Hole's Eric Erlandson Sheds His Celebrity Skin

When Hole dubbed their last album Live Through This, it's doubtful any band members believed the title would become the source of such irony. What transpired over the subsequent four years amounted to an ungodly measure of melodrama and personal turmoil, most of which was documented in tabloids, newspapers and even movie theaters.

Despite catastrophic disasters -- death and drug problems head the list -- Hole's two founding members, singer Courtney Love and guitarist Eric Erlandson, remained a tight musical partnership through it all. They recently returned to the ring -- along with bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur -- with the long-awaited Celebrity Skin. And because controversy follows Love wherever she may roam, the album came pre-packaged with an avalanche of negativity.

Since the release of Live Through This, many critics have claimed Love's late husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, penned much of the material on the major label debut. Consequently, when Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan became involved in the project, Love was immediately labeled a Corgan surrogate. And that's just not true, according to Erlandson, who says Celebrity Skin is the consummate band effort and comes from "pushing themselves to the limit, and then some."

You and Courtney, and the whole band for that matter, were under a tremendous amount of pressure to get this album out. It had been pushed back a few times and people were starting to wonder when, and if, it would ever be finished.

You know, we're just that type of band where everything is falling apart all of the time. Making that record was insane. There were obstacles at each step of the way, nothing was smooth and easy. So many times [producer] Michael [Beinhorn] would say, "I've never seen anything like this!" Personally, I just knew that this album was meant to be out there, and I knew it would somehow come together. Courtney has always picked on me, saying I'm very negative. But it's not true. If I was negative, we wouldn't be sitting here talking about this album, because it wouldn't have happened.

So why did it take so long?

I wasn't going to release it until it was right, until I felt it was done -- that's all I cared about. Everyone thought I was losing my perspective, and on some things, I did. But for the most part, I think I was pretty objective. I wanted to make sure that every song fit in with the record, all sounding good together.

Was Billy Corgan originally going to produce the album?

No, [he was going to] executive produce. He was going to bring in an engineering guy and he would oversee it. I was really against it right away. In fact, when Courtney suggested it, I said, "Courtney, I'll never talk to you again if Billy produces this album." I was really strong about it [laughs].

You really put your foot down?

Yeah, but then I caved [laughs]. Courtney came to me and said she really wanted to work with Billy. She said, "I need this and I need to learn from him. All we have to do is spend a couple of days with him and we'll learn from him and that will be it." So I said, "Okay, I can deal with that." I was going along for the ride, but there was not supposed to be any writing done. And I was keeping my foot down on that. But, [laughs] I caved on that, too.

What happened is we got together for ten days. Courtney, Billy and I had this chemistry going right from day one. We were working on all the stuff that Courtney and I had already written. Billy really facilitated things, in a way. Courtney and I have such a weird relationship that if someone else is in the room [snaps his fingers], everything just comes together. Billy knows how to write a song. He's good at what he does, and so he started fixing up our songs. It didn't take a lot, most of them were really close but he would make decisions like, "Oh, I don't really like that and I don't like this." Then we started writing songs from scratch. I would bring in the music, Courtney would start coming up with lyrics right away, and he would help map it all out. It was good, we learned a lot, she learned a lot, we got the demos closer. Then at the end of that time, Billy said, "I'm out of here."

So Billy helped with the arrangements and wrote some of the music, but he didn't write the lyrics, right?

Courtney writes all her own lyrics. Nobody else is writing those lyrics and nobody ever has. I don't think people realize a lot of stuff is written with Courtney's guitar playing. Like on "Playing Your Song," [Courtney] came to me with the music, somewhat like the way it is on the record. She had the melody, and the riff, and then I changed the key and Melissa added her idea about staying on one chord a little longer -- and that made it more interesting. I added the picking part and a bridge. That's how it came together.

The album is dedicated to "... the stolen water of Los Angeles and to anyone who ever drowned." Where did that come from?

It was Courtney. Our band is a collective, but Courtney has a lot of ideas and it's weird how they infiltrate our lives -- it just happens. Like with the drowning theme, there were all these things going on while we were making this album, like Jeff Buckley drowning. And years before [bassist] Kristen [Pfaff] died in a bathtub. My father died basically drowning in his own body, he couldn't breathe, and Melissa's father died of lung cancer. Those were literal things, but drowning became a metaphor for this record and for all the people we had lost.

Now that the album is out, what are your future plans?

Now my project is to make Hole a huge, touring rock band. Put on a big show that's never been done before. That's a big chore, because when you come from punk rock you think just put on a little club show. I want to headline the tour. That's how I see a record like this translated. I don't see it as a stripped-down thing. But we have to have a lot of fans to pull it off. It's a big challenge. Something that's gonna take all my energy to do, but I'd like to make it happen. And once I get a project in my head, I have to do it, I can't do anything but that project.