Tomorrow at Town Hall, Cross and KEXP’s John Richards will be discussing Cobain. Then on Sunday, April 6th at EMP, Cross will be taking part in a Cobain talk with Sub Pop's Bruce Pavitt, photographer Charles Peterson, Jack Endino, and Jacob McMurray. Cross took a moment to speak.
Do you think Chad Channing should get inducted into the Hall of Fame with Nirvana?
Cross: Chad played on a third of Nirvana’s released tracks, and he’s the drummer on the “Love Buzz” single that qualifies the band to be inducted this year. Without that single, they wouldn’t be eligible for three more years. I think each band inducted in the Hall of Fame, be it Heart, Kiss, or Nirvana, should have the name of every single band member ever on that plaque on the wall in Cleveland. What’s lost by that? Two dollars more of engraving fees? That isn’t to say that everyone ever in the band should get to play, or speak at the induction itself, but they ought to be on stage somewhere. Let Krist and Dave take the mic, but let Pat Smear, and Chad, stand behind them as part of the band. The Hall of Fame was created to honor musicians of merit, not just to honor the band members who went on to became big stars.
When Kurt died, you got hit up from people around the world asking your thoughts and wanting information. What are some of the biggest misperceptions people had about his death?
People ask why Kurt didn’t seek help, or why those around him didn’t force him to get help. But the truth is he did seek it, and people did force him. Kurt was in rehab at least six times. In retrospect, not enough was done towards the end of his life, and clearly he should have been in the locked-down psych ward at Exodus. But in the end, asking these what if questions won’t change what was, no matter how much we want it to. Kurt’s stomach problems were a constant struggle for him. Perhaps today’s fecal bacteria transplants might have helped him, and would have been appropriate for a guy who once called his band Fecal Matter.
Separately, I often hear people say Kurt glamorized addiction or drug abuse, when that wasn’t the case at all. His own diaries are filled with pages of “please God help me.” He wanted nothing more in life than to be free of his addiction, and he spoke privately and publicly about how drugs hindered his ability to create. Drugs did not make Kurt Cobain the talent he was; they destroyed that talent, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know his full story, or what he repeatedly wrote in his journals.
How do you see addiction in our country now, as opposed to 1994? Are the roots of addiction still the same?
The roots of addiction are varied, and spring from genetics, family system, early trauma, and even accessibility. I did a reading last week in Aberdeen and was saddened to find out that several of the people who grew up around Kurt later became drug addicts, and a few of his childhood friends died of suicide or drug overdose. They lived outside of fame, but still had some of the same struggles. Heroin abuse is at an all time highs in the United States and some of the blame for that belongs to prescription drug companies who pushed opium-based painkillers until those hooked turned to cheaper street drugs. We need to look at addiction as a public health crisis, and not a moral failing.
When you see Courtney Love popping up in the news ranting about stuff, what do you think? I guess she slammed the stuff Paul McCartney did with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic.
I wouldn’t know where to begin. In almost all things, and certainly in all things Nirvana, Courtney is a polarizing figure. Their marriage, though, was some of the greatest Shakespearean drama rock has ever seen. They lived in a pre-broadband-Internet world, and yet they still made news constantly. If Twitter, TMZ, or Gawker existed then, Kurt and Courtney would have been the only thing you ever heard about.
Are there any particular Courtney Love episodes since Cobain's passing that have caught your attention?
The Stranger putting her on the cover for your “memorial issue,” when she was very much alive, stands out, but that was more your doing than hers. Courtney seems tailor-made for a social media-driven world, but she also became the first person sued for libel over a tweet. I should warn you she routinely violates smoking bans.
As to her legal battles with Grohl and Novoselic, there were lawsuits, countersuits, and claims. What's the status of it all, do you know? Whose side are you on? How do you think it should be resolved?
I don’t have a dog in any of those fights. My job as a biographer is to craft a telling of history, and not express my own judgments, or represent a side. That said, I’m not aware of any ongoing lawsuits at this time. When any family loses someone to tragedy, it’s common for the survivors to battle, often in court. I also wrote a biography of Jimi Hendrix and the legal suits over his estate top all others in music, with the exception of the Beatles. Compared to Hendrix, the Nirvana folks look like one big happy family.
If Courtney Love was here, what would you say to her?
I’d say, “I miss Eric and Patty.” Hole with Patty Schemel, Eric Erlandson, and Courtney in their early prime were an incredible live band. Yeah Marysville!
What's going to be happening at the Town Hall and EMP discussions? What are the areas of discussion?
At Town Hall, John Richards and I will have an unscripted discussion about Kurt, but also how the last two decades of music have transformed Seattle. It should be lively. At EMP, it’s a stellar panel with Bruce Pavitt, Jack Endino, and Charles Peterson. What Bruce and Jonathan did as curators at Sub Pop was truly extraordinary. Charles documented the scene with photographs that in their own way were great art. And Endino, more than any other person, even Kurt Cobain, was responsible for the aesthetic of the Seattle sound. I hope with The Rocket we played some small role in that. What I'm certain of though is that the Seattle music scene of the late eighties and early nineties, which included many talented musicians, not just Kurt, changed history. I’m proud to have been some part of that.