Patty Schemel – The Collapse Board Interview
Interview by Bianca Valentino
You may know Patty Schemel most famously as the drummer from Hole (in their heyday). You may know Patty Schemel from recent musical projects Green Eyes and Psychic Friend, or you may even know Patty from her early days in bands Kill Sybil [fine band – Ed] and Doll Squad. Well, with the release of documentary Hit So Hard: The Life & Near Death Story of Patty Schemel the world’s about to learn a whole lot more.
Pieced together over four years from 40-plus Hi-8 tapes Patty had stored at the back of her closest untouched for years (shot during her time in Hole), and with recent interviews with bandmates, peers, friends and family tying it all together, the doco delivers insight on the ups and downs of her rock’n’roll journey so far. Drug addiction, the death of close friends, internal band troubles, her struggle to get clean, it’s all there. And now today, clean and sober, as a mother, wife, business entrepreneur, as well as a musician, Patty is here on Collapse Board talking in-depth about all that and more.
At the beginning of your documentary Hit So Hard, Eric [Erlandson] was talking about you and comments, “Every drummer I’m starting to realise is a comedian … she was like a full-on comedian”; do you think of yourself as being a funny person?
I try to look at the more humorous side of things when I can. It’s gotten me though a lot of things and situations.
Where you ever the class clown?
Yes, in high school actually, officially, I was. It’s in the yearbook [laughs].
How big a part does humour play in your everyday life?
It’s really important. I consider it something in other people that I love and my best friendships are with other funny people [laughs].
Can you remember the last time that you laughed at yourself?
Mostly every day I could say actually. This morning probably! [Laughs]
In a previous interview you mentioned that after the film was done Eric came over and watched it with you, liked it and was really behind it. You said it was really important to have his support to tell your story, why?
At the beginning of the process of looking at all the footage we hadn’t really spoken in a while. We just drifted apart. After looking at all the footage, starting to piece everything together, I realised he’s a major part of my history and an important person in my life. The idea of the documentary is more about telling my story, and it’s not about hurting anyone else’s feelings or to show them in a light that they didn’t want to be shown in. Having him say “I liked it” was important because I wanted him to feel OK with how he was portrayed in it. I wasn’t trying to get everyone up in arms or talk shit about people.
When you first looked back at the footage of recent interviews that were shot with everyone for it, where you surprised by anything that they said? Did you know they felt the way they did about you?
Purposely I didn’t look at any of the footage of the interviews when they were happening. I kind of stayed out of that process. We started in 2007 and within the last year was kind of the time that P. David [Ebersole – director] was showing me the cuts he was starting to put together. I watched the first cut and saw the interviews and didn’t really know how anyone was feeling. More or less I would know how Courtney [Love]’s feeling. We don’t keep in touch on a monthly basis, but I was more in touch with her because we’d do some music together sometimes. But as far as Eric and Melissa [Auf der Maur], I didn’t really know where to begin as far as how they were feeling about certain moments. To hear what their thoughts were was important to me. For them to hear how I felt as well was important.
During the time you played in Hole where you close to any particular member of the band?
Yeah. At the beginning I was really close to Eric because musically it was just us. He was showing me all the songs and then we were writing a bunch. Then I was close to Kristen [Pfaff] because we were the rhythm section and then Melissa.
I know you spent time living with Melissa in Los Angeles. I remember reading an interview with P. David and he said that there’s a whole sequence from the movie he had to cut with footage of you and Melissa living together while waiting to do the recording sessions for Hole album Celebrity Skin.
Yeah a lot of stuff! She and I used to do this thing where we would set up the camera – there was a lot of downtime – we’d do an intensive time of writing, Courtney, Eric, I and Melissa and then we’d have all this time off. Courtney would go off to do something so we’d have a lot of time off for Melissa and I to entertain ourselves and create these elaborate performances. We’d have a talk show one day and another day we’d have characters or do silly dances. In between those were moments of talking about what was going on in our love lives in the middle of a silly dance [laughs]. There’s lots of that happening. We thought what’s the point of putting that in there though? For humour sake maybe on a DVD extras or something [laughs].
That makes me so happy that you say that, so many times I’ve done silly stuff like that with my friends and it’s nice to know we’re not alone.
[Laughs] Oh yeah! We’d also incorporate other people into it unknowingly. We’d go over to their house in character and they’d be like, what? Then we’d force them to be a part of it. It was basically reality TV but, not.