Courtney Love has a personal-hygiene problem. "My pits stink and I need a bath," she says over the phone from the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. She also has a music problem, thanks to a metal-loving roadie who recently got hold of her iPod. "I've got live bootleg Whitesnake on my shuffle," she says. "It's so bad."
But these are trifles compared to the mess that has been life for the 45-year-old musician in the 12 years since her band, Hole, released its last record. In that time, Love has spent time in rehab; released a flop of a solo album, 2004's America's Sweetheart; had countless public spats carried out on Twitter; lost millions through what she alleges is embezzlement; and, most recently, once again lost custody of her teenage daughter.
Now, though, Love says she has got a grip on the "monster" - her word - she can sometimes be. More importantly, she has a new Hole record, Nobody's Daughter. Being released on Tuesday, it may just be her best shot at reforming her image and her life. "I'm extremely happy with the album. It's a very, very dignified, very classy, very high-end, very cool record. And no one can take that away from me," she says.
Yet, however much she hopes people start paying attention to Courtney Love the musician and not Courtney Love the train wreck, she knows it will not come easy. Some people are always going to hate her, a fact she has come to embrace. "I even got a tattoo that just says 'Let It Bleed.' I don't even like the song, I just like the title. It means let it go. It also means stab me more, motherfuckers. Let's see if I can take it," she says.
In doing publicity for her band's new album, Love has Googled herself a handful of times. What she has found has been a welcome change from what similar searches might have turned up just a few months ago. "To just see music there, and not personal bullshit and clown nonsense and Kafka-esque going to court 37 times for absolutely no fucking reason I can tell you, is very, very nice," she says.
While there's a hefty amount of grunge nostalgia on Nobody's Daughter, the production is much more polished than America's Sweetheart, which Love refers to as " le désastre" (it was produced in France). And while Love's intensity runs throughout the majority of the album's 11 songs, there is also a sense of reflection that enriches the whole.
"I never wanted to be the person you see. Can you tell me who I am?" Love sings on the song Letter to God, the album's most personal tune.
Some Hole fans may not be happy about Love releasing Nobody's Daughter under the Hole name, given that she is the only original member on the new album. The new incarnation of the band consists of Love, Micko Larkin on guitar, Shawn Dailey on bass and Stuart Fisher on drums.
Former band mates have certainly taken Love to task for using the Hole name. Last year, former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson told Spin.com that any reconstituted band couldn't be considered "the real Hole." Added Erlandson, "The way I look at it, there is no Hole without me."
Earlier this year, Montreal native and former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur said she was "surprised and disappointed" by Love's decision to record a Hole album without her or other earlier members of the band. "Honestly, I'm a little surprised by this turn of events," she said. "I am disappointed that they are going to jeopardize a real Hole reunion, which I think would be great for fans and fun for us, the band."
To such critics, Love has this to say: "Suck it, suck it, suck it, suck it, weasels, because it's my band."
Conflicts over naming aren't the only problems to have emerged during the production of Nobody's Daughter. In an interview in the March issue of Rolling Stone, Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan took issue with Love releasing three songs that the two had worked on together. "It would be a real big problem, because I haven't given my permission," he said. "I have no interest in supporting her in any way, shape or form. You can't throw enough things down the abyss with a person like that."
But instead of lashing out with another rant on Twitter, Love posted a heartfelt sorry to Corgan on Facebook. "I hope you will take my sincerest apologies for all the thousand ways I sometimes offend you, because I know you are a king, a prince, and my beautiful noble boy," she wrote. It was a departure, to say the least, from the way Love has handled spats in the past.
Which brings us to the C.L. Monster, Love's term for the unhinged, unfiltered, unbecoming persona she has presented not only to concert audiences but to family-court judges, paparazzi and the public.
"I've sent the C.L. Monster up to upstate New York into a socialization and media-training camp … so she should come back pretty reformed because I'm really sick of her. But we need her. We need her for performing. We need her to write lyrics," Love says. "When I leave the stage, the C.L. Monster needs to go back upstate. So that's the new mantra for my life: I don't like living it all the time."
Love says she can cringe looking back on the person she has been. "I'm mortified by some of it, of course I am," she says.
But much of that persona has been magnified by the media, Love says. "The way you guys depict me as so outrageously different from what I am, it's become almost funny," she says. "Most people, once they meet me, think I'm incredibly adorable."
Still, Love is the first to admit that her life, or at the very least her public image, has taken a severe beating in the years since her last record. But with Nobody's Daughter, she has something she can be genuinely proud of.
The album, and the tour to promote it, says Love, is a chance for her to put the C.L. Monster back in its cage and return to being a singer-songwriter rather than a walking disaster. "Hopefully," she adds, "I can just be a rock musician and get on with my life."