The Dark Side of Kurt Cobain

by Kevin Allman (from The Advocate 2/93)

Is there anything about Guns N' Roses' music you like?

I can't think of a damn thing. I can't even waste my time on that band, because they're so obviously pathetic and untalented. I used to think that everything in the mainstream pop world was crap, but now that some underground bands have been signed with majors, I take Guns N' Roses as more of an offense. I have to look into it more: They're really talentless people, and they write crap music, and they're the most popular rock band on the earth right now. I can't believe it.

Didn't Axel Rose say something nasty to you at the MTV Video Music Awards in September?
They actually tried to beat us up. Courtney and I were with the baby in the eating area backstage, and Axl walked by. So Courtney yelled, "Axl! Axl, come over here!" We just wanted to say hi to him--we think he's a joke, but we just wanted to say something to him. So I said, "Will you be the godfather of our child?" I don't know what had happened before that to piss him off, but he took his aggressions out on us and began screaming bloody murder.

These were his words: "You shut your bitch up, or I'm taking you down to the pavement." [laughs] Everyone around us just burst out into tears of laughter. She wasn't even saying anything mean, you know? So I turned to Courtney and said, "Shut up, bitch!" And everyone laughed and he left. So I guess I did what he wanted me to do--be a man. [laughs]

Does he remind you of guys you went to high school with?
Absolutely. Really confused, fucked-up guys. There's not much hope for them.

When he was singing about "immigrants and faggots," people were excusing it buy saying, "Well, he's from Indiana-"
Oh, well, that's OK then. [Laughs] Insane. Later, after we played our show and were walking back to our trailer, the Guns N' Roses entourage came walking toward us. They have at least 50 bodyguards apiece: huge, gigantic, brain-dead oafs ready to kill for Axl at all times. [Laughs] They didn't see me, but they surrounded Chris, and Duff [McKagan of Guns N' Roses] wanted to beat Chris up, and the bodyguards started pushing Chris around. He finally escaped, but throughout the rest of the evening, there was a big threat of either Guns N' Roses themselves or their goons beating us up. We had to hide out.

Since then, every time Axl has played a show he's said some comment about me and Courtney. When he was in Seattle, he said "Nirvana would rather stay home and shoot drugs with their bitch wives than tour with us." [Laughs] That's why there's this big feud in most of the high schools. It's hilarious. He is insane, though. I was scared. I couldn't possibly beat him up; I know he would beat me up if he had the chance.

How do you feel about Guns N' Roses fans coming to see you?
Well, when we played that No on 9 benefit in Portland, I said something about Guns N' Roses. Nothing nasty-I think I said, "And now, for our next song, 'Sweet Child o' Mine.'" But some kid jumped onstage and said, "Hey, man, Guns N' Roses plays awesome music, and Nirvana plays awesome music. Let's just get along and work things out, man!"

And I just couldn't help but say, "No, kid, you're really wrong. Those people are total sexist jerks, and the reason we're playing this show is to fight homophobia in a real small way. The guy is a fucking sexist and a racist and a homophobe, and you can't be on his side and be on our side. I'm sorry that I have to divide this up like this, but it's something you can't ignore. And besides they can't write good music." [Laughs]

You know, you were probably taking money from people who were voting yes on 9-but they really wanted to see Nirvana.
[Laughs] Right! Chris went to a Guns N' Roses concert when they played here with Metallica a couple of months ago, and he went backstage, and there were these two bimbo girls who looked like they walked out of a Warrant video. They were sitting on the couch in hopes of sucking Axl's dick or something, and one of them said, "Chris, we saw you at that No on 9 benefit! We're voting yes on 9! You kissed Kurt on the lips! That was disgusting!" [Laughs] To know that we affect people like that-it's kind of funny. The sad thing is that there's no penetrating them. After all that, after all the things those girls had seen us do, that was the one thing that sticks in their minds.

You used to push people's buttons like that in high school, didn't you?
Oh, absolutely. I used to pretend I was gay just to fuck with people. I've had the reputation of being a homosexual every since I was 14. It was really cool, because I found a couple of gay friends in Aberdeen-which is almost impossible. How I could ever come across a gay person in Aberdeen is amazing! But I had some really good friends that way. I got beat up a lot, of course, because of my association with them.

People just thought I was weird at first, just some fucked-up kid. But once I got the gay tag, it gave me the freedom to be able to be a freak and let people know that they should just stay away from me. Instead of having to explain to someone that they should just stay the fuck away from me-I'm gay, so I can't even be touched. It made for quite a few scary experiences in alleys walking home from school, though.

You actually got beat up?
Oh, yeah. Quite a few times.

And you used to spray-paint GOD IS GAY on people's trucks?
That was a lot of fun. The funniest thing about that was not actually the act but the next morning. I'd get up early in the morning to walk through the neighborhood that I'd terrorized to see the aftermath. That was the worst thing I could have spray-painted on their cars. Nothing else would have been more effective.

Aberdeen was depressing, and there were a lot of negative things about it, but it was really fun to fuck with people all the time. I loved to go to parties-jock keggers-and just run around drunk and obnoxious, smoking cigars and spitting on the backs of these big redneck jocks and them not realizing it. By the end of the evening, usually I'd end up offending a girl, and she'd get her boyfriend to come beat me up. [Laughs]

Because people thought you were gay and you had gay friends, did you ever wonder if you might be gay?
Yeah, absolutely. See I've always wanted male friends that I could be real intimate with and talk about important things with and be as affectionate with that person as I would be with a girl. Throughout my life, I've always been really close with girls and made friends with girls. And I've always been a really sickly, feminine person anyhow, so I thought I was gay for a while because I didn't find any of the girls in my high school attractive at all. They had really awful haircuts and fucked-up attitudes. So I thought I would try to be gay for a while, but I'm just more sexually attracted to women. But I'm really glad that I found a few gay friends, because it totally saved me from becoming a monk or something.

I mean, I'm definitely gay in spirit, and I probably could be bisexual. But I'm married, and I'm more attracted to Courtney than I ever have been toward a person, so there's no point in trying to sow my oats at this point. [Laughs] If I wouldn't have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual life-style. But I just find her totally attractive in all ways.

She has been described as a fag hag
Oh, she is. That was all she did for about five or six years of her life-hang out in gay clubs. She learned everything about perfume and fashion from her friends.

Now that you've got a baby, how are you going to teach her about sexism and homophobia and things like that?
I think that just growing up with Courtney and I will be a good enough example that, hopefully, she won't be prejudiced. You have to admit that most of the reasons a person grows up hating the isms is because their parents taught them. She might get confused, but I'm not worried about it at all.

With the state the world is in, do you ever feel scared for her?
Well, I have apocalyptic dreams all the time. Two years ago, I wouldn't even have considered having a child. I used to say that a person who would bring a child into this life now is selfish. But I try to be optimistic, and things do look like they're getting a little bit better-just the way communication has progressed in the past ten years. MTV, whether they're the evil corporate ogre or not, has played a part in raising consciousness.

It seems tacky enough almost, but rock and roll and our generation are not going to put up with the same Reaganite bullshit we were subjected to when we were younger. I was helpless when I was 12, when Reagan got elected, and there was nothing I could do about that. But now this generation is growing up, and they're in their mid 20's, they're not putting up with it.

I know there's still Republicans all over the place, but don't you feel that it's getting a little bit better? Not just because Clinton is in office now but-look at the first thing he did. He tried to take away the ban on gays in the military, and I think that's a pretty positive thing. I don't expect a lot of change, but I think in the last five years our generation's gotten a little more positive. I know that by reading Sassy magazine, you know? As tacky and stupid as that seems, I can tell that the average 14-year-old kid is a lot more sensitive-or trying to be-than they were ten years ago.

Are you pro Clinton?
Oh, yeah. I voted for him. I would have rather had Jerry Brown. I contributed my hundred dollars. But I'm definitely happy that Clinton's in.

Would you play at the White House if they asked you to?
[Laughs] If we could have some kind of influence on something, yeah. I know that Chelsea likes us a lot, so maybe Chelsea could say, "Dad, do this and do that! Nirvana says so!" [Laughs] Sure, I'd play for the president. And Chelsea seems like a pretty neat person-Birkenstock-wearing kid. Amy Carter's pretty cool too, from what I've heard. She's been seen at Butthole Surfers concerts!

You guys aren't preachy about your opinions. It's a sensible approach.
Gee. That's pretty flattering, but out of all the people I know, I'm about the least qualified to be talking politically. I hope I come across more personal than political. About a year ago, when we realized the impact that we have, we thought it was a great opportunity to have some kind of influence on people. I've been called a hypocrite and an idiot and unqualified, but I can't help it. It's just my nature. I have to talk about things that piss me off, and if that's negative or that's preachy, then that's too bad. No one's gonna shut me up. I'm still the same person I was. Actually, I used to be way more of a radical than I am now.

In thought or in deed?
Both, really. Mostly in deed; I can't really go around vandalizing anymore. But I have-actually, I just did a while ago.

I can't say! [Laughs] I can't even say! I have people checking up on me all the time-especially because of the heroin rumors. that's been blown out of proportion so severely that I'm constantly harassed at airports and immigration all the time. And the cops-I get pulled over whenever they recognize me, and they search my car.

It all started with just one fucking article in Bam magazine. This guy-I wasn't even high that night, and he just assumed I was and wrote a piece on how sunken in my cheeks were and how pinholed my eyes were and that I wasn't able to cope with the success and everything that was going on with the band. It was very embarrassing. It didn't bother me at first, but then once one article is written about a person that's negative, it just spreads like wildfire, and everyone just assumes it's true.

You're talking about Lynn Hirschberg's profile of Courtney in Vanity Fair.
I've never read an article that was more convincing yet more ridiculous in my life. Everybody from our record label to our management to our closest friends believed that shit.

She [Hirschberg] did a really good job of taking a piece of what Courtney had said and turning it into something completely different. I've seen that happen before--it's happened with me alot of times--but this was such an extreme and done so well that I have to give her credit. She's a master at being catty.

What about the drug use?
Courtney was honest about the heroin excursion we went on for a few months. Then Courtney found herself pregnant, realized she was pregnant and had a drug problem, and got off drugs. It's as simple as that. But it made it look like eight months after the fact, Courtney was still nine months pregnant and still doing drugs and everyone was really concerned. Like there was some awful den of iniquity going on in our apartment. I looked really skinny. Well, I am a skinny person, and I gain ten pounds every time I'm photographed, so people assume I'm this chunky, normal weight person.

I'm just so tired of talking about this. We have to live with the results of this one article every fucking day. It's something we have to deal with all the time.

How did you feel when you read it?
I was totally pissed off. My first thoughts were to have her fucking snuffed out. I wanted to personally beat the shit out of her, and I've never wanted to do that to anybody, especially a woman. But I just had so much anger in me. It was done so well. We were just helpless to combat something like that. We've had to do fluff pieces to try to fight this thing. It's embarrassing to have to do that: to pose with your family on the cover of a magazine, to hope that some people at least question the validity of [Vanity Fair].

You're talking about posing for the December Spin cover?
Yeah, and we've done a couple of other things. It pissed me off to the point of...not even wanting to hate that much. We could have filed a lawsuit with Conde Nast, but they have so many millions of dollars, they could have filibustered for ten years, and we wouldn't have come up with anything except losing most of our money.

What's the funniest thing you've ever seen written about you?
Practically all of it. [Laughs] Most of the time I come across as just this redneck little rocker kid who basically can't put a sentence together, you know? I come across a lot of times as just a stupid rock-and-roll kid.

Courtney comes across in the press as the Nancy Reagan of this relationship.
It's just sick. God! I don't want to say something like "Well, if anything, I wear the pants in the house." It's completely divided. We have influence on each other. It's totally 50-50. Courtney insists on this: She has a tab when she borrows money from me that she has to pay back. She's only up to $6,000. We're millionaires, and she goes to Jet Rag [a Los Angeles vintage- clothing shop] and buys clothes-$5 dresses. big deal! I'll gladly buy her some $5 dresses. We don't require much at all.

Our personal expenses over the last year-we made a million dollars, of which $380,000 went to taxes, $300,000 went to a house, the rest went to doctors and lawyers, and our personal expenses were like $80,000. That's including car rentals, food, everything. That's not very much; that's definitely not what Axl spends a year. She insisted on a prenuptial agreement; no one knows that. So there's definitely not manipulation going on in this relationship at all.

It really sickens me to think that everyone assumes this. It makes me feel even stupider. I'm not the most secure person in the world, and I don't need to know that everytime I go outside and someone recognizes me, they think of me as this defenseless little rocker idiot that's being manipulated by his wife. It's a little bit more complex than that.

Courtney's had misconceptions about herself all her life. I talk to people who knew Courtney five years ago, and she was way more of a volatile, fucked-up person than she is now. She was insane at times. People would see her at parties just begging for attention. I never could have predicted a successful marriage with this person a few years ago. It just couldn't have happened.

How does all this affect the other members of Nirvana?
Definitely not as severe as everyone thinks or what has been written. There was article in the [British music magazine] NME that was nothing but an "expose" on Courtney fucking up Nirvana and making us come close to breaking up. It's pretty frightening to find that an article like that can be written by a friend of yours. It makes it hard to trust anybody. Chris and Dave liked Courtney before I even liked Courtney. During that time, I knew that I liked her a lot, but I wouldn't admit it. She and Dave were really good friends-I shouldn't say this, but they almost wanted to get together for a time. When we were on tour in Europe, some of our shows collided with Hole shows, and Courtney would hang out on the bus with us, and Chris and Courtney were really good friends. And it hasn't changed at all. There hasn't been any bad blood except after the Vanity Fair piece.

For a few days, even Chris was convinced that Courtney had said those things. Courtney had said, "Why don't you kick Chris out of the band?" She said that, but it was a total joke. That's the biggest problem with articles-context. The word sarcastic needs to be in parentheses 90% of the time in an interview with us. Dave and Chris are dealing with this fine, and they're defending us as much as they can, but we can't expect them to go on a defense crusade, because it doesn't affect them like it affects us.

Have there been times in the last year when you've just wanted to quit?
Oh, yeah. The other night. I called up Chris late at night; I was really drunk, and I said, "I don't want to be in this band anymore, I'll call you tomorrow." I was dead serious. For a couple of hours. [Laughs]

How is it dealing with a big label?
We haven't had any complications. In our contract we have 100% artistic control. What that means in fine print, I don't know. All the evil corporateness that I've heard about since I've been into underground rock probably is true with other bands, but we have a good lawyer and a great contract. And we sell a lot of records for them, so we have the upper hand.

Courtney's band got a good contract too?
It's actually better than ours. This is the first decade major labels have even dealt with a contract like this. They're so used to having bands that don't even know what they want to do that they have to be in control. There are a lot of bands that don't have any artistic direction at all, so they need to dress up in spandex.

So you can turn on mainstream radio and hear some music you like these days.
That's part of the reason I'm a little bit more optimistic this year-Clinton and because the Screaming Trees are on heavy rotation right now. It's commercial, but it's good music. I don't like Pearl Jam's music at all, but at least they have good attitudes; they're not another Van Halen, who totally refuse to address anything. The only sad thing about it is that the innocence of underground music has been lumped in with the corporate idea of what underground is. There are no boundaries. Pearl Jam's a good example. I don't mean to harp on them; I'm tired of talking shit about them, but they're a real commercial rock band.

What do you do when you're not playing music?
Well, I'm reading Perfume for the second time. It's about a perfume apprentice in the 1700s. And I really like Camille Paglia a lot; it's really entertaining, even though I don't necessarily agree with what she says. I still paint once in a while-I painted the cover of Insecticide.

And I make dolls. I like the style of things from the 1700s and 1800s from Yugoslavia and that area. I copy them from doll-collector magazines. They're clay. I bake them, and then I make them look really old and put old clothes on them. They look like I actually came across a real antique, because I don't know where to find the dolls that are in those magazines. I could go to a doll-collectors show, but they're so expensive. I don't want to indulge in things like that- "Now that I'm a rock star, I buy antiques," you know? [Laughs] Some of those things are, like, $50,000.

I can't find anything I want. I go shopping, and I buy food, and that's about it. Now that I have all this money, I just can't spend it on anything. Everything that I appreciate is old but not necessarily an antique, so I can get it really cheap.

So you're not falling into the trap of spending money on things just because you can?
Sometimes I wish I could. I've noticed there are specialty shops for the rich and famous that have basically the same things you can find at Kmart, but they have a ridiculous price tag, and people buy it just because they don't have anything else to do with their money. There are a lot of things like that on Rodeo Drive. We went into Gucci just to see what a Gucci bag cost. [Laughs] Just this leather bag, and because it had a Gucci name on it, like, $10,000!

Do you like L.A.?
I hate L.A. I love the weather, but I can't stand being there. I absolutely hate it. A lot of it has to do with having the responsibility of driving around with the baby. People are so rude there. I'm not that bad a driver, and I get in a wreck almost every day.

We were there for the riots. That decision was the most asinine thing I'd ever seen. If they were going to riot, I just wish they could have rioted in the middle of Beverly Hills. Got all the Gucci bags. [Laughs]

Now's your chance to say anything you'd like to say.
I always clam up when that question is asked. Maybe I'll just fumble and stutter and end up saying, "Don't believe everything you read." I always knew to question things. All my life, I never believed most things I read in history books and a lot of things I learned in school. But now I've found I don't have the right to make a judgment on someone based on something I've read. I don't have the right to judge anything. That's the lesson I've learned

Page 1 | Page 2




Created by: Twitter for Web

YouTube Video Interviews with Leland Cobain

Leland Cobain Interview Pt 1
Leland Cobain Interview Pt 2
Interview Leland Cobain Pt 1
Interview Leland Cobain Pt 2
A Trip to Aberdeen
Interview with 87 y/o Grandpa
Circumstances Surrounding Kurt's Death


I met Kurt in 1986 during a telephone call. I was introduced to him by Andrew Wood.  Kurt and I continued to talk on the telephone until the week he died in 1994.  I started a blog to journal my memories of our shared conversations. 

Blog Posts

Ain't Got No how What waTchamacalliT

Cobain worked at the Lamplighter Restaurant in Grayland, on the south beach of the ocean, for a time and later as a janitor at Weatherwax High School - earning enough to rent an apartment in June 1985 at 404 N. Michigan Street in Aberdeen.

Shortly thereafter, on July 23rd, 1985, Cobain was arrested for vandalism when he was caught writing "Ain'T goT no how waTchamacalliT" on an alley wall of the Seafirst Bank Building at Market and Broadway. That fall, homeless again, Cobain moved into the Lamont Shillinger residence at 408 W. First Street in Aberdeen. On May 18th, 1986, apparently intoxicated, Cobain was arrested for trespassing after he wandered onto the roof of an abandoned building at 618 W. Market Street. Source: Aberdeen Museum of History

Cobain was friends with a gay student at his school, sometimes suffering bullying at the hands of homophobic students. That friendship, along with his small stature, led some to believe that he himself was gay. In a February 1992 interview with The Advocate, Cobain claimed that he used to spraypaint "God is Gay" on pickup trucks around Aberdeen. In the accompanying article, writer Kevin Allman noted that Cobain was arrested in 1985 for spray-painting "HOMO SEX RULES" on a bank. Allman, Kevin. "[The Dark Side of Kurt Cobain]". The Advocate. February 1992. However, Aberdeen police records show that the phrase for which he was arrested was actually "Ain't got no how watchamacallit." Cross, Charles. Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain. Hyperion, 2001. ISBN 0786884029

In the Advocate interview, Cobain admitted that he thought he was gay while in high school. He later stated, "I'm definitely gay in spirit, and I probably could be bisexual. But I'm married, and I'm more attracted to Courtney than I ever have been toward a person, so there's no point in trying to sow my oats at this point. If I wouldn't have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual lifestyle." When Nirvana appeared on Saturday Night Live in January of 1992, Cobain and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic jokingly "made out" during the cast and crew farewells as the credits rolled. (Cobain and Novoselic bobbed their heads back and forth wildly as if in rapture; Novoselic and Dave Grohl subsequently repeated the gesture.) The segment was cut from the show on further airings, replaced by the closing credits from the rehearsal taping (which lacked Cobain), and never aired again.

Mug Shot

Mug Shot Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain is a monkey mugshot; taken on May 25, 1986 after Cobain’s arrest for spraypainting “Ain’t got no how watchamacallit” on the side of a local Seafirst Bank Building (now Bank of America) in Aberdeen, Washington.

In a 1993 interview with The Advocate, Cobain claimed that he was “gay in spirit” and “probably could bebisexual.” He also stated that he used to spray paint “God Is Gay” on pickup trucks in the Aberdeen area. However, Aberdeen police records show that the phrase for which he was arrested was actually “Ain’t got no how watchamacallit”. One of his personal journals states, “I am not gay, although I wish I were, just to piss off homophobes.