Nothing affects the raw power of a legendary guitarist like a strong percussionist. Kurt Cobain knew this well and sought out a young woman he felt would be the perfect addition to his band, Nirvana.
In the new documentary Hit So Hard, Patty Schemel -- who rose to fame as the drummer for Hole and the nearly anointed apple of Cobain's eye -- gets her much-deserved moment in the sun.
The film boasts hours of archival footage of Schemel in action during Hole's attack on the mid-1990s music charts.
Schemel also unearths details of her substance abuse during those years, while making intimate new disclosures about the band. There are never-before-seen moments featuring Cobain, as well as interviews with other notables including Faith No More's Roddy Bottum, Hole's front woman Courtney Love and Kate Schellenbach from the iconic all-female music group, Luscious Jackson (to name just a few).
I sat down with Schemel and Hole's guitarist Eric Erlandson in Beverly Hills earlier this week to discuss the film.
Physically, both have changed very little in the almost two decades since Hole's inception: She is still the ginger-haired girl-next-door, with tattoos covering her now-famous arms. He towers over those around him while boasting a quiet serenity surely attributed to his years as a practicing Buddhist.
During the hectic years of drug abuse that ran rampant through Hole and its members' lives, Erlandson (according to Schemel) proved to be the grounding force within the group: Love and Cobain were making headlines with their reported addictions. Bassist Kristen Pfaff lost her life to an overdose and was later replaced by Melissa Auf der Maur. Schemel struggled to maintain her act on stage and on the road. Meanwhile, Erlandson's foray into the fray was anticlimactic, at best.
"I'd finish up in the studio and then go off and have half a Vicodin," he jokes.
Still, with its controversial history, Hole's impact can still be felt today, not only in music, but in the lives of the band's myriad fans.
"People come up to us at shows all the time and say, 'You had such an impact on my life,' or 'I got into music because of you,'" Erlandson says. "I mean, you sort of hope it was a positive impact."
Schemel agrees: "I've had girls come up to me and say, 'I started playing drums because of you."
Individually, she and Erlandson attribute their sound to the use of vintage instruments. He is a devotee of Fender Telecasters and Mustangs; Schemel does her dirty work with her DW five-piece kit with her Vader drumsticks in tow. However, both are quick to admit they have embraced technology.
"I love it!" she says. "It's not like I show up to practice with a my laptop, but I don't think it hurts anything."
Schemel also is a fan of other artists who have revolutionized music and pop culture in their own unique ways. When asked which guitarist she feels is a perfect match for her powerful playing style, her answer drops louder than the beat from a kick drum.
"Ooh, that's tough," she muses. "I would have to say Carrie -- Carrie Brownstein [of IFC's "Portlandia" as well as riot grrrl bands the Spells and Sleater-Kinney]. I also like Tegan and Sara. I like the way they write songs."
Ultimately, it's the possibility of garnering new fans with Hit So Hard that makes Schemel clear on why this project is so important. Then there's the message she hopes audiences will take away from the film:
"There's absolutely life after addiction," she says.
Hit So Hard is playing now in select cinemas across North America. For more about the film, including viewing locations, visit pattydoc.com. The film also is available for rent at iTunes.
Photo: Courtesy of Variance Films