Ian Halperin - Interview

13 June 2005

Ian Halperin

Ian Halperin - Interview

Ian Halperin - Interview
Contactmusic spoke to the award winning * investigative journalist Ian Halperin who’s re-opened the controversial case surrounding the death of Kurt Cobain.

How are you doing?

I’m great thanks; I’m taking it easy today. I go back home in a few days so I’m just wrapping everything up.

I guess we need to start at the beginning, how did the film come about?

Well firstly, this film is dedicated to all the teens who committed copycat suicides, my motivation for the film was to give a very true account of what it’s like to grow up in Aberdeen and to show the type of influence that Kurt had whilst he was growing up there, I speak to a lot of characters from the area. I say right at the beginning of the film that there isn’t any Hollywood stars in this film & I have been criticized for doing this but I think it was very important to keep it real and I know Cobain would have wanted me to use the people that I have done, the people from the streets of where he grew up. Because after all they were the people who were really real and I spoke to the people who were closest to him before he died including his grandfather Leyland Cobain.

When you first started getting all your background knowledge on this case how dubious were you that Cobain was murdered?

To be honest I was very skeptical, I co-authored two books on this subject. The first one was very skeptical on the murder theories and the second one really confirms that he was murdered after more evidence was brought to light. It was only when I was granted access to the lead coroners report and when I heard Tom Grants tapes that I was in no doubt that this was a murder.

How long was it before Tom Grant was convinced?

He was sure from the word go. Well he said Courtney lied to him constantly and that’s why he started to tape him. All these are in the secret footage on the DVD by the way. Soon after Kurt died he concluded that this was a murder but he never named names before now he is willing to. Also a very interesting piece of paper was passed onto Tom by Courtney’s own entertainment attorney, it was taken from Courtney’s back pack and it was basically her practicing the alphabet. The last five lines of the supposed suicide note didn’t actually match the rest of the letter, it’s all highly suspicious. Courtney admits in the tapes the Kurt wanted a divorce. They had a prenuptial agreement so basically if they had divorced she wouldn’t have got anything. So there is a motive there. Check out his website it’s pretty interesting.

Was his grandfather convinced that Kurt didn’t commit suicide?

Yeah, he never minced his words. He was always 100% sure that Kurt didn’t commit suicide and that he was murdered. As did Courtney Loves personal investigator Tom Grant. Courtney hired Tom when he went missing from a drug rehab center a couple of days before he was found died. Just today he has announced to the media that he is 100% sure that Cobain was murdered and Courtney was involved with the conspiracy. I’m not doing that. I’m just laying out forensic evidence that shows it’s scientifically impossible that he committed suicide with lethal dose of heroin in his system, there were no finger prints on the shot gun, this just doesn’t make sense dead men don’t wipe there own prints.

The alleged suicide note that Cobain left doesn’t mention suicide once. If you read it it’s more of a letter to his fans saying he was quitting the music industry but not life. The film also features all the secrets tapes that Tom Grant provided me. He recorded all his meetings with Courtney when she took him on. For me it is just the forensic evidence.

What about his friends? Were they all like minded?

I would say 95% of them were sure it was murder. There opinions have become stronger recently too. They couldn’t believe he shot himself. That’s how I got onto this case. I was touring with my band in Seattle and I started to meet a lot of people who were friends with him and they started telling me loads of crazy stories. I didn’t know that there had been a lot of domestic disputes where the police had been called to the Cobain house. One time the police arrived and Kurt was found hiding in a closet with a gun for protection and he told the police he was scared of Courtney. I think he was a great person. He was a great musical artist, poet and he also did a lot of drawing. His grandfather showed me a lot of his pictures. I was never a huge nirvana fan but he definitely had a real way with words. His lyrics were so deep and meaningful. I really respect a person like him who can go to such deep depths of life and reach so many people with those words. There’s no denying this guy was one of the biggest influences in 20 th century music.

Why do you think the levels of heroin in Kurt’s body at the time of the autopsy was basically over looked?

I think they basically thought it was another junky taking his life. They literally investigated this case for like 2 minutes, they basically thought he was the perfect candidate for suicide, according to his grandfather he was happier than ever but he did want to leave the music industry but he wasn’t in the frame of mind to quit life. As I said, the police only investigated this for literally 2 minutes whereas I have spent 10 years. They made a mistake.

What made you release life & death of a rock icon in Europe before America?

I use music by underground bands from Aberdeen & Seattle, I really wanted to make the film in the grunge vein, I didn’t want the film to be just about if Kurt was murdered I wanted to be more of a tribute to him. The film has almost been banned in America, I don’t think they could deal with the concept that I wanted to keep it grungy and how Cobain would have wanted it. The feedback I was getting was all great but I was always being told to add more glitz and glamour to it. I came to Europe because my price wasn’t cash it was artistic control and to make sure the film came out how I wanted it. I don’t think that would have happened if I was to try and release it in America. For instance look what happened to Michael Moore. I’m happy with the way the films turned out and that’s all I wanted.

Since 911 everyone in the states has been walking on eggshells and it’s become a very controlled society. Europe is a little more open and they have a high standard for documentaries, people seem to appreciate exposés and investigative work. In America they seem to be told to be more interested in who Paris Hilton is sleeping with. My next film I intend to do the exact same thing with and come over to France and the UK, in fact I’m going to do it from now on and if the states does want it they will have to take it how it comes.

It’s good that you have come over here and done what you thought felt right.

Yeah it has been good. Most opinions have been positive but even the people who have voiced some negativity and asked questions, it has been intelligent conversation and I appreciate that, they still seem to understand & appreciate the art of film making and realise how much work goes in to an investigative piece such as this. I always encourage film makers in North America to come here first and do what I have done because it’s important as a film maker to have artistic control over what you make and not to let the corporate side of America butcher the product because then most of your work turns into lies. History is very important to me, especially the documentation of history. That’s why I don’t like Gus Van Sant’s new film the last days. It’s based on the end of Cobain’s life but it’s so loose and exploits Cobain’s name. I actually read an article on your site where Dave Grohl actually mentioned this film and he was saying really factually had nothing to do with what his last days were like and I have to agree. I have lost a lot of respect for Van Sant; it’s a shame because I did like a lot of his work like Good Will Hunting & Drugstore Cowboy.

You spoke to a lot of the families of the copycat suicides

I spoke to several and as much as this is a small tribute to Kurt it is also dedicated to all the families of the victims. I want them to have a proper explanation about what happened and I hope this gives them more closure. Only a small part of the film deals with the murder theory the rest is all about what drove Cobain, what drove Seattle at that time and why he was so influential and why so many people took and are still taking their lives. I do deal with the murder side but I don’t want people to think its just murder, murder, murder.

You’ve managed to keep this film true to Kurt’s fans; you haven’t just got a load of big names to make your film a success. (For this we thank you!) Do you think this has improved the angle of the film?

That was my main objective. Falsely people are under the impression that he killed himself and people are still coping his death. If I can save one life by someone watching this film and learning all the facts and for them to really learn what this guy was about and how powerful he was, he was the voice of a generation, he spoke to the downtrodden and the people of the street. If this film could get this case reopened then I have done my job. I do believe this case should and will be reopened at some point and someone will eventually be convicted of his murder.

Do you think it will be Courtney Love who get convicted?

I don’t know. I know he was murdered but I’m not going to point the finger. Another problem is the American judicial system has become a joke. People are in jail who shouldn’t be and other people are walking the streets freely who shouldn’t be. OJ Simpson should not be walking the streets. There are lots of loopholes in the system. A famous case recently was the one of Martha Moxley who was murdered 30 years ago, the case was only just reopened and now someone is finally serving time for her murder. I do believe in justice and someone ought to serve time for Kurt’s murder.

Do you know if Courtney love knows you have made this documentary and if so have you had any legal dealings with her?

I believe she does know about it. In the past I have had some legal wrangles with her. I think she has realised that I’m not going to be one of these guys who lets her get her way easily. She may have lawyers but I also have the arsenal of all lawyers, I have been in this business for 20 odd years and that’s just part of the business. The film isn’t really my opinion, I have voiced the opinions of others and the facts so if she wants to come after me I would welcome my lawyers to depose her on the stand in a courtroom. It could be very interesting what she may have to reveal.

So what’s your next film about?

I’d prefer not to say too much at this point. But it’s a huge exposé on one of America’s biggest institutions. I’ve spent about 3 years on this film and it’s going to be released in the fall or early next year. It’s completely finished but I want to totally finish the Cobain film first. Again I have had some very good offers from American companies but I am sure they would do the same thing and want to change it if I got involved with them. I think Europe will like the next one, people seems to be quite intelligent over here. Even people who read tabloids have a good knowledge of what is going on. Amazingly some people don’t even know who the president of the USA is. I kid you not! I was actually thinking about doing a doc on that! If you walk around some cities in the US and ask people they will not know the name George Bush, it’s absurd but the truth!

THE COBAIN CASE: LIFE & DEATH OF A ROCK ICON will be released on 2 disc DVD on the 20 th of June.


Over two and half hours of material, including:

· Exclusive conversations with Courtney Love

· Conversations with Tom Grant – licensed private investigator

· Interviews with Kurt Cobain

· Interviews with Kurt’s grandfather, Leyland Cobain

· Forensic experts comments on the likelihood that Cobain was murdered

· Interviews with Cobain’s friends

· Secret diaries of teenagers who committed copycat suicides shortly after Kurt Cobain

Tom Grants website:


* Rolling stone Magazine award for investigative journalism


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