Patty Schemel

By Clare McCabe

Patty Schemel is one of my favourite drummers who became famous playing in one of my favourite bands,Hole. And luckily for us all she is back playing and recording with Upset who is touring NZ in a couple of weeks. Patty is also the star of her own film Hit So Hard that I have watched several times and totally recommend. It is a wonderful time capsule of Hole in the 90s when they were at their peak and gives you an insight into what it was like to be a part of one of the coolest bands of that era. It is also super sad at times to see how Patti's life went downhill for many years. But she is back, with a wife and little daughter in her life and a new band to play with. Here I ask her some personal and music-related questions about her life, her film and her current band.

Just to start off, I watched 'Hit So Hard' again this week - very interesting film. Would love to know what made you decide to complete the film about your life and was it your idea?

Initially it came out of just wanting to preserve the footage from what was high-8 tape to digital. My wife works in TV and film and a friend said you should preserve all that, so from that it started. She had a two-track she borrowed from a friend and we were doing the transfer and while she was watching it she was like, you know, this is some good stuff and then she spoke to a friend of hers (P David Ebersole) and that's kind of (to cut a long story short) how it started. Them looking at it and then us continuing that process of preserving it. So I would go over to his house and he would sit there with a notebook and go what's happening here and he'd go through each tape and it was definitely a time machine - there was over 40 hours of footage.

Wow. Were you the only person around at that time who took all the footage - were you the one that kept all the memories?

Yeah I'd gotten this camera for Christmas and Eric was always journaling and Melissa was doing photos, she was the photographer, so I was documenting everything through filming. But Eric also did have a camera and he shot a lot of stuff.

So there's a book next, for the photos maybe?

Oh yeah, I think that Melissa definitely has to be the one that does the book because she's kind of more the photographer of all of us. And she has so many great photos, I think that's the thing that she plans on doing when it feels right for her.

The other thing I noticed which I thought was really cool in the film was that your brother collected all the flyers from all your early bands and all the shows that you did - has he still got all that stuff?

Yeah he's kind of the archivist in our family and he saved all of our flyers - we're both quite crazy pop culture collectors but he was a little more detailed and more organised about it than I was and he has all of it, and you know a brilliant record collection.

I love how he can get you talking about stuff - there are so many memories when you bring out all the old flyers or photographs. It's cool that you can remember and look back and go wow yeah I remember that first time when we played at the school hall or whatever.

Yeah it was great that he had that - all those flyers were really cool.

One more question on the film, how difficult was it for you to be filmed talking about such personal stuff and to go through everything again?

Some days it was really hard to talk about situations and I would spend the day planning an interview and it would be really difficult just because it was just so heavy. Some days were better than others, you know, some days I'd feel like oh that's fine I can do it, and other days... I mean now there's been far more time between, I mean the time has gone and I can work around this...

When the film was released what sort of reaction did you get from the critics and the fans out there? Because it's been out a couple of years now hasn't it?

Well it was pretty positive and I don't want to hear anything bad, I mean I don't really read the comments, I don't care what people say really. But the people that came out to the screenings and for the Q&As, there were so many great conversations about recovery, how people related to the recovery aspect or people related to that kind of music, feminism and music and coming out and there was a lot of connections that people made that were really cool to talk about. It was great to hear the impact of Hole's music on a lot of people.

Absolutely, because it brings back such good memories - I mean there's happy parts of the movie and sad parts but it brings back so many good memories of that music, I mean for me at least - which is what you wanted I guess.

Yeah there was some great live stuff - I think there was some Big Day Out footage in there...

Indeed there was and I did not attend and I watched that footage and said "damn it" to myself.  Ok let's talk about the new band - I understand that you met one of the girls from Upset on Twitter - how cool is that?

Yeah that's Ali. Ali is our singer/guitarist. She was in a band called Vivian Girls and I was a big fan of Vivian Girls and she was in Best Coast and we met just following each other on Twitter, we had a mutual respect for each other and like she'd tweet at me and say something and I'd tweet back. You know we had similar interests and so that's how that started. And then she was starting up a new band and asked if I wanted to listen to her songs so that's how it all started.

Cool, so are you guys enjoying making new music and going back out on tour?

Yeah I am having a good time with it, you know, when I can go. I mean everybody has their day jobs in the band, I mean I'm a mom, so those are priorities. But when we do go out it's fun to play. And to check out... there are so many great bands these days, so many great bands with women that I'm loving listening to.

Like who in particular are we liking at the moment?

I like Bleeding Rainbow and Potty Mouth is great. Oh and Tacocat from Seattle, my ultimate favourite band is Tacocat.

Ok I will look them up immediately. Now another question about music, do you think you can still make money out of a career in music these days?

Well it's so tough just because, I mean you have to tour. It's not about selling your records any more you know to make a living. I mean you've always had to tour but I think that it's really difficult now... but that's the situation these days.

It is, I mean I do interviewing/reviewing for tickets or love rather than money. There's just not enough money out there for us to make a living from. You have to do something, like you say, a day job that earns the money.

Yeah right. Once it was punk-rock, anti-corporate, anti "the man" and now it's like we just need to get a Red-Bull sponsorship and then we'll make some money, that's the way around it. And I'm not above that you know because you've got to do what you've got to do. But it's just such a complete 180.

Yeah like the total opposite of what it once was...

Right, right, you know everybody wants to get their Apple computer commercial or whatever.

Yeah I agree. Now another question, speaking of touring, what was it like touring with Juliette Lewis? I know you did that in the past and made an album with her band, was that great?

Yeah she was such an amazing person, so much energy and so excited about music, you know like super excited about exploring it and she just has a natural talent as a singer and a performer. But also she was really open, like she would ask so many questions about anything... you know she has no concerns about if it was cool to ask about things like "what's a soundcheck"? I mean now she's like toured around the world and stayed in a million places but she was just so great then, she was really inspiring to be in a band with and I had a great time playing music with her and being part of The Licks.

Yeah, it's just a great band and you're right, she's just so enthusiastic, that's what makes it exciting. Ok let's go back to when you first started being a drummer, who originally inspired you to get into drumming and to be that person in the band?

I saw a drummer in a band that came to my school and I was excited, I saw the drummer playing drums and was excited by the sound and the loudness. It was in the late 70s, early 80s, and punk rock had started and I was seeing bands, I mean not seeing them literally but trying to get my hands on anything that could tell me more about it. I was so into the GoGos and Suzi Quatro and The Runaways were huge influences. Where I grew up you know it was ... it's so great that people today, kids today can find out about anything through the internet but where I grew up it was really remote. I mean it was a suburb of Seattle but it wasn't like LA or New York where you could get really great records.

And so I got any kind of information about the music I liked everywhere I could and once I got old enough I started going into the city which was Seattle and just exploring you know and finding out and then I was old enough to go to shows and that's when my world just spun around. I was able to see great bands with men and women playing noise you know or playing punk rock or playing drums in interesting ways and not your traditional instruments either. And then also seeing other freaky people that were like me.

Yeah I was just going to say that - finding other people that are into it as well. Now speaking of current stuff again, is your daughter showing any interest in music yet, are you getting her into the drums at all?

Yes. Yeah she has her own drum-set already. She's three years old. She has a small drum-set. She has it so she can just hit her drums and play them. But the other day she had a Share Day at school and she decided to bring the guitar which I was concerned about, I just said are you sure, you don't want to bring any drumsticks or drum stuff? And she said no, no, I want to bring guitar, like Uncle Larry - my brother he's a guitar player. So I was like if that's the path you're going in, that's fine.

She's just going to learn to play them all, so she can see what she wants to do later right?

Yeah that's right.

And your wife is she musical?

No she doesn't play any instruments but she used to work in film and TV productions, kind of behind the scenes. But one of our biggest connections when we met was we have similar musical tastes. Though one thing I tease her about is that she was really into Duran Duran when she was growing up.

How could you not be - that's adorable?

I know isn't it? I mean she probably doesn't like me just blabbing it around the world but... whatever.

No, no tell her not to be ashamed of that. Ok let's have another quick question about Upset. The new album that you guys did together, did you collaborate on it or did one of you come up with the ideas and then you went in and recorded?

A lot of songs had been songs that Ali had kicking around you know, there were pretty much rough ideas already completed and then I added drum parts and we changed arrangements as a group - so it was a group effort.

Was it good to be back recording again - has it been awhile since you did that?

Yeah it was fun. I mean I've recorded, I've been pretty busy but it was great to play and to record again and to record these songs and get excited about it.

So coming to New Zealand, is that soon?

Yeah it's the week after next, Australia and New Zealand, that's soon.

And going to Australia as well?

Yeah, yeah I haven't been since 1995.

No way that's nearly 20 years ago...

Wow it is.

Ok now I have to ask, is there any truth to the rumours about you playing with Hole or making another album with them in the future?

Yes. We've been talking and that's all I can say about it. I mean I guess we might have hinted at something and everyone was like whoah, we don't know.... But we miss each other, well that might be a little bit strong... but we've been talking about it.

I love it - we've been "talking"... Now one last question about the film, right at the end, when you came out of rehab, you worked at the dog centre and with dogs. Is that still part of your life?

Yeah I still have a few clients but since our daughter was born, I had to... I mean I used to take her out in a little sling, like carry her and hike with my pack of dogs but now she's too old. And so I've kind of just slowed it down a lot with my dog business. But you know I still miss all the dogs. But so basically it's music and being a mom right now.

Music and kids - that's cool, that's a good place to be. And I bet you'll miss them all when you go out on tour this time?

Yeah, yeah being a parent. It's basically a new kind of missing.

And that was a wrap on the interview. Thanks so much Patty, we'll see you in a couple of weeks when you get to New Zealand.

Upset will be touring NZ with White Lung in mid-June - gigs are planned for Christchurch, Wellington andAuckland. Don't miss out. And go grab the film Hit So Hard when you have a chance - you won't regret watching it.

White Lung & Upset

June 11th:  Churchills, Christchurch

June 12th:  Bodega, Wellington

June 13th:  Kings Arms, Auckland

Tickets via Under The Radar, Real Groovy Records, RPM, Slowboat and Cosmic Chch