Gig preview: Courtney Love at O2 Academy Leeds

Courtney Love. Picture: Hedi Slimane
Courtney Love. Picture: Hedi Slimane
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WHEN penning what would become her first songs to be released since the close of the last decade, Courtney Love had a simple rule.

“I really want everything to be 130bpm at least,” explains the erstwhile singer with American rock group Hole of her new solo single, You Know My Name. “Hard, fast guitar songs.

“People don’t want to hear slow songs. There are plenty of ballads out there.”

The 49-year-old has not been averse to writing the occasional ballad herself, she points out – “On Celebrity Skin there are slow songs – Petals, Dying” – but, she says, “I can get those done in my sleep. Fast songs are much more challenging to write.”

Much as Love admires some of rock’s great wordsmiths – “My personal gods are Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, I love the way PJ Harvey uses words as well, I think Radiohead lyrics are really interesting – they don’t suck” – the skill of setting arresting words to rapid beats per minute is what currently motivates her.

“Lyrics are of primary importance to me, but when I’m writing fast I don’t have time to sit there and be all Hallelujah about lyrics. At the same time I’ve written lyrics I’m proud of. I try to cram as many good lyrics as I can into a fast song.”

She had originally intended another new number, Wedding Days, to be the lead track, but bowed to feedback from radio stations. “They said, ‘This one hits the chorus fast, kids will like it better’. So it’s a double A-side, which is OK. If it’s going there and gets played, let’s go.”

With self-deprecating humour, she remembers a story about her late husband Kurt Cobain’s band while they were in midst of preparing what would becoming one of the defining rock records of the last 25 years.

“I’m the one who told everyone in Nirvana that In Bloom needed to be the first single [from Nevermind]. If you put out [Smells Like] Teen Spirit it will be a disaster.

“In Bloom I thought was a better song. Sometimes I second guess myself. But I stand by the decision. To me it’s the superior song for world domination.

“I was wrong, but I’ve been known to be wrong about several things. I forgive myself.”

The two new songs will figure in Love’s first UK shows under her own name in 10 years. “Plus the usual – Doll Parts here, Malibu there. It is what it is.”

There’s the prospect of an album – though from reports it’s unclear at the moment whether it will go under the Hole banner or Love alone. However the singer does reveal she has been “jamming” with members of the classic Hole line-up – Eric Erlandson, Melissa Auf der Mar and Patty Schemel – at a studio belonging to her friend and songwriter to the stars, Linda Perry.

Perry, the former frontwoman of 90s band 4 Non Blondes, it seems is something of a kindred spirit.

“I work with Linda Perry all the time – she’s around when I’m around,” explains Love. “She has a beautiful studio, it works really well. She knows how to get the best out of me. When Eric and me worked together it was at Linda’s.”

Despite the fact that Perry is “known for pop and R&B, she wrote Beautiful for Christina Aguilera”, Love reckons, “she can rock”, besides, she says: “I always needed a co-writer.”

Eighteen songs were demoed for Love’s comeback, some of which, she says, “were really good”, but she believes the best work from her 20-year catalogue set a certain standard that she now feels obliged to measure up to.

“If I was brand new I could get away with it. St Vincent can get away with more than I can get away with. If you’ve been around a long time you can’t get away with it. The bar should be higher at all times anyway,” she says.

“I’ve only made one record that I think sucks – America’s Sweetheart – that had two good songs on it. It was just a bad record. If I could I would cancel that record from my catalogue. The only good songs were Mono and But Julian, I’m a Little Bit Older Than you, the rest is just dross. That was all the drugs.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hole’s breakthrough album Live Through This – that fatefully came out four days after the suicide of Love’s husband, the Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. “The timing was weird,” Love dryly reflects today.

Yet in terms of how she looks back on it, she says she had a “deeper connection in terms of the anniversary of Kurt’s death and Live Through This” to a more recent event – the induction of Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She attended the Hollywood ceremony last month at the prompting of her and Cobain’s daughter Frances and while there she finally ended her feud with Dave Grohl, her husband’s former bandmate, now leader of Foo Fighters.

“There was a deeper connection, a clearing of the s***. It was a great moment – very sincere, very deep, very real, just nice,” she says.

“We all have different coping mechanisms. Suicide is carnage. In my case, and my child’s case, and for Krist and Dave it was a defining moment for them. Dave somehow worked it out where it does not define him but it still defines me. We were taking out a lot of anxiety and freakish weirdness on each other. That’s now just gone. It’s just great. It was deeply moving. I wish Frances had not been so sick – she really missed something.”

In a video on Love’s YouTube channel, Love says she is “comfortable with myself as a human being but I like myself on stage a whole lot better”.

“I just feel like I’m in my element,” she says today. “I meant that statement. I don’t wake up [and go], ‘Oh God, oh dread’. The only days I wake up like that are when I have to do a lot of Press. Then I might say something that gets taken out of context or bigmouth strikes again. The way to avoid that is don’t talk s*** about people. It’ll get taken out of context.

“I’m more comfortable on stage or on a film set or performing. At a party give me a guitar then I will be comfortable. I have social anxiety unless I have a guitar. Then I’m OK.”

It seems we’ll have a long wait for her autobiography, first mooted in 2013.

“I don’t think it’s going to be published for years, until the publishers get the message that I’m not interested in being Rock Villain 101. I said it’s not going to be a kiss and tell – I like to keep my friends.”

The passages she’s seen from the ghost-written manuscript were “just wrong on every level – it needs to be taken out, cleaned up and start again”.

“The publishers are still trying, they’re flailing, she adds. “I saw a chapter and the chronology was all over the place. It’s a mess.

“So we’re not looking at a book for quite some time. That’s a good thing – I’m not done with my third act.”

Courtney Love plays at O2 Academy Leeds on May 16, doors 7pm, tickets £24.

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