||March 10, 2002
BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC
On Oct. 23, 1993, the band that launched the alternative-rock revolution
played the first of two sold-out shows at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom. A
little more than five months later, its leader would be dead at age 27, the
victim of a self-inflected shotgun blast to the head. But on this night,
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana never sounded more alive.
For the penultimate song before the encore, Cobain introduced a new tune
that he called "On a Mountain." It was classic Nirvana, with a slow, creepy
verse that exploded into a wordless, painfully cathartic, undeniably catchy
chorus. The song stunned me from the first listen, just as the band's
signature hit did when I first heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" two years
players in the Nirvana controversy
It has been more than 10 years since Nirvana changed the face of rock
in the '90s with its second album, "Nevermind," and more than five years
since the release of its last disc, the posthumous live set, "From the
Muddy Banks of the Wishkah." Here is an update on the the most prominent
players in the band's story:
After his first post-Nirvana band, Sweet 75, barely caused a ripple
in the music world, the group's former bassist devoted himself full-time
to political activism, focusing on the issues of voters' rights and free
speech. He remains active in that arena today, speaking frequently, and
maintaining his own Web site at
But he is also returning to music: Eyes Adrift, a trio completed by
former Meat Puppets guitarist (and guest with Nirvana on "MTV
Unplugged") Curt Kirkwood and ex-Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh, will make
its Chicago debut at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, on April 27.
Nirvana's most celebrated drummer has had considerable success as the
guitarist and vocalist of the Foo Fighters, though he tends to burn
through bandmates with alarming frequency. The newest version of the
group is recording its fourth album in Los Angeles, and guests include
Brian May of Queen. Last month, the band made a surprise appearance in
Salt Lake City opening for local heroes Cheap Trick. The Foos billed
themselves as "Stacked Actor," the name of a song from their last album,
which was written as a dig at Courtney Love.
Love has been talking for some time about forming a new band (as yet
officially unnamed) whose one other permanent member is former Hole
drummer Patti Schemel. Veruca Salt's Louise Post departed after a short
stint on guitar, and Love may or may not recruit her old friend, former
Babes In Toyland guitarist Kat Bjelland. "I'm a Mick, I'm not a Keith,"
Love says. "What does Mick do? He interprets brilliantly and shakes
around, but he's got a machine behind him. I've never been that lucky."
Love readily admits that she needs a partner to write songs. Billy
Corgan filled that role on Hole's last album, "Malibu," and Love is
currently writing with Steve MacDonald, formerly of Redd Kross, and
Linda Perry, the former leader of 4 Non-Blondes, who has also written
for Pink and Christina Aguilera. "I need another person who is a
song-crafter," Love says. "A Jimmy Webb, old-school, Van Dyke Parks,
Randy Newman kind of guy. I'm not Polly Harvey. I want to sell millions
Still, Love insists that her late husband did not write any of the
material on Hole's second and most successful album, "Live Through
This." She is angry at Grohl and Novoselic for never denying those
charges (or speaking out against the "Courtney killed Kurt" conspiracy
theories), and she rails at the album's producers, Paul Kolderie and
Sean Slade, for failing to set the record straight. (No one has ever
submitted any solid evidence that "Live Through This" was written by
anyone other than Love, Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson, and the band's
real musical powerhouse, its late bassist, Kristen Pffaf.)
As for her film career, Love costars with Kevin Bacon and Charlize
Theron in "24 Hours," a thriller about a kidnapping gone wrong that's
set to open in August. She's hoping to star as the late singer Janis
Joplin in a new biopic, and while she's not really a fan of the music
("I hate boogie-woogie!"), it's easy to see why she's attracted to the
story. "Here's the first female rock star, an ugly girl from [freaking]
[butt-]hole, military industrial complex Port Arthur who comes to town
and flames out. She's smart, people tell her to shut up all the time
because she talks too [freaking] much, she's annoying, she's kinda
crazy, she's got no role models, there's no chicks who came before her,
she's [freaking] ALONE, man! But she's writing these letters home that
are incredibly descriptive about what she's gonna wear, and she's very
Eight years ago on April 5, Nirvana's leader exited this world with
such finality that, unlike Elvis Presley, no one ever sees him shopping
at the 7-11 or hitching a ride with a passing UFO. Nevertheless,
Cobain's influence lives on in heralded new bands like the Strokes; his
life was the subject of one of 2001's bestselling biographies,
Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross, and two weeks ago,
Penguin-Putnam's Riverhead Books purchased 23 of his notebooks and
journals for nearly $4 million. An anthology reproducing these pages is
expected before the end of the year.
A week before the sale, Love and her manager/boyfriend, Jim Barber,
allowed me to look through several of these journals, which had earlier
been catalogued and quoted extensively by Cross. Holding the books, you
feel like you're peering into Cobain's soul. Odd doodles and haunting
cartoons crowd the pages alongside his loopy, childish scrawl as he
drafts lyrics; makes lists of his favorite bands (the Pixies, the
Vaselines, Young Marble Giants ...); designs his ideal guitar (a cross
between a Fender Jaguar and a Mustang that he called "a Jagstang"), and
writes a letter to a hero, the late rock critic Lester Bangs.
Cobain also pens an angry missive to his estranged father. "Seven
months ago I chose to put myself in a position which requires the
highest form of responsibility a person can have," he writes. "A
responsibility that should not be dictated. Every time I see a
television show that has dying children or some testimonial by a parent
who recently lost their child, I can't help but cry. The thought of
losing my baby haunts me every day. I'm even a bit unnerved to take her
in the car in fear of getting into an accident. I swear that if I ever
find myself in a similar situation than you've been in, i.e. the
divorce, I will fight to my death to keep the right to provide for my
child. I'll go out of the way to remind her that I love her more than I
While some people may see the publications of the journals as
exploitative, Cobain might have disagreed. In June 1993, I asked him if
he'd ever considered doing a book of his poetry, a la Lou Reed's book of
collected lyrics. "I usually end up using most of my poems in songs," he
said. "But I would like to do a book some day."
Frances Bean Cobain
Born on Aug. 18, 1992, Franny (as she's known at home) is a pretty,
lanky nine-year-old with long, chestnut-brown hair and piercing eyes
just like her father's. She emerges several times during my lengthy
interview with her mother, wearing a T-shirt that says, "Avoid the
Bourbon Street Hangover: Stay Drunk!" ("One of mom's funny shirts," Love
says). And she chides her mother about her frequent swearing.
"She charges me $5 every time I say the F-word," Love says. "And
that's fine, I agreed to that, but she has to write it down in Mommy's
little curse book--she can't just be random about it. She tried to do a
dollar a smoke, but that's not fair!"
Love says her daughter can't listen to her father's music--"It makes
her sad"--and while she professes to have no interest in rock, mom has
actually caught her secretly listening to alt-rock powerhouse KROQ-FM.
"Frances should never ever, ever, ever, ever have to worry [about
money], and I mean that in the Lisa Marie Presley way," Love says. "She
should never have to have anything bad happen except having a tennis
ball hit her once in a while. That's her life, OK? I am not raising a
worker. But in her trust agreement, she has to work three months a year
after the age of 18, period. I don't care if it's volunteer work, but
it's a pretty strict trust. And then I'm just gonna stand outside her
door with a shotgun and make sure nobody comes near her!"
The band never played this mysterious tune in concert again. But in late
January, 1994, Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic, and drummer Dave Grohl
entered Dave Lang Studios in Seattle for their final recording session.
Following a long jam, they knocked out a killer version of the song--now
retitled "You Know You're Right"--capturing it for posterity in one perfect,
Eight years later, I am sitting in the living room of Courtney Love's
exquisitely appointed mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., listening to that
recording. It is even more potent than the rendition that lives in memory
and on bootlegs of the Aragon show, thanks to a moody intro built on some
weird, echoed harmonics; lyrics that are made more poignant by knowledge of
Cobain's fate ("I would move away from here/You won't be afraid of fear...
Things have never been so swell/And I have never felt so well"), and a
searing solo that stands among the guitarist's very best.
It is no exaggeration to call this "the great lost Nirvana single." And
lost is how it sadly remains--at least for the foreseeable future.
The Cobain estate--in the person of his widow, Love, and 9-year-old
daughter, Frances--are in the midst of an increasingly ugly fight with
surviving bandmates Grohl and Novoselic. It's shaping up to be an epic legal
battle that may prove even nastier than the notorious feuds for control of
the posthumous careers of Jimi Hendrix or Bob Marley. And amid the flurry of
insults and accusations, legal filings and slanderous innuendoes, what's at
stake is "You Know You're Right" and a handful of other unreleased
gems--songs that almost no one has heard by the most important band of its
The roots of the feud
The roots of the current conflict can be traced back before Cobain's
death to a fundamental shift in the band's power structure that he initiated
in the spring of 1992.
Cobain first met Novoselic in 1985 in their native town of Aberdeen,
Wash. Two years later, the duo formed Nirvana, progressing through one album
(1989's "Bleach") and several drummers (including Chad Channing, who played
on that initial release) before linking up with Grohl, the missing link that
made the music click.
In September, 1991, Nirvana released its second album, "Nevermind."
Propelled by the single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and benefiting from a
near-mythic confluence of being the right band from the right place at the
right time, the disc sold a staggering six million copies by the spring of
1992--at which point Cobain threatened to quit if his bandmates didn't agree
to changing the split on their songwriting royalties.
The three musicians had previously divided the money evenly. Now, Cobain
proposed a 75/25 split for the music with him getting 100 percent of the
lyrics, retroactive to the start of the band. Grohl and Novoselic felt
betrayed, but they agreed, lest Nirvana cease to exist. They blamed
Love--whom Cobain had married in February, 1992--for instigating the change.
In Charles R. Cross' recent biography, [ITAL] Heavier Than Heaven [ITAL],
the band's attorney at the time, Rosemary Carroll, says that the decision
was actually all Cobain's. "He knew what he was worth, and he knew he
deserved all the money."
From that point on, Cobain received 91 percent of the band's songwriting
royalties. The second biggest chunk, 5 percent, went to Channing, while
Grohl and Novoselic got 2 percent each--though that included key
contributions such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
For other business concerns like merchandising and tour revenues, Nirvana
acted as a general partnership, and that's how it filed its tax returns. But
the songwriting deal seemed to confirm that Cobain was by far the partner
with most of the power.
The band recorded only one more studio album, 1993's "In Utero," before
its leader died without leaving a will in April, 1994. It has often been
said that in rock, death is a great career move, and just because Nirvana no
longer existed, doesn't mean its career stopped. Left in the band's wake was
a considerable legacy of B-sides, compilation tracks, unreleased songs,
demos, and live recordings, including 1994's "MTV Unplugged in New York" and
1996's "From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah."
As a vehicle to oversee posthumous releases such as these, as well as
other business deals like licensing songs to films, Grohl and Novoselic
proposed the formation of Nirvana, L.L.C., a limited liability corporation
that gave the two musicians and Love (as representative of Cobain's estate)
equal votes in controlling the future of the band. But Love claims that the
deck was stacked against her from the beginning.
The L.L.C. was proposed by Los Angeles music business attorney Jill
Berliner, who represented Grohl and Novoselic individually, and who also
became the attorney for Nirvana, L.L.C. John Silva had been Nirvana's
manager (though Cobain had come to "hate" him, according to the Cross book),
and he went on to manage the post-Nirvana careers of both Grohl and
Novoselic, as well as Nirvana, L.L.C.
Love says the interests of the attorney and the manager were to benefit
Grohl and Novoselic, not the Cobain estate. "Collusion! Collusion!
Collusion!" she rails.
Berliner defends the L.L.C. as a natural extension of the band's working
relationship. "There was an existing general partnership, and the assets
were transferred into an L.L.C. for tax reasons," she says. Love counters
that the L.L.C. ignored the fact that Nirvana's single biggest asset was the
catalog of Cobain's songs, and those were left off the table when the power
structure of the L.L.C. was set as three equal partners.
Nevertheless, in late 1997 or early 1998--almost four years after her
husband's death--Love signed the L.L.C. agreement. She now says that was a
The most impressive posthumous Nirvana release yet was to have been a
45-track box set compiled by Novoselic and timed to be released in honor of
the 10th anniversary of "Nevermind" in the fall of 2001. But in June of that
year, Love filed suit in King County superior court in Washington, seeking
to terminate the L.L.C.
To fight the case, Love hired attorney O. Yale Lewis, who is famous for
recovering the rights to the music of Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Holly for their
families. Lewis succeeded in getting Judge Robert Alsdorf to grant an
injunction against the release of any Nirvana material until the case is
resolved, and the box set--which included "You Know You're Right," among
other rarities--was shelved indefinitely.
In legal filings and in interviews, Lewis, Love, and her current manager
and boyfriend, Jim Barber, make several arguments for why the L.L.C. is
invalid. One is that it has effectively stopped functioning, since Grohl and
Novoselic generally side against Love. Another is that it was always unfair,
since it ignored the way the band really worked--i.e., that Cobain called
most of the shots.
But the key question remains: Why did Love, a brilliant woman
well-schooled in the ways of the music business, sign an agreement that she
now claims was bad for her?
Love says she was distraught and given poor advice by her attorney,
Carroll, who told her that under Washington state law, if she didn't sign,
Grohl and Novoselic could have forced her to sell the estate's interest in
Nirvana. "I'm not going to go after her for malpractice, which is what
people want me to do," Love says. "But I should."
"After Kurt's death, people wanted to force Courtney into the L.L.C. for
all sorts of reasons--for convenience, and maybe to control her," Lewis
says. "And I think Courtney did believe that if she didn't [enter the L.L.C.],
that all of her associations with Kurt's legacy would be stripped."
The lawsuit further argues that Nirvana was about to break up at the time
of Cobain's death, "and there was little chance that Cobain, Grohl, and
Novoselic would ever perform together again." The suit concludes by asking
that control of Nirvana "be centralized within [Cobain's] family, who
already control the songs he wrote... which are the [ITAL] sina qua non
[ITAL] of Nirvana."
In other words, Nirvana was Cobain's songs, and Cobain [ITAL] was [ITAL]
Nirvana. But this is a point that his bandmates dispute--especially
Novoselic, who stood by Cobain's side from earliest Aberdeen through his
doomed bout with stardom.
What IS a rock band?
When I interviewed Cobain for the Sun-Times in June, 1993, shortly before
the release of "In Utero," he seemed optimistic about the state of the band.
But when he spoke about making important decisions such as touring, filming
videos, and releasing singles, he usually said "I" rather than "we."
"I have my heart set on--everybody, the whole band has their heart set
on--releasing 'Scentless Apprentice' after 'Heart-Shaped Box' [as a
single]," he said. "That's a really good example of the direction we're
going in. We actually collaborated on that song; it came together in
practice. It was just a totally satisfying thing to finally contribute
equally to a song, instead of me coming up with the basics of the song.
"Obviously, we're pretty much on the same wavelength--there's never been
a situation where I tell them what to do," he continued. "But there are a
lot of times where I've had to sit behind the drum set and show Dave what
I've been thinking in my head, and he'll incorporate that idea. For the most
part, it's always been like 80 percent my song that I've written at home and
introduced to the band later on in practice. I'm just so pleased to be able
to collaborate--I'm getting tired of being expected to be the sole
songwriter. I would love to have a songwriting partner. And Krist and Dave
for some reason have started to come out of their shell."
I e-mail that quote to Novoselic. "Would Nirvana be a band if Kurt Cobain
was alive? I don't know," he says. "Would Kurt and Courtney be married if
Kurt was alive? I don't know. It's a tragedy that the guy died. In your
interview with Kurt, you sent me that quote--well, yeah, Kurt was a
[freaking] brilliant songwriter, man! He says it was 'refreshing.' [I'd say
to him,] 'What planet did you come from, dude? We've been working together
for years, we've been doing stuff like that forever, I've got publishing on
"Teen Spirit" and quite a few other songs!' I don't know what kind of mood
he was in then. He was a windmill; he was turning all the time."
In stark contrast to the posthumous careers of Hendrix or Marley, where
torrents of shoddy product were issued for years, there has been no "new"
Nirvana music other than the two live albums since Cobain's death. Love
contends that Nirvana, L.L.C. is letting the legacy of the band slip away,
and that it would have "wasted" a potential hit by burying "You Know You're
Right" on a box set when it could spur platinum-plus sales as the bonus
track on a single-disc greatest hits set a la the Beatles' "1."
Novoselic grants that Love has a point. "I've always considered
everything she said. We've considered it and agreed and said, 'Hey, that's a
great idea, Courtney.' I tried to get along with Courtney as best I could,
but there's only so much you can do."
For her part, Love knows she has a public-relations problem, thanks to
the Nirvana lawsuit and a second highly publicized suit filed by the
Universal Music Group over breach of contract by her band, Hole. (As an
outgrowth of that suit, she has become a vocal opponent of the major-label
system, claiming that its contracts are fundamentally unfair in the manner
of the old Hollywood studio system because they tie artists up well past the
so-called "seven year law" that prevails for actors in California.)
Early in a lengthy interview, as Love rattles off citations of various
California labor laws, I remark that she's beginning to sound like Lenny
Bruce at the end of his career, when he was obsessed with his numerous fines
for public indecency and could talk about little else beside his court
cases. That characterization stings because it has already occurred to her,
and she keeps returning to it over the next few hours.
"Data and statistics do not make me Lenny Bruce!" she rants at one point.
"But when you find out what your money and your husband's money is being
used for, it's enough to turn you into Lenny Bruce--and they didn't even
like him, that's the scary part!
"I can stop the worst of them from continuing to feed on the dead man.
That's the Shakespearean part I want you to understand: There's a dead man!
A kid without a dad! There's blood on the walls--my husband's! I'm supposed
to just walk away from that and say it never happened?"
What about the music?
At times, Novoselic and Love both seem willing to settle. "We could work
out a deal with Courtney," the bassist says. "I'm always willing to work out
anything--I'm easy." Asked when Love thinks the matter will be resolved, she
says, "It should have been done six months ago." But down in the trenches,
their representatives are talking tough and itching for a fight.
"You read the L.L.C. agreement, you read the complaint, and what's really
going on is [Love] has her stink with U.M.G. over Hole and she's using
Nirvana as leverage," says Kelly Corr, the Seattle lawyer representing Grohl
and Novoselic. "She is a fool if she doesn't settle with us, because we're
going to go to court and we're gonna beat her. Come on out for the trial. It
will be a hell of a lot of fun--a real circus!"
Jim Barber, Love's manager and boyfriend and a former A&R executive at
Geffen Records, fires back: "Obviously, Kelly Corr has chosen to join the
other lawyers, managers, and accountants who have exploited and defamed Kurt
Cobain to increase their own wealth and notoriety." But that's exactly what
Novoselic accuses Barber of. The bassist resents the fact that Barber showed
up to represent Love and aid in the mixing of "You Know You're Right" for
the soon-to-be aborted box set.
"Who's this guy?" Novoselic asks. "Where the [heck] did he come from? He
wasn't there when we recorded that tune!"
Last week, the defendants succeeded in forcing Love to turn over the
prenuptial agreement that she signed with Cobain. Corr had insinuated that
it would prove Cobain did not want his wife to have any involvement with
Nirvana in the event of his death; in fact, it seems to say exactly the
opposite. The defendants are still seeking the release of legal papers
regarding the formation of daughter Frances' trust fund.
The digging and the arguing will continue as both sides lurch toward a
trial in September. But the saddest part of this headline-making feud is
that Cobain's last songs continue to go unheard.
After the musician's death, when Love fled Seattle and the glare of the
media spotlight, Hole guitarist and Cobain pal Eric Erlandson went through
the couple's house and "rescued" the star's journals, art work, and 109
cassette tapes, lest they be stolen or lost in the chaos of the time.
Barber and Love admit that they haven't yet catalogued the contents of
all of these tapes, which sit in a safe deposit box. Most are rehearsal
tapes or cassettes of studio mixes, but they say that a number contain other
"lost" Cobain tunes--some recorded alone on acoustic guitar in his bedroom,
and some taped with outside musicians like Erlandson, Hole drummer Patti
Schemel, and Nirvana touring guitarist Pat Smear.
"There's some really melodic stuff, and there's some garbage," Love says.
"Some stuff is box set-y, but other stuff, we don't want to pass it up. We
don't want to get all 'Free As A Bird' about it, but there's stuff that's
too good to bury."
"How we pull it together and in exactly what form it gets released, it's
too early to say," Barber says. "In some ways, we feel like, 'Let's clean up
the business situation before we go into that,' because it's going to be a
lot of creative work to get this material in shape. I think there are
amazing things--there may be some things that are singles, if you salt them
in a context where they work for people."
The estate is determined to release this material under the name Nirvana,
not Kurt Cobain. Erlandson, the man who saved this material, is saddened
that the tapes are in limbo, and angry that Love is publishing her husband's
private journals. "What should probably happen is that somebody like Krist
who knows Nirvana's history inside and out should go through [those
tapes],"he says. "But the way things stand between those two [Love and
Novoselic], I don't know if that's gonna happen."
That music is the reason why fans should care about this fight, and it's
what drew me to this story. Love originally promised unhindered access to
the tapes if I traveled to California to hear them. That invitation grew
more nebulous as further e-mails were exchanged. By the time I get to
Beverly Hills, I'm only allowed to hear a few songs that "the other side"
has already heard and knows exist. But they are enough.
"You Know You're Right" is by far the strongest song that fans have yet
to hear, but a second tune that I listen to in Love's living room comes
close. "Dough, Ray, and Me" is often discussed on the Web, but few fans have
ever heard it. Cobain recorded two versions shortly before the end of his
life. One was a four-track rendition on which he drummed and sang while
Erlandson played bass and Smear played guitar. The other was a solo acoustic
demo taped in his bedroom, and that's the version I hear.
The sound quality is sketchy, to say the least, but as soon as that
famously gruff voice kicks in, it's vital, entrancing, and impossible to
ignore. The song boasts a beautiful, Beatlesesque melody in the tradition of
"About a Girl," the standout track from "Bleach." In addition to an
endearingly rough guitar solo, its other outstanding feature is the
moaned/whined/chanted repetition of "Dough/Ray/Me, Do/Re/Mi" over and over
during a long and climactic finale.
Deciphering Cobain's cryptic lyrics during a first listen is difficult at
best, but I manage to scribble several lines in my notebook: "If I may/If I
might/Wake me up/See me... If I may/Cold as ice/I only have/Sue me." Sue me?
Sue me? I swear I heard him sing, "Sue me."
* * * *
THE QUOTABLE COURTNEY
Courtney Love is by far the most challenging interview subject I've ever
encountered, as well as one of the most wildly entertaining.
By necessity, journalists reduce Love's hyperactive
stream-of-consciousness rants to manageable sound bytes, but those don't
really do justice to the experience of having a long conversation with her.
She will steer you where she wants you to go, double back to make a joke
about something she said 10 minutes ago, insult you, and attempt to seduce
you all at the same time. It's like trying to ride a tornado--and she knows
"This thing about me being crazy actually works sometimes," Love says.
"Let them think I'm crazy! In business, if they think I'm crazy, they'll
fill out the [freaking] check. I've heard this story about Tom Petty: When
he was dealing with people, he'd take this knife and stab the desk when he
wanted to make a point."
In lieu of a knife, Love uses a torrent of words and a razor-sharp
intellect. But while her abrasiveness and her humor translate well on the
printed page, the sheer agility, speed, and precision of her remarkable mind
don't always come through.
I spent more than 10 hours in a rambling but fascinating conversation
with Love before the fireplace in the In Style-perfect living room of her
Spanish-style mansion in Beverly Hills. Two doors down from Billy Bob
Thornton and Angelina Jolie, Love's house is bigger and nicer--though she
twice pointed out that it's "leased, not owned."
This setting was a stark contrast to the living room of the house on
Seattle's Lake Washington, where I interviewed Love's husband for the
Sun-Times in June, 1993. The only fixtures there were an empty playpen, the
anatomy dummies from the cover of "In Utero," a thrift-store couch, and a
couple of mock-ups of the "Jagstang" guitar that Fender had made based on
Kurt Cobain's design.
Here are some quotable highlights from Love.
on marketing ruling rock music
"It's all about marketing money. Marketing money is the manna from
heaven, and if they don't give you your marketing money--like they didn't do
with Garbage, or the Wallflowers, or Sheryl Crowe--then you're dead. All
you've got is your live act, and that's it.
"Now, you can say that [Hole's last album] 'Malibu' didn't have balls,
but it should have sold three million. If it shouldn't have sold three
million, I'll know, and I'll accept that. But why is 'Cocky' [by Kid Rock]
not doing well? That doesn't make any sense to me! Is it really that bad?
Kid Rock can alienate an audience just by getting a little country on them?
It's one of two things: It's either marketing money, or he's alienated the
wiggers and they can only deal with black culture and they can't acclimate
to redneck. Or maybe his chick [Pamela Anderson] is a bad luck charm. Naked,
she's gotta be amazing--I mean, I'd go there. But the real problem is
Atlantic is not putting marketing money into his record!"
on nirvana's success
"[Bassist] Krist [Novoselic] says [stuff] like, 'Nirvana didn't come to
the public, the public came to Nirvana.' That's one of his favorites. But
that neglects the fact that [Chicago independent record promoter] Jeff
McClusky sure as [heck] got paid, and so did the rack jobbers, and so did
the [freaking] handlers, and so did the guy in Thailand, and so did that
guy, and so did that guy, and so did that guy! It was marketing money!"
on what she learned from madonna
"I live in this house, I have this kid, I pay for my things, and if I am
going to pay for that [freaking] stool, I want to see an invoice for it!
When Madonna did that Rolling Stone cover with me and Tina Turner, she took
me to her office and she said, 'You don't have photo approval?' 'No.' 'You
don't sign your own checks?' 'No.' 'You're a [freaking] idiot! This is how
you do it.' And she has this ledger, and once a week she sits and she signs
her checks and she has a red pen and she writes, 'No!' or '[Freak] off!' And
that's how you keep control."
on the future of the major labels
"They're not going to fall, because they're distribution systems, and we
need them. But we need them to do better accounting. They give a very, very
unregulated accounting, and they're all crooked together. They hide money
and they lie to their stockholders, and capitalism cannot work if the
stockholders are being lied to."
on educating younger musicians
"The [freaking] kids who've been in this business for three years--when
I'm on the phone with Macy Gray, do you think she wants to talk about her
[freaking] record deal? The best I can do for her is get her to lease the
[freaking] Bentley, not buy the Bentley! [Imitates Macy Gray:] 'Macy don't
want to talk about that!' Macy gets a $15 million push with marketing money,
but just try to sit with these [freaking] kids to talk about their record
contracts! I swear to God, it would have been easier in '95. They're not
educated now. They weren't educated in '95, either. Hell, I'm not educated!
But they're not interested in being educated! They wonder why I'm curious
about things. 'You're so crazy! You're so weird!' And they're being taken to
on former beau billy corgan
"After Kurt died, Billy came out to the Canyon Ranch and he like took
care of me for a couple of days, but it wasn't like sex. I kept trying to
make him [have sex with] me, but he wouldn't [have sex with] me. Everybody
thinks we had something, but I was so [freaking] high that I would have made
the maid [have sex with] me. I was crazy! But Billy came out, and we drove
around the desert, and he took me to a cave and held me. His wife was nice
enough to let him go, and he was like MY FRIEND. But [before that], I never
had breakfast with him, I never woke up with him, I never saw him pee, I
never had a burrito with him, I never went around the block holding hands
with him. I [had sex with] him, and I'd leave--that was it. That was our
relationship, and then these songs came out of that."
on former beau edward norton
"He was like, 'I'm the [freaking] actor of my generation, I don't give a
[care]. I love this girl, she was married to that guy, I don't give a
[care], I'M THE MAN!' He helped me with this drug problem, he was great to
my kid, and we had a very symbiotic relationship. But he didn't want to deal
with the vulgar business of all this [Nirvana] stuff, and that's why I'm
only getting around to it now."
on having integrity vs. selling out
"Ask Fred Durst [of Limp Bizkit] what 'sell-out' means, and you know what
he'll say? 'I sold every [freaking] ticket at the Forum, that's what
sell-out means!' They don't have a problem with Pepsi commercials. When they
call me for Mountain Dew commercials now, I sometimes wonder. I was sitting
here the other day, and somebody's telling me I'm cash-poor. I've gotta
raise some cash, and I'm like, 'Playboy or Mountain Dew? Hmmm?' But I'd
[make love to] a [freaking] Arab prince first, I swear to God! I've got my
little [freaking] code, and I'm going to hang on to it. But I never said in
my code that I couldn't go be a movie star!
on generation y & gen x nostalgia
"The weird thing when you're talking about Y is the Y kids have a
nostalgia thing. I had a kid doing my hair--a young guy, 21--who says, 'You
were involved with all that. What was that like?' There's a group of kids
that really think they're different and cool and weird because they follow
the early '90s and they romanticize it, and it feels really strange. But the
Chili Peppers are still around, and I'm still around. That's why I feel
confident: I'm not in Stone Temple Pilots, I'm not in Pearl Jam, I was never
grunge. I was always the idiosyncratic solo person that was out there being
kind of a [jerk]. I can take three or four years between albums, but I'm not
going to worry about it, as long as the quality is there."
on christina aguilera
"I got an e-mail from Christina Aguilera. Know what she wrote? 'Na na,
wass up?' You know what I wrote back? 'I'm in bed watching an Eleanor of
Aquitaine documentary. [Imitates a school teacher:] Do you know who Eleanor
of Aquitaine was?' I am not gonna sit there and go, 'Wass up?' That
[freaking] Disney tutor should be shot! And Christina doesn't understand why
I don't want to sing back-up on her record!
on what might have saved kurt
"[Cobain biographer] Charlie [Cross] has this theory that there was
always suicidal ideation, and there was no way around it. I think that's
bull; ideation can be replaced with other ideation. Now, I have a theory,
and it sounds vulgar, and it sounds shallow, and it's capitalism coming from
a capitalist. But if we were around folks who knew luxury, who were our
generation, who had money, who were flying on Lear jets, who were drinking
fine wines, who were feeling great fabrics, who knew what Ming was, and fine
art, and thread count, things might have been different. We didn't
experience what [R.E.M. guitarist Peter] Buck experienced when he was living
next door. We didn't have STUFF. We didn't know about food. We didn't have a
cleaning lady! Wealth makes things nicer--it does, and that's just a goddamn
fact! We were rich people, and we didn't get to BE rich people. And I think
that luxury might have replaced [Kurt's suicidal] ideation."
on rock vs. pop
"Frances nailed the difference between rock and pop. She goes, 'Rock
lasts a long time, pop doesn't last long.' I'm like, 'That's right!' She
says, 'Pop sucks.' I say, 'That's not necessarily true: Pop can be good. A
lot of pop lasts a long time because it doesn't know it's pop.' She thought
of that herself. She's like, 'How can you be so old and be as famous as you
are?' I said, 'Because I'm rock!' "