Kurt Cobain: The Last Session

Famed photographer Jesse Frohman lays the inner thoughts of the grunge prince bare in his new book with this exclusive interview by Jon Savage

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Kurt Cobain by Jesse Frohman
Cobain apparently arrived four hours late to the shootPhotography by Jesse Frohman

Four hours late and completely stoned throughout, Kurt Cobain’s shoot with legendary photographer Jesse Frohman, just months before the frontman’s death, didn’t necessarily go to plan. Yet what Frohman achieved – even if he didn't realise it at the time – would go down in music history as some of the most iconic images ever shot of the grunge prince. Originally a cover spread for London’s Sunday Observer, after copious amounts of cigarettes, a bottle of Evian water – sprayed, rather than drunk, through the frontman’s mouth – and a quick stint as a glasses-wearing, leopard fur-clad ballerina; the shoot was over. With his widow Courtney Love’s tell-all biopic looming on next year’s publishing horizon (apparently), Frohman’s upcoming book KURT COBAIN: The Last Session offers this exclusive excerpt of an interview with punk historian Jon Savage. Conducted with Cobain the night before the photographer’s now-infamous shoot, the frontman opens up on the struggles he endured with his father after his parents divorced.

Kurt Cobain: I was born in Aberdeen, Washington, 1967, and I lived between Aberdeen and Montesano, which was twenty miles away, and I moved back and forth between relatives’ houses throughout my whole childhood.

Jon Savage: Did your parents split up when you were young?

Kurt Cobain: Yeah, when I was seven.

Jon Savage: Do you remember anything about that?

Kurt Cobain: Yeah. I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents for… I couldn’t face some of my friends at school anymore, because I wanted, 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 ’cause of that.

Jon Savage: Have you made it up with them now?

Kurt Cobain: Well, I’ve always kept a relationship with my mom, because she’s always been the more affectionate one. My father, I… I haven’t talked to him for about ten years now, up until this last year, where he seeked me out backstage at a show we played in Seattle. And for a long time, I… I always wanted him to know that I, um, I don’t hate him anymore, just I don’t have anything to say to him. I don’t want to have a relationship with a person just because they’re my blood relative. They bore me. My father is incapable of showing much affection, or even carrying on a conversation, so… Just because of the last time that I saw him, I expressed this to him and made it really clear to him that I just didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. But it was a relief on both of our parts, you know? Because for so many years he felt that I really hated his guts, you know?

Jon Savage: I’ve spent a year and a half dealing with this stuff ’cause my father died in March. It’s really serious stuff. It really fucks you up.

Kurt Cobain: Did you have a good relationship with him?

Jon Savage: No, but we made it up at the end, and I’m really glad we did. I just felt I had to do it.

Kurt Cobain: It’s really important to do that, to make amends. And if you can do it before you almost have to, you know? Like at a time where if you know that one of the… someone is going to die, it’s… At least it happened. 

Jon Savage: I’m very lucky that I had a year to deal with it, but it was very, very painful. I’m very glad it’s over now… You can’t duck it.

Kurt Cobain: It’s what I’ve done all my life though. I’ve always quit jobs without telling the employer that I’m quitting. I just wouldn’t show up one day. Same with high school: the last two months of high school, I quit. So I’ve always copped out of things all my life, so to face up to my father was… Although he chose to seek me out, you know? But it was a nice relief.

Jon Savage: Do you write about this at all? There’s a lyric about your father on “Serve the Servants”…

Kurt Cobain: Yeah. Yeah. It’s the first time I’ve ever really dealt with any parental issues. I’ve never written about—I’ve hardly ever written anything obviously personal, to myself or to anyone else, on that scale. 

Excerpted from KURT COBAIN: The Last Session, by Jesse Frohman, available from Thames & Hudson Inc. as of 10th November.

© 2014 Jesse Frohman

Text and interview © 2014 Jon Savage. All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Thames & Hudson Inc.

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