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The last days of Kurt Cobain in his own words

He was the voice of Generation X, speaking to disaffected youth with the lyricism of  grunge music . Now, 14 years after his suicide, a new film – in his own words – gives fresh insight into the life and death of  Nirvana's  tortured frontman  Kurt Cobain .

In  About A Son Cobain  talks with candour about the tensions between him and his bandmates, his relationship with wife  Courtney Love  and his isolated childhood.

The documentary, released on DVD on 31 March, is based on 25 hours of previously unheard interviews with  Cobain  by the journalist Michael Azerrad between December 1992 and March 1993. The interviews formed the base of Come As You Are, Azerrad's definitive biography of  Nirvana .

Just over a year after the interviews took place, on 8 April 1994,  Cobain was found dead  at his home in Seattle with a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.

Rather than focusing on footage of Cobain, the film, directed by A J Schnack and filmed by Wyatt Troll, shows scenes from the three cities in Washington State – Aberdeen, Olympia and Seattle – where the singer was born, achieved fame and died.

The soundtrack features music that inspired  Cobain , by David Bowie, Queen, Leadbelly, Scratch Acid, Cheap Trick and Half-Japanese but not a single  Nirvana track .

Nirvana  rose from an underground scene to achieve international fame with their second album  Nevermind  in 1991.  Cobain , a  musician  who valued his integrity above all, found it difficult to come to terms with fame and became addicted to heroin before taking his own life at the age of 27.

In the film, he talks frankly about disagreements with bandmates Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic over song-writing credits which nearly led to him quitting the band.

"It was a really big deal for Krist and Dave. They sincerely felt they deserved just as much songwriting credit as I do, which is bullshit, total bullshit," he says.

Cobain  also talks about how much he enjoyed writing songs with his wife: "It's so easy to play songs with Courtney. Every time we jam on something we write a great song." It has been claimed – and vehemently denied – that  Cobain  wrote Live Through This, the 1994 album by his wife's  band Hole .

About A Son  includes personal anecdotes about  Cobain , who grew up, the son of divorced parents, in a working-class background in Aberdeen, Washington. Explaining his attraction to  Courtney Love , he says: "She made me feel like a rebel."

He also reveals how school classmates thought he was gay after he befriended a fellow student who was homosexual. "I started being proud of being gay, even though I wasn't. I almost found my identity."

He also recounts sneaking pot from his mother's own stash and replacing it with oregano.

"Eventually she just had a bag of oregano sitting in her jewellery drawer. Then one night she offered me and my friend to come down and smoke some with her – so we had to sit there and smoke oregano," he recalled.

James McMahon, features editor of NME and a lifelong Nirvana fan, said: " Kurt Cobain  is always one of those people who fascinate  music fans . His death has turned him into an icon.

"The film is a beautiful piece of work. I'm 27 and got into Nirvana the year before Kurt Cobain died, but I don't think I'd ever heard his voice that much, so it's quite a strong experience hearing him narrate his life."

There has been much debate over the way in which  Cobain's  legacy has been handled after his death but McMahon believes the film is true to his spirit.

"There's something comforting and ethereal about it. It's enlightening about his life. It's pure, like he's being allowed to tell his story. He really did wear his heart on his sleeve."

Cobain  met Azerrad in 1992 when the journalist wrote a Rolling Stone cover story showing the  Nirvana  front-man wearing a T-shirt inscribed with: "Corporate magazines still suck."

Kurt Cobain, His Life

Early Life

Kurt Cobain  was born to Donald and  Wendy Cobain  on February 20, 1967 in Aberdeen, Washington and spent his first six months living in the village of Hoquiam, Washington before the family moved to Aberdeen. He began developing an interest in music early in his life. According to his Aunt Mari, "He was singing from the time he was two. He would sing Beatles songs like 'Hey Jude'. He had a lot of charisma from a very young age."

Cobain's  life changed at the age of seven when his parents divorced in 1975, an event which he later cited as having a profound impact on his life. His mother noted that his personality changed dramatically, with  Cobain  becoming more withdrawn. In a 1993 interview,  Cobain  said, "I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents. I couldn't face some of my friends at school anymore, because I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that." After a year spent living with his mother following the divorce,  Cobain  moved to Montesano, Washington to live with his father, but after a few years his youthful rebellion became too overwhelming and he found himself being shuffled between friends and family.

At school,  Cobain  took little interest in sports. At his father's insistence,  Cobain  joined the junior high wrestling team. While he was good at it, he despised it. Later, his father signed him up for a local baseball league, where  Cobain  would intentionally strike out to avoid having to play. Instead,  Cobain  focused on his art courses. He often drew during classes, including objects associated with human anatomy.  Cobain  was friends with a gay student at his school, sometimes suffering bullying at the hands of homophobic students. That friendship led some to believe that he himself was gay. In one of his personal journals,  Cobain  wrote, "I am not gay, although I wish I were, just to piss off homophobes." In a 1993 interview with The Advocate,  Cobain  claimed that he used to spray paint "God is Gay" on pickup trucks around Aberdeen. Cobain also claimed he was arrested in 1985 for spray-painting "HOMO SEX RULES" on a bank. However, Aberdeen police records show that the phrase for which he was arrested was actually "Ain't got no how watchamacallit". As a teenager growing up in small-town Washington,  Cobain  eventually found escape through the thriving Pacific Northwest punk scene, going to  punk rock shows in Seattle . Eventually,  Cobain  began frequenting the practice space of fellow Montesano  musicians  the Melvins.

In the middle of tenth grade,  Cobain  moved back to live with his mother in Aberdeen. Two weeks before his graduation,  Cobain  dropped out of high school after realizing that he did not have enough credits to graduate. His mother gave him a choice: either get a job or leave. After a week or so,  Cobain  found his clothes and other belongings packed away in boxes. Forced out of his mother's home, Cobain often stayed at friends' houses and sneaked into his mother's basement occasionally.  Cobain  later claimed that when he could not find anywhere else to stay, he lived under a bridge over the Wishkah River, an experience that inspired the  Nevermind track  " Something in the Way ". However, Krist Novoselic claimed that  Cobain  never really lived there, saying, "He hung out there, but you couldn't live on those muddy banks, with the tides coming up and down. That was his own revisionism."

In late 1986,  Cobain  moved into the first house he lived in alone and paid his rent by working at a coastal resort twenty miles from Aberdeen. At the same time,  Cobain  was traveling more frequently to Olympia, Washington to check out  rock shows . During his visits to Olympia,  Cobain  started a relationship with Tracy Marander.

For his 14th birthday,  Cobain's  uncle gave him the option of a  guitar  or a bicycle as a gift;  Cobain chose the guitar . He started learning a few covers, including AC/DC's "Back in Black" and The Cars' "My Best Friend's Girl", and soon began working on his own  songs .

In high school,  Cobain  rarely found anyone to jam with. While hanging out at the Melvins practice space, he met Krist Novoselic, a fellow devotee of  punk rock . Novoselic's mother owned a hair salon and  Cobain  and Novoselic would occasionally practice in the upstairs room. A few years later,  Cobain  tried to convince Novoselic to form a  band  with him by lending him a copy of a home demo recorded by  Cobain's earlier band, Fecal Matter . After months of asking, Novoselic finally agreed to join  Cobain , forming the beginnings of  Nirvana .


During their first few years playing together, Novoselic and  Cobain  were hosts to a rotating list of  drummers . Eventually, the band settled on Chad Channing, with whom  Nirvana  recorded the  album Bleach , released on Sub Pop Records in 1989.  Cobain , however, became dissatisfied with Channing's style, leading the  band  to seek out a replacement, eventually settling on Dave Grohl. With Grohl, the band found their greatest success via their 1991 major-label debut,  Nevermind .

Cobain  struggled to reconcile the massive success of Nirvana with his underground roots. He also felt persecuted by the media, comparing himself to Frances Farmer, and harbored resentment for people who claimed to be  fans  of the  band  but who completely missed the point of the band's message. One incident particularly distressing to  Cobain  involved two men who raped a woman while singing the  Nirvana song "Polly" Cobain  condemned the episode in the liner notes of the US release of the  album Incesticide : "Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while they sang the lyrics to our song 'Polly.' I have a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience. Sorry to be so anally P.C. but that's the way I feel."


Courtney Love  first saw  Cobain  perform in 1989 at a show in Portland, Oregon; the pair talked briefly after the show and Love developed a crush on him. According to journalist Everett True, the pair were formally introduced at an L7/ Butthole Surfers concert  in Los Angeles in May 1991. In the weeks that followed, after learning from Grohl that she and  Cobain  shared mutual crushes, Love began pursuing  Cobain . After a few weeks of on-again, off-again courtship in the fall of 1991, the two found themselves together on a regular basis, often bonding through drug use.

Around the time of  Nirvana's  1992 performance on Saturday Night Live, Love discovered that she was pregnant with  Cobain's child . A few days after the conclusion of  Nirvana's Pacific Rim tour , on Monday, February 24, 1992,  Cobain married Love  on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. "In the last couple months I've gotten engaged and my attitude has changed drastically,"  Cobain  said in an interview with Sassy magazine. "I can't believe how much happier I am. At times I even forget that I'm  in a band , I'm so blinded by love. I know that sounds embarrassing, but it's true. I could give up the  band  right now. It doesn't matter, but I'm under contract." On August 18, the couple's daughter,  Frances Bean Cobain , was born. The unusual middle name was given to her because  Cobain  thought she looked like a kidney bean on the first sonogram he saw of her. Her namesake is Frances McKee of British band The Vaselines and not Frances Farmer as is sometimes reported.

Love was somewhat unpopular with  Nirvana fans ; her harshest critics said she was merely using him as a vehicle to make herself famous. Critics who compared  Cobain  to John Lennon were also fond of comparing Love to Yoko Ono. Rumors persist that  Cobain  wrote most of the  songs  on the breakthrough  album Live  Through This of  Love's band Hole , partially fueled by the 1996 appearance of a rough mix of "Asking for It" with  Cobain singing  backing vocals. However, there is no specific evidence to support the assertion.

At the same time, one  song by Hole  was discovered to be a song originally written by  Nirvana . The song "Old Age" appeared as a B-side on the 1993 single for Beautiful Son, credited to  Hole . Initially, there was no reason to believe it was anything other than a  Hole -penned song. However, in 1998, a boombox recording of the song performed by  Nirvana  (with significantly different  lyrics ) was surfaced by Seattle newspaper The Stranger. In the article that accompanied the clip, Novoselic confirmed that the  recording  was made in 1991 and that "Old Age" was a  Nirvana song , leading to more speculation about Cobain's involvement in Hole's catalog.  Nirvana  had even attempted to  record  "Old Age" during the sessions for  Nevermind , but it was left incomplete as  Cobain  had yet to finish the lyrics and the  band  had run out of studio time. (The incomplete recording appeared on the 2004 compilation With the Lights Out, credited to  Cobain .) As for  Hole's  version,  guitarist  Eric Erlandson noted that he believed  Cobain wrote the music  for the  song , but that Love had  written the lyrics  for their version.

In a 1992 article in Vanity Fair, Love admitted to using heroin while (unknowingly) pregnant. Love claimed that Vanity Fair had misquoted her, but her admission created controversy for the couple. While  Cobain  and Love's romance had always been something of a media attraction, the couple found themselves hounded by tabloid reporters after the article was published, many wanting to know if Frances was addicted to drugs at birth. The Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services took the  Cobains  to court, claiming that the couple's drug usage made them unfit parents. Two-week-old Frances Bean Cobain was ordered by the judge to be taken from their custody and placed with Courtney's sister Jamie for several weeks, after which the couple obtained custody, but had to submit to urine tests and a regular visit from a social worker. After months of legal wrangling, the couple were eventually granted full custody of their daughter.

Drug Addiction

Throughout most of his life,  Cobain  battled chronic bronchitis and intense physical pain due to an undiagnosed chronic stomach condition. This last condition was especially debilitating to his emotional welfare, and he spent years trying to find its source. However, none of the doctors he consulted were able to pinpoint the specific cause, guessing that it was either a result of  Cobain's childhood  scoliosis or related to the stresses of performing.

His first drug experience was with marijuana in 1980 at age 14.  Cobain's  first experience with heroin occurred sometime in 1986, administered to him by a local drug dealer in Tacoma, Washington, who had previously been supplying him with Percodan.  Cobain used heroin  sporadically for several years, but, by the end of 1990, his use had developed into a full-fledged addiction.  Cobain  claimed that he was "determined to get a habit" as a way to self-medicate his stomach condition. Related  Cobain , "It started with three days in a row of doing heroin and I don't have a stomach pain. That was such a relief."

His heroin use eventually began affecting the  band's  support of  Nevermind , with  Cobain  passing out during photo shoots. One memorable example came the day of the  band's  1992  performance  on Saturday Night Live, where  Nirvana  had a shoot with photographer Michael Levine. Having shot up beforehand,  Cobain  nodded off several times during the shoot. Regarding the shoot,  Cobain  related to biographer Michael Azerrad, "I mean, what are they supposed to do? They're not going to be able to tell me to stop. So I really didn't care. Obviously to them it was like practicing witchcraft or something. They didn't know anything about it so they thought that any second, I was going to die."  Cobain  also overdosed on the same night, after performing on Saturday Night Live.

Cobain's heroin addiction  worsened as the years progressed.  Cobain  made his first attempt at rehab in early 1992, not long after he and Love discovered they were going to become parents. Immediately after leaving rehab,  Nirvana  embarked on their Australian tour, with  Cobain  appearing pale and gaunt while suffering through withdrawals. Not long after returning home,  Cobain's heroin use  resurfaced.

Prior to a performance at the New Music Seminar in New York City in July 1993,  Cobain  suffered a heroin overdose. Rather than calling for an ambulance, Love injected Cobain with illegally acquired Narcan to bring him out of his unconscious state. Cobain proceeded to perform with  Nirvana , giving the public no indication that anything out of the ordinary had taken place.

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