Letters to Kurt, Eric Erlandson's new book, is no tabloid-y tell-all, but in many ways it's more revealing. As the guitarist and co-founding member of Hole, Erlandson has gone through more than even his band's roaring '94 major label debut, Live Through This, might have suggested. Dabbling in drugs and dealing with the subsequent deaths of friends, suicides, break-ups with and betrayals by Courtney Love (both romantic and professional), other high-profile relationships and the shocking passing of Kurt Cobain -- Erlandson's life was like Cobain's in many ways.
Cobain serves as "the muse" for the passages, audacious anecdotes and bittersweet journal-like entries in Letters to Kurt. Over lunch in Echo Park last week, we asked him probing questions about Love, Cobain and the fame that clearly continues to affect those around him -- and, for better or worse, inspire his art.
So you were originally going to do a more straightforward memoir, right?
Yes, a memoir telling my crazy stories, what I've gone through and what I've experienced in a rock band. One thing though, I feel I'm too young to be doing a memoir. When you're able to write something in a poetic way you can ease into it. I had already started this process; but I didn't know it was going to be my first book.
Why exactly did you call it Letters to Kurt?
Kurt is a muse, he's not here and I'm not writing to him per se. I'm writing to myself. There were certain points when I was writing this that his presence was felt. I was going through something during this book ... something was taken away from me.
What were you going through? Was it the struggle over the Hole band name with Courtney?
We had a band together ... in her head I was just the guitar player in the band and everybody involved knows that isn't the case. There was a contract signed that said neither of us can use the Hole name without the other's approval. But later, that's what she did.
You're talking about 2009's Nobody's Daughter, which started off as a solo project but ended up being put out as a Hole release right? Did you take legal action?
No, I thought we could work it out. I got a lawyer and thought we could work it out.
So that situation was a catalyst for the book?
I started the book January 2010 when she did that. At that same time, I had a lot of heavy things happening all at once. I used it all as fuel. I didn't want to use Kurt's suicide, and then I thought, how could I NOT use it? He was the one person who could understand exactly what I was going through. Even though he's not here, just his presence was important ... just knowing someone knows what the hell you're going through.
Were you speaking to him or was his presence speaking through you?
I talk about that in the intro. The point of art is to get more clarity and move forward as people. The catharsis -- there are two parts, the purging and the clarity. The catharsis really is a purging for most people, but for me it's also clarity. There is closure, redemption.
Are you referring to feelings toward Courtney and the anger? Do you think it shows through here?
No, it is more covert. I guard it, it's usually more metaphorical. I didn't edit out frustration; at the same time I didn't let the frustration rule the show. It's in there obviously, but it's one part of what I was going through. There were times I was really calm and reflective of the past, and other times it was all stirred up.
What percentage of Letters to Kurt is related to Courtney?