It’s been a wild ride, but Courtney Love is back—and she’s touring the Northeast this summer, which includes a stop in Philly this Thursday night at the Theater of Living Arts. PW‘s Randy LoBasso spoke with her at length about … oh, lots o’ stuff.
Like, did you know the notoriously raucous rocker once jammed out to one of her more radical songs with Mariah Carey? Or that she’s been doing tons of corporate gigs, including an endorsement for e-cigarettes? Or that she’s seriously seeking a female bass player—and can’t find one? These topics and more—including bands she’s into these days, bands she’s really not into and a TV show she’s working on—were brought up during their half-hour, wide-ranging conversation. No, don’t worry: Our grunge icon is not the new Bachelorette. “It took them 15 years to convince me to do this shit,” she says of the reality show, “and I finally said yes … like, okay, I’m gonna do it. I will tell you this: It’s hilarious.”
LoBasso’s tape got cut off in the beginning, so their recorded interview starts about 10 minutes into their conversation. At this point, the two are talking about the sort of music Love is currently liking, and Starred, the band that’s opening for her on this tour.
COURTNEY LOVE: Today I was listening to the Magnolia soundtrack. I was listening to a band that’s opening for us, Starred, and I was listening to Chelsea Wolfe, this kid called Blood Orange.
And I listened to a little bit of the Arctic Monkeys this morning.
What can you tell me about Starred? Have you been a fan of them for a while, or did they kind of just come along?
I’ve been friends with Liza and Matt for about six or seven months, I guess. Like really good friends. Matt has a degree in audio engineering, so he was doing house sound for Trent [Reznor’s] wife’s band—you know, this How to Destroy Angels thing, which I thought was … I remain a fan of Nine Inch Nails, but I kind of thought the one song that I heard was atrocious. I have to be honest. I thought it was kind of a waste. But hey, you know, whatever. Matt is … he’s kind of an audio genius, so he’s really helping. Micko [Larkin, Hole’s guitarist] is a man of very simple taste. But I mean, you know, we’ve been together now since he was 18, and I think he’ll be 25 next month. So that’s seven years, my time with Micko.
That was eight, actually, Randy. Which puts it on par with at least as long as I’ve played with Eric [Erlandson, ex-Hole guitarist], if not longer.
What have you guys learned about each other, would you say, in that time, about your styles?
Who—with Starred? Or Micko?
Uh, we never fight.
We get along great. When he started, he was drinking, and now he’s completely sober. He does a lot of like physical fitness, rock climbing. He even quit smoking, which I couldn’t even believe. I hired him when he was barely 18, and he was drinking 40-some beers a day. You just got to put a guitar in the kid’s hand. I got him from Florence + the Machine. He was the machine.
I gave her an opening slot in London. It was like a secret, like a billiards hall with 200 people, and I heard her sing. I’m like, she doesn’t need that guitar player; that guitar player’s fucking sick. So, I kind of amicably convinced everyone to let me have Micko. He came out to L.A., and he’s been through all of my travails. And the last eight years have been definitely dramatic in a lot of ways, so he’s been through all that stuff with me.
I wanted to talk about that, I guess, the eight years. I’ve been listening to your album, America’s Sweetheart, a lot lately …
Nobody’s Daughter is a master work. I think America’s Sweetheart is half-ass.
Well, there were some songs …
I mean “Mono’s” great. “But Julian, I’m a Little Bit Older Than You’s” great. “All the Drugs” is kinda good. I think that’s about it. It’s just discombobulated as hell. I hate the packaging, artwork—I had nothing to do with that artwork. That was the first time someone ever put artwork on something that I had nothing to do with. That’s really a buzz kill. And there’s some crap on there, man. Oh, there’s a song called “Almost Golden” that’s kind of good. But I don’t think it’s … it’s certainly not a master work. I don’t know. I’m glad you’re listening to it. What do you think?
I’m really into the punk influences on the album. Especially toward the beginning.
Yeah, those first few songs are gnarly. Those first few songs are good.
It sounds a lot like the Distillers to me toward the beginning.
No, no, the Distillers.
Oh, thank you. I was like …
No, no—not The Killers. Not even a little.
“I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier.” Oh God, someone stop me. Oh, that song. No, I actually liked Hot Fuss, but I didn’t like that song. I thought that song was really bad. But I like the other song better. The Distillers … wait, don’t The Distillers kind of sound like me?
Yeah, I guess I do mean that, in context [Laughs]. Brody Dalle, she totally sounds like you.
She’s singing on [America’s Sweetheart track] “Sunset Strip.” That’s her singing on “Sunset Strip” with me, actually.
That makes sense then.
We were friendly. I tried to get her to sing on “Samantha” on Nobody’s Daughter, and she was too busy with her baby that night. I was like, “Brody, get a fucking babysitter. You’re in the valley.” She wouldn’t do it. And do you want to hear a funny story?
For the part of the song [that goes] “People like you fuck people like me,” I wanted a screamer. So I called like three screamers. I called Gerard Way, who didn’t answer because he didn’t recognize the phone number. I called Brody. I called somebody else; nobody was around. I thought Billie Joe [Armstrong of Green Day] was around; he wasn’t around. So, I went over to my friend Bret’s house, and he’s a director … I [told him I] was too pitchy to scream this part. And this little voice goes, “I can sing it,” and I’m like “Who’s that?” And the little voice goes, “It’s Mariah.” And I’m like, “Okay, Mariah Carey, you cannot sing ‘People like you fuck people like me.’” She goes, “Yes I can. I did a rock record once; we just never released it.” So I went over there, and there’s no recording of it, but it was the two of us screaming—and she can rock sing. Mariah, she’s a badass. Like, she could rock sing. I couldn’t even believe it.
There’s no recording, you said? I mean, that’s pretty incredible.
I wish to God there was.
I can’t even imagine what that sounds like.
We had absolutely nothing in common, but we also didn’t threaten each other in any way. I really liked her, and I gave her this antique shawl. I don’t think she does antique, but she knew it was valuable, and she goes, “Whatever this is, I know it’s really a good thing,” and I was like, “Thank you.” We took a bunch of pictures together that night, but no, there’s no recording of Mariah singing, “People like you fuck people like me.” It’s so funny, but it happened. I wish somebody recorded it. Nobody did.
Have you seen her since?
No. We were supposed to have lunch, but then I got to New York, and I just never, you know, and then she got married, and we just didn’t. We really have friends in common, but we didn’t ever … We thought that that would be a really funny post-modern experiment.
But, you know she’s an industry.
Without a doubt.
When I went over there, she had her vocal coach; she had a pretty large crew with her. It was funny—I couldn’t get Brody Dalle, but I got Mariah Carey when there was no one to record.
Right. Have you considered recording with Brody again?
Well, I asked her that night. She didn’t seem that interested, and I don’t get along with [her husband and Queens of the Stone Age leader] Josh [Homme], so …
I can ask her again. But, you know what I think: With her, I think she’s sort of not as ambitious as she used to be.
I don’t see … I don’t think [Brody Dalle’s new band] Spinnerette was an ambitious record.
It had like some really good songs on it, but some of the songs toward the end were shit.
Yeah. I think if you—I mean, this is just my opinion—I think couples can collaborate all they want, but if you marry a guy who’s got a particular esthetic sound, you should keep him out of your studio. I don’t know if he was in her studio; it’s really none of my business. But, when I listened to that record, I felt like Josh was all over it.
It definitely wasn’t the Distillers.
I’m not trying to be a bitch. I like her. She’s nice.
I know what you’re saying. It felt a little too over-produced for what her sound should be.
Maybe she just doesn’t care.
They only had the one, right?
Yeah, just one.
So, you’ve got eight songs that you’re recording.
We’ve recorded eight songs, yeah.
Are you going to be playing those on the tour?
We’re going to play everything but the single. There’s two songs on the single. We’ll play like a song called “Pretty Your Whole Life.” We’ll play some new stuff, but we’re not going to play the single. I mean, there really aren’t any rules anymore. It’s like, I know a guy who was the CEO of Warner Brothers; maybe he’s still the CEO, I don’t know. I just look at him like ‘You have the worst job in the world.’ And he fucking knows it, man.
Why is that?
Because it’s like, 10 years ago that’s a killer job. Right now, that’s a job that’s going to last you six months unless you figure out the Internet. And no one’s going to figure out the Internet.
Totally. It’s the same with news.
You know? I mean, it’s just that those days are gone. It’s over. It’s sort of a meritocracy. The kids decide, you know? Unless you’re in that really rarified strata of people like [Lady] Gaga and Madonna or Mariah who are getting financed for every single thing still, you know what I mean? Or you’re a very successful rapper.
Of course. Yeah, the rappers kind of have their own thing.
Rappers are everywhere.
What’s your experience been like over that? Because you’ve been around since before the Internet had any say over music.
I don’t make as much money anymore, but in a way, it’s kind of [separating] the wheat from the chaff, you know? It’s like, OK, is this what I do? Because I’m not going to make a lot of money at this. I mean, playing rock music is now a middle class job for sure. Maybe upper middle class, but still middle class. You still get nice perks and stuff from being well known, but in terms of the finances, you’re not going go be buying a $20 million mansion. It’s just not going to happen.
Would you say you’ve got to tour a lot more now?
You better either really like your job or have another job.
Have you picked up any odd jobs over the years?
I did menial labor, and I stripped, but I also did an art show that was really pretty successful, and I’m doing a fashion line that I hope will be successful. It’s really weird fashion, but it’s mine. There’s a lot of money in fashion. And I did my first corporate thing for these [Njoy] e-cigarettes. But then, you know, what are you going to do with me? You’re not really going to put me in a Pepsi ad, so e-cigarettes are kind of perfect. I played a few corporate gigs, which are awful, but you know, it’s more money then you make playing Philadelphia. But, I mean, you’ve got to play for the kids.
What kind of stuff do you play at corporate gigs?
I say hi to the guy that invented the app, and then I keep to myself. I say hi to the guy whose birthday it is ‘cause I have to. Someone picks up the check, and then I split. Take a cab back home.
It sounds like these are tech companies that are hiring you?
Yeah. Like, tech guys’ birthdays. They want a rock band for their birthday and, you know, kind of like that.
Right. Those are the guys now who have too much money.
So much money, man. Too much money. They have all the money.
Well, they learned the Internet. That’s what you’ve got to do, I guess.
Yeah. My real father told me to learn the Internet instead of the guitar. In 1982, he gave me an Apple Lisa 2, and he said learn fractals, not chords. The only good advice that guy ever gave me, he’s such a creep. But I’m glad I learned chords instead of fractals. He also put a dancing bear sticker on there, which was kind of a turn-off. Not a fan of the whole dancing bear situation.
A lot of people had those dancing bears for a while. Grateful Dead was all the rage.
I had a friend named Ian Franklin who was punk—like, a total death-rocker punk—and her version of rebelling was turning into the biggest fucking deadhead ever. She was my first, like, Jewish-American princess friend, and I met her one time in a soup kitchen, and she had this brand new Volkswagen Jetta with dancing bears. We were in San Francisco, and she goes, “I’ll just have the water and the salad,” and I was like, whoever that is that needs to be my new girlfriend. Because she’s a genius. She just came into a soup kitchen with a bunch of hungry punks and ordered the water and the salad. And, you know, we and she actually did sound for the Breeders, did sound for Nirvana. She ended up being a really good sound, a well-respected sound person.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a punk rebelling by going hippie. I imagine it’s usually the other way around.
She was so into it! I actually went to a Dead show with her, and I mean … I’m sure I’ve been taken to many of them as a child, but I have no memory of them, and it was so just not me. I’m gonna go sell out and do a TV show, and then that’ll be like a six-month break, and then we put the single out. Then next year, we’ll do all the festivals and stuff.
What kind of TV show are you doing?
I can’t tell you, but it’s a really big one. Your mind’s gonna boggle. Listen, your mind’s gonna boggle even more when they announce it.
OK, so …
Trust me. I know what I’m doing. It’s a network, dude.
It’s a network, but is it reality or is it scripted?
Yeah, it’s kind of … it’s reality.
It’s tasteful. You know, it took them 15 years to convince me to do this shit, and I finally said yes … I’m like, okay, I’m gonna do it. I will tell you this: It’s hilarious. That’s all I can tell you.
I’m in a good position, and it’s a good place, and I really think … the fly-over states have some weird opinions about me still. I’m always considered crazy or whatever, and it’s like, God, I haven’t taken drugs since like 2005. It sucks. You know what I mean? Like, it’s just, whatever. Actually, as much as it’s, like, a shocker, it’s also going to clean up the garbage about, you know, who I am to some extent. I mean, the deal is sort of made, and I didn’t really have a choice, and I was like, “Never say never.” That’s all I can tell you. It’s not a proper network show. It’s not like some VH1 show, you know. It’s not—I’m not looking for love. Let’s put it that way.
That’s good to know because if that were the case, I’m not sure if I could watch it.
I can’t really take those shows. I wouldn’t do that to anybody. I wouldn’t do it to myself. But you’re just gonna have to wait on that one. It’ll be good.
Have you ever considered releasing the rehab tape demos that you recorded?
Not really. They’re not that good. If they were really good, I would, but they’re not that good. Maybe in five years, I’ll revisit that, and I’ll change my mind, but if they were great, I would. They’re really naïve, and you know, naïve can be great. It’s just not that good right now.
The other thing I wanted to clear up was the stuff on Huffington Post about you looking for bandmates on Craigslist.
What went on with that? It was totally true. I put an ad on Craigslist, and it said, “Hole-type band looking for Melissa Auf Der Maur’s type bass player,” and I got one response. That’s true.
I don’t know why it became such a big story, but there it is on Newsday. I got one response from a girl that went to Juilliard for four years, and I was like, “OK, Juilliard destroys people; I can’t deal.” But I love Shawn [Dailey], our bass player. Melissa won’t do it unless Eric does it—and that’s never, ever, ever going to happen. As much as I love Shawn, he’s who I’ll probably always record with, but I’m looking for a girl bass player, and they seem to have gone off to be artists or extreme sports people or something. Where the girl bass players used to be there, now it’s slim pickin’s.
Thurs., June 20, 8pm. $35. With Starred. Theatre of Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. TLAphilly.com