"Hit So Hard": Rock documentary goes behind the scenes of band Hole

Hole drummer Patty Schemel
Courtesy Well Go USA/Variance Films
Hole drummer Patty Schemel
Courtesy Well Go USA/Variance Films

For musician Patty Schemel, it's taken a lot of work to make her life into what it is today.

In a new rock documentary out now "Hit So Hard," she and her former bandmates tell the story of her years as the drummer of the alternative rock group Hole and her road to recovery from addiction.

Schemel recently talked to CBS News about how making the film helped her face the challenges in her past as an openly gay rock drummer and addict, and how her perspective changed for the better.

"I wanted to make sure a lot of the archival footage was included so the fans could see all that," says Schemel. "That's what I always loved in documentaries, you know, rock documentaries, that sort of behind-the-scenes stuff. I wanted to show that -- what was so interesting to me -- to be able to watch the Ramones, you know, when they weren't on stage. That kind of stuff. That was sort of the desire at the beginning of it."

What it ended up becoming was a feature-length story of Schemel's life and the players that surrounded her. The film tackles everything from her childhood and struggles with being a lesbian to her introduction to music and drugs, the rise and fall of her role in Hole, and the manifestation of drug addiction that ultimately made her life and the lives of others around her unmanageable.

Kurt Cobain, his daughter Francis Bean Cobian, and Hole drummer Patty Schemel, in a photo taken while living together in 1992. (Photo by Courtney Love)
Kurt Cobain, his daughter Francis Bean Cobian, and Hole drummer Patty Schemel, in aphoto taken while living together in 1992. (Photo by Courtney Love)
Courtesy Well Go USA/Variance Films

The film chronicles some who didn't make it, including Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff, who died of an overdose just days before Hole's 1994 "Live Through This" album was released. The album solidified Cobain's wife, Courtney Love's role as a rock icon and the status of Hole's members as musical heavyweights.

Most of the film's footage was locked away in a chest for years. It was only when Schemel and the film's eventual director, David Ebersole, started digitizing the material for personal use, that he suggested Schemel consider turning her story into a movie.

"At the beginning, I didn't really ever consider doing anything with that footage. It was just for private, at home with friends. The more questions he asked, the more stories would unravel. He said you should really do something with this, this is interesting."

"I was like, 'You know, maybe I will do something with it.' I had a need to tell my story about that time and clean up a few things, you know -- why I left Hole and talk about my drug addiction and talking about coming out and what music did for me ... was really important."

To make this film, Ebersole and producer Todd Hughes -- not Schemel herself -- reached out to Hole members Courtney Love, Melissa Auf Der Maur, and Eric Erlandson and did the interviews without Schemel present.

"I didn't really hear what my bandmates had to say in their in their interviews until the first cut, which was a long, rough cut."

Watch trailer for "Hit So Hard"

Without giving too much of the film away, everyone involved comes across as intensely candid and open about their struggles and relationships with one another.

 Schemel said  Eric Erlandson's explanation of how brutally she was treated during the recording "Celebrity Skin" by her bandmates and their producer, Michael Beinhorn, changed the way Schemel herself thought about that incident that she had "filed away" for years.

"It lessened that resentment, which just started to dissolve, and so in the process of this film, it reunited me with Eric."

The audiences who see the film span generations and appeal to several overlapping communities in  Schemel's life.

"It appeals to a lot of different things in people. I really enjoy that dialogue between recovering people and also the gay community -- my coming out story, being confused and struggling as a teenager -- and the real true Hole fans."

Schemel says the experience and the final product has caused her former bandmates to be reintroduced into her life. They recently reformed to play a two-song reunion show, performing "Miss World" and The Wipers' "Over the Edge".

"I used to feel that music was my number one important thing, it was my end all be all, that was why I was on the earth. Now I have a lot more around me than just my music, which I do. For me, my recovery is first, and then my family, and then my music. I don't feel so narrow anymore as far as 'music is IT.' I get, I guess, that sort of thing that plugs me in from being with my dogs or being with my daughter or telling funny stories at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, just as the way drums make me feel."

"When I was younger there was the typical, usual after-the-show fan, but now I feel like I want to spend more time with girls that want to play drums, when I do my rock camp, mentoring, sit down and talk, it brings me back to when I was 11 and started to play drums and started to learn a new drum beat. Compared to me in the '90s, there was no time for that.

Yet she still continues to work with drum students and play in bands today, including her latest project, The Cold and Lovely.

"We have a new record out in June and should be  playing shows soon around, I 'm excited about that...we're inspired by bands like My Bloody Valentine, Echo and the Bunnymen ... '80s music. It's hard to describe."

Back in the days of Hole, she remembers having conversations with Auf Der Maur before shows about balancing checkbooks and overnighting packages. "We'd start a conversation, go on stage, and then finish that same conversation but have a show in between."

What's different now is that when she sits down in the practice room, Schemel says she feels excitement -- but it's not so heavy anymore.

"It's not something I do to pay my rent ... it's something I choose to do and I could walk away from. I really respect the women I work with. I respect my old band as well. I'm just very focused on having fun with it."

"Hit So Hard" opens at selected theaters nationwide on May 4.

Members of Hole, Veruca Salt, and Metallica gather at the The Molson Ice Beach PolarBeach Party in the Inuvialuit hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, Canada, in 1995. From left, Kirk Hammett (Metallica), Jim Shapiro (Veruca Salt, with book),Louise Post (Veruca Salt, grey coat in first row), Nina Gordon (Veruca Salt, blue coat inrear row), Patty Schemel (Hole, back row), Lars Ulrich (Metallica, seated), CourtneyLove (Hole, seated), Melissa Auf der Maur (Hole, back row), Eric Erlandson (Hole, backrow), Steve Lack (Veruca Salt, front row), Jason Newstead (Metallica, back row).
Courtesy Well Go USA/Variance Films