Courtney Love is a hard woman to pin down. Since picking up the Icon Award at the 2020 NME Awards back in February, we’ve been trying to score an interview with the songwriter, actor, author and woman responsible for almost every one of this writer’s fashion decisions from the ages of 13 to 27.
Finally, we’ve tracked her down and she doesn’t disappoint – filling us in on the status of a possible Hole reunion and her daughter Frances Bean’s own forays into rock and roll. Last year, Love swapped Los Angeles for London in order to start work on a brand new solo album and finish her long-awaited memoir, which has been in the works for almost a decade.
In this exclusive Q&A, she tells us why the UK will always have a special place in her heart – and why she still misses a guitar someone nicked from her in Liverpool in the early ’80s.
Hello Courtney. How long have you been living in London now?
Courtney Love: “As of October 18, I have been in London a year. I should say we have been in London a year. By that I mean, me and my pom Bell.”
What made you want to come back?
“I’ve lived here at several points in my life and every time I left the UK, I’d get sad. And on top of that you know, for a while I actually did not pick up my guitar. I stopped having the kind of relationship that you need to have with the guitar to write good guitar songs. So, I came here to focus on writing my book and my record.”
You’ve made some big changes to your lifestyle in recent years. Was there a catalyst for this?
“There wasn’t a defining moment, but I changed my lifestyle in a significant way two years ago in August. For years I didn’t pick up an instrument and I stopped having the kind of relationship that you need to have with the guitar to write good songs.”
You’ve been writing new solo music whilst in London and mentioned on Instagram that you have an album title. What else can you tell us?
“It’s early days and I’ve recorded several new songs whilst I’ve been in London. I’ve also taken this time to enjoy rediscovering really good songwriters like Aimee Mann who’s from LA but went to Juliard and is a genius and overlooked. Frances [Bean, daughter] sends me playlists, which are fantastic and full of artists that I hadn’t come across before too.
“I also feel like the luckiest motherfucker in the history of rock and roll because finally after 26 years myself and my family have an honest and ethical manager with great ears in Jonathan Daniel (JD) and Crush Music. We’ve been together since 2009. He started managing me in the middle of me making a self-funded [Hole] album called ‘Nobody’s Daughter’, which had some really amazing songs that I’m so proud of. He’s been instrumental in working with me on the new material too.”
“Before I came back I actually had Melissa (Auf der Maur, bass) and Patty (Schemel, drums) come with our tech to this old-world rehearsal studio. We had a good session, but it takes a bit of time to get back into the rhythm of it all. It’s something I’d love to do and been taking guitar lessons over Zoom during lockdown and I’m writing again so we’ll see!”
“That’s so kind. She’s super talented and an incredible artist but I always thought she would be a professional horse rider. You should have seen her – she had so many medals and trophies and when I first saw her on a horse, I thought she looked so majestic… like Boudicca!”
What is it you love about the UK?
“I’ll tell you. When I arrived in London from Liverpool aged 16 in the early ’80s, I ended up staying at the Columbia in Bayswater – the scene of so much decadent rock and roll activity. My knowledge of London literally became the tube from Bayswater to Oxford Street – that’s literally all I knew. I would see these posters of Nick Cave (he had this huge mohawk) and his band, The Birthday Party. The poster said ‘Drunk on the Pope’s Blood’ – and this is all over London. And I was shocked! You can put posters up saying ‘Drunk on the Pope’s Blood’ in this country? I realised – you haven’t got nearly the Thought Police you think you do compared to in Portland or parts of LA. I’m allowed to dissent here, which I haven’t felt comfortable doing recently elsewhere. Being able to have a real dialogue and read all sorts of opinions… it made me fall in love with the UK even more.”
Didn’t you live in Liverpool?
“You know what – everyone always freaks out when I say I lived in Liverpool. I lived in Liverpool 8 (L8), mate! I lived in Toxteth – I lived where the (1981) riots were! You know, I arrived when I was 16, fresh off the boat and do you know the first thing anyone ever said to me in Liverpool? They asked, ‘would you like a mackerel butty?’ I didn’t know what it was but I had one right away. It was real good. Liverpool was also where I picked up my first New Musical Express.”
- READ MORE: From Hole to Hollywood, NME Icon Award winner Courtney Love’s most iconic moments
What made you want to live there?
“I still at this point in my life believe one thing and one thing more than anything else about rock and roll, which is that [Joy Division‘s] ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ was the greatest song ever written, period. End of story – there’s nothing else to say. It has never been topped to this day. I knew I certainly wanted to live anywhere as depressing as a place that could produce that song.”
Can you tell us about an early memory of Liverpool?
“OK, so across the street lived this boy that I had a real crush on. He took me to my first chippy. I had battered sausage. I mean, I’m sure the grease was rancid – but it was so good. We bought two bottles of this new booze that I’d never tried, it was called cider. And we listened to [David Bowie‘s] Ziggy Stardust and it was one of the funnest nights of my life. Just Ziggy Stardust, Woodbines, cider, and battered sausage.”
Apparently you hung out at the famous Probe Records?
“I’ll tell you a story. I’m walking by this cool record store, I’m chatting to my pretty girlfriend Robin and I guess I’m pretty loud and I hear this voice – ‘The ugly Americans have arrived!’ I look up and I just see the most beautifully scary creature I’ve ever seen in my life. This guy looks like he comes from another planet. His eyes are made – I found this out later – of horse contact lenses. His whole eyes are black. He is wearing giant platforms that looked bespoke.
“By the way, I wouldn’t know what that word meant back then, but we learn! He’s wearing this short little kimono and underneath, he is wearing brown bear-fur diapers with a giant diaper pin, and he’s shouting at me! It was Pete Burns! Whenever he’d see me in Liverpool after that he’d always say something like ‘Here comes Courtney, hide your biscuits – she’ll steal them all!’”
Any bad memories of Liverpool?
“You know I actually had a guitar stolen and that sucked. It was a 1958 Melody Maker that I would love to have back.”
Courtney Love is due to appear at the Feminist Institute’s ‘Bans Off My Body’ benefit event in New York City at a rescheduled date to be announced.