Book Review: “Hit So Hard: A Memoir” By Patty Schemel

“Hit So Hard: A Memoir”
Author: Patty Schemel
Da Capo
Hardcover: 280 pages

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Patty Schemel is a drummer who was at the epicenter of the Seattle grunge scene in the early 1990’s. Schemel is probably best known for her work with the alternative rock band Hole and as a close friend of late Nirvana front-man Kurt Cobain. “Hit So Hard: A Memoir” chronicles the coming of age of a musician and drug addict during her times both on and off the road with a band plagued by tragedy during rock n’ rolls last great era of excess. While never losing her sense of humor Schemel recounts her descent into homelessness and crime and the difficult but rewarding path to sobriety after more than twenty attempts to get clean.

Dominating air waves and headlines around the world in the early 90’s was the Courtney Love fronted band Hole. A band with a volatile mixture of energy, chemicals and attitude who in one moment could provide you with some of the most in your face rock n roll to the next minute being on the verge of imploding like a powder keg. Providing the bands driving back beat and contributing heavily to the four pieces volatile makeup was drummer Patty Schemel. Over the course of “Hit So Hard: A Memoir” 280 pages readers for the first time get the behind the scenes, first-hand account of what made Hole such a great/disfunctional band. Beginning with Schemel’s first introduction to drinking at age 11 and, continuing on through her struggles with sexuality and figuring out just where she fit in the book is a roller-coaster ride of angst and self reflection. From her first meeting with a pre-Nirvana Kurt Cobain to sharing a house with him and Courtney Love at the height of Nirvana’s success Schemel is candid with her accounts and does not shy away from the intimate details.

No “Hit So Hard” is not just another tell all memoir about sex, drugs and rock n roll. Yes there is plenty of that in this book yet, now matter how tempting or prevalent those subjects might be they surprisingly take a back seat to Schemel’s unique life story. The authors laid back delivery and word choice draws in the reader’s attention and tows a fine line as to not over sensationalize certain things that may cause readers to lose the point of each passage. This book was a breath of fresh air in the ever growing sea of memoir release and with the holidays right around the corner “Hit So Hard: A Memoir” could be the perfect gift for that music lover and or reader in your life.

Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe talks about new album “Resolution” and his memoir “Dark Days”

Randall Blythe is probably best known for his work as lead singer of the band Lamb of God. In 2012 while on tour in support of their latest album “Resolution” Blythe was arrested upon entry into the Czech Republic as part of an investigation related to the death a fan at one of the bands shows 2 years prior. “Dark Days: A Memoir” is the first book release by Randy which details this ordeal from the days leading up to the arrest and the roller coaster ride which ensued during the preceding months. Media Mikes had the pleasure of talking with Randy recently about the book, what it was like reliving those experiences and also about the bands upcoming album and summer tour run.

Adam Lawton: What was it like going back through your journals and reliving those experiences during the writing of the book?

Randy Blythe: I think people were looking for me to have some sort of cathartic experience during the writing of this book and it just wasn’t. For the most part it was an unpleasant experience. It wasn’t fun while I was going through it and it wasn’t fun writing it. I think the story has value and there are some things in there that might help some people actually. I think this story needed to be told before my memories faded too much. I was thankful for the journals I had. It was weird to look back at them and read about this low point in my life. This wasn’t the first time I had looked back at journals where things weren’t going well but when I looked back at this specific journal and the fact that I was writing it while in a Czech prison was really heavy. There are some funny parts in the book but for the most part it was not a lot of fun going back. I learned a lot about the writing process through this whole thing but again it wasn’t very enjoyable.

AL: Did you have to do a lot of self editing when you were making your way through the chapters?

RB: I all heard was that we have to amputate things. (Laughs) That was more at the very end. Prior to that I was able to just write and write. When I write I am very clean and careful so there is not a lot of re-writing that has to be done. Aside from some grammatical era’s which the copy editors handled there wasn’t a lot of restructuring. When I first started I had this sort of romantic view of a writer/editor relationship as I had read stories about writers that I liked that had these intense relationships with their editors where they fought back and forth about what was going in the book. That’s what I was expecting but instead I got a lot of encouragement which is what I needed. I guess I wanted my hand held a little bit through the process but, I didn’t get that. (Laughs)

AL: Was there ever any worry about bringing further attention to these events and their relationship to the band?

RB: I had to examine that and certainly think about it for awhile. I don’t think there can be much more attention drawn to the situation that what has already happened. Anytime an article or something comes out whether its something it’s something as simple as going to Disney Land the events from the Czech Republic are going to be mentioned. No matter if it’s applicable or not it gets mentioned. There’s just so much misinformation out there about this that I figured if it’s going to be talked about I might as well set the record straight. If this brings the story to new people then at least they will know the real story. It won’t be something they found on the internet which needed to be put through Google translator or something like that. They get the straight dope from me. I wrote the book in a way that people from outside the metal scene will understand. I wanted people not from that world to read this as well. There is enough universal treatment and value related to personal accountability that no matter where you are in life you can relate to a degree.

AL: When this is all done do you feel you will be able to close the book on maybe just a small piece of that experience?

RB: Yes. I know I am going to be still continually asked about this but once press and everything is done for the book and it gets brought up later on I can just refer people to the 500 page book I wrote about it. That’s it. Just a very short answer as the book has everything people need to know about what happened.

AL: The first two songs from the band’s new album “512” and “Overlord” are quite different from one another can you tell us about that and if there was anything different in the creative process this time around for you guys?

RB: “Overlord” is actually the first song the guys have done where I can sing over the top of it. It isn’t a bid deal or something that was done consciously. One day Willie was playing some blues licks and I started humming along and that’s really all that happened. It just was very natural and organic. As far as how things were done with this album it was all the same. We have been doing this for 21 years now so we aren’t reinventing the wheel or anything like that. We have been doing this a long time and it is what it is. We just try and grow as musicians with each new album.

AL: The band kicks off a summer tour run in a few weeks can you tell us about that and any other plans you guys might have for 2015?

RB: We will be out on the road with Slipknot for 8 weeks. After that we have about a month off before heading over to South America for 3 shows. After that we head to Europe for about 5 weeks with Children of Bodom and then we will be in the UK with Megadeth.

AL: After what happened in the Czech Republic does traveling to these other countries every worry you at all?

RB: No. From time to time when I’m walking down the jet way I do get a little nervous. (Laughs) I have been around the world twice and it wasn’t ever like I was in hiding for two years or something like that. I was right back on the road immediately after everything was over.

Be sure to check out our review of “Dark Days: A Memoir” in the review section of the site.

Dark Days: A Memoir Hardcover by D. Randall Blythe

“Dark Days: A Memoir”
Author: D. Randall Blythe
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Lamb of God vocalist D. Randall Blythe finally tells the world his story around the arrest, incarceration, trial and acquittal for the charge of manslaughter in the Czech Republic over the tragic and accidental death of a concertgoer. Riveting, bold and brutally honest “Dark Days: A Memoir” isn’t your everyday rock and roll memoir.

Having followed the story from when it first broke that Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe was arrested in the Czech Republic on charges of suspected manslaughter related to a death following the bands concert 2 years prior, this book was a no brainer for me to check out. This is not your typical tell all memoir filled with debotcherous tales from the road. Instead you get the inside story from the man who lived these terrifying events. Blythe recounts his experiences in such a way that you almost feel the emotion coming from the words on the pages.

From the days leading up to his unexpected arrest to the accounts of dealing with the arduous process of understand the Czech legal system all the while trying to recount the events of what was thought to be just another day on tour from 2 years ago. Spliced in between chapters related to the events in Czech Republic Blythe talks about his struggles with alcoholism and his recent rehabilitation and how his rough past growing up as an outcast teen in Richmond, VA shaped who he is today and how he handled himself throughout this horrific ordeal.

“Dark Days” is not just for fans of Lamb of God or heavy metal. The book is a must for anyone interested in a unique story of injustice and the long arduous journey one man took to clear his name by returning to a foreign country to stand trial against the charges set forth by a country that clearly wanted to make an example of this individual.

Book Review “The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir”

“The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir”
Author: Dave Van Ronk Elijah Wald
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir” written by Dave Van Ronk and Elijah Wald is a firsthand account of the sixties folk scene, A scene which included the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Woody Guthrie. However this book starts before that as its subject Dave Van Ronk was performing folk style music years prior and has been noted as an influence by those who would go on to define not only a genre but an era. Ronk’s life story is also the subject of the latest Cohen brothers film “Inside Llewyn Davis” which stars Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake.

Not being a huge folk music fan I was a bit out of the loop when I first started this book. Prior to my reading the only thing I could really attach to the term folk music was early pictures of Bob Dylan and his acoustic guitar. However after reading “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” I realized that there was a lot more to it and that it didn’t just happen all of a sudden. Van Ronk tells in detail stories of his first taste of recording to the struggles of finding places to perform and throughout the books pages when fitting recounts intimate memories and experiences with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs. For those like myself who didn’t have a lot of knowledge of what would later be called the “Great Folk Scare” which Van Ronk had a huge hand in creating look no further as Wald and Van Ronk himself put together a colorful yet fitting account of what life was like on New York City’s MacDougal Street in the early 1960’s