A Night With Patty Schemel And Jenn Pelly At La Luz De Jesus, Thursday February 15th 2018
On Thursday night, La Luz de Jesus art gallery was hosting an interesting discussion about rock’n’roll history, as Jenn Pelly and Patty Schemel were conjointly reading excerpts and discussing their books: Jenn Pelly, who is a contributing editor at Pitchfork, wrote ‘The Raincoats’, an essay-collage about the first album of the British post-punk and experimental rock band for the famous series 33 1/3, and Patty Schemel recently published her memoir ‘Hit So Hard: A Memoir’. Of course both stories collide when you know that the Raincoats’ first album was once called by Kurt Cobain, a ‘wonderfully classic scripture’… no need to say that Patty’s story, as Hole’s drummer, is deeply intertwined with Cobain’s.
If I didn’t know very much about the Raincoats, I was much more familiar with Patty Schemel as everyone else who was alive in the ‘90s. And, if I still have to read her book, I have a better idea of who she is, a woman who started drumming at 11 and basically struggled all her life with addiction, as, beside music, drugs, alcohol, rehab, detox have always been at the center of her life.
Moderated by Allison Wolfe and (discreetly on the side) Alice Bag, the women all engaged into a discussion after reading excerpts of their respective books.
For the two authors, it was important to write about these stories and because Patty Schemel ‘had filmed everything’ and Pelly got access to the Raincoats’ archival materials and did extensive interviews with members of the band (and others such as Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, Hole, Scritti Politti, Gang of Four), the books are well documented and nourished with plenty of anecdotes and stories. However, it is obviously much more personal for Schemel
‘I had a story to tell about music in Seattle, about drugs and recovery,’ she said. ‘I wanted to tell my story’, ‘because nobody knows what the drummer is thinking’, and her story is fortunately more about recovery than everything else.‘I have always felt different because I was gay’, explained Schemel who said she finally felt okay when she discovered drums. She discovered punk rock and its angry sound and felt at home because she was also angry: ‘It felt good to go to punk rock shows and push people around because I was mad!’.
But if I still have everything to learn about The Raincoats, a band truly beloved by Kurt Cobain, the most interesting part of the conversation seemed to be about Patty Schemel’s story and her astonishing honesty about the subject of addiction. ‘I was born with that,’ she said talking about her alcoholism and drug addiction. And to the question, ‘What would you tell a kid, what can you do to prevent someone to get addicted?’, she very honestly replied ‘You can’t! There are no magic words’. This was a very honest response, considering all these drug abuse resistance education programs, which never work. ‘I never saw my parents drink and do drugs at all, and I never wanted to stop,’ she explained while admitting that her drumming was affected by her drug use. She just needed them to feel all right and be part of the world, she added.
But may be the other interesting parts of the conversation were the moments (and there were many) remembering tender moments with the Cobains, and mostly with Courtney Love. At one point, Schemel was so low that she was living in the streets, addicted to heroin and crack cocaine and surviving through prostitution. She didn’t really mention that part during her talk, but it’s in her book. She then asked Courtney Love for money and went to rehab… so it makes sense that Love appears like a savior in this narration, and as much as I can understand Patty Schemel’s friendship with the queen of grunge, because they went through so much together, it’s difficult to forget Love’s persona and the mountain of disturbing information we have about her. I could only let Kim Gordon or Buzz Osborne speak, but also let’s not forget that she punched Bikini Kills’ Kathleen Hanna in the face and chased Mary Lou Lord in the streets behind the Palladium screaming she wanted to kill her… just to name two examples among an abundance of other examples.
So I don’t care if she made people laugh when someone mentioned her throwing a Christmas tree to the crowd during a KROQ special, she is the biggest bully of the history of women in music, and I have never understood why everyone has put her on this feminist icon pedestal. She has repeatedly attacked women and my guess is that we don’t know half of the story there. Once again, Courtney Love was taking too much space and importance in the conversation and questions,… the night was about Patty’s story though, a real hero and a brutally honest survivor.