Lived Through That: Patty Schemel
By Don Zulaica Originally published in DRUM! Magazine’s March ’95 Issue
Flashback: 1995. You’re on the cusp of world domination when your band, Hole, releases the breakthrough album Live Through This. Skip a few years ahead, to 1998 - you know, when you left the band. What were you thinking?
Actually, there’s a good explanation. Enter the producer of the follow-up release, Celebrity Skin. We’ll let drummer/survivor Patty Schemel tell the rest of the tale.
“We hired Mike [Bienhorn] to produce it,” she explains. “Initially it was like, his M.O. was, it doesn’t matter who you are - he has his own drummer and uses his own drummer on everything. I guess he replaced the drummer in Soul Asylum. There were some problems when he was recording Soundgarden, which is shocking to me. Matt Cameron, you know.
“So we went in and he initially wanted to work with us. He was like, ‘You guys sound great, it’s going to be perfect.’ Then we get into the studio and the first week was hell. It was like this battle between him and me. He was totally psyching me out in the studio. ‘It’s not sounding as great and as full of energy as it was.’ I just kept at it until finally we had a meeting as a band, and they were like, ‘He’s going to bring in this guy, and he’s going to do the parts, and nobody will know.’ And I said, ‘F**k that.’ I felt kind of betrayed by the band.”
You mean, [insert mock surprise] producers do this sort of thing? “I had no idea. It opened this whole new world. I had no idea that it’s done on such a constant basis. Some people know about it, and some people don’t, that lots of records are recorded that way. With studio people. Then the band goes out and plays it live. I felt like, ‘Well how am I going to talk about my drum parts if Joe Schmoe played them?’ It left me on a bad note with my bandmates. They just went ahead and did it, and after that I left the band. They went out and got Samantha Maloney to play, and she’s a great drummer. We totally have different styles. I don’t do the Tommy Lee, but she does it really good. [Maloney served a short fill-in stint with Mötley Crüe.] So she did the last tour with Courtney.”
Schemel moved forward by building a studio in her home in Seattle (she now lives in L.A.), writing songs, and picking up the guitar and bass (with some help from her guitarist brother Larry), which comes in handy with her current gig - playing drums and bass and singing with Imperial Teen on their fall tour.
“I haven’t played with them before,” she says, “but we’ve been friends for years. Imperial Teen opened for Hole a lot, and recently their drummer got married, so they asked me to do this tour with them. There were about 22 songs to learn. We do a different set every night, which is a lot different than Hole. With Hole, every single night was the same set.”
Schemel hasn’t just been on the road, she’s been in the studio as well, with veteran bassist Greta Brinkman (Moby, L7, Debbie Harry, Unseen Force) and brother Larry on Lucid Nation’s Tacoma Ballet (Brain Floss). Nothing subtle here: The album features 32 tracks of pure Schemel bashing, and grooves she hasn’t been able to put to tape until now. Credit the open atmosphere.
“I got contacted by Lucid Nation and they said, ‘We’re going to be in Tacoma, would you like to come and play drums?’ I knew of their music, but I didn’t know them very well. I just said, ‘Yeah, me and Larry will come in.’ The way they write is, everything is ad-libbed in the studio. You get a groove going and then you record it and then you make it into a song. It was a lot of fun, it was like there were no rules to it. Tacoma Ballet is my first album with them, that was pretty much the first thing I had done [after Hole]. There were a few things that I had been asked to do, but I didn’t really feel up to it. I was focused on writing my stuff.”
All that writing leads to what looks to be one of 2003’s more anticipated projects, the reunion of Schemel with Courtney Love. The band, at press time without a name, also features bassist Jerry Best, producer Jim Barber, and contributions from former 4 Non Blondes guitarist/singer Linda Perry.
“Since last year Courtney and I have been talking a lot,” Schemel details, “and then she asked me to come and work with her and play drums for the new project. That’s been pretty much what I’ve been focusing on. It was called Bastard, but then that concept kind of fell away. When we played our couple of shows it was just ‘Courtney Love.’ We did one show at the Hollywood Bowl and one at the Ventura Theater. This was like a year ago. The new songs went over really well.
“We’ve got a lot of songs to be released, and we’re just trying to figure out how we’re going to do that. There’s some talk about releasing them on the Poptones label, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. The songs that I contributed and worked on are kind of like the Hives, Strokes, that kind of stuff. Then there’s the classic, pop, Celebrity Skin-esque stuff. Linda Perry has been working on songs a lot. She’ll come in and do keyboards, guitar, vocals, basically every instrument you can think of. I don’t see her going on tour with us, though.”
And is the atmosphere different from Hole? Certainly in the writing department. “I contribute with arrangements, come up with drum parts, so yeah. In Hole, Courtney’s songwriting partner was Eric [Erlandson], who is not involved in this new project. I think she enjoys the versatility of working with different people, like some of my ideas, some of Linda’s ideas. So yeah, it’s different.”