Courtney Love Soundgarden Collaborator Reveals Why He Quit Her Terrible Album

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Michael Beinhorn is famous for producing Soundgarden’s Superunknown and Hole’s Celebrity Skin, and he attempted to reteam with Courtney Love for her debut solo album America’s Sweetheart, which was a terrible letdown compared to the classic Celebrity Skin. Beinhorn revealed in a new Scars & Guitars interview (transcribed by Ultimate-Guitar) why he couldn’t finish the album with her.

So, Courtney Love – let’s talk about this album, [2004’s] ‘America’s Sweetheart.’ I’ve had a few listens to that album. Now, what she seems to lack is a critical analysis, that’s what I think you brought to [1998’s] ‘Celebrity Skin’. Do you know why she overlooked you when she started her solo album?

“Not really, no. It never occurred to me. It’s her choice. I think [2010’s] ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ suffered from that as well, it wasn’t easy to have a conversation like that, which is just one of the reasons why I think I couldn’t finish the record.

“I just felt that we weren’t getting anywhere. We had a parting of the ways there. From that perspective, ‘Celebrity Skin’ is one of my favorite projects.”

In these days, the death of rock ‘n’ roll and rock stars – as far as the mainstream media is concerned – the end of record companies as we knew them… I think all of the services that you are now offering are essential for any serious collective of musicians. What has inspired you to become so available to musicians through so many applications?

“I think innovation comes from seeing an opening. I’m not saying that these types of services are particularly lucrative. It’s not the kind of thing that will make you a whole lot of money, but I couldn’t care less about that.

“I’m just listening to the types of recordings that people are doing right now, and it’s just that they lack so much in terms of spirit, in terms of expression.

“I see people being turned on by music in a way, but I don’t see anyone getting excited about it in a way that I know I used to. I feel that the public is being cheated in a lot of ways.

“Music can’t be ‘wallpaper’ all the time. There’s nothing wrong with some music being ‘wallpaper,’ but not about all of it though.

“You talk about rock music dying. People have mistakenly applied this punk-rock ethic to rock-music creation, which is just, ‘Let’s write a song, record it – boom, the end.’ That’s pure idiocy.”

There are two genres that come to mind straight away – metalcore and deathcore. Relatively new genres, low tunings, but they really need someone like you because so much of that music sounds exactly the same, they’re using similar techniques and don’t have enough critical feedback through the production.

“I was in Copenhagen some three years ago, and I was working with some artists and standing outside of a room. I happened to be in this building with a bunch of rehearsal halls. And I found myself standing outside this one room, listening to people play in a way and to an extent that I’ve never heard before in my life.

“The precision of it was beyond anything I could possibly imagine, and I realized that these are people who have come up listening to a recording which was so heavily edited in Pro Tools and quantized that they had absolutely no feel.

“They were so incredibly fast and precise that they literally sounded like machinery. I have to say it was absolutely stunning. My mouth was on the ground. It was absolutely staggering.

“And I also realized that it was something I would never purchase. I would never want to buy it. I think I’d listen to it at home just to marvel at the performance, but as far as the compositional stuff? There was nothing to it. It was basically for the sake of capability that each individual had. They had this ability to play, but that’s all it was.

“I think that genre suffers from the same issues that techno and dance music suffered from, and that’s the people are so caught up with the technical aspect of how it was created.”

These musicians are – a lot of them are in their early 20s. I think they suffer from the fact that in their schooling system, there wasn’t really that type of discipline that you and I experienced. I don’t know whether they’re as willing to take instructions.

“The thing is that if you put something to that to an artist or a musician who has basically developed a skillset based around a genre as opposed to the need to express oneself, you essentially have to walk them back or forward, depending on where they’re coming from, and have them re-examine their priorities.

“I think that a lot of people come to the fundamental question of, ‘Why are you doing this? What does this mean to you? What are you trying to say? Does this mean something to you, and if so, what? What is the fundamental message that you are trying to send out to the world?’

“Because if it’s just, ‘Look how fast I can play and how precise I can be,’ no one’s gonna give a shit. I mean, you might give a shit. Your mom might give a shit, your friends might give a shit. And maybe 500 people will at some point in your life give a shit, but no one else will.

“Unless you can dig down inside and find a fundamental reason, a sense of purpose, a mission, something where you kind of understand and get in touch with the fundamental need that a human need to express themselves, beyond this egoistical desire to become the most precise guitarist – it’s not going to matter. You’re wasting your own time. It’s not an ambition. Even if it is so, it’s an ambition that will last for a couple of years at best.”

  • Troy Stephens

    Very well said. Couldn’t agree more. Technical ability is great but…

    • jamey

      Agreed. I like the moments that aren’t so perfect, maybe hear a slight cough in the background …something that’s not polished but has melody and words that are emotional fitting, but also fit in with the melody and feeling

  • camacg

    In Courtney Love’s defense, while overall America’s Sweetheart may have been a dud, Mono is no question one of the best and fiercest songs she’s ever written and recorded. That one song kicks enough ass to make the rest of the record forgivable.

    • jamey

      Hmm, I adore her pretty on the inside, and of course live through this ….and then those period b tracks or bootlegs….there was a video I remember with glitter and broken glass and a disco ball in her hands in a bedroom that was an absolute visual phenomenal video, but music wise, just not so ,much my taste…it was way too polished and not raw or have the right melodies/ vs punk/loud/ in your face/ sweet/raw feelings I need from her…..but now I am off to check out Mono….

    • jamey

      Hmmm…..I really really liked some of the words, and the symbolism…but for some reason it just didnt “do it for me” it seemed in some places kinda too polished and like it was missing something or fake?! Idk, but it sucks because the few parts that were good , were amazing..plus the music just didnt do it for me….like it needed a bit of melody and flare into it

      • camacg

        My thing with Mono is the sense that her lyrical rage is very real, and all her own. As she references in the line “99 girls in the pits,” that was the aftermath of rapestock, when some really ugly misogynistic no talents were on the scene. And the repeated refrain of “so much better than him” is pretty clearly equal parts a slam at that AND a straight out howl at the biggest unfairness of her reputation: that her band put out one of the best, most lasting records of the nineties, the absolute masterpiece Live Through This, only to see her portrayed as a no-talent groupie/murderer whose genius songs must have been written and produced by Kurt Cobain; four years later, Kurt is dead, the equally stellar Celebrity Skin was released, and rehabilitated her reputation…oops, I mean, and was praised to the heavens and declared to be Billy Corgan’s genius at work. Hearing her finally scream out her rage at that is incredibly cathartic, especially if you’re screaming along with you car windows shut.

        • jamey

          But that’s the thing, shes ALWAYS had amazing references and lines in her songs…even on pretty on the inside, before Kurt was even around…and of course live through this did as well….some may say kurt wrote or helped or whatever…..I was ,like 12/13 when pretty on the inside as well as bleach came out and thankfully dated a skateboarder whom was into legit punk rock of yore, and got taped of both those albums and I fell in love before they blew up as artists, so when they came together, for me it was a match made in heaven. 🙂 I dont look at like she can write or that someone has to do it for her….I love her and appreciate most of her work.

          Celebrity Skin was a bit too polished for my taste. I love a some pop, punk with melody thrown in with great words that also have fabulous references that goes along with that melody….I do think “hit so hard” and “northern star” and ‘awful’ are good songs on there….but there is just something..I dont know the energy of it is off for me..I cant really explain it…I also think Patty not being there on drums really, really throws the band off…like her style and straight forward hard hitting with amazing films cant be beat (patty is one of my top favorite drummers and I seen hole life in 94 and it was the best concert still all these years later I’ve ever heard, seen).

          I believe that Courtney is a really good writer, but I feel like with her newer stuff, shes not as raw, or in your face, but still with an edge of girly cute and melody with great sarcasm and great hooks that shes capable of.

          I guess it all comes down to personal taste. I listen to the whole Pretty on the inside at least once a week still to this day….also the B tracks after that time and around the live through this era. And of course I love and adore the quiet and the loud , cute but take me serious, slick and sarcastic live through this, as the first songs I learned how to play on guitar was doll parts and the hook of miss world…lol…..I like to hear a random cough in a song, or maybe the guitar sped up a bit or something was just a bit off, but enough to have feeling and make it real. One of my ultimate top 5 songs of forever ever is the unreleased drown soda..you can find it on youtube… I had the bootleg of it many moons ago, but THAT version right there…..UGh to me is just the ultimate female take it or leave it, on your face powerhouse song. Really you should check it out…I’ve listened to it daily for years and on some mood swings I listen to it for 3 or 4 hours on a loop over and over!!! Lol.

          I feel like something is just off with her new stuff…like it’s still courtney and I still love and adore this women….but something is off…almost like shes un sure of herself, or I just dont know…I hope to the universe she comes out with some new music…even if it’s like a few new songs and some covers of random songs would be amazing. I also like the dynamic when she gets soft and girly and cute and like draws you in, and then BAM 3 seconds later in your face screaming at the top of her lungs….and then cute and quiet again….something about that dynamic of her for me is just sexy and playful , but at the same time is raw, and hard hitting, real, almost animalistic, while having the candles and incense lit, with red lipstick, black eyeliner smeared yet gorgeous.

          I hope that kinda makes sense. Hahaha. When it comes to her, kurt and Tori Amos and stevie nicks… I adore fhem… but for some reason Courtney, Kurt and Tori raised me , but Courtney and Kurt have been my best friends through so much pain, and adverse, yet adventure, and some happiness and they have always been there for me and with me , that they are super close to my soul and being….i could be crazy lol (but I mean well) I believe that music is magic and that some music speaks to others and touches their souls…and what touches one, might not touch the other, but rest assured that there is some music that touches everyone…and for me Courntey and Kurt and tori is mine 🙂

  • Completely agree, as one producer said it – “A lot of music today is perfect without actually being any good.”