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Courtney continues to be a genius at dividing opinion

The past month has been a particularly emotional one for Courtney Love.

COMEBACK: Courtney Love will be performing in Glasgow later this month as she attempts to revitalise her career.       Picture: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images
COMEBACK: Courtney Love will be performing in Glasgow later this month as she attempts to revitalise her career. Picture: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images

April 8 marked the 20th anniversary of the day her husband, Kurt Cobain, was found dead at their Seattle home with self-inflicted shotgun wounds. Two days later, Nirvana were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where Love made a "deep" reconciliation with Cobain's former band mate, Dave Grohl, with whom she's been at loggerheads for years.

Perhaps surprisingly, the latter event made more of an impact than the former. "The Hall of Fame was heavy, a really big night," says Love, speaking from her home in Los Angeles. "I feel some resolution, I feel great about it." As for the anniversary of her husband's suicide, Love wonders how exactly she might have been expected to mark the occasion. "There was nothing I could do about it," she says flatly.

"There was no ritual celebration. My daughter lives four houses down from me, and in terms of the anniversary we just kind of ignored it." She sighs. "I mean, what are you going to do?"

Fifty this year, Love is still a genius at dividing opinion. For many, she remains an alt.rock enfant terrible, the grunge Yoko Ono who destroyed not only her husband's band but ruined his life and has left a drug-fuelled trail of scandal and misbehaviour in her wake ever since.

To others she will always be, first and foremost, the lead singer and songwriter in Hole, a woman whose visceral howl articulated unpalatable home truths and made her a deeply idiosyncratic feminist icon.

Love's new single, You Know My Name, unapologetically acknowledges the various shades of her infamy. It spits and snarls with a venom which suggests that a kind of raging despair remains her most cherished creative currency.

"I think once you lose that facility to be bilious you lose your mojo, at my age especially," she says. Mightn't she have hoped for some optimism to have crept in by now? "Well, we have written some optimistic songs," she says, before checking in with her guitarist and co-writer, Micko Larkin. She laughs. "No, we haven't, actually. They're all angsty."

The single and accompanying tour, which brings her to Glasgow in a fortnight, is an attempt to revitalise her career after a decade of stutters and misfires. Love's last solo album, America's Sweetheart, released in 2004, coincided with "my big downfall, when I was doing really bad drugs. I was completely out of control."

Consequently, she reckons - and the critics found it no hardship to agree - that "it sucks. Some of it's so embarrassing. I was living in a beautiful French chateau and trying to make Exile on Main Street, but it didn't work out like that. You can't be both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Somebody has to be the sober one."

Does she regret that when people hear her name these days they don't necessarily think first of music? "Yeah, it's nice to have a single out because if you Google me almost everything is about the single, which is the way it should be."

That's not entirely true, of course. Google Love's name and any number of bizarre narratives unfold. Her feuds are certainly more legion than her records - in particular there have been very public spats with Grohl and her daughter Frances Bean, from whom she was estranged for a spell (she says they are now reconciled).

In the past couple of weeks alone, Love has been baiting Queens of the Stone Age - "I wasn't putting them down, I was just saying that I have a higher bar creatively than them" - and lambasting Bruce Springsteen's use of saxophone. That story broke the day after she'd met up with Springsteen and his wife for drinks. "I wrote to him to say I'm so sorry," she says. "It was just one little dumb thing I said in the back of a car."

She recently came in for widespread ridicule for her attempts at solving the mystery of the missing Malaysian jet MH370. Even her friend Michael Stipe, the former singer in REM and godfather to Francis Bean, was amused. "I got this text from Stipe saying, 'I can see you up all night, smoking cigarettes, hunting that thing.' Which is exactly what I was doing! I got on those websites and I was like, I am going to find it. We still haven't found it, have we? I'm not going to say what I think, but it could be really weird. It can't be some Illuminati thing, I guess..."

It's hard to say to what extent these outbursts are calculated to create mischief and generate column inches. Love admits that she "sometimes" plays up to her reputation, "but not most of the time. I don't like it hanging over my head, I don't like how it hurts me. I was seeing someone, and they said, 'Why do you get so much s---?' I said, 'Because I'm the rock villain.'

"It's like being in Batman. Kids look at rock and roll as this world of superheroes, and I'm The Joker's daughter or something. I'm not sure how it happened but it did. It's probably down to the suicide of my husband, or even just marrying the guy, but even if we take him out of the equation completely, I am kind of bitchy. It's like, 'Courtney, you're 49, just keep your mouth shut.' I try not to read about myself on the internet because I don't want to make myself mentally ill, but I check in once a week on what I did or said and it's like, Oh my God, gimme a break."

Musically, Love has plenty to prove since the heyday of Hole in the 1990s. America's Sweetheart was followed in 2010 by Nobody's Daughter, billed as a Hole album though in reality it was Love and a bunch of hired hands. "It was a bona fide Courtney Love record which I paid for out of my own pocket," she says. "It sold about two copies, but I still think it's fantastic."

As it happens, the classic Hole line-up of Love, guitarist Eric Erlandson, bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur and drummer Patty Schemel are destined to make a comeback in the near future. "We're definitely talking, and we're definitely hanging out," says Love.

"It's a 2015 concern, because I didn't make up my mind about it until it was too late to do all the festivals this year. The reunion industry has gone crazy, and we all agree that the only way we'll do it is if we have two killer tracks - old is great, but it's really important to have something new."

For a woman who has come through bruising periods of heroin addiction, Love's current anxiety over sprouting grey hairs - "I give them all names of the men who have tortured me" - and her weakness for sugary foods seem refreshingly routine concerns. The days of self-medicating with hard drugs are in the past.

Referring to her Hole band mates, she says "they're all mainlining vegan food now. We still drink red wine, and I'm sitting here with a coffee smoking a cigarette, but we pretty much take good care of ourselves." She raps out of a hearty laugh. "You know, mortality beckons."

You Know My Name is released on May 4. Courtney Love plays O2 Academy, Glasgow, on May 15

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