Hole Drummer’s ‘Hit So Hard’ Strikes a Chord27 Apr, 2012 By: Ashley Ratcliff
Drug addition and a highly publicized ousting from alternative rock band Hole sent drummer Patty Schemel further into despondency, with her living on the streets and stealing to support her heroin habit during her darkest times.
Thankfully, Schemel doesn’t look like what she’s been through.
At 45 and standing tall on six years of sobriety, the musician, who has since married and is a mother, has many a story to tell about her highs and lows, as seen in the documentary Hit So Hard: The Life & Near Death Story of Drummer Patty Schemel.
Well Go USA releases the film June 5 (order date May 1) on DVD ($24.98) and in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack ($29.98).
Hit So Hard began with Schemel wanting to preserve the footage she shot on her Hi-8 camera while on tour with Hole in the 1990s. It’s through these recordings that the viewers get to see a different side of Schemel, frontwoman Courtney Love, guitarist Eric Erlandson, the late bassist Kristen Pfaff and her replacement, Melissa Auf der Maur.
For the grunge-era band, it was a time of unadulterated bliss and utter chaos, marred by drug abuse.
“It was pretty heavy to go back in time and look at all of it,” Schemel said. “All those feelings would come up again. When we decided to do the film, it was [like I] dove back into time for those moments. …
“I was so young then. Definitely made poor choices, but who doesn’t in their 20s?”
The documentary presents footage of Schemel’s close friend Kurt Cobain, casting the late Nirvana musician in a new light. It also features the unreleased song by Love and Cobain, “Stinking of You.”
“The only information we have about somebody like Kurt Cobain is that he was this out-of-control heroin addict in pain sitting in a corner and ready to die,” said first-time documentarian P. David Ebersole. “We had this footage that showed he was this hilarious, young father, and it humanizes him.”
When Ebersole, Schemel’s longtime friend, began interviewing her for the project in 2004, she says she was a different person than she even is today. At the time, she was “a little shaky” in early recovery — then just two years sober — and had no desire to play drums anymore.
“I trusted [Ebersole] with all this stuff, this footage, and that he wouldn’t exploit certain things … and [that] he would take good care of my story,” Schemel said.
The exercise was unfamiliar territory for both the filmmaker and subject.
“There are all those things that you wouldn’t ask of a friend,” he said. “… The story began to unfold, and I began to see that Patty had a whole story to tell, and that there were a lot of things in the history of what she went through that she had not had a chance to talk about and that had been misconstrued as well.”
For instance, public perception widely is that Schemel was kicked out of the band due to her drug addiction. However, Hit So Hard explores Schemel’s breaking point, which came during unnecessarily rigorous recording sessions for Hole’s Celebrity Skin album.
She put it this way: “I created a situation where I was not hirable.”
Schemel then became wrapped up in drugs to deal with her problems. In the film, Love shares about one particular phone call she received from her strung-out bandmate, asking for money to support her habit. Undergoing detox after detox, and eight stints in rehab, Schemel finally made the choice to get clean.
“There was nothing special about the day,” she said. “It was just one of those things where it’s like, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ And I made a call and asked for some help. … What I did differently the last time was I did everything I was told to.”
These days, Schemel is nostalgic about her past with Hole.
“I miss that band, and I miss our music a lot, and making our music,” she said. “There were some pretty amazing moments along the way. Playing to a crowd of 80,000 people is huge.”
Erlandson, who recently penned the book Letters to Kurt, said he doesn’t miss the “hoopla” surrounding the band, but likewise misses the music they created.
“I’m kind of sad about the potential that was there,” he said. “If we were to continue and make more music, what would have happened? There were a few moments where the family was a good, functional family.”
Showing how far they’ve come, Hole on April 13 reunited for 13 minutes, playing a couple of songs at the Brooklyn premiere of Hit So Hard.
“When we were backstage, it was all our roles in the dysfunctional family, the dynamics, all just coming back the way they were,” Erlandson said. “You can live your life and have all these experiences and grow as a person, but you get around the same energies and it’s like you fall back in, just like a family.”
“It was like Thanksgiving dinner,” Schemel added.
Being that the first cut of Hit So Hard was four hours, fans will have a lot of bonus material to sift through, including a commentary with Schemel and Ebersole, a “Teen Fan Can Really Play” featurette, a Q&A with Hole and the filmmakers, and more of Schemel’s home videos.
Ebersole said highlights of that footage include Schemel dressed in drag with over-the-top hair and makeup, as well as clips from when Hole, Metallica, Veruca Salt and Moist descended on a dry Inuit town in northern Canada for a rock ‘n’ roll slosh fest.