Befriending a rock star no necessarily as cool together you’d think—particularly once tragedy happens.

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In early 1992, once I first met kurt Cobain, he and Courtney Love were living in a tiny apartment in a two-up-two-down structure on an ordinary street in the Fairfax section of Los Angeles. I had actually flown over there from new York come interview him because that a Rolling Stone covering story, the one with a famed photograph of the wearing a homemade T-shirt that said “Corporate Magazines tho Suck.” i was nervous. Not lot was known about Kurt at that point, various other than he to be this male from Seattle who screamed in his songs, smashed his guitars, and also might be a heroin addict. He was also the most commemorated rock musician top top the planet.

It was dusk when a taxi to reduce me turn off at his place. Courtney greeted me in ~ the door and also graciously offered me a plate of grapes. There was a tiny, dimly lit living room through no furniture, LPs and also guitars strewn around the floor, and also a small Buddhist shrine through burning candles. As “Norwegian Wood” play faintly top top a crappy stereo, Courtney led me under a quick hallway to the bedroom. I gained to the door and also opened it to uncover Kurt lie in a tiny bed in a tiny room, his back against the wall, dealing with the doorway, his shocking blue eye gazing at me through the subdued lighting. His bare feet grounding out past the bedsheets, and his toenails were painted a rosy hue. The smell of jasmine flower wafted through the screen of the window above his head. Come this day, whenever ns smell jasmine ns transported to the moment.

“Hi,” he said, and also two points struck me instantly. The first was: oh, wow, ns know this guy. He wasn’t some sort of rock-and-roll an are alien—he was actually prefer a many the stoners I visited high school with. (I was sort of a stoner in high institution myself.) all the nervousness go away. The various other thing i realized is uncomfortable to say: ns sensed that he was one of those absent musicians who dies young. I’d never ever met someone choose that before or even known many people who had passed away at all. I just sensed it. It turns out that a many other people roughly him did, too: his bandmate Dave Grohl sensed it, and also so go Kurt’s wife, Courtney Love. Even Kurt’s own mommy acknowledged it. It simply wasn’t something the anyone would certainly say out loud in ~ the time.

I sat down on a tiny footstool beside his bed, began up the tape recorder, and began questioning him questions. Ns asked kurt what that was choose as a kid, and he said something around being small for his age. I stood up, unfurled mine wiry five-foot-six-inch frame, and said, in a theatrically manly voice, “I don’t understand what you’re talk about!” we exchanged smiles, and also our bond flourished from there. Somehow I obtained to talking around Arlo Guthrie’s “The Motorcycle Song” and also how I’d play the on the family members record player and run roughly the home pretending i was a motorcycle. And Kurt said, “I did that, too!” He said that his parents had actually divorced by the time he to be ten year old and also he’d to be melancholic ever since. I told him just how I’d felt the same method about my own parents’ divorce, as soon as I was the same age. We grew up on the bands the so countless American kids of our era did—Kiss, Cheap Trick, Queen, black Sabbath—before having our lives changed by punk rock. So right here I was, a bespectacled college-boy Rolling Stone reporter from new York City, connecting with a high-school dropout native the rural hardwood town the Aberdeen, Washington, who dad worked in a hardwood mill counting logs. However that didn’t make me something special—a whole lot of world could have linked to cut Cobain. The beautiful point was, he had a knack for conveying the in song, and in the many ineffable way.

As ns was talking with Kurt, that was enduring heroin withdrawal. That told me he remained in bed since he was nursing a cold, which make sense—he to be coming turn off a tourism that had actually gone native Australia to brand-new Zealand to Singapore to Japan to Hawaii. Every those shows and travel would naturally take a toll on anybody, even someone who had just turned twenty-five. That didn’t yes, really seem choose he had actually a cold, however I ignored that. Like numerous people roughly him, I simply didn’t desire to know. Which is ridiculous—I was a reporter.


*

A few months after the Rolling Stone story come out that April, in 1992, the magazine sent me to England come cover the big Reading Festival, whose final day featured a bill practically entirely composed of grunge bands, v Nirvana headlining. Ns was continuing to be at the vacation Inn, where a lot of the bands stayed, too. One evening, ns was was standing in the lobby, spacing the end for a moment, as soon as I swore ns felt something gently happen over the optimal of mine head, choose a hand an inch away. Ns ignored it and also waited because that whoever it was to provide up and introduce themselves, however there wasn’t anyone near me. Finally, i turned around, and there, twenty feet away, was Kurt, staring at me v his laser-beam eyes.


I walked as much as him. He was glad to view me and also said that he chosen my Rolling Stone story. In retrospect, I can see why: the post served his purposes. Ns quoted one anti-drug speech he gave—which he seemed to think allow him off the hook for utilizing drugs. I recognized that he to be truly in love through Courtney, who was gaining a lot of grief from the media. I took his crippling stomach ache seriously, which couple of people did. And I let him plug several of his favourite bands, which helped him feel a little far better about his burgeoning fame. In the hotel lobby, we furthered the connection we’d made during the interview. Ns bought the a vodka-and-orange-juice at the packed bar, and also we chatted a bit prior to the swirl of acquaintances and gawking onlookers compelled cut to retreat come his room.


Nirvana’s concert at analysis was a triumph—and not just since they played at all. The U.K. Music press had been speculating that cut was as well heroin-sick to perform, and also the rumor was the Nirvana would certainly cancel. But not only did castle play; they played what is widely pertained to as among the biggest rock concert ever. Along with a gaggle of various other journalists, i stood in ~ the earlier of the stage, looking out at thousands of deals with bouncing up and also down in huge, rolling swells together they pogoed in the light. Onstage, part freaky guy danced v the band choose a blissed-out rag doll, law what everyone in the crowd wished they had actually the room come do. The music, consisting of a new song called “All Apologies,” was transcendent.


*

Late one night a month or so later, the phone call rang. It to be Courtney. She want to know whether ns would prefer to create a book around Nirvana. “That sound interesting,” i said, playing it together cool together I might manage, “but could I speak to Kurt about it?” She handed the phone to Kurt. “Hey,” that said, in his cigarette growl. I asked why he want to execute the book. This was quickly after Vanity Fair had actually published a story the was offered as evidence to briefly relax them of custody of their child daughter, Frances. Cut promised me access to anyone I want to talk to, and that I can write every little thing I wanted. “Just phone call the truth,” the said. “That’ll be better than anything rather that’s been written about me.”

Before I began writing what would become “Come together You Are: The Story the Nirvana,” Courtney would certainly sometimes contact me, ns think partially to try to frame the narrative and partly come ingratiate herself through the male who to be going to write the book—or perhaps it was just because she and Kurt liked and trusted me without also knowing me that well. She conversation was thick with referrals to assorted pharmaceuticals I’d never ever heard of, favor Klonopin and also diazepam and Vicodin, together if anyone knew what castle were—that’s how Courtney talks, together if you’re intimately acquainted with every the arcane things and people she’s pointing out at together high velocity. The pharmaceutical point was therefore relentless that sooner or later I walked end to the Strand Bookstore and purchase a offered copy the the “Physicians’ workdesk Reference,” a big, fat book listing all prescription drugs and their uses and also effects.


On the walk home, ns bumped into a particularly distrustful and controlling member of Nirvana’s administration team. This to be before any kind of of the interviews because that the publication had begun. If this manager had suspected ns was walk to compose a lurid exposé about Kurt and also Courtney’s drug use, i knew that the publication would be cancelled. The course, this person noticed the Strand bag i was currently carrying and asked the really question i was dreading: “Oh, what publication did friend buy?” i mumbled something and also quickly adjusted the subject, dangling the bag behind my back. I can laugh about it now, yet my legs were shaking.


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For the next six months, i flew come Seattle to command interviews, returning to new York to transcribe, research, and write. Being roughly intense people like Kurt and Courtney, v their continuous drama and palpable charisma, was exciting but likewise stressful and exhausting. The publication of the publication was time to coincide v the relax of the “In Utero” album the September, and, once it was done, the publisher felt that we have to let Kurt review the book “as a courtesy”—publishing-biz speak for “He can read it, yet he can’t adjust anything”—before advance versions went out to the press. But, provided Courtney’s notoriously combative tendencies, castle didn’t want her to check out it, so us couldn’t just mail cut the manuscript. Instead, I’d fly the end to Seattle and also have Kurt review the book in mine presence. Kurt completely understood why we had to do it this way—Courtney can make things complicated, we all knew that. So ns booked a room at the Warwick Hotel, in downtown Seattle, and flew native J.F.K. V the manuscript. The very first night, ns took the end the thick pile of photocopied paper and a crate of the chocolate-covered butter cookies that we both liked, set them top top a small desk in the edge of the room through the windows, and waited.


Around midnight, there to be a hit on mine door. Cut was sober at the time. Courtney had actually ordered the car-service driver not to make any detours and also had in which method slipped me a tiny note asking me come make certain that kurt didn’t call any type of pager numbers: “P.S. Xtra secret don’t tell I wrote this.” kurt sat down at the desk and also began reading. That smoked constantly and read intently. I kicked ago on the bed and worked ~ above an write-up or played solitaire on my laptop. It was an extremely quiet. The just sounds were the distant gurgling of the hotel’s plumbing, a hum whenever the ventilation device switched on, and Kurt turning pages.

Occasionally, he’d pipe up and say, “Yeah, yeah, this reads actual good.” occasionally he would chuckle at something funny or sigh at something painful. A couple of times, that moaned and asked, “Aw, execute you need to keep that in?” i don’t psychic every passage the bothered him, yet one was about a break down he had onstage in Rome, in the fall of 1989. Every time kurt objected, I’d define why it had to continue to be in the book, and also he never ever pressed the matter. ~ all, the was our original agreement—to perform it any other means would be, as he claimed in our first conversation around the book, “too weapons N’ Roses.” once in a while, he’d allude out a factual error, choose correcting the surname of the aunt who provided him his an initial guitar lessons.

That very first night, he got around a third of the way through the book before he started to fade. It was a lot come absorb. Ns imagine that he was greatly thinking about how this would certainly play come the authorities that wanted to take his child from him. I likewise think the may have actually been looking at it as Nirvana’s chef conceptualist, weighing how everything squared with just how he want the band—and himself—to it is in perceived.

Kurt, gift a college student of absent history, knew the the story of a rock tape is basically a legend—in the sense that there’s some wiggle room in the reality as lengthy as it serves the over-all myth. So kurt was one unreliable narrator the his very own story. It is nothing new—it would certainly be hard to name any type of rock star that wasn’t the same. It’s as much as the reporter to determine what’s true and also what isn’t. But sometimes journalists beat along since they’re naïve, lazy, or overworked, or they want to it is in in top top the game due to the fact that it makes for sensational copy. Whatever the reason, it works to the artist’s advantage. I wasn’t rigorous about investigating Kurt’s mythologizing—for one thing, a tight deadline supposed that I just didn’t have actually the time, and, because that another, he had actually charmed me and also I unquestioningly bought a the majority of his tall tales—which turned the end well for him.


The 2nd night to be a repeat of the first: me and a guy reading the publication I wrote about him, in a generic tiny hotel room, punctuated through the rustle of file and the occasional grunt of evaluation or soft chuckle. The told me it was illuminating to read around his whole life in chronological order. Very couple of people have actually that luxury. Occasionally he’d take it a break, and we’d stand with each other by the window overlooking 4th Avenue and talk, eat cookies, or look down to the street, where little gangs of homeless youngsters swarmed about taxis stopped at red lights, trying come wangle a couple of bucks the end of the cabbies. During those breaks, we didn’t speak around the book—instead, we talked about people us knew in common, music we were hearne to, or politics. Occasionally we’d simply stare out the window at the city without speak anything at all.

A tiny before dawn ~ above the third night, he turned end the critical page, planted his palm top top the top of the stack as if absorbing its vibrations, and also took a long drag on his cigarette. Then he gained up, walked end to me, and said, “That’s the best rock publication I’ve ever before read.” he hugged me and also looked me in the eye. “Thank you,” he said, and also then he was gone.

My publisher to be surprised and immensely relieved the Kurt had actually only a few minor factual corrections. They were expecting him come raise a fuss, perhaps to the point that it might torpedo the whole book—which had currently happened with another book about the band. What the publisher overlooked was that the most sensational things were said by cut himself. Yet also, once again, I had actually dutifully provided down Kurt’s crucial talking points, an especially about being a good, loving parent; that’s every he cared about. The rest was window dressing. Yes sir a popular misconception that kurt was simply a guileless junkie. Yet that’s a fallacy. He completely knew what he to be doing.


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After i was done with the book, Kurt and I ended up being friends. I don’t case to have been his to exclude, confidant or anything, but, every as soon as in a while, the phone would ring in the wee hours of the morning. It was ridiculous that he’d contact at together an hour—he didn’t seem to have thought about the time difference between Seattle and brand-new York, or possibly he assumed that anyone else was as nocturnal as he was—but I always picked up. I worried that he might be in a crisis, and also I didn’t ever want to regret the I’d ignored a an essential call.

Usually cut would desire to rail, occasionally volcanically, around management or the label or the band. And also after he’d obtained it all off his chest he’d unexpectedly realize the he’d to be talking fully about himself, pause, and also ask, “So exactly how are you?”

In July, 1993, Nirvana come to new York come play a display at the Roseland Ballroom, a cavernous former dance room in midtown Manhattan. It to be for the CMJ convention, i beg your pardon catered to university radio stations and also was a an essential platform for cultivating the forthcoming “In Utero.” while he was in town, Kurt had a company dinner through a bunch that “the grownups,” together he disdainfully referred to the miscellaneous executives associated in the band’s affairs, in ~ a an elaborate restaurant ~ above the eastern Side. He asked me come come along—I expect so he i will not ~ be completely alone with organization types. Or maybe he want me to watch for myself what the was always complaining about.

Eight of us sat about a large, circular table. Ns sat directly across from Kurt, the end of conversation range, yet I could see that he was uncomfortable. He was withdrawn and not responding much to anything anyone said to him. Everyone tried to pretend like nothing to be wrong. They all ordered food—appetizers, entrées, and also wine—but kurt ordered only a part of cake. “That’s all you’re going come have, Kurt?” someone asked. Kurt just kind the mumbled.

Kurt excused himself to go to the bathroom. He to be gone a lengthy time. I taken into consideration the possibility that he had sneaked out of the restaurant. That would have actually been brilliant. But, eventually, just as i was starting to think the someone must go inspect on him, the returned. He to be high, dazed, his eyelids nearly closed. He was nodding slightly. It was the very first time I’d ever been sure that kurt was high ~ above heroin. Surely everyone else at the table might see this, too, but no one recognized it in any kind of way, and the conversation continued around Kurt, as if he were a senile grandparent. That was obvious to me that Kurt gained high at that dinner deliberately, together a self-destructive protest.


The ostensible objective of the dinner, aside from dining in ~ a an elaborate restaurant and also putting the bill on the cost account, was to discuss some pressing service decision v Kurt. But Kurt was in no condition to make any type of decisions. When the examine was paid, everyone scattered. So I found myself stand on the sidewalk with Kurt, who was stoned out of his mind on heroin in a city that didn’t understand well. Ns walked him earlier to his hotel, stop on come his arm—as if he were an yonsei person—in situation he stumbled. I made sure that he didn’t walk right into other people, or traffic.


When we landed on his hotel room, Courtney was lying on the bed, reading a magazine. She no surprised that cut was high, simply disappointed. She’d to be working difficult to save him away from drugs, and she scolded that a small bit while that stood there, sheepish and unsteady, offering just halfhearted protests and denials. Climate he flopped under on the end of the bed, sidewise, and Courtney nonchalantly placed up her feet on his ago like he was a sofa cushion. I acquired the feeling that something favor this had happened plenty of times before. Kurt was sleeping, or something choose it, and Courtney apparently had things under control, so ns left them and also headed down the hall to protect against by a small party the rest of the band and crew were having. Kurt overdosed later on that evening. He had gone to the bathroom because that a long time. Climate Courtney heard a thud. She opened up the door—or tried to, but Kurt’s unconscious body to be blocking the doorway.

The band and crew’s party couldn’t have been much more different indigenous the heartbreaking scene in Kurt’s hotel room: here, there was booze, horseplay, and a blaring boom box. Yet it, too, came to be terrifying. Shortly after ns arrived, one of the males in the tape stepped out the window and top top a large ledge ~ above the side of the building, several stories above the street. He began walking on the ledge towards the next home window of the room—which was perhaps ten feet away. Ns was petrified. He was hammered, no the ideal condition for tightrope walking. I believed that ns was about to witness a horrific minute in rock history, yet he make it. Everybody in the room cheered. Then among the crew do the efforts it. And also I to be petrified anywhere again, however he made it, too. Climate the man in the band went a second time. Through now, i was thoroughly freaked out. Yet he made the again, and, thankfully, there to be no more ledge walks. I made a beeline because that the drinks table.

Courtney at some point forced her way into the bathroom and saw Kurt transforming blue. Terrified, she sent out word out to the band’s crew: load up the equipment—there will be no display tomorrow, since Kurt is dead. I’m not certain who resuscitated him, or how, however he played a an excellent concert in ~ Roseland the complying with night.

In October, 1993, I went to Kurt in Seattle when the band was rehearsing for the “In Utero” tour, and one night he invite me to a practice. He claimed it would certainly be boring, but then he claimed everything around his life to be boring. That wasn’t, that course.

The band’s practice space was in a loft building in the SoDo neighborhood, a grim commercial area south of downtown. The long, concrete-floored hallway resulting in their room was lined top top one side v cremation urns, i beg your pardon were made in one more area ~ above the floor. It was late once we arrived, and also the entire structure was silent. At the point, Nirvana was possibly the greatest band in the world, yet you’d never recognize it from their rehearsal space. The room was around six hundred square feet, with windows the looked out onto other industrial loft buildings. A small riser because that the drum set was as an intricate as they got. There to be a usually P.A., some ordinary-looking amps, and a couple of standard-issue microphones. They had actually no soundproofing, no sound person, no unique lights, no recording equipment, no well-stocked bar. A few mismatched old chairs were strewn about the room, some concert posters hung on the wall, and also there to be a small fridge. It could almost have to be your band’s exercise space.

They fussed with the P.A. A little, and also then they were off, running under songs indigenous “In Utero.” kurt ran the rehearsal, giving specific directions to every of the musicians. They play sections of songs, beginning and protecting against until cut felt that points were right. I expect this to be what Kurt believed was the boring part, but it was illuminating come see exactly how much he regulated things, how exacting that was with music that showed up so rough-hewn. It was challenging to hear some of the flaws cut wanted come correct, but when the band addressed them that was apparent that everything had snapped into place.

The complying with month, Courtney determined that it would certainly be an excellent if ns joined Nirvana’s U.S. Tour for a small while. I was a fairly steady person, a little older, and drug-free. She figured the I would be great company for cut on the road, maybe help keep him on the straight and narrow—if just by example. I don’t know if I completed that, and also I didn’t wind up spending all that much time with Kurt, but I think that having someone rather on the bus did rest up a little of the tension and also boredom. Occasionally a cloud gathered end the touring party. That was largely due to Kurt’s mental state; his mood, dark or light, pervaded every room, and it depended a lot of on even if it is he’d been fighting v Courtney. However everyone in the band felt some type of tension: also if lock tried to make light of it, Kurt, the bassist Krist Novoselic, and the drummer Dave Grohl feel the substantial pressure of being a world-famous absent group and resented the invasive journalism the comes v it. There to be tensions in ~ the band, too.

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Once, I quit by Kurt’s hotel room when he began yelling that he wanted to fire Dave, unquestionably among the an excellent rock drummers, because that being an unsubtle and also unspontaneous musician. The point was, Dave was remaining in the room right next door. I hissed at Kurt, “He have the right to hear!” “I nothing care!” kurt yelled back, more at the adjoining wall surface than at me. I was sure that Dave heard the entirety thing. Regardless, Dave was currently aware of Kurt’s feelings. That told his biographer, Paul Brannigan, that on a trip from Seattle come Los Angeles he had actually overheard cut bad-mouthing his drumming 2 rows back. As soon as they landed, Dave told your trusty Scottish tourism manager, Alex MacLeod, the he to be quitting the band after the last reserved show. MacLeod speak him the end of it.