She may have spent 2004 battling legal troubles, but Courtney Love is wrapping up the year by getting back to her rock roots. Over sips of iced coffee at a greasy spoon just off Sunset Boulevard, Love tells Rolling Stone about her next album, due this spring.
Determined not to repeat the “failure” Love says she experienced with America’s Sweetheart, her 2004 solo release, for the past few months the rocker has been writing with ex-Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan (he worked on Hole’s 1998 album Celebrity Skin). Love is hoping to recruit Rick Rubin or Daniel Lanois to produce the as-yet-untitled release, which she plans to record in a women’s prison some time this winter.
With the judges in her two pending criminal cases in Los Angeles (one for illegally possessing painkillers and the other for an alleged assault last April) encouraging a pre-trial settlement, and her recent win in family court which returned custody of daughter Frances Bean to her, Love is ready to focus on her career again. Says Love, “I miss competing.”
What was it like in Chicago writing with Billy Corgan again?
I didn’t pick up a guitar the whole time. I let go to a degree that it’s starting to bother me. I had a dream that I was holding a frame of a painting in my hand, but it was really a guitar, which to me symbolizes that my frame is how I play guitar and I need to adjust these songs that I wrote where I just sang melody lines.
The weird thing is that my reputation has always been, “Oh she doesn’t do shit, she just comes in and writes lyrics.” Well, for once I actually didn’t do shit, and I came in and wrote lyrics and sang. This is the first time in my life I’ve written with somebody where I didn’t do so much more work than I’ve been credited with.
Weren’t you recently making an effort to put the guitar down because you wanted to have more freedom?
No, I’ve just been lazy and post-traumatic and, you know, coke-nutbag-breakdown, and I just didn’t want to play guitar. Now I want to play guitar again.
Back to Billy for a second: The chord arrangements that he does are so brilliant. He brought it to me and Lisa [Leveridge, guitarist in Love’s band, the Chelsea]. He’s not simple at all — I mean, Billy could never write a half-rock song even if he was trying to. Like that Dave Grohl song, (sings) “Don’t want to be your monkey wrench” — it’s, like, the stupidest. You know the one I’m talking about? It’s like, “Fuck you! So easy to write, I could have written that in my sleep.” And I bring it up because that particular song really bugs me because it’s just big and dumb.
Is that one of the ones he allegedly wrote about you?
He was writing every song about Kurt or about me for years, and finally he wrote a good song and it’s about Melissa [Auf Der Maur, “One By One”]: (sings) “Done, done, and I’m onto the next one.” That one’s good.
Who’s going to play on the album with you?
For this prison record I want to play with Dave [Navarro], I want to play with Lisa and I want to play with Stephen Perkins — Courtney’s Addiction! I want to front Jane’s Addiction. I did! In Las Vegas [in November], I did “Mountain Song,” basically with Jane’s Addiction. It’s like, “Where’s Perry? No one misses him? Great, I’m taking over.”
So what do these new songs sound like?
They’re more narrative, acoustic-based. Someone like Elliott Smith would just take a guitar and narrate, and that’s something Billy brought up that I need to do. What we wrote with an eye towards was [Bob] Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue,” that really cool era of Dylan. That’s why these songs need a big, huge hit of speed, and since that would be illegal, I need to drink a lot of fucking coffee and sit down and really figure out what it is I want to say, write a book. They are beautifully arranged tunes so far.
Speaking of books, do you want to write one?
Just lyrics. I’m not doing an autobiography — are you kidding? Empires would crumble.
Fuck, yes. I would never.
How about reality TV, any interest?
And if you think I haven’t been asked every single day, since those damn things started — ! I wouldn’t do it, but there was one they brought to me recently: me, Kelly Ripa and Pam Anderson were the three people they wanted to send to boot camp and basically publicly humiliate while they got you in really, really good shape. For like five seconds I was like, fucking boot camp? I really would love the body that would get me. But to do it on television? I don’t think so.
So Courtney Love live — there are a lot of festivals coming up in the summer. What kind of positioning would you want to play any of them?
I like the big stage for me, a preference shared by many musicians out there, I’m sure. I’m more comfortable when I’m the queen — and everyone else is more comfortable when I’m the queen. I’ve already paid my dues, thank you very fucking much.