Patty Schemel :: Hole Drummer ’Hits Hard’ Then Rises
Raised in a farm town outside of Seattle, openly lesbian drummer Patty Schemel never dreamed her right foot would pedal the band Hole toward international stardom, defining the 90s grunge era with such hits as "Doll Parts" and "Miss World." One minute, she was swimming in accolades from critics and fans alike, resulting in a cover shoot for Rolling Stone. The next minute fame hit like a wave, drowning the angst-rock heroine in a sea of drug addiction, where she hit rock-bottom the day she realized that she was homeless, sleeping in an LA parking lot.
Detailing her triumphant tale, the P. David Ebersole-directed rockumentary Hit So Hard mashes up family and colleague interviews, along with never-before-seen tour footage shot on Schemel’s Hi-8 camera, to provide viewers with a glimpse into the life of the little drummer girl who once resided with Hole’s Courtney Love and her partner Kurt Cobain.
Along with Ebersole and producer Todd Hughes, Schemel chatted with EDGE about the film, which premiered at the 2011 SXSW Festival.
a great story
EDGE: Patty, tell us, what made you decide to release this footage now, 20 years after the release of Hole’s first album?
Schemel: It rather happened by accident. Christina Soletti saw the concert footage and said you should preserve this. So Christina, who is my wife and a producer of the film, got a dubbing deck and we started digitizing it. She spoke with P. David and Todd, and they thought ’there’s a great story here’, and it just unraveled.
EDGE: Was there any footage too personal to release to the public?
Schemel: Yeah, there were some private moments that people in the shots might have not want aired. Personally, for me, everything was up for grabs. As P. David explained, "that’s what makes a great story."
Ebersole: (Laughs) There was only one scene she wouldn’t let me use. It was where she was wearing a dress.
A different genre
EDGE: P. David, as a political filmmaker, what made you decide to work in a completely different film genre?
Ebersole: I think it was the ability of Patty to be so honest about the story. I thought the story could help people, telling the tale about what it’s like to be a young musician with temptations. It showed what it’s like to make it to the other side. There are other things as well, such as the fact that Patty was early on, openly gay. Also, she’s a rare woman drummer. I come from a strong feminist background, so putting together a story where a woman can hit hard like the ’big dude’ rock musicians - that was attractive to me.
EDGE: In the early 90’s, what kind of obstacles in the industry did you face as an openly gay musician?
Schemel: You know, I felt really protected within my band. There were the typical issues, like not getting enough respect as a female drummer, but I felt really safe doing press with my gays, with my people.
EDGE: On the film’s website, you asked fans for 15,000 to help complete the project. What was the most expensive aspect of the filming process?
Ebersole: Ultimately, it was post-production. We edited it at home. We digitized it ourselves. Once you take what’s on your computer and go to the post-facility, that’s when it gets expensive. Obtaining the interviews was cheap.
Hughes: Yes, Patty helped with access to people. For instance, here’s Gina Schock’s (The Go-Go’s) phone number.
Living in a parking lot
EDGE: Patty, tell us about the ’rock-bottom’ event that made you bounce back?
Schemel: I was living in the parking lot. I had been arrested. It was a moment where I thought ’I could die if I keep doing this’ or ’die if I don’t keeping doing this’.
EDGE: What made you want to live?
Schemel: Consuming more and more drugs, the search for the next ’hit’ that could bring me back to the feeling of the first one.
EDGE: As a close friend of Kurt Cobain, how did his death influence your drug use at the time?
Schemel: It increased a lot. Then, our bass player Kristen (Pfaff) overdosed. And then everyone decided to get clean and focus on the music. I didn’t want to talk about Kurt. I didn’t want to talk about (his daughter) Frances.
Ebersole: That’s what I think is interesting about the story. Kurt was Patty’s friend. Kristen was Patty’s friend. Whereas others were looking at these people as mythical figures, Patty had to deal with the pain of a personal loss.
Hughes: These kids went from playing in little bands to being huge superstars. And the industry didn’t care about them. It was all about what they could do to sell more records.
EDGE: Did you agree with the more radio-friendly sound of Hole’s third album, Celebrity Skin?
Schemel: Not so much. There were great songs. It’s really hard to listen to it, because of the story beneath it. I wrote some of the songs, but I’ll just leave it open.
Hughes: A lot about this question is the crux of the movie. It’s what makes it interesting.
EDGE: Patty, with that said, have you and Courtney entertained the thought of collaborating again?
Schemel: No...but...it could happen.
Hit So Hard premiered at the SXSW Festival in Austin on March 15, 2011. It will be screened in New York City, NY as part of the New Directors/New Film series on March 28, 2011, 6pm, at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). A second screening takes place on March 30, 2011 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. For more details about this screening or future ones, visit