with a baby daughter not yet two years old. Four days later, Live Through This was released, its title and some of its songs now sounding eerily predictive. It was the band’s best record.

Two months later, Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff died in Seattle of a heroin overdose. Like Cobain, she was 27 years old.

Geffen Records was no doubt sympathetic about all of this, up to a point. But the label did need Hole to start touring in support of the new album, which had gotten rave reviews. So on September 1, the group returned to the road, playing its first concert in Toronto. MTV News set up a post-show interview with Courtney, and I flew up from New York that morning with producer Jane Sangster, a big Hole fan.

The show was pretty great. With Canadian bassist Melissa Auf der Mauer now onboard (she’d been recommended to Courtney by Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan), the band was full of fire. They played powerful versions of the new Live Through This material — “Doll Parts,” “Miss World,” “Violet”; and their leader — looking as usual like a debauched rag doll, happily yammering away at the crowd, smoking nonstop, planting one big boot on top of a stage monitor as she chopped out chords on her guitar — was in peak form.

Courtney is a natural star — as opposed to the pre-assembled variety so common in most musical precincts — because you never know what she’ll do next. I’m pretty sure this is because she never knows what she’ll do next. This is what makes her a good interview.

After the show, back at the Four Seasons Hotel, where the band was staying, we were ready for her: camped out in a conference room, backdrop tacked up, cameras ready to roll, we settled in to wait. We waited quite a while; then we waited quite a while more. We wound up cooling our heels for four or five hours — Madonna-level waiting. Finally, around five in the morning, Courtney appeared, smoking like a locomotive and acting as if she were right on time. I resisted an impulse to punch her in the neck. Then she sat down, and we started.

Like all really good interview subjects, Courtney is willing to discuss just about anything. She was funny about her anomalous trust-fund background, especially getting kicked out of England’s ridiculously “progressive” Summerhill School. (“The whole idea was, don’t go to class if you don’t want to. And I didn’t.”) She was sweet talking about the friends who’d rallied around her after Cobain’s death, like Michael Stipe of R.E.M. (“He called me two or three times a day, every day.”) She said she was spooked by the feeling that the media were actually waiting for her to die, too, and insisted she was actually past the point of heavy drug consumption. (“I have nine, ten dead friends,” she said, “not counting dead husbands and dead band members.”) Her feelings seemed to flicker nakedly across her face; she didn’t appear to be holding much back. Although who ever knows about that? By the time we finished, the sun had come out.

Courtney went on to become what tabloid editors gratefully embrace as a complete mess. She continued the off-beat movie career she’d begun in 1986 with “Sid and Nancy,” and actually won a handful of critics’ awards for her performance in the 1996 Milos Forman film, “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” But then came the public flip-outs , the drug busts , the child-custody battles , the plastic surgery. And her relationship with the surviving members of Nirvana appears to have grown chillier with each passing year . (Thanks to Courtney’s apparent need for money, Kurt Cobain’s music is now being licensed for things like video games .)

But nobody ever expected punks to age gracefully, and Courtney is pretty clearly a punk-for-life kind of girl. But she never burned out, and it doesn’t look like she’ll be fading away anytime soon, either. Let’s keep rooting.

Enjoy digging through The Loder Files? You’ll find more here, and there’s much more to come from the vaults — check back every Tuesday!