Kurt Cobain died fifteen years ago this week.
When I heard the news, I bolted from the office of Details magazine (my then-employer) and went home to Brooklyn to find my Nirvana notebooks. I had toured around Germany with Nirvana in 1991, as Nevermind was becoming a blockbuster hit, and done another extensive interview with Cobain in Seattle just before In Utero was released. I knew that in my notes, I had contact information for people close to Cobain; I wanted to pass them on to a reporter who had recently interviewed Courtney Love; Details was putting her on a plane to Seattle to get an on-the-scene dispatch. The reporter strenuously resisted, saying that if she stayed home, Courtney would call her. Everyone in the office scoffed.
I spent a couple of hours going through every inch of my closets, while in the background, MTV played an endless loop of Nirvana. Finally, I gave up and came back without the notebooks. The next day, I found them in the office, stashed in a desk drawer. By then, the reporter was gone, on the same plane flight as representatives of Rolling Stone and the New York Times. My information didn’t help her; she came back a couple of days later, having been shut out like all the other writers who descended on Seattle. While she was gone, Courtney had left a message on her answering machine.
I wrote a personal remembrance of Cobain for the magazine, which you can read here. I’ve added the piece to the archives unedited even though there are portions of it I now find callow and naïve. (For example: I know now that Cobain was using heroin while I visited him in Seattle, and was keeping it together just enough to do his press interviews.) But my grief was genuine, and I suspect some of the details might be of interest to a new generation of readers. (I’ll add my other Nirvana articles to the archives soon.)
My memories of Cobain are complicated, for many reasons, and this piece doesn’t fully reflect my mixed emotions in 2009. But I still feel privileged that I got to spend so much time talking to him.