Eric Erlandson's new book, "Letters to Kurt" (as in Cobain), has not only returned the former Hole guitarist to the spotlight but will likely bring him back to public music-making as well.
"I really am inspired to do a soundtrack to the book," Erlandson tells Billboard.com, adding that he's already started working on the project and hopes to finish it soon. "It's going to be a mix of moods, just like the letters -- sometimes, finger-picking acoustic guitar and then other things will be very rock or noisy or more experimental or jazzy, all these styles I never played in Hole. I've learned a lot about music from playing the last few years and opened myself up to improvising more. The demos I've done for the soundtrack are all recorded in one take, live, composing at the same time as recording. I'm allowing it to be raw and unfinished but still contain emotion. It's so freeing to do that."
Erlandson has played some of that music as an accompaniment to recent public readings from "Letters to Kurt," and he still calls music "my anchor." But he adds that being a solo artist is an adjustment after so many years as being "the lieutenant on the side" for Courtney Love in Hole. "With the book I've found my voice, finally," he explains. "I'm so used to supporting other people's visions...and nurturing them on all levels. Being around somebody who's been so outspoken for that 10 years of my band career, now I'm like, 'OK, I've done enough of that in this lifetime. OK, here's my voice. I'm going to say something now.' I do that with (the book), now I've got to say it in the music, too. I can nurture myself as an artist and see where it goes."
"Letters to Kurt," meanwhile, is a project Erlandson says was 10 years in the making, using his relationship with Cobain -- at one point even as an assigned handler/babysitter -- as the inspiration for a series of poetic essays that ponder music, fame, relationships, mortality and suicide. "For a long time I resisted it, and I tried to use other muses in my life -- John Lennon, even," Erlandson says. "But it didn't work, and at some point it was like I was called to face the past and start dealing with it...and not avoiding it and not hiding from it but facing it and trying to understand it and bring clarity so I can move on and become a better person." And, he adds, "I'm not writing to (Cobain). I'm writing to myself and writing to that part of him in myself, or however you want to look at it. I still feel like he would enjoy the wordplay in the book, enjoy the black humor of it. He would understand where I'm coming from if he was here."
Erlandson -- who recently revealed the existence of demos from a planned Cobain solo album -- considers the book "a bunch of creative writing, not just a bunch of personal, cathartic purging or ramblings or journal entries." But he was initially "a little depressed" when some publishers passed on "Letters to Kurt," however. "All the responses were, 'We want the tell-all,' " he says. "I thought, 'Ah, nobody's going to get this,' but the response has been just the opposite, actually." Erlandson says Cobain's family "is very cool" with the book, although he acknowledges that showing it to them was "weird."
Cobain's widow Love, meanwhile, has offered tacit endorsements of the project, while former bandmates Melissa Auf der Maur and Patty Schemel joined Erlandson for an April publication party for the book in Los Angeles. Erlandson, Love, Auf der Maur and Schemel played together on April 13 after a screening of Schemel's documentary "Hit So Hard" in Brooklyn, but Erlandson isn't making any predictions about the future for the group -- especially after battling publicly over Love's use of the Hole name for the ""Nobody's Daughter" album in 2010.
"It's happened a million times in rock history; Aerosmith went on and did an album when Joe Perry left the band, right?" Erlandson notes. "I met with (Love) back in 2007 and I knew where she should go musically, exactly what she should be doing... but what she chose to do is not my choice and not the direction I think she should've gone in. I'm more concerned with the music, not even the (Hole) contract and the name and all the hoopla around it. We have different tastes right now, and that's fine. I still think she's an incredible singer, an incredible person, and incredible lyricist and has a lot to offer."