Patty Schemel – The Collapse Board Interview
You also spent time living with Courtney and Kurt [Cobain]?
Yeah, I did.
What are the best parts about living with the people you create with?
The moments of being spontaneous going to play music together. Kurt would get a lot of records in the mail and we’d listen to records and talk about what we liked about Sebadoh and Beat Happening. If we felt like playing music we’d get a space to practice in, switch it up: Kurt would play drums and I’d play bass or guitar. When Melissa and I lived together we would do the same thing too. We’d have a little studio and started a side project band [Constant Comment]. There was always trying to create something.
I know you were close to Kurt, how did you first meet? He was a fan of your band with your brother (Larry), Kill Sybil?
I met him before then from my old punk rock band The Primitives, we played in Tacoma. I’d see him around at shows and there was the Community World Theater in Tacoma. That was another spot through mutual friends and seeing each other’s bands.
In a super old interview you did with an Australian paper back in the 90s you commented that playing songs over and over again, night after night, you become a little desensitized to them but there are still certain songs that give you chills when you play; one of those songs is “Drunk In Rio” that you wrote with both Kurt and Courtney. You said it held a lot of meaning for you.
Yeah. I’d forgotten about that! It was one of those situations where we were in Rio and Nirvana was recording some stuff there. Courtney and I would go in there – they had their instruments set up – and we’d do some recording too. Big John who was in The Exploited worked with Nirvana and was there. He’d get on bass, Courtney would play guitar and me on drums. Kurt sang on ‘Drunk In Rio’, it was really just a jamming thing. It was a special moment. It was one of those moments where it all just came together. A lot of times we’d jam around and make stuff up. Kurt wanted to do everything except what he does normally, so we would do noise stuff and mess around as much as we could — he wanted to play drums. It was a real pretty song.
In another interview you once mentioned that the only thing that separated Kurt from people was his drug addiction and said that it was the same for you; can you tell me about that?
I felt like that I had to hide it. I didn’t want anyone to know I was strung out. All I wanted to do … once you’re on it and you’re an addict you don’t want to do anything except that drug constantly. You want to stay in that comfort zone. It helps you block out the world. You just exist. That’s kind of where I wanted to go, just to be shut off from everything.
A review for Hit So Hard observed that the movie is a story of survival and said “survival involves a combination of luck, strength and love”. Would you agree with that?
Yeah, yeah. Ultimately being a drummer wasn’t going to save my life or doing more drugs wasn’t going to save my life. I just reached out and changed everything. Changed the person I used to be. That was my only way out. To strip everything bare to begin again without the identity of being a drummer in Hole or all that.
Your mum is also a recovering person herself. Did she offer you any advice during your recovery?
Yeah she’s always … she’s seen me go in and out of drugs and situations. She had to do her own work around that about letting me go. She of course supports me. But while I was out there, there wasn’t really anything that she could do or say. Now that I’m clean today and life’s different I understand what she meant.
Have your parents always been supportive of your musical career?
Yeah, my dad bought me my first drum kit for me when I was 11. My mom would drive me to my drum lessons. When it [the documentary] showed at the Seattle International Film Festival, my drum teacher came up to me and of course he looked quite a bit older than I remember [laughs] but it was amazing! He said “Remember me?” I recognized his eyes and was like [gasps]. He said ‘That’s right, it’s me. I came’. It was really a special moment to see him and have him ask how my parents were.
You have a musical project with your brother Larry called Green Eyes and have been in bands with him previously. Have you guys always been close?
Yeah we were close growing up. In Seattle we drank together, we used drugs together, we were in a band together—fortunately he got clean and sober way before I did. He’s totally supportive of things now. I mentioned in the film that it’s back to basics for us, we’re just playing music because we love to and there’s no rules around it which is refreshing.
I find that’s when the best stuff happens, you don’t have any restrictions and you’re just creating organically. It seems to flow better.
Yeah, if you don’t have that thing hanging over you where you have to deliver, or it has to meet these requirements to become a success as a hit song or whatever [laughs]. It’s so much more freeing. Things just come when they come and it’s pure that way.