A piece of Kurt Cobain

March 10, 2002



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 earlier.

  The key 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:

Krist Novoselic

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 www.inclusivedemocracy.com. 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.

Dave Grohl

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.

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 of records!"

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 professional."

Kurt Cobain

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 love myself."

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!"

Jim DeRogatis






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, undeniable take.

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 generation.

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 tremendous mistake.

Courtney balks

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."


* * * *



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 it.

"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 the cleaners!"

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!' "