Patty Schemel talks about her new documentary, Hit So Hard, and Hole's fifteen-minute reunion
In 1992, drummer Patty Schemel joined the now-legendary Hole, a band that was just positioning itself for mainstream success. Less than two years later, bassist Kristen Pfaff had died of an accidental overdose and lead singer Kurt Cobain had committed suicide -- and Hole had released its platinum-selling Live Through This. On a world tour in support of the record, Schemel found herself deep in substance abuse and the pressures of musical success -- and she brought along a camera to document it all.
Kurt Cobain, Frances Bean Cobain and Patty Schemel in 1992.
The result was Hit So Hard, a documentary opening a week-long run this Friday, May 4, at the Denver FilmCenter. The film comprises the drummer's footage, woven together with detailed interviews with friends and family and a lot of raw, honest storytelling from Schemel herself. But there is life after the drama and near-death that was the '90s, and Schemel recently spoke to Westword about it -- including the unexpected Hole reunion that occurred last month, fifteen years in the making.
Westword: Why did you decide to tell your story?
It wasn't a conscious choice when we first started. The whole idea was to sort of preserve all of the footage. While we were digitizing it, [director] David [Ebersole], who was helping me do that, he would ask me questions about all of the footage. So I would tell him the stories inside each scene, and he said, "This is a great story." He didn't know a lot of it; he just kind of knew some parts. So that's how it began. It was me saying to him, "Well, do you want to do something with this?" I didn't know where it would go -- maybe it would be a project that we worked on. But it actually gained a little momentum, and now we're here.
How did you feel, seeing that footage again, when you dove into this project?
It was difficult to watch, some days. Some days were harder than others. I would go and watch and leave, and it was so heavy. It was like I had time-traveled and then come back to the present day.
You came out in a 1995 interview with Hole in Rolling Stone. While being gay was becoming something talked about in the mainstream, it wasn't like it is now. Did you feel like you desired to empower others, or make a statement with a kind of a public revelation?
No so much. When I came out in Rolling Stone, it wasn't so much of a conscious choice as it was just something that came out of each of us talking about who we are as people in a band. That's just a part of my life, which I shared in the interview -- and it became a sort of public coming out.
To me, growing up where I didn't see a whole lot about gay women, it was important to me to say that. If there was anyone out there who felt crazy or weird like I did, maybe they would feel better knowing there were other people like them out there, too. I felt lucky to have support of my mom and my dad.
You now run Dog Rocker, a pet daycare and boarding business out of your home. What's it like for you on the day-to-day?
It's such a grounding thing for me to take my dogs to the park and just walk. I talk about it in the film, but it's just about how grateful they are to just go on a walk. They don't care what band you're in or who you know or how much money you make; they're just happy to be with somebody who wants to take them out and walk. And, you know, pet them and stuff [laughs].
It keeps me humble. It keeps me grounded to think of someone other than myself.