Blood on the Tracks

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interview given for moonwashedrose

After a long period of silence and countless hours in the studio, Courtney Love gives an exclusive interview for the fans. Miss Love takes us into the whirlwind of her current life: putting the finishing touches on a new album, promoting her new book, re-organizing her life, and getting out of actor jail…

So what have you been up to?

Very, very busy in the studio every night – finally on the last few days of work making rough mixes before I go to London to do real mixes.

Has this record been hard?

Very, very hard 10-14 hour days, take after take after take after take. Linda has said it’s been her hardest record she’s ever made and it’s been harder than any movie I’ve ever done.

Who’s mixing?

Unfortunately, can’t say yet. But he’s really really good and if he’s not mixing the other person is really really good. Picking the right mixer is important.

We have seen lyrics for some of the songs, “Sunset Marquis” being one, “Stand Up Motherfucker” being another. What are these songs about?

Well, each song literally has a different snare on it and each song literally is about an entirely different thing, but they all fit in a cohesive whole. It really fits as part of a collection. It’s a really album-y album.
And the important thing is that almost every single song originated with me, from my own two hands on guitar. Linda, of course, did a lot of writing too and a lot of wonderful arranging and Billy did incredible guitar work. He really made a sacrifice about his time by committing himself wholly to this project and acting sometimes as my interpreter. Plus, he’s vastly underrated as a guitar player.
Sunset Marquis is about…well it’s self-explanatory. It’s about someone who’s really, really lost. Two people who are really, really lost who briefly find each other and then burn each other down because they’re both just sad damned people and while one gets better the other one stays lost.
Stand Up Motherfucker – I was listening to a lot of Dylan and I wanted to do a snarling description of a real son of a bitch- someone I loathe – but someone who at the same time I’m totally in love with, but loathe myself for being so.

It’s been rumoured that Sunset Marquis and Stand Up Motherfucker are written about specific people. Is this true?
Well, I would never say what’s about who or who what’s about – I never kiss and tell. Well, of course every song is a kiss and tell but it would be loathsome to me to say who the songs are about. Northern Star (on Celebrity Skin) was not about anyone at the time, neither was Malibu. Then I met the person I had written those songs for. He actually walked in a room I was in and within minutes I knew I had written those songs for him years and years later. So, you write about someone specific rarely – but you always meet who the song’s about.

So not a lot of political songs then?

Romance is always political. Especially painful romance.

How would you describe the sound of the new album? How does it differ from America’s Sweetheart?

Well, the sound on AS sucked beyond words. The production was a nightmare. Linda and I had written some really good songs, but they were rendered lazily and sound like shit. The art was horrific and not my idea and the label didn’t back it at all. I was busy taking drugs to dull the pain of having lost everything AND made a shit album to boot, but it made all the top 10 lists and it wasn’t “universally panned” by any means but I’ll admit it was crap and Linda should’ve done then what she’s doing now. The producer didn’t know what he was doing and he just spent my money. It almost had a moment of being Exile on Main Street – almost – but that’s like almost winning a race. You either do or you do not. And in this case it’s a delightfully written record in parts and sonically untenable with two of the most pretentious songs I have ever written. I was so druggy I thought it’d be cute to rip off Teen Spirit on one song.
Believe it or not, “All the Drugs”, “Sunset Strip”, “Mono” and “But Julian…” are all good songs. They just were produced crap and the songs weren’t taken further than demo status. It was a bunch of idiots in a chateau spending my money and I have to take responsibility for it.
The art still makes me seethe. At least make it look cool, and instead there’s me as a playboy pinup. I love Olivia’s art but that was personal for me – not art for a record.
Enough of the negative. This album is grand. It’s Linda’s hardest record to have made and one of, if not her very favorite, record. She’ll tell you that everything was beautifully crafted. There’s not an uncool sound, an uncool snare sound, an uncool bridge on this record. It’s raw like Live Through This – really romantic and really deep. I went to deep parts of myself on this record. The band we put together including Corgan was excellent. It’s a totally different ball of wax. It’s not as compressed as Celebrity Skin was – it’s brutal and has a honey like feeling to it. It’s just so beautiful and I’m so glad she was the one because I thought about Lanois and I thought about Runin and they could get the Americana I was going for listening to all that Dylan – but it’s not just Americana. Radiohead’s a big influence, U2 and REM are too and of course the ubiquitous Fleetwood Mac as well.
This record is lovely – but very real. We allowed some natural flaws to remain. We use my voice, as it is, which is rich and deep and honed by a lot of smoking.

What happened to you and Moby?

I adore Moby but Linda wanted to keep going and going and I was happy to do so with her. I hope we work together at some point – he was a great person to play demos for and point me in the right direction.

Who have you gone to for guidance and advice outside of the studio, other than your management and your producer?

Stipe, Alan McGee, my friend Julie, Bono, a few people in the film business who aren’t necessarily music people… Cameron Crowe – as always. I send him everything. His opinion is invaluable to me. I’ve sent demos that were really poor quality to some people I shouldn’t have. I was all excited and jumped the gun but that’s me a little bit, but Stipe always gives me instant feedback that’s very visceral, and Moby also gave me some.

A few actors with great taste… My friend Bennett gets everything because he’s sophisticated enough to hear things and my friend Edward Norton always gets where I’m at since he’s also got a good set of ears. I don’t always listen to what they say but the feedback is great.

What label will it be on?

We just haven’t decided yet .

The album is rumored to be released this fall – is that on schedule?

I think it’s realistic to say February instead of Christmas. I just think this business – to set it up right – this will be the right thing to do.

What are you up to other than being in the studio?

Nothing much. I go to the same hotel and have tea with friends or meetings and I’ve been doing a lot of film meetings since I’m getting out of actor jail. I have about six months to figure out what to with myself before the record comes out, but I generally stay away from clubs and parties. It’s just that everytime I go out I get photographed so it looks like I’m going out more than I actually am.

What did you do with David LaChapelle?

We did a pick up of Michelangelo’s “La Pieta”, Mary holding Christ. It’s cool. David, who is fantastic says it’s his favorite photograph he’s ever taken.

What did you do for your birthday this year?

I was shot by Mario Testino for V magazine. He’s the world’s greatest living beauty photographer so I’m extremely flattered to be working with him.

How’s Frances?

She’s great – she’s gone to an acting camp, very intensive and hard to get into. She’s been offered several movies and a few television shows and she really wants to be an actress or a film director or both, but it has to be the right script. It’s funny to watch the agents fight over her! She’s very, very ambitious and I cannot figure out where she got that from.

How’s your movie life?

I’m almost out of actor jail. Most of my friends are producers or directors and they all have my back right now. There’s a lot of real movies in the mix. Well, there’s three. And if it wasn’t for some really good actor friends recommending me to their projects that wouldn’t be occurring. I’ll be out of actor jail sometime by winter and I’m thinking of doing a play in the West End. The problem is finding the play. It’s really daunting though I think we may have found a great one.

You lost over 60 pounds in three months and didn’t make a big deal out of it. How’d you do it and why didn’t you do a US cover story?

Well, I just want people to forget that all that stuff happened anyway – being fat, court, drugs. No one will, of course, but I have a fantastic publicist now and he would never in a million years let me even if I wanted to call attention to the weight loss that way. You just get on with it, don’t you? You look in the mirror one day and you’re over 180 pounds and you decide ‘I’ve had enough.’
I first went on Atkins, which is really unhealthy, but works, in the short run. Then I went from there to South Beach, and lots of exercise – people think yoga doesn’t help you lose weight. I completely disagree. I spend about 30 minutes on the treadmill a day and my ambition is to be a size 4 for films. It’s lofty. I’m a big-boned girl and I’m between a 6 and an 8 now. Size 4 is little emblematic of an anorexic mind state but it does look better on film.

And how’s the sobriety coming?

It tools along. It’s hard. Sometimes I’d love to drown myself in a bathtub full of crystal percocet and blow, but it passes. Generally you get a craving and it’s gone within three hours if you want to wait it out or I just chant and it’s gone in ten minutes. I don’t have a lot of cravings – just for Krispy Kremes. And now that I’ve gone macrobiotic and strictly so (I fasted eight days and went from that to a strict macro diet) – no coffee, no caffeine sugar or meat or grain – I feel ten times better about myself.

It’s been reported you made over $50 million for selling 25% of Kurt’s publishing. How does it feel to be that rich?

Well, I think talking about money is really unseemly, but I was dead broke and now I can take care of my debts and Kurt’s mom and Frances and I’ve done a few indulgent things. I got an Aston Martin and got Linda a pair of diamond earrings, and Frances a pair of diamond earrings, but I’m a lot more cheap than I used to be. I never want to be poor again and I’m not the ATM I used to be to every single person who didn’t make it in the music business who has come to me innumerable times to borrow money. I loaned some to a friend with cancer and gave a last loan to someone who used to be successful but is now broke – on the condition that she go to school and deal with the fact that it’s over. She’s not getting together with her band, she’s older and it’s not going to happen.

There was some controversy, particularly with your biological father, about Dirty Blonde coming out. Will the book be somewhat of a tell-all and reveal a lot of juicy secrets?

Well, it’s my book and I don’t talk about a lot of things, like there are no pictures of or diary entries – although there’s poems – from the time of Edward Norton because he wouldn’t appreciate being the subject. There’s years of letters between me and a prominent film director whom I consider one of my best friends not in there because our email, while delightful, is between us. He says he saves it for someday. I hope so because our letters would make a great book.
As far as my bio dad goes I don’t talk about him in real life. Nothing he’s ever said has been true and so there’s nothing about him. He had custody removed by the time I was three. He’s just not a part of my life.
As far as juicy secrets I don’t mind telling on myself. It’s others I worry about, but there’s a lot of my own dirty blonde shameless hussy behavior in there. I simply don’t name names.
Actually, I’m kidding. I’ve had a lot of romances, big romances, and I’d never destroy the memory of those right now in my life by publishing information about them. BILLY for instance was a big romance of mine and I lost all his letters and you can hear the songs about Billy and he talks a lot about our relationships (we’ve had a few) in this upcoming documentary Channel 4 in Britain are making of the making of this record.
[There are] lots of diary entries about boys and stuff every girl in the world can relate to – not feeling pretty enough, not feeling good enough about herself, lists and ways I’m going to make some poor guy love me – nonsense like that… And all my poetry and lyrics which tell a tale.

I never have communication, nor does my daughter, with my side of the family – we don’t want them selling anymore books because of us, but if I ever write a straight autobiography I’ll have to deal with this stuff.
There’s one letter I noticed since I grew up in various institutions with “parents whereaboutsunknown” (this contradicts her mother’s recent statements that she “chose to go on the street and be a stripper at 15). I was 12 when I entered the juvenile system and I stole a few papers about myself. “Coordinators” are the guys who drag you through the tunnels to the “quiet room” which is where you’re put into restraints, so when you see that six “coordinators” had to take me to QR you’ll know I wasn’t exactly choosing that situation. We found a letter to a stepparent that says we “went outside a couple of days ago” – we were allowed to walk outside for two hours a week, still with bars, but we could smell air. Then all of the sudden I was in a posh British boarding school and picked up an English accent and it was about the same. The girls just weren’t named Rhiannon and didn’t talk about Camaros so much or smoke weed or do self mutilation – not as much anyway. But it always was “PARENTS WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN”.
I didn’t go back to my mother’s home from the age of seven so anything she could ever write about me past that age would be fictional, but this book was in negotiations long before hers was. I think she wanted to kick me when I was down and used me and Frances as a way of making money. She says something about having to grab Frances to not see me on TV naked whilst getting a pedicure. Firstly, my mother getting a pedicure – pigs will fly. The woman has never taken care of herself. Frances knows who I am and that I do crazy things sometimes and she doesn’t care. She’s ambitious, smart and the only time she got really embarrassed by me was when I got fat. That scared her. The drugs thing did not scare her because she was never around when I was on drugs and she never saw them.
It’s not that it’s juicy stuff. It’s that it’s my reality and how I think and process things and how I write and how I write lyrics and poetry mostly, with a lot of visual aids – like lunch with Hilary Clinton photo juxtaposed over a quiet room report. A lot of my life has been very surprising. I climbed up form nowhere and kicked the doors in myself and no one was betting on me, on Kurt, on Billy, in any of us. Really we did it through the guitar traveling in vans. There was no instant overnight American Idol success for rock stars and real bands didn’t sign to majors then. We caught the one moment it had become okay to sign to a major so we just signed like our elders did.
This book is fun and sad but not a tragedy.

How will you be promoting Dirty Blonde?

I am contractually obligated to do some press and so I’ll do it. I don’t really want to, but it’s a good book. I dare say it is a pretty great Dickensian childhood – fabulous rise, crashing fall, fabulous rise again – all that shit as recorded by effects and poetry and journals and lyrics. I think I have some appearances in some major cities.

Getting back to songwriting, you have said you were uninspired for along time and something inspired you. What was it?

A boy actually. A boy sort of came around at the right place and the right time and he’s become a really dear, dear friend to me, but I fell in love with him and it was a tortured and horrible one-sided thing. And I think I used that on purpose for subject matter. Of course all the songs aren’t about one boy. They’re about feelings about myself, reflected through the prism of romantic pain and other sorts of pain. Like all good rock songs they have a longing to be one with myself and with another.
Linda brought me a guitar in rehab – it’s funny you go away for 90 days and you’d be amazed at how many people don’t think you want visitors or friends. She brought me a guitar and said you need to write all the Doll Parts and Miss Worlds you used to write. So I had a little Panasonic tape machine I borrowed from a friend since I couldn’t afford one and I started to write. Sunset Marquis was first. I mostly wanted to make a tape of these songs and send them to this boy to let him know what he had meant to me. I didn’t really care about anything else. My ambition was nonexistent and so was my confidence. I wasn’t writing for an audience, I was writing to this boy and I can’t communicate well in any other medium but songwriting – and sometimes my acting.
I started chanting again as well and was getting about a song a day. As long as I chant an hour a day things go really, really well – half an hour nothing bad happens – but an hour something miraculous always happens.
I first played these songs for Corgan and he was in the studio with me. A friend owns one of the most famous studios in the world, The Village, and he let me come at night for free – and we fucked around our first demo at Thanksgiving. It wasn’t much of anything but it had some good ideas. You would have had to be a genius to go from there to where we are now. At Christmas I wrote Pacific Coast Highway – on Christmas Day in some shit hotel room at the W. Of course I thought the first demo was genius and sent it to anyone and everyone but it wasn’t. It was chasms away from the level we’re at now, but I remained really inspired by this boy and now that we’ve done the last track I can’t FIND him in me to write about anymore making me know that I used him in all kinds of ways. He was a really good muse and I got into a dysfunctional ridiculous relationship with him so I could reflect my own problems in these songs. Neil Young once said that he cocked up his relationships on purpose before writing a record and it’s putting the voices of your heart back together. That’s the daunting part now that all the emotion has been expressed about this thing. About how dirty girls get clean… The answer? Love and probably lots of sex too. I have to do all the washing up in my personal life.
I wrote a song about Edward on this one. I will admit that but don’t ask me which one. He just really has been there for me and I really was inspired by him as always.
Some songs literally hurt to sing and I would cry singing them even take after take. If the title “Blood on the Tracks” wasn’t taken and, well, if I could think of a title that good I’d call this record that.

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