Tamara Handii
Kurt Cobain
Publisher Title Transcript
Juke Magazine "I'm not insane" Yes

Success brought a whole lot of pressures and problems to Kurt Cobain’s life. He sings about some of them in the new In Utero album. TAMARA HANDII reports.

Kurt Cobain says he hasn't changed since Nevermind shot Nirvana to world fame, selling over six million copies. He moves with the same friends he had three years ago and spends most of his time with wife Courtney Love and daughter Frances Bean in their two-storey modern house in an exclusive area of Seattle, overlooking Lake Washington. It's spacious and white inside, with high ceilings, antique furniture and lots of toys. A shiny Volvo parked in the driveway is a subtle indication of affluence.

There's also a high-security apartment in a building surrounded by palm trees, ferns and waterfalls, on a hill overlooking West Hollywood. Kurt hates LA so much that he becomes a recluse when he's there, but Courtney adores its atmosphere.

One of the rooms in the LA flat is set aside for Kurt's paintings. Like his music, his paintings are often strange and disturbing. Apparently when Courtney was pregnant he used to paint headless babies. These days, it's angels and dolls.

The couple seem obsessed with babies and dolls. The two houses are littered with them and Courtney crams her wardrobes with antique doll dresses.

Even the new Nirvana album is titled In Utero, which means “in the womb.” Musically, it manages to keep the pop kids who tuned to them after Nevermind as well as capturing the brutal grunge attack of Nirvana's early days.

Lyrically, it captures the ups and downs of the last two years of Kurt's life. Marriage and fatherhood have been the pluses. But there have been some real controversies - breakdowns, stories of heroin addiction, voice loss, reports of his death, a lawsuit by an unknown '60s Irish psychedelic band for using their name (!), a bitter attack on two American writers who wrote an “unauthorized biography” and his admission to a gay magazine that he was “gay in spirit.”

The most recent was a report in The Seattle Times that Kurt had been arrested for beating up Courtney. “That's just the latest in a long line of lies or exaggerations about our lives,” grumbles Kurt. “We were jamming in our garage when one of the neighbours called the cops to complain about the noise.

“The cops asked, as a matter of routine, if I had a gun in the house. I had three, which Courtney was not happy with. I said no, she said yes, we had a scuffle. But generally we never argue. It was a minor matter but the press seems determined to paint Courtney and I as this self-destructive insane couple.”

Kurt is adamant that a lot of the bad press about them has come directly from the band's mega-success. When they started dating, some of Nirvana's “business associates” were threatened by the fact that she had the ear of their golden-haired money-spinner and deliberately spread tales to make her look a conniving witch.

He claims that the damaging story in Vanity Fair (that Courtney had been on heroin while pregnant) had been instigated by Madonna seeking revenge. Courtney had thwarted La Ciccone's plans to sign her band Hole to the Maverick label and ridiculed her for “trying to gain street credibility.”

Says Kurt: “I shudder to think what Nirvana fans think of us. Basically, if you want to know what I'm like as a person, listen to the music. I never reveal the real me in interviews because I don't want too many people to know what I'm like, because I'm basically a private person.

“I also have this personality where I don't need to prove myself to anybody. If someone thinks I'm stupid, then I act stupid. If fans think I'm stupid, that's fine. You just have to listen to my music to know that there's a great deal of intelligence there.”

In Utero too has come with its share of controversy. It's already gone through two titles - from I Hate Myself And Want To Die, to Verse Chorus Verse to In Utero. There were reports of clashes with Geffen Records for delaying the LP's release (it was finished months ago) and for bringing in REM producer Scott Litt to make producer Steve Albini’s hard mix more “radio friendly.” What's the true story?

“It was Nirvana who wanted Scott to come in, because two songs, ‘Penny Royal Tea’ and ‘All Apologies,’ needed vocal harmonies.”

How many guitars has he smashed on stage?

“Oh, about 300.”

Is he happy and contented?

“Yeah, absolutely, I'm happiest sitting here, looking out over the lake, with my wife and baby. We understand each other. it's when the outside world comes in and puts its outdated values on my life that I get angry.”

© Tamara Handii, 1993