Universal - Volbeat's Michael Poulsen discusses the impact guitarist/producer Rob…
- Posted on Apr 22nd 2010 3:00PM by Jessica Robertson
It was the week of the 16th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death and Courtney Love, joined by guitarist Micko Larkin, was in the throes of promotion in New York City for Hole's new album, 'Nobody's Daughter' -- the band's first since 1998's 'Celebrity Skin.' The anniversary is a detail to be noted but not be mentioned.
"Courtney Love is actually on a sabbatical," Love announced at Hole's acoustic Sessions taping. "We have sent her upstate."
Love is only half-kidding and referring, of course, to her much-vilified public persona, whose online diatribes are rivaled only by her dizzying conversational detours. It's that Courtney Love - the one Rolling Stone dubbed the "Most Controversial Woman in the History of Rock" -- to whom the rocker has bid farewell. Well, for now. "I don't have to have my crazy on anymore," she says. "But I'll always be slightly neurotic."
Love and Larkin are playfully and determinedly running through a series of songs, including a new, never-before-recorded Hole tune 'Pretty Your Whole Life' and a cover of Big Star's 'Thirteen' in remembrance of the late Alex Chilton. "I love this song," Love says of the latter before the first and only take. "It's about prepubescent love ... before the pubic hairs come. Alright, let's go."
It's typical verbal fodder from Love, who, through the profanity-laced raspy retorts, weaves in humor and heady vocabulary in spades. And so it begins.
Hole performed their first big U.S. comeback show in Austin during SXSW, as part of the Spin party. How did it feel to be back on home soil and onstage?
Love: Well, it was good ... more than in Europe where I didn't engage the audience at all. In my home country, I'm a lot more at ease or something. I don't know. That show was just, like, fun and stupid and swagger-y, really. It was cut short. I wanted to give the full, you know, sort of Springsteen three hour [grunts], and then I was told that I'd get the power cut. I was about to make a scene.
A lot of critics praised the performance, though. How important is it for you this time around, if at all, to have that critical praise?
Love: Well, I don't really read reviews. I read, like, David Fricke [of Rolling Stone], I read Robert Hilburn [of the Los Angeles Times]. I read [Jon] Pareles [of the New York Times]. Pareles gave me a pretty good review, actually, which he's never given me a bad review. He wrote something on the case against Coldplay. So vicious. But [his Hole review] was like, "Swagger. Incorrigible. A star." And that was his Twitter. I was having this huge identity crisis and the reason I know about the case against Coldplay is because I'm friends with Chris Martin and Gwyneth [Paltrow], and [Gwyneth] told me about it. I would never use someone else's misery to make myself feel better, but I was having an identity crisis, so this is how important it is: At three in the morning, I pulled up the 'Case Against Coldplay,' read it aloud to my friend and then I read my review next to it. I felt better! Which is a horrible, horrible, horrible thing to say. The New York Times matters. Otherwise, the rest of them, I don't give a s---.
There was one song in particular, 'Letter to God,' wherein you teared up a little. Can you walk me through what you were feeling at that moment?
Love: 'Letter to God' makes people cry and then they project on to me that I'm crying. And sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. But I'm a bit of a giver. That's a huge understatement. It takes a huge toll on me to play shows and I had, like, three shows in two days including one for Perez Hilton, which was just, it was horrific in so many ways, and then a show at a bar at one in the morning. [Micko] and I both have impossibly high standards and the rest of our band's a little more mellow. I mean, I wore fluorescent green tights -- put it that way. You know, like, anyone when they're wearing fluorescent green tights is not in a good mood when they're over 30 -- 20, even. Not a good move.
Tell me about the new, never-been-recorded song 'Pretty Your Whole Life,' which you performed today.
Love: I go way, way, way back to one of the first songs I ever wrote, which is called 'Pretty on the Inside.' But ['Pretty Your Whole Life'], the lyric is "You know you're pretty/You're born pretty/You're pretty your whole life." And then it has a chorus. But that's the entire verse right now. It's gonna be a freakin' tune. Anyway, I have all these songs about pretty and beautiful and Devil and God, and I'm a Buddhist. I think I'm totally good looking and hot and I'm not dysmorphic, or anorexic or neurotic in any way, shape or form. I'm not that looks-obsessed. I was for a while when I was an actress. But then I stopped. I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin.
What was the turning point?
Love: Deciding not to be an actress anymore. How 'bout that s---? That whole world makes women so neurotic and bipolar and crazy and cruel and vindictive and vituperative and they have to be a certain way. I have really good actress friends, don't get me wrong.
Gwyneth, you mentioned.
Love: Gwyneth. And my kid [daughter Frances Bean] is really good friends with Robert Downey's son, and I'm great friends with Robert. I could drop a hell of a lot of names right now but I won't bore you. But the point is that for me, acting is great. I watched this 1999 'Letterman' show that I did where I was just cute as a bug and there was a scene from 'Man on the Moon' with Jim Carrey [being shown] and I'm not even acting, I'm just, like, on camera being me. Which I'm good at and some people aren't that play music. But right now the focus for me is music. It's just that I had a nervous breakdown after Austin, sort of because I collected all this kook -- like just so many crazy clothes. As you can see I'm wearing a Chanel slip dress and some Valentino shoes. No kook involved except that the bra's white. We're de-kooking. Like 'Hoarders,' the opulent version.
Tell me the story of how you and Micko met.
Love: I went to the UK and I was driving in a car with my girlfriend who was my guitar player. I just really needed a good girlfriend so I let her be in my band but she sucked. There is that chick ... the Michael Jackson chick. What was her name?
Larkin: Yeah, she's incredible.
Love: That song of hers ['According to You'] is quite good. You know what else I like? My total guilty pleasure song is [singing] "He's a cowboy Casanova" [by Carrie Underwood]. The kook in that video is amazing.
So, Micko came into my life because I went to the UK to get a band when I was driving in my car with this girl. We were listening to 'Rust Never Sleeps,' by Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Everyone knows that Neil Young and Crazy Horse's 'Rust Never Sleeps' is a great, great live record. I looked at her and I'm just like, "I'm never playing with you again. I love you but I'm never playing with you again.' And I went to Linda Perry, who wrote 'Letter to God,' and Linda Perry said this awful sexist thing to me. And this is obviously with the exception of what's her name?
Love: Orianthi and a few other girls. But [Linda] said, "Look, there's, like, me, there's, like, you, there's maybe PJ [Harvey] -- you gotta stop hiring chicks. Not this generation." And it was so sexist and such a horrible thing to say, but it actually happened to be true. My all-chick band -- and I took the best of the best of the best at the time from that generation -- no heart, no soul. That is my experience and I hope it's not something that continues. There aren't a lot of, you know, chicks that play. All the chicks that play went snowboarding or something.
[Micko] just came in and he had a big beer stain [on his clothing] and like every kid in London, was trying out to be in this band. He was so good that it didn't matter. It was just like he actually played a better lead than [Billy] Corgan. And Corgan is a deadly guitar player. He's amazing. Anyway, [Micko and I] live together, too. We're roommates. So he has to live with my hoarding and my dramas. He also gives me the best advice about men because he says about three words a year. In terms of rhythm, I don't think that there's anyone generationally that is better than [Micko]. It's very freeing because Micko is such a liberating guitar player that I would never have had to make something ... I could write a 'Doll Parts.'
I remember the moment I wrote 'Doll Parts' -- like, I could write R.E.M. songs, I could write Echo and the Bunnymen songs. I could write U2 songs. They were my mentors. At 14 -- U2 'I Will Follow' and I f---ing followed. Most girls could get $500 a month from a trust fund, which was kind of like getting blood from a stone, but I managed. I would tell them the hugest lies. I need a modeling portfolio and they hadn't seen me, or I went through a cab windshield -- I need $6,000. I made up the craziest s---. But they gave me 500 bucks a month, and so most girls, I think, would've gone to New York or London from Oregon, and I went to Dublin. It turned out to be one of the great things I ever did because I got to meet U2 I got to work on -- very, very briefly -- the second U2 record ['October'].
Then I got kidnapped by another rock star and none of this was sexual or romantic. Some of it was in my head but A) it would've been illegal and B) it would've been wrong. Someone asked me to name my record company and I called it Cherry Forever. And I have an almost 18-year-old daughter and obviously I take this s--- pretty damn seriously. I'm really big on the people that didn't molest me.
One of them that did actually tried to make me take a Polaroid of my boobs that were barely there. That's the guy I slapped at [a show at] Jones Beach. There was this guy onstage and he kept winking at me as he was playing. It was a Bad Company reunion. I had a really big mouth on me. So I could get these guys to give me laminates and all my girlfriends. All those groupies love my ass. But I couldn't figure out what I wanted to be 'cause I certainly didn't want to be a groupie, but there were groupies in Portland and then there were drag queens, and I found this very happy medium, between having been in very chichi boarding schools to juvenile hall. I watched 'The Runaways' [movie] the other day and it was like porn. The first frame is just a drop of menstrual blood. Love. I wonder how many girls -- I know 'The Runaways' isn't a hit -- but I wonder how many girls are watching 'The Runaways' right now and thinking that didn't really happen. I grew up living like the Runaways. I ended up in Juvenile Hall because I thought that would be the cool place to go. Like, when [Dakota Fanning] walks across the parking lot to do the abandoned phone, I know where that is. It's in San Bernardino, Calif. But the point is that it had a huge impact on me and I really wanted to have the first all-girl band to make it. That was my big, big goal for many, many, many years. And then I gave up on it and just gave in. I think because I'm sort of the last one standing that's female, or what I was trying to say the entire time about having boobs is just because I have boobs doesn't mean I'm second banana. I've worked my ass off.
'Nobody's Daughter' has been in the making for five-plus years. Did you feel any pressure at all when writing this album after the less than stellar reception of your last album, the solo 'America's Sweetheart'?
Love: ['America's Sweetheart'] actually got amazing reviews, which was the sick part because we're all revising history now 'cause I call it Le Distastra. It sold nothing. What I was most afraid of was that people who'd given me great reviews on 'America's Sweetheart' would be mad and then give me bad reviews on something that I didn't deserve bad reviews on.
I think that making this record -- it certainly wasn't a 'Chinese Democracy,' but it was a long record to make. I mean, I had one big disaster. I'm really slow. I'm not like the rest of my peers and, you know, from like Peter Buck teaching me guitar, to Will Sergeant of the Bunnymen teaching me guitar, to Michael Stipe teaching me how to walk into a room and how to deliver a line, to Bono teaching me how to remember people's names, which I suck at. So the fact is that I've done something prodigious and really slow. I've made a record that is relevant -- I mean far be it for me to call it relevant myself, but that's what it has been called and I've made a record that is damn good. You know, it's nice to grow old with your band, but, um, this [incarnation] is Hole. It's always been my band the same way the [Trent] Reznor has Nine Inch Nails. It's Hole. Legally, technically, it's Hole. So, I work much better with a band. It protects me from all the nonsense. It protects me from the Courtney Love monster. Courtney Love is actually on a sabbatical. We have sent her upstate. She's taking, what, media training?
Love: Socialization. She met a guy named Randy. Dimebag Randy. She's really pissed because they took away her Twitter. The Courtney Love Monster is actually at camp right now. She's almost been kicked out twice. But I send her flowers every day.
I was talking to a woman, Lady Amanda Harlech who's [Karl] Lagerfeld's muse and we were talking about my kook. And we were talking about you know, I felt like as a woman part of my obligation was -- this is so misguided -- was to pull a Gaga and make clothes. I spent tons of money on that kook. But I don't want to wear it anymore because it's really not my obligation. I am me and I can wear whatever the hell I want. You don't have to look crazy to play. I don't know about the one up at camp, but that's different.
So, I can't make a mistake [with this album]. Because, I mean, the fluorescent green tights ... enough. That's a fashion thing, but also connects to the music because, it's like, I'm wearing Chanel and I'm wearing Valentino right now, and I just rocked my ass off and I feel fine about it. I'm 45, what the hell? Why do I need to have crazy hair? I don't.
I saw Roger Waters at dinner the other night and it took me forever to get that guy to wink at me. His wife goes, "That's Courtney Love." Anyway, he winked at me. It was like recognizing another person who'd done something astonishing - 'The Wall.' 'The Wall' was a very indicative record on 'Nobody's Daughter.' 'Diamond Dogs' and 'The Wall.' It started off trying to be 'Blood on the Tracks.' It started off trying to be that midlife crisis [Bob] Dylan record and it didn't end up being that other than a song called 'Never Go Hungry,' which was one of the first songs that I wrote in '05 in rehab. Linda Perry's contribution is 'Letter to God.' I have almost nothing to do with 'Letter to God' other than the fact that no one else can sing it.
Linda wrote a song called 'Beautiful' and she gave it to [Christina] Aguilera. I fought her for that song. In my life, I have never asked anyone to give me a song fully rendered. I've asked for riffs -- I asked Kurt [Cobain] for the riff to 'Heart-Shaped Box.' Corgan gave me the top riff for 'Samantha,' but he didn't give me the "People like you/F--- people like me." That was my hook. Best hook I've ever written.
So, yeah, there was definitely a lot of pressure to make this record good but I put that on myself. You can tell a man by his failures or a woman by her failures. And I had a terrible, terrible disastrous record and I can't afford two disasters. I get one -- that's all anyone's gonna give me. Halfway through, I think I was at 110 pounds and five-eleven. But that was my process. I got my crazy on. And now that the songs are written and done and in the can, I don't have to have my crazy on anymore. I'll always be slightly neurotic.
But this is the one time I really wanna say this: Fashion, kook aside, the polarization of the name and all that s--- ... this is Hole. And you can hate me and you can like Hole. That's the function of Hole, partly; the other part of the function of Hole is that we are an actual real band and I own the name. I made up the name and I've had 17 members other than me. But I feel that this record is a leader. I've just done it a different way, and I will not be judged by the platitudes and rhetoric that men are judged by. Do you understand? It's like they've judged me as a woman my whole career. I've given up my kook. I'm not pulling a Gaga. I've decided against that part and it's a good thing. Trust me on this.
And I may even quit smoking to preserve my voice, which would be a psycho-miracle. Can you imagine? Every picture of me I'm just smoking, smoking, smoking. All the little girls that smoke because of me ... there's like lots of people that smoke because I smoke.
But I won't be judged as a woman. It's ridiculous. I worked my ass off like any damn man, and I did it in high heels.