Hole's 'Celebrity Skin' at 20: Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino on the Influence of the Group's Mainstream Crossover

ISSUE 20 2018 - DO NOT REUSE!!!
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
From left: Hole’s Samantha Maloney, Melissa Auf der Maur, Eric Erlandson and Love in 1998.

When Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino was just on the cusp of teendom, she discovered the music of Hole, only in reverse. "Celebrity Skin is so different from other Hole records," says the California native, who saw it as a gateway point to prior Hole records Live Through This and Pretty on the Inside. "It was backtracking for me and I was like, this is so cool that bands can sound completely different over different years." It made the 31-year-old a lifelong fan of Hole, and particularly of front woman Courtney Love. "People can try and put her down and say whatever they want about her but it's just this kind of thing to me where she's a fucking hero—she's literally a hero," she says. With the 20-year anniversary of Celebrity Skin approaching on Sept. 8, Cosentino reflects on the impact that both the album and Love had on her since its release.

Celebrity Skin is the record that introduced me to Hole. I remember seeing the “Malibu” music video on TRL and just thinking it was super cool. I was such a fan of the fact that Courtney Love’s whole attitude was, “I don’t give a shit.” In my generation of female-fronted bands that were of massive popularity, there wasn't much else that had that same vibe of, “Fuck you, I don’t care what you think about me.”

When I was 12, I hadn't heard anything that was grunge-y, because I don’t even think I’d discovered Nirvana yet by that point. It was so sad that I never had this thought in my mind that girls can play this kind of music as well. I think it was just the attitude of as I was exiting my pre-teen Hanson obsession and getting more into my pop-punk thing, the idea that a woman was doing it in the same way that all the guys I liked were doing it. It was just the heaviness of the guitars and I really specifically remember that image of seeing her with her guitar super low and she had that Courtney Love stance that nobody else could pull off, but I feel that every girl that plays guitar tries to pull it off, myself included. I remember seeing that and remember thinking, this is so cool. That's what made me go down the rabbit hole of becoming of a Hole fan.

"Boys on the Radio"... When I heard that one when I was younger, I remember thinking it was super cool and I really, really liked the idea of it being a song called "Boys on the Radio." Because again, at that time, women playing music was such a new thing to. When I think about that, that was so fucked up that I was this young girl thinking, "Girls can do this too!" And then I would say "Heaven Tonight" is probably my favorite song on that record.

Courtney Love is one of those artists who did it in her own way. The style of music obviously very much changed [from 1994’s Live Through This], and they made a very commercially successful radio-rock pop record. Hole is one of those bands that when I look at the evolution between records, it’s one that is inspiring to me as an artist who continually tries to step it up on each thing I do.

When Courtney did her clothing line with Nasty Gal a couple of years ago, I was asked to perform some of her songs at the launch party, and she was there. I remember I fucked up “Malibu” so bad, and she came to me and was like, “You played that better than I ever did.” I just remember being like, “This is why I love her. She’s not perfect; nobody is.”

Celebrity Skin is one of those records where every song is good. It’s just perfect to me. Courtney Love is the type of icon that people have tried to tear down forever, and have tried to throw so many things at her. I don’t think that it will ever be possible. She’s a queen among all sorts of shitty fucking people who have somehow managed to become famous.

As told to Steven J. Horowitz.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 25 issue of Billboard.