Patty Schemel — whose new memoir is a harrowing account of her rise, fall and ultimate redemption — will appear Nov. 6 at Elliott Bay Book Co.
“Hit So Hard”
by Patty Schemel
Da Capo Press, 320 pp., $27
Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, that doesn’t mean it necessarily tells you the whole story.
On the cover of “Celebrity Skin” — the 1998 album by Hole, the alternative-rock band founded by Courtney Love — drummer Patty Schemel looks pensive, even thoughtful, gazing off into the distance, as a raging fire consumes a palm tree behind the band.
But as her new memoir, “Hit So Hard,” reveals, there was a world of turmoil going on beneath the surface. At the time the picture was taken, Schemel was no longer in Hole. She’d been maneuvered out during recording sessions, she says, by the machinations of the album’s producer, who preferred using a session drummer. Her increasing drug use (she notes she was high during the photo session) meant she was no longer going to be touring with the band, either. Just a year later she was homeless, working as a prostitute to feed her insatiable desire for heroin and crack cocaine.
The author will appear with DJ Marco Collins at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, at Elliott Bay Book Co., 1521 10th Ave., Seattle; free (206-624-6600 or elliottbaybook.com).
“Hit So Hard” (the book shares the same name with a documentary about Schemel released in 2011) is a harrowing account of her rise, fall and ultimate redemption.
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Schemel, who grew up in Marysville, describes her start playing drums in the school band, then moving to Seattle, drawn by the city’s vibrant music scene.
She was a contemporary of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. In 1992, Cobain recommended Schemel to his wife, Love, who was looking for a new drummer for Hole. She played on Hole’s acclaimed 1994 album “Live Through This,” going on to tour the U.S. and Europe.
But Schemel’s drug use escalated right along with her fame. Though raised in a household where her parents regularly hosted Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, she first got drunk at the age of 12. She recounts the “warm blanket effect” of her first sip: “Instantly, and forever after, I wanted to feel that way all the time.” Though finding heroin to be “… nothing mind blowing. Just another thing to do in Seattle,” by 1993 she had a daily habit. The following year, she entered rehab for the first time, starting a rehab/relapse cycle that would last for the next 11 years.
The saddest part of Schemel’s book is watching her drug use slowly move to center stage. She picks up no songwriting tips from Cobain, but does learn from him how to score more sedatives while going through detox. Travel tips include such observations as, “Pre-9/11, I simply carried a preloaded syringe in my pocket so I could use on the plane.” Business relationships and friendships fall by the wayside — but how could it be otherwise? Schemel makes it clear her main relationship was always with illicit substances, as evidenced by chapter titles like “How to Buy Drugs In New York City” and “The Art Of The Four-Day Detox.”
A cautionary tale, to be sure. But it’s one that Schemel relates with a forthright lack of self-pity, even leavening some of the darker moments with humor. And though clean and sober for more than a decade, Schemel admits that in her case her demons are merely held at bay, not conquered: “I know I’m always vulnerable.”