Twenty minutes with Courtney Love

By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter

  • Published
Courtney Love
Image caption,
Love began writing her new album while in a drug rehabilitation centre

At the back of your mind, when you set off to interview Courtney Love, you're secretly hoping she'll do something weird - like taking off her trousers, apropos of nothing, in the middle of the interview.

But it's still a surprise when she actually does it.

The moment comes towards the end of our 20-minute chat, as the rock star describes how she sold her house to Paul McCartney ("I cleared my CD room of anything Beatle-esque," she notes).

The story reminds her that there's a new pair of Stella McCartney sequinned black hipster trousers hanging up in her dressing room - and she immediately decides to try them on.

"You're going to see my ass," she announces, stripping off in front of a full-length mirror - but the trousers do not meet with her approval.

"Too much ass-crack," she sighs.

Bad reviews

We are backstage at the Brixton Academy, where Love's band Hole are about to play the second date of a brief UK tour, in support of their new album, Nobody's Daughter.

Image caption,
The singer and actress lost custody of her daughter last year

It's the band's first record since 1998's million-selling Celebrity Skin (although, with Love the only founding member of group left, the name is purely a brand at this point).

Mellower than previous Hole records, it has a Fleetwood Mac, soft-rock sheen to the production. But the lyrics, and Love's raw vocals, give it much sharper teeth than that description suggests.

"You stabbed your heel on broken glass," she spits with seething vengeance on the single, Skinny Little Bitch, "so I could kick your scrawny ass."

The tour started in Glasgow two days ago, and Love is still fired up by the response.

"It was awesome," she rasps delightedly. "I played three-and-a-half hours! I had all the house lights on!"

Image caption,
The album was recorded with Billy Corgan, Linda Perry and British guitarist Micko Larrikin

"The band didn't know [the song] Boys On The Radio from Celebrity Skin, so the whole audience was singing it a capella.

"And then, I don't tend to look at reviews unless it's the New York Times or the London Times but I had to Google something and I saw that some small Glaswegian newspaper had slated us.

"There were something like three, maybe four-hundred responses and every one of them was like, 'were you even at the same show?'

"It was so funny, I was laughing so hard. It was like this guy didn't even stay to the end.

"You could not fault that show," she rounds off, barely having paused for breath. "It was amazing."These are the edited highlights, by the way. Love's description of the gig lasts an entire ten minutes.

In passing, she describes the flights she took to Glasgow, blames Fred Durst for "ushering in the worst era of rock and roll in history", and vividly describes her "mojo".

It is a pure stream of consciousness. No thought, however trifling, remains unspoken. But there is something beguiling about her filthy humour and scattershot enthusiasm.

At one point she disappears into a side-room to fetch a Versace couture dress. "I had this made for the 1996 Oscars," she says. "I always thought I'd get married in it one day but, well..."

Although the singer has talked, in frank detail, about her love life in the past, claiming liasions with rock legends like Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan and... er, Bush's Gavin Rossdale, she isn't so forthcoming today.

All she will reveal, mysteriously, is that she is "waiting for a text from a boy".

'Good dames'

She is more effusive when I ask about the cover of her new album. Love grabs my copy of the CD and begins a whistle-stop tour of the artwork.

"I had Disney make me these shoes, these broken glass slippers," she says, pointing at the inside cover, "and this is a ship at sea that's sinking - which is how I felt making the record.

"This picture is when I was very skinny - I'm almost six feet tall and at this point I'm about 101lbs. No drugs, just total neuroses making this record."

Image caption,
Nobody's Daughter was originally slated to be a solo record

And what about the pictures of Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey?

"The art is pretty-self evident," she replies. "We always seem to get rid of the good dames."

Love is keen to align herself to these historical figures. Strong, misunderstood women, all of whom met a grisly end.

She has had her fair share of tough times - from the suicide of her husband Kurt Cobain in 1994, to losing custody of her daughter Frances Bean last year - but she is not ready to give up the fight just yet.

The 45-year-old says she has been sober for "seven years" and currently only takes prescription medications.

On stage two hours later, she has her old hunger back, opening the show with a low-down and dirty cover of The Rolling Stones' Sympathy For The Devil, before snarling her way through classics like Boys On The Radio, Violet and Doll Parts.

As in Glasgow, she demands the house lights be turned up so she can see the whites of the fans' eyes.

"Oh that's amazing," she beams. "This is a date now."

Nobody's Daughter is out now on Mercury Records. Hole are touring the UK until 9 May.

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