Leland Cobain

Leland Cobain is the only member of the Cobain family that is willing to talk to Nirvana fans about his grandson. He lives in a trailer in Montesano, a couple hours outside of Aberdeen, and spends his days answering mail about Kurt Cobain, taking phone calls, and visiting with superfans making a pilgrimage to Cobain’s old haunts. 


About a Grandson

Except for Don, Leland doesn't have much of a relationship with anyone else connected to Kurt. He hasn't seen Frances since she was a toddler, and he and Wendy, Kurt's mom, were never especially friendly. He's also on Courtney's shit list for publicly raising questions about Kurt's death. He was quoted in an April 2004 issue of People saying he thought Kurt was murdered.


Calgary Interview

"I have no idea who done it, but I think the cops in Seattle really goofed up," he says. "I can't understand how he could have that much dope in him and still lift a shotgun. And I can't understand how come his jaws weren't all broke up and everything from the concussion when it went off and why (the gun) was still on his chest — it should have jumped clear off his chest."


Interview with Leland Cobain Part 2

As Kurt grew, Leland Cobain remembers a normal teenager, one who'd profess boredom one minute and become intensely involved in an art project the next. 

By Jeff Burlingame
Daily World A&E editor

Underneath the bridge
Tarp has sprung a leak
And the animals I've trapped
Have all become my pets
Something in the way

Cobain changed the face of rock music by showing the world what growing up as the child of divorce on Grays Harbor had blessed in him: economically-driven anxiety transformed into aggressive guitars; culturally-induced pain morphed into raw-throated screams. Ironic that by writing and singing about the worst his birthplace had to offer, Cobain somehow became the best spokesman for millions.

Surprisingly to some and not so to others, his status as icon didn't end with his death. Every anniversary, new release and major Nirvana-related event that passes brings more attention and, ultimately, a new wave of fans looking to rebel against whatever the current musical trend is. Don't like over-produced teen pop music? Not a fan of wearing your baseball cap off to one side and bending your fingers in weird gang-related fashion as tribute to your "Homey Gs"? Believe music should be created by people and not over-processed computer sounds programmed with the punch of a keyboard? Then Nirvana is what you want in your CD player. Kurt Cobain's popularity 10 years after his death is strong evidence that that will never end.

Leland Cobain doesn't know Nirvana's music too well. He enjoyed their performance on MTV's "Unplugged" but couldn't relate with much else the band did.

"I'm from the '30s and '40s. Glenn Miller. But when I seen Kurt on the MTV with just him and the guitar, I liked that," Cobain says. "Without all those drums beating and noise I could understand him."

It was the amplified, distorted, stop-start, slow-fast musical attack that kept Leland Cobain from knowing what the lyrics were to the songs on most of his grandson's studio albums. Though he has at least one copy of every Nirvana album, cassette tapes his medium of choice, he was surprised to know his grandson had written a song about the estranged relationship with Donald Cobain, Leland's son and Kurt's father.

As my bones grew/They did hurt
They hurt really bad
I tried hard to have a father/But instead I had a dad
I just want you to know that I don't hate you anymore
There is nothing I can say that I haven't thought before

Leland Cobain's blue eyes open wider when told of the lyrics to "Serve the Servants." His mouth forms into a smile, lips twisting to the left in a smirk not unlike the ones Kurt Cobain wore in photographs and on music videos. "Oh. I bet I know where he got that. Kurt was there when my wife was sick in a hospital bed. Don called on the phone to talk to Mom and she said to Kurt, Now, you talk to your dad,' " Leland Cobain said. "He did. They were supposed to get together some time after Kurt got back from his last tour"

Kurt Cobain had arrived hours earlier at Swedish Hospital in Seattle with a large vase of orchids for his grandmother. The vase is still in a cabinet in his grandfather's living room, alongside photographs of family members, drawings by Kurt and Iris, and a potpourri of other mementos. Included in that is a snapshot of a Florida family, which, on Christmas 2002, flew Leland Cobain to their family home for a three-night stay. "We'd talked on the phone about Kurt and they just wanted to meet me," says Leland, an ex-Marine, asphalt roller driver and fireman. "They were really nice people."

There's no hidden significance to the Mickey Mouse watch Leland Cobain wears every day on his right wrist, although one of his best and most telling stories about his grandson begins with a mention of the famous Disney character.

"Kurt came over and gave me a drawing he'd done of Mickey Mouse," Leland Cobain remembers. "It was real good so I said, 'You didn't draw that, you traced that.' He was only 6. So I found some orange paper Iris had lying around and gave him some. He sat there and drew a Donald Duck and then drew a Goofy and gave them to me, smiling because he had shown me up."

When Kurt Cobain was 9 his parents divorced, leaving him unhappy at home with either parent. He spent his adolescence shuttled between family members
and friends.

"He even lived with me twice," Leland Cobain says. "Then his dad got a place across the way and he moved in there."

As Kurt grew, Leland Cobain remembers a normal teenager, one who'd profess boredom one minute and become intensely involved in an art project the next. From building an ornate dollhouse with Grandpa to carving a chess set out of wood scraps, Kurt Cobain was always active and artistic. He even played some

"We had an old Hawaiian guitar and an old amplifier we let him have when he lived with us," Leland Cobain says. "I have no idea what happened to it but the amplifier, the way Kurt played, probably blew up."

Jeff Burlingame is The Daily World's arts and entertainment editor. He and Aberdeen City Councilman Paul Fritts are co-chairmen of a committee to memorialize Kurt Cobain.

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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. 

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