"Don’t call your band Nine Inch Nails when you have a three-inch one": the many, wild feuds of Courtney Love

Courtney Love and her many feuds
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It’s hard to imagine that Courtney Love was quaking in her boots when Swifties Assembled last month after the Hole singer has spoke disparagingly about their sacred leader Taylor Swift. In an interview with The Standard, Love said, “Taylor is not important. She might be a safe space for girls and she’s probably the Madonna of now, but she’s not interesting as an artist.” It was a big blow not just for Swift’s army of fans but also for all the middle-aged music journalists out there who have spent most of the past month earnestly pontificating about Taylor’s latest record The Tortured Poets Department. But it was not a big blow for Courtney Love. She is a master at stirring up beef with her fellow artists, she’s been there, done it, made up with them and done it again. Here are a selection of Courtney Love’s finest feuds:

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Lana Del Rey

In the same interview as her Taylor shocker, Love turned on her former friend Lana Del Rey. It was some switcheroo: Love had once described the US singer-songwriter as being alongside her late husband Kurt Cobain in being the only “true musical geniuses” that she’d ever encountered. But no longer. “I haven’t liked Lana since she covered a John Denver song,” she said, in a move that you imagine had Lana going all Colin Farrell in The Banshees Of Inishirin (“but Courtney, you liked me yesterday!”). “I think she should really take seven years off,” Courtney continued. Not six. Not eight. Seven. Did Lana break a mirror at your house, Courtney?

Bikini Kill

Love is never one to let a good grudge go and this one has been rumbling on for decades. The animosity between Love and the punk rock trio came to a head when punches were thrown backstage at Lollapalooza in 1995 and Love stoked it up again when Bikini Kill announced their plans to reunite back in 2019. Replying to an Instagram post about the reunion, Love wrote, “Biggest hoax in history of rock and roll… Two of that band total amateurs… they suck.” You know when you’ve had a few beers and you start replying to someone on social media and then you think, ‘You know what, I’m gonna delete this and I put my phone down instead’? Courtney doesn’t do that. Courtney presses send.

Brad Pitt

In an interview with Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Love claimed that she was cast in Fight Club and then un-cast in Fight Club at the insistence of the film’s star Brad Pitt. She told Maron that the reason was because she had denied Pitt the rights to make a biopic about Kurt Cobain. “I wouldn’t let Brad play Kurt,” she said, continuing that she told Pitt, “I don’t know if I trust you and I don’t know that your movies are for profit. They’re really good social justice movies but if you don’t get me, you kind of don’t get Kurt, and I don’t feel like you do, Brad.” Pitt obviously took the knock-back well.

Trent Reznor

Love and Reznor dated briefly in the mid-90s but then proceeded to publicly diss each other in the years since, albeit the criticism becoming increasingly one-sided in recent times (you can guess which way it's weighted, can’t you?). Love is assumed to be one of the figures targeted in Nine Inch Nails’ seething The Fragile cut Starfuckers Inc, and she pressed the nuclear button when she said of Reznor in a Spin magazine interview, “Don’t call your band Nine Inch Nails when you have a three-inch one.” Ouchy! After that - possibly the only occasion ever that Trent Reznor and Peter Andre could sympathise with one another – Reznor has remained quiet, but Love went back up to Def Con 1 in a Twitter rant, saying, “As for Reznor… HE’s talented but still a creep. I’ve never seen so much systemic abuse of kids, girls as young as 12, by him and his crew, we all (the members of Hole) witnessed it.” Love deleted the post the next day and apologised, writing, “I’m truly sorry for those I’ve hurt and I will do better.”

Olivia Rodrigo

Love did not take kindly to US superstar Olivia Rodrigo recreating the classic prom queen shot that adorns the cover of Hole’s Live Through This for a promotional photo in 2021, sarcastically posting the two pictures side-by-side with the caption, “Spot the different! #twinning!”. “She didn’t ask… I dig manners,” she told an enquiring fan, also stating that “Stealing an original idea and not asking permission is rude… this was bad form.” Asked about it in an interview with GQ, Rodrigo played it well, saying, “I’m just flattered that Courtney Love knows I exist.”

Billy Corgan

The topsy-turvy, back-at-you-no-returns nature of Love and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan’s relationship could probably have its own page (well, it does have its own page). The crux of it goes something like this: they dated, they split up, stayed friends and worked together on Hole’s slick 1998 record Celebrity Skin. So all’s well that ends well, if it had ended there, which it didn’t. Instead, Corgan went postal with a nasty Twitter tirade connected to the fact he accused her of using songs he’d written on her 2010 solo album Nobody’s Daughter. The bitterness resided for most of the last decade, with Love saying in 2018, "At this point in my life, no one is my enemy. Any grudges or issues with that past? I'm done with it. The only person I'm concerned about is [Billy] Corgan. I'm like, 'What is your problem?' I just wish he'd mellow out. That's all. We're older. Get over it." But later that year, Love made a cameo at Smashing Pumpkins’ 30th anniversary, so who the hell knows, not me…

Gwen Stefani

Stefani turned herself from punk-pop hotshot into a bone fide mainstream pop star with her 2004 solo debut Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and she has Courtney Love to thank for one of its biggest songs. Stefani was minding her own business when Love declared in an interview, “Being famous is just like being in high school. But I’m not interested in being the cheerleader. I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani.” Stefani decided she’d write a song about it, and penned the huge hit Hollaback Girl with Pharrell Williams. Love didn’t write a song in return, though, instead she went on to claim in an interview with Howard Stern that she was sleeping with Stefani's ex Gavin Rossdale when they were still together. Courtney, why’d you have to escalate the situation like that?!

Redd Kross

Proto-grunge rockers Redd Kross are acknowledged as one of the groups who helped to kickstart the Pacific Northwest’s vibrant rock scene without ever hitting the commercial or critical heights of the bands who followed in their footsteps. Unfortunately, their fondness for practical jokes came back to bite them, specifically their habit of crank calling Courtney Love. They said in an interview with The Guardian in 2019 that despite sharing management with Nirvana, they never had the opportunity to support them because Love had deemed it impossible. Explaining that they’d asked to tour with Nirvana, bassist Steven McDonald said, “We were told we couldn’t, because Courtney Love said we were mean to her when she was fat… When she met Kurt Cobain, we realised: ‘Oh man, that Courtney chick – we have to be friends with her now. But she had her revenge. She blacklisted us from Nirvana tours.”

Ryan Adams

Love came for lank-haired wrong’un Ryan Adams in 2008, posting an open letter on MySpace that accused the singer-songwriter of stealing money from Frances Bean Cobain’s trust fund and spending it on making a record. It’s unclear if Love was miffed because the money was spent without her knowing, or if she paid to make the record and was miffed that it was rubbish. She wrote:

“I was sitting with some people going thru the 29 american express cards that i didnt know existed that were connected to a few HUNDRED bank accounts,and there were all the bills for Ryan Adams worst record and one of the worst records i can think of in rock and roll history ironically called"Riock and Roll " and it was paid for by ME and mostly by my child.

well on my amex atthat time the 858 but also from bank accounts….theres 200,000 thousnad dollar checks written to Barber for "comissions" ididnt even know where the fuck he was ! but here on Amex 28 is the entire invoice for Ryan- your ENTIRE album and meals and drugs and Hotels and outboard gear and wasted fabullous guitars STRAIGHT OUT OF FRANCES"S TRUST FUND

So you little shit, maybe you had NO IDEA right? is that why you used a hysterical voice mail of a very terrified and flipped out me- for your worst reviewed record and well deserved too, this record is shite totally one of the worst recordings ive ever heard yet Ryan you YOU spent 858,000 dolllars on this record of MY DAUGHTERS MONEY. so whats your paying me back plan? illbe in New York next week , you can start by working out your payment plan, because i will litiagate your thieving ass from here til eternity,”

Dave Grohl

The relationship between Love and her late husband’s former bandmates has been messy at best, and it’s mainly with Grohl that the barbs have gone back and forth. There have been many ugly moments in the feud, which have often been fuelled by arguments over the Nirvana name, unreleased music, licensing and money and maybe the worst came when Love accused Grohl of hitting on her daughter Frances Bean. Frances herself knocked that one on the head, writing, “Her recent tirade has taken a gross turn. I have never been approached by Dave Grohl in more than a platonic way. I’m in a monogamous relationship and very happy. […] Twitter should ban my mother.” It appeared they had fashioned a truce when Nirvana were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2014 but then came a diatribe in 2021 about the Foo Fighters singer: “The chaos and fury over Kurt’s death being directed at me, deflected by Dave, while he enriched and continues to enrich himself, gorging on Kurt’s fortune and Kurt’s goodwill. 27! Years!!! I’ve had enough. I’m over being made small. And being ‘forced’ to ‘just drop it’ when it affects every generation of my descendants. Nicest guy in Rock ? No.”

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.