When Hole drummer Patty Schemel brought a hand-held video camera on a world tour, she “never thought that it would go beyond a living room”. It’s gone much further than that, she tells TONY CLAYTON-LEA
WE CAN THANK our lucky stars that Hole’s drummer Patty Schemel was given a hand-held video camera just as the band embarked on their world tour in support of their album Live through This. Cinema verité has rarely been so emotive through shakily shot footage of intra-band shenanigans, Kurt’n’Courtney’s loved-upness, and Schemel’s own dabblings in drug use.
Now approaching her late 40s, self-professed feminist lesbian mother Schemel first got the idea for making a movie about her days in Hole when, five years ago, a friend advised her to get the stored analogue footage digitised before it disintegrated. The initial goal of shooting the footage, stresses Schemel, was that she would have something which preserved the experience, and that she would watch when she arrived home after months of touring. “I never thought that it would go beyond a living room.”
And so we have tremendous archive footage of an über-cool rock band on stage (if there’s a more exciting sight than Courtney Love performing in full fuck-you mode, then we have yet to see it) and rather more solemn off-stage moments (the doubts, deceits and dysfunctions of a rock band travelling from indie cool to major-label clamour) blending with current-day interviews with Love (slurring) and other Hole members Eric Erlandson (Zen-like) and Melissa Auf Der Maur (charming).
“I look at me back then and I think about so many things,” says Schemel. “Like, why did I make this decision; why did I do that? Sometimes, when we were reviewing the footage, I just wanted to shake the younger me and say ‘don’t do it!’ or ‘make a better choice!’, but of course it’s impossible to change the past. Could I have done things differently? Oh, sure. Youth is wasted on the young? Maybe, but I wasn’t thinking much beyond the moment back then.”
The moment, as Schemel sees it, wasn’t necessarily about making any statements as a woman, feminist or lesbian, but as a musician. “I felt the struggle of being a female drummer since the day I chose to play the drums,” she admits. “I felt, always, that I had something to prove in playing a male-dominated instrument in a male-dominated industry, and that pushed me. So yeah, there was a lot to prove; not through strength, but in attitude – certainly in the beginning. Oh, and being confident in my style of playing, because I’m not necessarily a technically amazing player.”
Punk rock saved Schemel from feeling like a freak. As soon as she discovered it, she felt comfortable about being precisely who and what she was. “Punk was all about being different, talking about things that you just couldn’t talk about in my small town – like politics, being gay, art, and so on.”
Not all of Hit so Hard is pretty. Watching someone’s self-respect fragment is never good, and the treatment of Schemel by Love around the time of the recording of Hole’s Celebrity Skin album is, frankly, nauseating. It’s happy days now, though (everyone is on chatty terms), but back in the day, following her ignominious departure, Schemel’s resentment bubbled then blistered.