Hole are, to all intents and purposes, Courtney Love. And Courtney Love is a one-woman spite factory, spewing out bile and savaging anyone who dares cross her. But she’s not just a pretty hate machine. As Caitlin Moran discovers on the eve of the release of Hole’s shattering new single and album, the divine Ms Love has plenty to say on anything from the Roman Empire to losing her virginity in a Liverpool council flat.
WE LEFT the white-out neon explosion of Detroit behind us two hours ago -the plane crawled over it’s endless suburbs like a spider across the face of Big Ben. The plains of Dakota sped by, black as plum pudding, inky and f***ed as the pupils on a belladonna addict. And then the dull orange roar of Seattle claimed the horizon as its own – a cradle of network electricity, fringed by perfect mountains and the sea; a hundred thousand pinpoints of light all burning in a shallow grave.
A thick, evil mass of clouds rolls in off the ocean, lightning streaking from one side to the other, lacing in and around, maliciously knitting the sky into a million-volt crochet blanket. The plane rocks from side to side, and then suddenly drops a thousand feet in a second – the clouds open up their mouths and swallow us whole… the ground jumps up to meet us…
This is America – a land that buckles and heaves with schizophrenia and madness and beauty and incomparable ugliness. The place is f***ed beyond belief. God lives here – walks on the sidewalks, sings with the beggars, drinks in the bars where margaritas are a dollar a throw, and watches blankly as you crawl into the gutter and vomit as the sun hits the world again, like a balled fist at 5am. Like every broken love he’ll leave you if you look for Him. The nation looks up to the sky for its God; but the sky is empty. Perry Farrell was right – God’s sitting away somewhere, mainlining, and He gave up this small blue world a long, long time ago.
Make your own Gods. If you’ve ever felt this earth has closed its arms against you; if you’ve ever felt every eye has seen right through you and stripped you down to bone and clotted blood; if you’ve ever felt the only way to make some impact was to store and stir all the hate in the world in your body, heat it up with the fire or music and let your skin snap and burst one day; let the acid rain down on the city and corrode the skin of everyone underneath so they feel how you feel, then may I suggest Courtney Love?
Put her up there with Mark Eitzel and Dorothy Parker and… and f*** it, make your own list.
This – she said, throwing her hands out in the general direction of America: 2,000 miles wide, a place that sucks all its neuroses in at New York and spews them out on celluloid via Los Angeles – is an extreme country, and Courtney Michelle MacNeilly Moorland Rodrigez Love-Cobain is an extreme person.
That phrase “car-crash personalities” make sense. Here, those flame-thrower eyes are essential – not the danger-filled tar-pits they seem in pics and spreads and double-scandal pull-outs.
Courtney fits here. You don’t need to be scared any more.
Don’t fear the screamer.
“I AM so f***ing charming – I seem to have gathered this reputation as a diva, a screamer, a loud girl who will kick your ass if you so much as look at me – so I am Mrs Please-and-Thank You now. You’d be surprised how much time I spend metaphorically on my knees at the moment.”
THE FIRST time I saw Courtney in the flesh, the rest of Hole were soundchecking at the Clapham Grand, waiting for her. I was spinning round and round on my heels. I spun past the stage once, and it was black and growling with feedback. I spun round again, and in the space of a second Courtney had prowled to the centre of the stage, glowing unearthly white in a second-skin cream silk dress and a smash of lipstick and bottle-ravished hair and lime-green eyes; fringed with black lashes the length of most people’s arms.
The guitar cut across her body like a sash across a prom queen, and the cigarette in her mouth bobbed up and down as she wailed and whispered through ‘Miss World’. “Ah’m Miss Wurld / Some-bo-dy kill me… aaaand no-whun cares, mah friend. Well Ah’ve made my bed I’ll lie in it / Ah’ve made my bed Ah’ll diiiee in it.”
The impact was like running into a small building by accident. Only time a pop star’s ever impressed me.
Only time anything’s impressed me.
“I WANT this printed. This has never been set down in ink before. I lost my virginity in a council house in Liverpool, listening to ‘Isolation’ by Joy Division, to a guy called Michael Mooney, who hung around with Teardrop Explodes. After we’d done it I went across the road for cigarettes and I had all this blood and fluids running down my legs. Luuurgh, real graphic. I want you to print that.”
SWEET EVAN DANDO
WE’RE IN the Roosevelt Hotel. It’s 2am. Courtney has scrubbed all her photoshoot make-up off, turned on MTV and kicked off her shoes. The whole day has been spent freezing and grinning for a style magazine front cover. Around midnight, she called a halt, piled the rest of Hole into guitarist Eric’s van, and gate-crashed a frat party in the suburbs.
She posed enthusiastically in front of a “Needle Exchange Scheme” poster, and pinched cigarettes from students informing them she wasn’t “That bitch” Courtney Love, but Michelle Rodridgez; and when things started getting nasty and cans started being thrown around, she left in the flick of an eye.
She throws herself down onto the bed, turns on her tape recorder, and a eight-hour tour of her life begins. Rarely can one journalist have been so entertained. “Evan Dando and I were in New York on tour. It got to (two in the morning and we had our guitars out, playing each other our songs,” she starts, lighting another cigarette. “And we just had a little argument about whose songs were best – we couldn’t decide. So I went down onto the street and got this whore, asked her to come up to my room and judge for us.
“Obviously she was a bit dubious, wanted to bring her friend, so I was like fine, here’s your money. We played them about 10 songs altogether, and they decided-surprise! – they liked Evan’s best. He was being altogether charming; played them that one about being a booger which seems to have a strange effect on women.”
Courtney rolls her eyes.
“Like I’d be impressed if a guy compared himself to snot. But the whores were really into it now, they didn’t want to leave. So Evan rang down to reception, acted out this scene that was so clever. Picked up the phone, paused for a minute, made this face.” (Courtney screws up her face in to mock horror.) “And he said ‘My wife is here?’ Bang, they were gone in a second. I really like Evan. He’s just so cool with everything.”
In the background, the mute TV flicks up a Nirvana “Unplugged” session. Kurt has been on screen for three, maybe four frames. Courtney spins round and stares at the TV, turns back after a minute, a wonderful proud, hungry look in her eyes. “I can smell him,” she says.
KURT AND COURTNEY
“I DUNNO, people just – there’s this insane attitude about women which really f***s me and my plans up. All that shit about me and Kurt – ‘She’s just a money grabber gold digger bitch whore slut.’ Let’s get one thing straight: I adore him. I worship him. I went through all the shit and pain and inconvenience of being pregnant for nine whole f***ing months because I wanted some of his beautiful genes in there, in that child. I wanted his babies. I saw something I wanted, and I got it. What’s wrong with that? What is so f***ing bad about getting what you want?”
People say you’ve bewitched him, that he’s just a simple-minded guy and you…
“Well Jesus, don’t flatter him all at once. One minute he’s a leader, a voice for a generation – next minute I’m spoon-feeding him cereal and f***ing his life up. Kurt went after me. I wanna tell you about how we finally got together. Hang on a minute… “
Courtney goes into the bathroom, and leaves the door open, shouting the story out.
“I was going out with Billy Corgan – for my sins, for my sins, we all make mistakes – actually, f*** it, no, he’s stuck up for me. Billy’s okay. He was good in bed. Very good in bed. Anyway, I was with Billy, and I went on tour with him in Europe.” Courtney comes out of the bathroom, jumps on the bed and lights yet another cigarette.
“They [the Pumpkins] were playing some festival with Nirvana, and I stood on the side of the stage and Kurt was drunk, really really drunk, staggering all over the stage. He started singing a song in a really high voice about me, he and Dave [Grohl] were making jokes about me and Billy, and it was so embarrassing. I was squeezing Billy’s hand, digging my nails right in.
“Anyway,” she continues, “the dressing-room was covered in graffiti about me, which I found out later Kurt had done, because he was so jealous of Billy. And all round Europe, the Pumpkins played in venues a week after Nirvana, and every dressing room had something scrawled in it from Kurt. There were hundreds of weird coincidences. I didn’t initially go after him. I wanted him to date Kat [Bjelland, from Babes In Toyland]. I tried to get them together. Ha! So everyone can stop all this shit now.” (Courtney pauses for breath.)
“It’s the lying I can’t stand. It’s the lying that gets me down. One thing this last terrible year has proved: if you lie about us, I will hit you, Kurt will shoot you and we will sue.”
HAVE you ever had sex with a girl?
“Well, can I say first there’s no such thing as bisexuality, no such f***ing thing. You definitely have a preference – everyone has a preference. I’ve had a lot of sex, a lot, and I’ve f***ed, I dunno, 14 girls? Fifteen? But when it comes down to it, I just want someone to stick it in, y’know?”
I THINK I’m halfway to sussing Courtney. I’ve kind of figured how her head works. Problem is, she’s too intelligent, way, way too intelligent for the industry she works in and the people she has to deal with.
She knows great swathes of history in pinhead detail. Not just how Punk Came To Be and catalogue numbers of Flock of Seagulls singles – we talked for two hours about The Roman Empire, The Dark Ages, Patriarchy versus Matriarchy, the familial lines of the British Royal Family.
Perhaps the reason Courtney has spent nearly all her life racketing round the world – stripping in Alaska, shoplifting in New Zealand, through detention centres, in and out of rock bands and guys’ beds – is because the humdrum trawl of Ordinary Life bores her shitless.
And the world is scared shitless of her – an electric-magnetic blonde with brains, tongue dipped in acid, with a half million pound record deal, a voice like she drank a bottle of whisky then ate the bottle, and a very powerful partner.
She’s got the gossip on everyone – because gossiping is something to do. Jesus, y’know, it passes the time. Babies and records don’t occupy her half enough. I’d suggest she should run for President if I didn’t think she’d go and do it.
“I’d rule this world so well,” Courtney sighs, looking out the window as the sky turns pale grey. “I’d be so f***ing fair. I’d be the best Omnipotent Being ever.”
Like I said, chose your Gods.
SUN COMES UP, IT’S THURSDAY MORNING
IT’S 10 in the morning – we’ve talked the sun into rising again. The air-conditioning’s choking on the cigarette smoke. One pint glass that formally held margarita – no salt, heavy on the triple-sec – is now filled to the brim with nub-ends. The rough version of the new Hole LP cover (the record’s a f***ing masterpiece, by the way, brilliant and beautiful and bloodstained – the perfect combination) is on the floor, tangled up with stockings and cardigans and empty matchboxes and $10 notes.
Courtney stretches on the bed like a kitten, and yawns. “I gotta baby I gotta go home and see,” she says, rubbing at a smudge of mascara under her eye. “I’m gonna go now.”
She hugs me, then kisses me goodbye.
“I’ve decided I like you,” she says, lolling in the doorway for a minute. “You’re loud – loud and smart. Most loud girls are stupid. Or people think they are…”
She sucks on her bottom lip, pauses, then pushes herself off the door frame and heads down the hotel corridor, coat wrapped tight, hugging herself to stop from falling apart, tipsy with tiredness.
For one brief moment Courtney looks like Madonna in the ‘Justify My Love’ video – but with more class, way more class.
At the end of the corridor she turns around just one more time.
“Remember,” she hollers, so that rooms 1500 through to 1589 are brutally awoken, “if you write anything nasty about me, I’ll come round and blow up your toilet.”
And she disappears into the lift.
© Caitlin Moran, Melody Maker, 19 February 1994