Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death Story of Patty Schemel
June 18, 2012
The rise and fall and redemptive arcs of rock musicians are the stuff that MTV Behind the Music specials are made of. You know the drill: a musician works their way up to dizzying heights of fame and fortune; they blow their money on any number of vices; become an addict; hit rock bottom; and then, (hopefully) find redemption through sober living. Such is the case with Patty Schemel, drummer for the alternative rock band Hole during the height of their popularity in the 1990s. She succumbed to the rock star cliché of indulging in too much sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and it almost killed her.
The centerpiece of the documentary Hit So Hard (2011) chronicles Hole’s Live Through This world tour, which Patty filmed extensively. This insider access footage provides fascinating insight into the chaotic whirlwind that was being in the band at that time. Patty, her friends, family and ex-bandmates chime in, taking us back to the heady days that were the mid-‘90s and reflect on what it was like from a sobering perspective.
Patty recounts how she joined Hole and became good friends with Courtney and Kurt Cobain. We see plenty of candid footage of them with their then-new baby Frances and it shows a softer, warmer side to the infamous couple. Patty is a good storyteller as she recalls all kinds of engaging stories about her time with Hole, including the recording of Live Through This.
One of the most emotional parts of the documentary covers the death of Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff and how it affected Patty and those around her. Her death occurred just days before Hole was to go out on tour in support of Live Through This. They had to somehow keep it together, audition a new bass player and then go out on tour. Another moving bit it when Patty’s mother recounts how her daughter was outed when she was a teenager. Patty talks briefly about what it’s like to be a lesbian in the male-dominated music industry.
Of course, Hit So Hard addresses the hot mess that is Courtney Love with the outspoken lady herself offering several choice soundbites as well as vintage footage of her in action, playing live or various backstage antics. There is some fantastic footage of Hole playing in action, which conveys the incredible energy of their live shows, playing massive music festivals all over the world. We also see how she failed to stick up for Patty during the Celebrity Skin recording sessions, allowing the producer to put the drummer through hell, which leads to a discussion about other female drummers that are treated poorly when the record label focuses on the frontperson. Loves comes off as a hypocrite when the bottom line is she should have exerted her considerable influence at the time and failed to do so.
Hit So Hard is a refreshingly honest look at Patty’s life before, during and after Hole. She is candid and forthcoming about many aspects of her life, most notably her drug addiction and the depths she went to in order to get high. For any fan of alt rock from the ‘90s, this is an essential documentary about someone who was at the epicenter of some of the most popular music at that time.
There is an audio commentary by Patty Schemel and documentary filmmaker P. David Ebersole. They take us through the making of Hit So Hard. She talks about the impetus for filming the Live Through This tour and how odd it was to see the footage after all these years. Ebersole asks Patty about aspects of her life that are only touched upon briefly on this meandering track.
“Patty’s Home Movies” features 24 clips from her films that she took over the years with scenes of live concert footage and goofing around during spare time. It expands on footage only shown briefly in the documentary. There is some really cool footage of Hole recording Live Through This and one wishes there was more.
Also include is a poorly recorded “Q & A at the Museum of Modern Art” shot from the audience. The surviving members from the mid-‘90s incarnation of Hole reunite as they answer questions from the audience after a screening of Hit So Hard. The crappy audio sabotages what could have been a really interesting extra.
Finally, there is “Hole Makes a Fan a Star,” an interview with the girl in the documentary that Courtney brought up on stage during one their many live gigs in 1995 and taught (sort of) how to play a Hole song. The woman recounts how it went down in detail.