This week sees P. David Ebersole’s grunge rock documentary Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death Story of Patty Schemel (2011) finally unleashed in cinemas across the UK. Detailing the life of Hole drummer Patty Schemel, the film takes an unflinching look at her time in one of rock’s most notorious and controversial bands, placing Schemel’s personal archive footage alongside interviews with her former band mates Eric Erlandson, Melissa Auf der Maur and, of course, Courtney Love. Fortunately, CineVue was able to catch up with bass player Auf der Maur to get her personal take on her time with Hole, life on the road and Ebersole’s depiction of one of the most turbulent periods in music history.
Daniel Gumble: What were your initial thoughts upon seeing Hit So Hard for the first time?
Melissa Auf der Maur: Well, it’s still such a raw wound for everyone involved because we all loved Patty and it was really emotionally moving. The film comes across as a universal survival story of someone who pretty much could have been dead but has managed to survive. A lot of people will focus on the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll cliches of the story of Hole, but personally that’s the least interesting part for me, as I see it as a personal story and a celebration of her survival. She’s an incredible force of nature.
DG: You state in the film that you were initially dead set against joining Hole due to the tragic circumstances that had lead to the approach. What was it that eventually changed your mind?
MAdM: When Billy Corgan initially suggested it I said no way; Kurt [Cobain] and Kristen [Pfaff] had just died and I knew there was heroin all over the band and it just seemed way too dark. But the incredible force that exists in Patty also exists in Courtney, and it came down to a phone call where I said no to her, but she persuaded me to fly out to meet them and say no to her face. So, when I arrived I met Courtney and Patty and it felt like destiny; whether I liked it or not I saw something in them and it just felt like a match. And, within 24 hours, Patty had really appealed to me on a redhead level, a musical level and a personal level. In fact, had I not felt that warmth from her, I may not have had the balls to join the band.
DG: How did you then find going out with the band on tour for the first time?
MAdM: It was a really difficult time. I was able to escape into the fantasy land of touring, but behind the scenes it was a really dark, sad place. There was a lot of drugs involved, but not with Patty as she was clean at the time, so we both bonded by making fantasy videos and jokes on film, as you can see with some of the footage in the film. That’s how we basically got through it; by making jokes on video backstage.
DG: The making of the Celebrity Skin album is one of the most pivotal moments in Hit So Hard. Looking back at that time, is there anything you think the band could have done differently?
MAdM: I personally was helpless. There was nothing I could do, as I was the new member of the band. I mean, things could have been done differently but it would have to have come from the top, i.e. Courtney. Also, my father was dying of cancer during the making of that album and while Patty was slipping into heroin, so it was difficult for me to be compassionate to people who were taking their own lives while my father was dying of something from the outside.
I feel really sad to think that it could come off that I could have done something to help Patty, as I did in fact take her to rehab once in that time and I was entirely helpless as far as the band was concerned. And, not that I want to defend Michael Beinhorn, as there is some truth to everything that came out from what was heard during the making of the album – and I had no idea that he was planning on replacing Patty with another drummer – as a musician, I had a great time making that record.
Read our review of P. David Ebersole’s Hole rockumentary Hit So Hard here.