If you thought Courtney Love was the one with all the drama behind groundbreaking band Hole, then prepare to have your mind blown. Former Hole drummer (and out artist) Patty Schemel has taken her years of awesome home video footage and created a compelling and fascinating new doc, Hit So Hard. Now Patty is talking to Instinct about making it through years of addiction, breaking barriers for female musicians and what she sees as Kurt Cobain’s everlasting impact on the gay community.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the film is all the old home movies from the early Hole and Nirvana days. Did you just happen upon the film and decide the footage would make for a great doc?
I didn’t have any plans for the footage. It was just something I recorded just for personal. So a few years ago a friend told me I had to preserve it because it was all analog, so in the process of preserving this box of 40 tapes, my friend David [Ebersole, director of Hit So Hard] was asking me questions about the scenes, and that’s really how it got started. There were never any plans for it to go anywhere except back in the closet. [Laughs]
Along with some raw moments seen on film, you’re also very candid and honest about your personal struggles with addiction. Was there any reservation about being so public?
I was a bit apprehensive about it. But the thing that I’ve liked in other artists' documentaries has been the struggle and that was something I wanted to share. I felt it was important to have the entire story, including coming out and my addiction.
So, in a way, did you feel like there would have been no way to talk about your passion for music without covering the personal, too?
Your tight friendship with Kurt Cobain is covered a lot in talking about the early days of Hole. Would you say you were closer to him than Courtney?
I wouldn’t say that, but it was a different sort of a relationship. I was very involved in both of their lives, but I knew Kurt first.
You’ve since credited Kurt with making it okay for gay musicians to be out in the industry. How so?
I did say that, but I wouldn’t say that he single-handedly made it okay. [Laughs] The amount of people that listened to Nirvana—which spanned so many people—it was something that spoke to every person who felt different or freakish. It was music that spoke to all of us.
Did you face any hostility from the music industry when you came out in Rolling Stone?
I didn’t. It was a safe place to be, in Hole. I felt comfortable there. There have been experiences since then that have been a whole different climate, especially misogyny in the industry. But I guess I was in my little cocoon.
Do you think there’s a bit of a double standard, that maybe it’s easier for a woman to be an out musician versus a man?
I think it’s just hard across the board. I think there’s a lot more visibility now, which is great, but you’re still put into a little box.
What do you hope people take away from the film as it now goes into wide release?
Well, there’s the archival stuff for the real Hole fans, there’s stuff for people in recovery, there’s stuff for people who love dogs. [Laughs] There’s something for everyone! Honestly, I just would hope that people get a different perspective. During the making of it I just wanted to tell my story of what I experienced, so if there is a preconceived idea of what happened, this is the way it happened from my eyes.
I’d imagine some of that may be directed at the whole Celebrity Skin controversy and drama when that album was being made. So do you feel like this is your platform to set the record straight?
Exactly! That was a big one, too. And the film speaks for itself on that.
Was there any hesitation from the other three band members from participating?
Not at all. Everyone was really forthcoming with their time and sitting down to talk about whatever. And Eric [Erlandson] and Courtney gifted the publishing [of the music], so it couldn’t have been made without that.
It would have been hard to make a film about Hole without any Hole music, huh? What did you think when Courtney regrouped Hole, though without you, Melissa Auf Der Maur and Eric?
Her new version? It’s kinda not what Hole was originally. But she talks about it in the film, like it’s Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails, it’s Courtney Love’s Hole. [Laughs] It was actually Eric and Courtney’s partnership that created [Hole], so it’s a tough one to say. [Pause] It’s not really Hole. It’s Courtney and some guys.
What is your relationship with the band today?
Eric is actually coming out with a book of poetry, so we’re doing some things together with the film and book. And we get together with Melissa.
Do you and Courtney still talk?
Yeah, we talk. Text now and then. She’s come out to the film for premieres and stuff.
The very first premiere last year was the first time you four had all been together in some years, right?
Yeah. Of course there was so much to it, and so much talk leading up to it that it felt so heavy. But it was fine. We all have our individual things that we’re doing and we’re excited to talk about now, but it was cool...When we played music together we were really young. So it’s crazy that we can look back now and see our younger selves in this film.
Well you have another new role in life now, that of a mother! I can’t help but think about how cool it will be one day for your daughter to say that her mom is Patty Schemel and was a part of Hole. Is that something you think about, sharing with her the less-than-glamorous moments of the rock life?
Yeah, when the time does come, if she’s curious about that, we’ll share it with her. But quite a ways down the road! [Laughs] Way down the road!
Hit So Hard is in select theaters now and on Blu-ray and DVD June 5