While being in a successful rock band seems like the stuff dreams are made of, that wasn’t always the case for Patty Schemel, drummer for the band Hole from 1992 to 1998. Schemel, an out lesbian, was traveling the world with fellow band members Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson and Melissa Auf der Maur and enjoying all the joys of fame but, as she told AfterEllen.com earlier this week, the ride also had a darker side in her drug addiction that inevitably led to her departing from the band and nearly losing her life.
Despite the up-and-down times for the drummer, one constant was that Schemel was constantly at work documenting everything on camera and now that raw, honest footage has been put together in the documentary Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death Story of Patty Schemel (which screened at Outfest) . The upfront and honest film chronicles the drummer’s life before, during and after Hole, including dealing with being gay in a small town (Marysville, Washington), being out without reservation and how she came out of her addiction to live a happily married life in Silverlake.
AfterEllen.com: Had you always thought that all the footage you took over the years would eventually come together for a documentary? Was that remotely a plan?
Patty Schemel: I didn’t think it would go anywhere else but my living room, really, but I’m not the kind of person that keeps a daily journal so I thought I would just document all of it with my camera and there were just tons of tapes.
AE: How was it to go back and relive that whole time whether you were looking at all those tapes or just talking about the past?
PS: I hadn’t seen any of it in years and to go back and look at it brought me right back to those moments and then David [Ebersole, the director of the film] was with me asking me “What’s this about?” or “Where’s this?” so I’d go inside the picture and I’d tell the story so for a few weeks I was taken back in time and it was interesting but also an emotional thing, as well.
AE: Were there things that you didn’t remember whether it was due to that period on drugs or just things you merely forgot?
PS: Oh yes, there was so much that reminded me of certain words we used to say all the time or different things like the photos or the footage of my snare drums, which sit so differently now. It was some ridiculously detailed stuff. Also, just the growth of me as a player and then also “Oh, I had those shoes! What was I thinking?” It was like looking back in a yearbook and going “Whoa!” Some things were interesting and I’d think “that was a clever choice” or “that was not such a clever choice.”
AE: As a viewer, it’s easy to watch your story and think “How did this person survive everything that happened here?” Do you see it that way?
PS: I do as far as how different my life is today. I can definitely see difference in the way in how I used to live and how I live today, which is completely different. In that way, I have survived.
AE:I think in the movie you summed up the drug addiction when you said if you had to choose between Angelina Jolie and a crack pipe you’d choose the crack pipe!
PS: I know! But that gives you an idea of what addiction is. To put it into hot lady terms, that’s how it is. I mean to choose between the hottest girl in the world and then to someone holding up your drug of choice you’re definitely going for that.
AE: And Angelina is one of those people that anyone would sleep with!
PS: That’s why she jumped into my head because she’s ultimately beautiful to any human!
AE: I hadn’t heard of the Saturn Return philosophy where all these rock stars like Kurt Cobain had died at the age of 27. Did you know about that at the time since you joined Hole when you were at that exact age?
PS: I didn’t know about it but Melissa (Auf der Maur) had discussed it when I was first introduced to the whole concept. She has this spiritual connection to the world so I love it when she explains things in terms like that. She’s not clinical about her explanations. They’re always spiritual, which I love.
AE: While you were in Hole, you were very upfront and open about being a lesbian and even the early-to-mid 90s was very different than today. Did you put a lot of thought into coming out at the time?
PS: I didn’t care. I thought from where I was with my band and my peers — I felt safe with them. I had had experiences of sexist discrimination about being a female drummer growing up and also the fear of being an out lesbian but when I started to play music and I got into my band and came out, I didn’t really think twice about being out. It’s part of my identity and it’s something that I can’t hide.
After the time I was in Hole, I experienced situations where I was discriminated against because I was a female drummer and I was in rehearsal situations with guys involved in a music project that were talking about girls and porn or with a laptop with porn playing. I was like “Really?” That s–t would not fly in my band. There’s no way! I don’t think it was the sign of the times but more of a situation of the style of music that I was playing then with a group of people and what we allowed. To have never experienced discrimination would be a lie.