Domicile On Cobain St.
New Musical Express, July 24, 1993

Goodbye '...Teen Spirit', hello to the strange, anxious, visceral realm of 'In Utero'! Presenting the latest NME world exclusive, an insight into the domestic and creative life of rock's most enigmatic couple, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love- plus a world-beating preview of the follow-up to 'Nevermind'. While the music industry nervously anticipates the reaction to the new record, NMEs Seattle correspondent, Brian Willis goes on a lunatic midnight mission to befriend Kurt 'n' Courtney, gets invited in for muffins and tea (!) and is treated to a private airing of the planet's most eagerly awaited LP of 1993. So, here we are now, entertain us!

It's after midnight and raining in Seattle. New Model Army have just finished at RKCNDY. Leonard Cohen's show at The Paramount is over. And Hole are about to take the stage at The Off Ramp. There, most definitely, is where the party is.

The Off Ramp is the kind of club you find by accident. Tucked away from the rest of the city and situated next to the freeway, from a distance it looks like a pimple on a model's face. A long, squat building dwarfed by silvery skyscrapers, it stands firm as the shadow of this slick city shadow looms over it with outstretched hands, threatening to squeeze this blatant little blemish off the face of Seattle.

The only indication of life is a small neon sign with a couple of naked women on it and the unambiguous words 'LIVE ENTERTAINMENT'. But the venue generates enough of a racket to compete with the heavy trucks trundling up and down Interstate Five. In fact, the noise soon overtakes those motorised monsters, flips them off and roars ahead of them. This is Seattle, after all.

And inside the Scene section of this afternoon's Seattle Times, squeezed into the bottom lefthand corner of a page, there's a small story that's driven me here tonight. It concerns a ruckus at Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love's house over some guns of his and the fact that they were jamming rather loudly in their garage. A neighbour complained. The cops arrived. They arrested Kurt. He spent three hours in jail and was released on $950 bail.

The police report stated that he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife - which Courtney denied. She claimed the argument started over the presence of guns in the house, but only after police asked them if there were any weapons on the premises. Kurt had recently bought three guns and Courtney didn't want them in the house. The fact that the story broke nearly a month after the incident happened gives you a peep into the city of Seattle itself.

SEATTLE HAS more rock stars per square inch than anywhere else in the States right now. It's no longer a city - it's a sound. As a result, the local press treat their rock glitterati with a certain amount of, well, respect. Nirvana, Pearl jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and the whole Sub Pop brood are responsible for busloads of wannabe slackers arriving here in search of the Holy Grunge. It's a city of contradictions, too: on the one hand clean, white and middle class; on the other, the home of a dirty, post-punk music scene that desperately wants to be seen as redneck and trashy.

And while Nirvana were once the talk of the town, lips are now twitching about Engine Kid, another local power trio. Recently signed to Seattle indie C/Z Records, rumour has it their fate was decided over a bowling match between the C/Z staff and their equivalents at the mighty Sub Pop. C/Z won, obviously, and Engine Kid's first single, 'Astronaut', is just out, a controlled, dynamic song that gives a sleepy nod in the direction of Slint, Codeine and Neil Young. Next, they're on their way to Chicago to record their first album with - yep - Steve Albini. Small world, I guess...

Which brings us back to Nirvana, and that already much discussed new album produced by Albini. Rumours have been flying around about its nature for months now, from the original stories of Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl making a resolutely uncommercial 'punk' record, to claims that Geffen had rejected Albini's rough'n'ready work, to the news that Scott 'REM' Litt had been roped in for remixing and cleaning-up duties, right to the incontestable news that it'll be released on September 13.

Considering all the stories nailing Courtney as a Grade A pain in the arse and Kurt's often, ahem, erratic behaviour, I'm beginning to wonder whether trying to talk to them for the NME - to find out the truth about the new album and that arrest incident - is such a good idea. Basically, I'm getting paranoid.

BUT I digress. The Off Ramp's jammed tonight, a sell-out, which forces Courtney to demand, "How many of you are here because of the story in the Seattle Times?" No comment. So she tears into 'Teenage Whore', and the crowd surge forward, flailing around following Courtney's dictates. There's no riot, though, just one woman being gently carried out of a side door by two bouncers. She tells everyone "My favourite band is Echo And The Bunnymen" - and means it - and 'Beautiful Son' is a definite highlight, but overall this is just a warm-up for Hole on safe territory, a mere flexing of muscles. Right at the end Courtney shouts, apropos nothing, "Frances Bean's birthday is the same day as Madonna's and Dan Peters (of Mudhoney)." And that's it.

A few minutes later, The Off Ramp's spilling its patrons on to the street and into the drizzle. Chris Novoselic towers above the crowd and dives into a cab. There's Selene Vigil of 7 Year Bitch and Kat Bjelland's husband , Stuart Gray of Lubricated Goat, but no sign of my targets.

Then Eric, Hole's guitarist, comes out of the club carrying some of his gear. Cautiously approaching, I ask him if he could tell Courtney someone from the NME would like to talk to her. Obligingly, he disappears back inside. I wait.

After a few minutes he's back, saying Courtney wants to take a look at me. We go backstage, past Kurt who is talking to some woman, and into a small back room where Courtney sits. She is dressed in a pink slip, white tights, white high-heel shoes and what looks like a mock fur coat. She looks tired and doesn't seem to notice me. I'm momentarily lost for words, but fortunately Eric isn't, shouting "Here's the guy from the NME!"

It's then that Courtney perks up. She turns her head in my direction and stares. I'm about to stutter "Hello", when a young woman sticks her head round the door and says, "It's time to go, Courtney."

I'm even more nervous now; will the story end here, so near and yet so far? My reverie's interrupted, though, by a polite voice: "What are your politics?" It's Courtney. She's walking past me towards the exit, without waiting for the reply, but I manage to draw level with a few quick steps. Politics, politics...

Before I can even think of an answer, she's asking another question: "What are the last three bands you've listened to?"

"The Fall's new album, 'Infotainment Scan'."

Her face lights up. "I saw The Fall in 1982, in Manchester." The ice's broken.

By now we're outside in the car park, where Kurt's waiting with a small group of people in the drizzle. Courtney goes up to him and explains that she wants to speak with me. He gives a quick glance in my direction. Like a fool, I smile. He suggests they give me their phone number, and we can talk later in the day, but Courtney tells him it won't take too long. She wants, it seems, to 'sort it out' now. So Kurt agrees, a little reluctantly; it's gone 2am, after all.

So Kurt gets into his family Volvo, when Courtney announces she wants to travel in my car. I explain that it's parked a couple of streets away, but she doesn't care, and we start walking. Along the way, though, Courtney wises up and stops, wanting to see some ID, a passport or something. She says I could be anyone, another Ted Bundy, another dangerous crazy - and she's right.

In January 1989, Bundy was fried in the electric chair in Strake, Florida for the murder of three young women. Before execution, he admitted to taking the lives of at least 35 more women from coast to coast - and he lived in Seattle! And he picked up his prey in very similar circumstances, no doubt. It's decided, sensibly, that I'll fetch the car and meet her back at The Off Ramp.

FIVE MINUTES later I'm back at the club, parking the car in front of Kurt's Volvo. Courtney asks me to write my name, license number and telephone number on a piece of paper - which I do, and hand to a patient Kurt as he sits behind the wheel of his car smoking a cigarette. Straight away, Courtney puts her head through the open window and gives her dutiful husband a passionate kiss on the mouth that lasts a very, very long time. Perhaps it just might be a way of disproving the paper's fight story before a journalist, but it certainly looks like love.

Anyway, everything seems to be settled, so we head towards my car, a 1966 Volkswagen Bug that looks its age. Courtney stops, stares at it for a second, then exclaims loudly, "Oh my God, it's Ted Bundy's car!" Shit - Bundy used to pick up victims in a tan Volkswagen. I'm finished.

She slowly turns on her heels and walks back towards the only car left in the parking lot, containing members of Adickdid, the band who'd opened for Hole earlier. Once again, the interview looks doomed. But wait... Courtney's coming back with a woman from the other car and says she'll accompany us on our strange trip. But there's another problem; the car only has three seats. The front passenger seat is gone, missing in action. I suggest Courtney takes a backseat, but she's other ideas: "I'll sit in the front, the rest of you can get in the back."

I begin to panic - yet again; there is, after all, no bloody front seat. But Courtney, without so much as a second thought, plonks her arse down on the metal floor of the car. In front of us, Kurt's tail-lights dim as we finally hit the road, shaking and rattling.

Normally, to get remotely close to the most (in)famous rock 'n' roll couple of the '90s takes weeks of pained negotiations through a chain of press officers, managers, personal confidantes and personal prejudices. And now one's a few yards ahead, amiably leading me to his home in the middle of the night, and the other's happily slumming it sat next to me in a very unglamorous wreck of a car. For a pair so legendarily unapproachable, things tonight could almost get intimate...

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