Brisbane artist Tori Forsyth Hails Her ’90s Heroes on Provlépseis

Photo Credit: She Is Aphrodite

Starting off her career as a country artist enabled the public to pigeonhole Tori Forsyth. But Forsyth can’t be tamed. Her voice – rootsy, impassioned, and earthy – has all the glorious storytelling, lived-through-it quality of a country singer, and Forsyth hasn’t packed her bags and left country. She’s eased out the door, but left it ajar.

“When you’re starting somewhere you’re going to get remembered for that particular thing,” says Forsyth. “Country music is definitely something I still listen to and love. As a musician, I learn from listening to different genres and I love indulging that. I do make a point of normalising creative freedom. I was 19 when I wrote that first EP and I’m 26 now, so I’ve had experience as an adult that impacts how I see the world, how I consume and create music. I’ll always make music that is true to my life. Who knows what’s next for me?”

Her newest album Provlépseis is a maturation following her debut EP Black Bird in 2015, and her debut album, Dawn Of The Dark in 2018. Its title means ‘predictions’ in Greek – though Forsyth isn’t fluent, she understands the language due to her mother’s Greek heritage. It was written pre-COVID, but Forsyth says, “It’s interesting to see how much more relevant this record is to me now in post-COVID times than it was when I wrote it.” While that might be true lyrically, Provlépseis will likely sound like a bit of a throwback to those of us brought up on Sonic Youth, Hole, L7, PJ Harvey and Liz Phair.

“I was listening to predominantly ’90s [music] when I was writing this record. A lot of PJ Harvey, a lot of Hole, a lot of Soundgarden, even some Audioslave…a lot of Alanis Morissette and The Cranberries,” admits Forsyth, adding that the album “is very much a ‘90s lovechild for me.”

There are moments throughout the album where the very ‘90s grunge vibe feels less like a homage and more like a nostalgic indulgence. The promotional artwork for Provlépseis does seem like a recreation of PJ Harvey’s iconic 1993 album Rid of Me, in which Harvey is depicted in black and white, her dark, wet hair whipped around her bare face. In other artwork to promote the album at the time, Harvey is in a bath, half emerged. Forsyth, too, has released promotional media shots of herself…in a bath. “[Is it] a complete copy? Absolutely not,” she says. Having been born in 1995, Forsyth is not reliving the ‘90s – she’s discovering it anew, and if younger listeners are inspired to seek out the ‘90s artists who’ve inspired current acts, they’ll be richly rewarded. “I’ve definitely pulled inspiration from PJ – like I said, she was a massive influence on this record. It’s not my intention to be a carbon copy of somebody else, but I definitely pull inspiration from artists that I listen to.”

Another ‘90s icon gets namedropped in the slow-burning clap-back “Courtney Love.” Forsyth croons, “I paid rent, so long/Empty house, broken throne,” and it’s hard not be furious on her behalf, even though the melancholic acoustic ballad doesn’t quite reach “Violet” levels of scorched earth. In a video directed by Emily Avila, Forsyth sits in a bathtub full of dirty water, hugging her legs as the water goes cold.

She’s also worked extensively with Bradley Murnane, who directed the video for “Down Below,” both glamorous and grungy in the style of Garbage and Nine Inch Nails. When it comes to her videos, though, Forsyth says, “I’m definitely very heavily involved, probably a control freak. I love the visual element of creating a story in conjunction with a song. It’s another facet of creativity for me to indulge and I feel lucky that I get to do that in this career. I write the concepts up for pretty much all of my film clips.”

For the new album, Forsyth has again called upon nationally-celebrated producer and country artist Shane Nicholson. “I met Shane at the very beginning of my career,” says Forsyth. “We have a really great friendship now and I worked with him on Dawn Of The Dark. We get along so well because we have very similar musical tastes. It’s an awesome relationship that is built around love for a lot of different music.”

They recorded Provlépseis in Nicholson’s home studio in Gosford, on the central coast of New South Wales (Forsyth had been living in NSW at the time of recording but has since moved back to Queensland). “As far as production, Shane was heavily involved in engineering and producing both my albums. We’ve gone heavier on guitars, which was hinted at on Dawn Of The Dark, but it’s definitely expanded here [on the new album],” says Forsyth.

Provlépseis was written with the intention of being performed live and Forsyth is still in the planning stages. “I’m definitely organising a tour for after June,” she says. “This record was very much written with live shows as a focus. I want to do the songs justice in the way that I see them. When I tour, I’ve got a band: Reece Baines and Zach Miller, who have been a permanent fixture with me on stage for a long time now. My ex-partner was my guitar player so we’re in an in-between stage at the moment.”

Once the logistics are worked out, Forsyth will take her show on the road – enabling her audience to discover the weird and wonderful voice she’s learned to prize. “Early on in my career, I was told I had a strange voice. A singing teacher told me my voice was hard to work with because it was ‘different.’ Being told that it’s weird kind of sticks in my head, but now I’m pretty grateful for my weird voice,” shares Forsyth. “For me, creativity and writing have been about that therapeutic element of self-expression. Having a career out of that as a by-product is incredible and I’m grateful.”

Follow Tori Forsyth on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Punk Rock Memoirs To Inspire A Fearless, Creative Life

January is not necessarily going to be the big refreshing escape from the year we’ve had, going by the news and the pandemic numbers. It won’t be the celebratory holidays we may have anticipated months ago. But what hasn’t changed, and what may bring some comfort, is that January is always prime reading time. That brief window – for most of us – between work ending in 2020 and starting up again in 2021 is just enough to get through at least one or two juicy reads that give you the energy and inspiration to return to work without losing your mojo.

Confession: I learnt piano for many years and I was pretty good, but I gave up – mostly to spend all my time smoking and drinking with a ragtag collection of fellow 15-year-olds at whoever’s house was devoid of parents. That’s about as close as I got to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. I never was a girl in a band, but when I think to my life’s inspirations in regards to attitude, fashion, dedication to a creative existence, bravery and originality, they are women in music.

Chances are, if you’re an Audiofemme reader, you too are inspired and influenced by pioneering, persevering women in music. If there’s ever been a time we need to feel inspired by women to overcome the odds, deal with shit and continue to do what they love for the sake of it, it’s now. Consider this a belated Christmas present, then. This is a guide to the best books on modern women in music, in my experience.

Having mentioned girls in bands, let’s start with Kim Gordon’s Girl In A Band, which was released in 2015 and made it to the New York Times Bestseller list. Gordon was the co-founder (and sole female member) of Sonic Youth, a ’90s post-grunge act that fused dreamy fuzz with anthems to teenage lust and frustration. With her slash of red lipstick, tangle of blonde hair and too-cool-for-you attitude, Kim Gordon was the ultimate ’90s alt-rock icon. Girl In A Band covers her childhood, her first creative love – drawing, painting and sculpture – and her days in Sonic Youth, too often stymied by the men around her. She bravely confesses truths about her marriage to the revered Thurston Moore, frontman of Sonic Youth, and the disintegration of their relationship.  

In October 2020 she released No Icon, a curated collection of images and scrapbook-style memoirs of Gordon’s Californian youth in the 1960s and ’70s, Sonic Youth in the 1980s and 1990s. In addition to previously unseen photos, there are also hand-written lyrics, newspaper cuttings and all sorts of Sonic Youth/Kim Gordon paraphernalia that make this a keepsake for fans and a treasure chest of discovery for fans-to-be.

The foreword to No Icon was written by none other than Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein (also of Portlandia, bless). Brownstein’s 2016 memoir Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl was so compelling, I admit I lay in bed reading it all day and had to force myself to leave the last chapter until the next day so that I didn’t miss it too much when it was over. Brownstein is candid in talking about the politics and sometimes fractious nature of working with a group of impassioned women, sharing rooms and weeks on the road in close proximity. Brownstein’s ability to tell a story, with a measured dose of hilarity and awkward truth, was evident in Portlandia, so it was unsurprising that her memoir had the raw, vulnerable truthfulness of a personal diary but the strong narrative of someone who is skilled in telling a story from start to finish without losing the momentum of fascination.

If Sleater-Kinney were the 1990s underground punk-rock phenomenon for so many U.S. girls, then Viv Albertine’s The Slits were the original she-punks. Emerging in the 1970s in the midst of a wave of angry boys on stage, Albertine’s no-holds-barred memoir doesn’t paint a pretty picture of being a girl in a band, nor a woman in the world. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys is the ultimate inspirational read. It made me laugh out loud, take deep, reassuring breaths and reach for the tissues, grip my fingernails so hard into my fist I thought I’d broken skin… it made me react.

For Albertine, growing up in a council home with her single mother and sister, the only reality for her seemed to be watching boys in bands and – at best – dating them. She developed a love affair with the electric guitar, though, and taught herself how to play with the support of her boyfriend at the time. From those early days of hanging out in Vivienne Westwood’s SEX shop, getting raucous with Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious in abandoned squats, and being belittled and degraded by roadies and engineers as inferior to male musicians while on the road with The Slits, the book traverses Albertine’s abortion, her struggles to have a much-wanted child via IVF later in life, her marriage and subsequent divorce, and her return to writing, recording and performing as a solo artist in her 60s. It’s no surprise this brilliant book is being translated into TV.

Memoirs are my favourite way to climb into a musician’s mind and poke about in their memories, finding the nuggets of gold that will sustain my creative soul for life. A good set of essays, or insightful analysis, when written with people and genuine experiences at its core, can also be food for thought. I’m currently reading Revenge of the She-Punks by Vivien Goldman, which was released in 2019. Goldman, now in her 80s, is on the cusp of releasing her first punk album in 2021. Known as “The Punk Professor” due to her transition from a music journalist/band manager/musician/broadcaster/biographer (and more) to adjunct at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, this is a woman who lives, breathes and creates punk rock music. She-Punks looks at the feminist history of punk rock, encompassing The Slits, Bikini Kill, and L7 all the way through to Pussy Riot in the 2000s. Consider her the expert.

Other titles to add to your reading list include Patti Smith’s Just Kids (among others), Poppy Z. Brite’s Courtney Love: The Real Story (as well as her diaries), Debbie Harry’s Face It, Chrissie Hynde’s Reckless: My Life as a Pretender and The Go-Go’s Kathy Valentine’s All I Ever Wanted: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Memoir.

Whether you’re actually a musician or an aspiring one, or women who make brave choices are your spiritual sisters, these books are likely to move you. They’ve certainly moved me, and fundamentally assured me that in my strangeness, my deep need to create, my ability to survive while making mere pennies for a living, are all perfectly valid ways to live in this chaotic, strange world that is not so friendly to women. I hope they’re nourishment for you, too.

Share your favorite punk rock reads with Cat Woods on Twitter or Instagram.

ONLY NOISE: In the Wake of Kurt’s Suicide, Courtney Love Changed My Life

Courtney spent her career living in the shadow of Kurt Cobain, despite her own brilliant talent.

ONLY NOISE explores music fandom with poignant personal essays that examine the ways we’re shaped by our chosen soundtrack. This week, legendary ROCKRGRL editor Carla Black remembers how her sympathy for a grieving Courtney Love in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s death twenty-five years ago sparked a decade-long journey to bring gender parity to modern rock.

Like most people of a certain generation, I remember exactly where I was on April 8th, 1994, when the news broke that Kurt Cobain had ended his own life three days before. My son David had just turned six; the previous weekend, I’d slipped the organist at Pizza and Pipes an extra twenty to play a hilariously church-like version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the giant pipe organ at his birthday party. It was his favorite song. As a part time bassist in an all-female ‘60s cover band, I wouldn’t dream of subjecting him to kid music as insulting to his intelligence as Barney the Dinosaur. Nirvana’s 1991 breakout hit, a paean to disaffected youth with its quiet verses, angry chorus, and video set in a flaming high school gym, had catapulted mysterious and shy Kurt into the spotlight. Fans and critics alike had already proclaimed him “the voice of his generation.” Now, I was hearing about his senseless death from an aid at my son’s school as I left the parking lot.

It was shocking, but not completely. Only a month before, Kurt had overdosed in Rome, reportedly an accident. Every station – not just MTV – covered Kurt’s suicide. He had shot himself in the greenhouse of the Seattle home that he and his wife, fellow grunge rocker Courtney Love, had only moved into a few months before with their infant daughter Frances Bean. Photos from the old-money neighborhood of Denny-Blaine splashed onto the screen. Kurt’s unkempt hair and facial scruff cut a stark contrast to the well-dressed, clean-shaven looks of the anchors that reported it. Grunge pilgrims flocked to tiny Viretta Park, the lot next to their home, etching goodbyes into the park bench with Sharpies and Swiss army knives. Courtney emerged from behind the gate and joined them in mourning.

As a newly single mother myself, I struggled to explain the death of David’s favorite rock star. I remember standing in front of the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble. It was Courtney, not Kurt, who graced the covers of most of the music magazines. Coincidentally – or maybe not – Live Through This, the major label debut album with her band Hole, was released the same week as Kurt’s death, and had already been getting significant airplay. I bought every one the magazines I found with her picture on the cover and pored through them, hoping to find an answer to explain Kurt’s passing to my young son.

Rock star deaths at age 27 were not uncommon. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison – “the stupid club,” as Kurt’s mother had dubbed them – perished at the same age. But those deaths were overdoses. While Kurt and Courtney were both known to use hard drugs, it was still unfathomable to think how someone at the apex of their music career could take his own life. It wasn’t long before the conspiracy theories began to emerge. Maybe he wasn’t really dead after all. He could be flipping burgers somewhere with Elvis. But the most distressing of all theories, to me at least, was the suggestion that Courtney orchestrated his death. It was sexist, trite and cruel. Kurt was endlessly portrayed as a tragic angel, taken down by a demon wife. I found every bit of it disgusting.

As I learned more about Kurt’s widow, I discovered a parallel geography I shared with her. We both lived in Eugene, Oregon and the Bay Area at the same time. And in 1987 she had the lead role in a quirky indie film called Straight To Hell in which Dan Wool, a fellow student in my voice class in the mid-’80s, was the music supervisor. I remember hearing updates about the film from Dan, which notched up my remote feeling of kinship with Courtney. But while my upbringing was conventional, hers was not.

Both Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain each grew up in what used to be known as “a broken home.” After her parents’ divorce, Courtney’s mother took everyone in the family but Courtney to New Zealand to live. She spent time in reform school, was emancipated by age 16, and worked as a stripper to make ends meet. As legend has it, Kurt lived under a bridge after his parents’ split. Kurt and Courtney were two people on their own before they should have been, bonding over a voracious passion for music and a deep need to survive. By the time of Kurt’s death, the couple were a household name, and now that he was gone, Courtney bore the full brunt of Nirvana fans’ anger and disbelief.

Every evening, after David’s bedtime, I read whatever I could find about Kurt and Courtney and his mysterious death on America Online (AOL), which, in 1994, was how most of us discovered the strange new world of the Internet. It was riveting, and I found myself defending Courtney on AOL’s music message boards from what I perceived as blatant sexism. How inhumane, I thought, to anonymously lash out at someone who was suffering and so obviously in pain. He wrote her songs, they claimed. She was on drugs when she was pregnant, they said. She was a bad mom, they wrote. But I saw a vulnerable side of Courtney I found charming, intelligent, and even funny; this put me squarely in the minority. I loved the way she turned the only two existing female musical archetypes – waif folk singer and brash rocker – on their ear. She always spoke her mind, regardless of the consequences.

I was deeply offended by many – but not all – criticisms of her. Why was Kurt deified and Courtney vilified? Sure, she was outspoken, but weren’t rock stars supposed to be? The music world only embraced conventionally beautiful women as stars; men could be as ugly as Axl Rose. What about the rest of us? Didn’t we have anything important to add? It is an artist’s job to distill pain, and Courtney was the patron saint of the marginalized female, often giving away a guitar to a girl at her shows. I thought it sad how she was mocked by the press and Nirvana fans, but she seemed to be unfazed by it. I admired that greatly.

One night I logged on and was shocked to see posts from Courtney herself. The typing was challenging to decipher, but her stream-of-consciousness thoughts reflected an extremely high intelligence. She was pissed and had found a place to vent her frustrations. Initially her targets were indie musicians and record label executives I hadn’t heard of. But after finding the online world cathartic, she became a regular fixture – one of the first artists to actually participate with their fans virtually, not simply lurk.

I watched the daily drama unfold from the hulking desktop PC in my living room, and reached out to her in an email. After noticing I was one of her few adult defenders, Courtney and I became online friends. AOL charged by the hour in those days and the significant amount of time we spent messaging each other online racked up some hefty bills. Sometimes she’d call and we’d talk through the night. There was no such thing as a brief conversation with Courtney or an hour too late to call. When David went to bed, this was my entertainment: single mom by day, rock star confidante by night.

Soon I was adept at deciphering Courtney’s inimitable style. Threads I had been a part of began to appear in magazines, like Newsweek and Time. It was a heady experience to have access to such an important artist, and I took my role as “den mother of the Hole folder” seriously. With news spreading that its subject was a regular participant, the folder was the most highly trafficked on AOL.

I finally got the chance to see Hole and meet Courtney in person that fall when they performed in San Francisco. Courtney’s tour manager offered me comps and a backstage pass. “She wants to meet you,” he said. The performance was heartbreaking, emotional and sad. Throughout the set she looked up to the sky and yelled to Kurt, demanding to know why he left. Once the show was over, in the hallowed halls of Hole’s green room, the tour manager walked me over to Courtney to make the introduction. Tall and charismatic, she was covered in glitter makeup and still damp from the performance. “This is ROCKRGRL,” he said, referring to my screen name, which was more widely known than my given one. Courtney’s face lit up with instant recognition; our unlikely friendship was real after all. Following a long and awkward hug, she grabbed my arm and led me to an area far from the crowd so we could talk alone. But like a cocktail party on The Bachelor, the moment was short-lived and we were quickly interrupted by other admirers. She disappeared into the night.

That big moment may have been brief, but our enduring camaraderie created opportunities that changed the trajectory of my life. Inspired by her, but seeing a greater need, I created a magazine to build a community for female musicians that had never existed before. I named the magazine for my AOL screen name and the people I enlisted to write and do layout were my AOL friends. Journalists who also frequented AOL wrote about my plans – the first appearing in the Sunday LA Times – and many of those writers became contributors, too. I quit my typing job at a law firm to devote to the magazine full time.

I wasn’t exactly getting rich off my venture, but my little star was on the rise, becoming one of a handful of “go-to” experts on the topic of women in rock. I appeared on television, including VH1’s Behind the Music as a talking head, and a judge on a local singing talent competition alongside Sir Mix-A-Lot, Reggie Watts and Washington State Governor, Gary Locke. I booked gigs speaking to young women at colleges across the country and on panels at music conferences. I even reviewed the kick-off of Hole’s infamous Beautiful Monsters tour co-headlining with Marilyn Manson for Rolling Stone – the issue with Britney and Teletubbies on the cover. Without any financial backing, ROCKRGRL stood on its own as an influential publication, helping a generation of women find their artistic voice.

The magazine ran for 10 years and 57 issues, shutting its doors at the end of 2005. It can still be found in the libraries of many universities throughout the country. The archive was acquired by Schlesinger Library at Harvard (Radcliffe Institute) as part of their collection on American Women’s History in 2008. It still gets name-checked as an influence every once in awhile by a new female artist and that always makes my heart swell with pride.

Through the years, Courtney was a frequent contributor to ROCKRGRL. Whether it was a top ten album of the year list, kicking off a scandal about groupie abuse by all-male metal bands, or allowing me to interview her, Courtney brought positive attention to ROCKRGRL without ever overshadowing it. To me, this was what women helping each other was always supposed to look like. It was a shame Kurt’s death overshadowed her achievements.

In November of 2000, five years after the start of ROCKRGRL, I put together a conference in Seattle to discuss the state of women in music. We had panels, a trade show, and 250 female artists in all genres of music from all over the world performing throughout downtown Seattle. It took more than a year of planning, especially since I had no experience doing anything quite as daunting. I reached out to Courtney a few times to ask if she would participate but got no response. So I was surprised when, the night before the conference began, I got a phone call. “I’m coming,” she said. “What do you want me to do?”

What I had really wanted was for her to have told me this a month earlier. The staff jumped through every imaginable hoop – which included supplying her with a list of journalists in the room and creating a bag of questions she could pick through to answer. In the end, she gave a brilliant, funny and provocative Q&A to a ballroom of a few hundred female musicians, anxious to know the secrets of success, for more than two hours. Attendees got incredible advice and gossip – always a bonus – about Limp Bizkit, Stevie Nicks, Eve, Kelis and Jimmy Iovine. Courtney stayed to answer questions and sign autographs. It was sisterly, unpretentious girl talk of the highest order and an unforgettable experience for anyone lucky enough to have been there. And yes, she was completely sober for it! Her presence catapulted the conference from a cool Seattle event to an internationally recognized one (a friend vacationing in Bali said he even read about it there). But the best moment for me was her acknowledgement from the stage of my hard work, very much inspired by her.

“I had always planned to come,” she told the crowd, “But I wanted the conference to have a chance to build on its own, without it being all about a really famous person.” Then she turned to me and said the kindest thing ever, drawing tears to my eyes: “I’m really proud of what you have accomplished on your own.”

Maybe not totally on my own – I had the help of my fairy grunge mother. But twenty-five years ago, in a school parking lot, reeling from the news of rock’s biggest icon’s suicide, I never could have imagined his equally iconic widow would influence my future in such a profound way. I am forever grateful.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Alternative Beef, Cancel Chris Brown, and MORE

Courtney Love & Kathleen Hanna have had ongoing beef since the mid ’90s.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Rekindling a decades old beef, Courtney Love had some choice words for Kathleen Hanna following the news that the latter’s riot grrl act Bikini Kill would play a handful of reunion shows in LA and NYC this spring. In the comment thread of a Bust Magazine Instagram post lamenting the shows’ record sell-out times, Love referred to Bikini Kill as “the biggest hoax in rock and roll,” later adding: “Two of the band total amateurs. Hanna is a good hype man but her persona is such a diy nonsense dilettante. A big idea they cannot convey, because they suck.” Hanna has not responded and Love has since deleted the comments, but her words reminded everyone that these two feminist icons haven’t seen eye to eye since Lollapalooza ’95, when a backstage altercation ended any hope of them uniting to crush the patriarchy. We have a sneaking suspicion that Love’s dislike of Hanna is rooted in jealousy over Hanna’s friendship with Love’s late husband Kurt Cobain (Hanna is credited with inspiring the title of Nirvana’s breakout single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”). We’re taking Hanna’s side on this one; Love’s comments were petty and we’re impressed Hanna didn’t take the bait.

The saga between Grimes and Azaelia Banks deepens! Back in August, Banks visited Grimes at the home of Grimes’ then-boyfriend, tech mogul Elon Musk. The two musicians were supposed to collaborate on a single, but in a series of social media posts, Banks described being trapped in the home as Musk did damage control over a tweet where he claimed he planned to take Tesla private at $420 a share. Banks says that Musk was on acid at the time, and postulated that he and Grimes had invited her to Los Angeles for a potential threesome. But because the Securities Exchange Commission sued Musk over the tweet, texts between Grimes and Banks from that time period have been subpoenaed, and Banks posted some of the exchange on Instagram; the posts were deleted, but not before someone grabbed screenshots that Jezebel was all too happy to repost (and we are all too happy to recommend you go and read immediately). We can’t get down with either going for the low-hanging fruit of insulting one anothers’ appearances, but have to name Azealia Banks the winner of this spat. Maybe it’s all the practice she’s had talking shit to or about damn near everyone on the planet, but we have to give props to the biting specificity of referring to Grimes as a “brittleboned methhead” who smells “like a roll of nickles.”

And finally, Princess Nokia noted the similarities between her song “Mine” (from her 1992 mixtape) and recently released Ariana Grande single “7 rings.” “Ain’t that the lil song I made about brown women and their hair?” she asks in a video posted to Twitter (and since deleted), concluding “Hmmm… sounds about white.” Soulja Boy also chimed in, claiming Grande had ripped off portions of his 2010 hit “Pretty Boy Swag.” The opening bars of Grande’s single crib more obviously from The Sound of Music‘s “My Favorite Things;” though Julie Andrews has yet to jump on the outrage bandwagon, someone who must be a literal genius mashed up all four artists and it kinda slaps. While we’re no fan of Grande’s ongoing issues with cultural appropriation, we’re calling this beef a draw – there’s nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to hip-hop samples.

Chris Brown Accused of Rape in Paris

We’ll never forgive Chris Brown for using former girlfriend Rihanna as his personal punching bag – but we’re especially disgusted by the new lows he’s reached this week. A 24-year-old woman accused the singer and his entourage of taking turns raping her in his hotel suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, where Brown had been attending Fashion Week events. The French are notoriously skeptical of rape victims, so it’s no surprise that Brown and the two other men accused of assaulting the woman were released within a few days on their own recognizance; the investigation is still ongoing. Rather than lying low, Brown took to social media in an attempt to discredit his alleged victim, even going so far as to create some truly tasteless merch that plays on the unfounded trope that women lie about sexual assault.

For what it’s worth, this isn’t the first time that someone has accused his entourage of mistreating women in their periphery – there’s a pending legal case against Brown, in which a woman claims she was raped by one of Brown’s friends at one of the singer’s drug-fueled parties.

That New New

Spanish sensation Rosalía released what has to be our favorite video this week, with a clip for “DE AQUÍ NO SALES” from her stunning 2018 album El Mal Querer.

Jenny Lewis is back with Stevie Nicks-ish jam “Red Bull & Hennessey,” a drink we do not recommend. It’s the first single from On The Line, due March 22.

Broken Social Scene shared details on their forthcoming EP Let’s Try The After – Vol. 1, which will arrive next month, along with early single “All I Want.”

Sneaks, the difficult-to-define solo project of queer black feminist Eva Moolchan, returns with Highway Hypnosis, her third studio album.

Sascha Ring, who produces electronic music as Apparat, announced LP5, his first album in six years, with diaphanous lead single “Dawan.”

J. Cole is producing a comp featuring artists from his Dreamville imprint entitled Revenge Of The Dreams II; his track “Middle Child” is the project’s official first single.

Groove Denied, an electronic solo album by Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus that was reportedly rejected by his label, will be released via Matador in March. The first single is the delightfully weird “Viktor Borgia.”

Lady Lamb announced her next album Even in the Tremor will arrive April 5th on Ba Da Bing Records, and has shared its title track.

Teyana Taylor,  Lena Waithe, and Mykki Blanco vogue their way through a ballroom dance-off for the ages in Taylor’s new video for “WTP,” from last year’s Kanye West-produced K.T.S.E.

Capping off her EP trilogy in March with Blue Pine, Munya shared the first of its three songs, “It’s All About You;” all three EPs will be packaged together as a full-length LP released on the same day.

Seattle’s Dude York have released two new singles alongside two previously released singles as the aptly titled EP Happy In The Meantime via Bandcamp.

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst have appeared on each other’s albums in the past, but now the pair have teamed up to release a surprise record as Better Oblivion Community Center.

Vampire Weekend are back with a pair of singles, titled “Harmony Hall” and “2021;” both will appear on their fourth album and first in nearly six years. Titled Father of the Bride, it’s supposedly got 18 tracks and future singles will be released in pairs as well.

Florence + The Machine released a jazzy stand-alone single and its b-side on the heels of last year’s rousing High As Hope LP.

End Notes

  • Ariel Palitz, NYC’s new Nightlife Mayor, sat down with Billboard to share what she’s learned in her first year on the job, and how she plans to support the city’s DIY music community.
  • A Michael Jackson musical is in the works.
  • The Oscar nominations are in and we’re totally rooting for Lady Gaga, who’s up for Best Actress for her role in A Star Is Born. The film is nominated for best Best Picture, alongside Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (despite some recent sexual abuse allegations against its director). Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper seem like favorites to win Best Song for “Shallow” but Kendrick Lamar and SZA could give them a run for their money with “All The Stars,” from Black Panther. David Rawlings and Gillian Welch (“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns), and Diane Warren and Jennifer Hudson (“I’ll Fight” from RBG) round out the Best Song nominations.
  • Spotify introduced a “mute” feature that allows users to essentially block particular artists from popping up on your playlists. It’s a nice compromise given their failed attempt to censor artists they’d deemed problematic, not to mention allowing folks to avoid that overplayed earworm-of-the-moment.
  • Pickathon 2019 lineups have been announced, with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Khruangbin scheduled to headline.
  • It’s been a good week for cool band merch – check out this stuffed Ozzy Osbourne bat (with detachable head) and the new Morrissey Funko Pop.
  • We’re still not sure if it’s really the Pixies without Kim Deal, but the rest of the band are gearing up to release their seventh studio album (due in September), and a podcast about the band called “The Past Is Prologue” and hosted by Tony Fletcher will debut in June.
  • Some of hip-hop’s biggest stars, including Jay-Z and Meek Mill, have founded REFORM Alliance, aimed at much-needed criminal justice reform.
  • As the government shutdown stretches on, musicians from Kiss to Nile Rodgers are donating concert tickets, hot meals, and more to furloughed workers.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Bikini Kill Reunion, Toto Forever, and MORE

photo by Tammy Rae Carland

Bikini Kill Sells Out Reunion Shows in Minutes

Girls to the front! Earlier this week, Bikini Kill’s original members – Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, and Kathi Wilcox – announced three reunion shows: 4/25 at the Hollywood Palladium; 5/31 at Brooklyn Steel; and 6/1 at Terminal 5. The band has been officially broken up since 1997 (they played “For Tammy Rae” at a book release party for Jenn Pelly’s 33 1/3 Raincoats tribute in 2017) though Wilcox and Hanna still play together as 2/4ths of The Julie Ruin. Bikini Kill have been steadily releasing vinyl reissues of their back catalog via their own eponymous imprint, as well as archiving materials – zines, flyers, demos, artwork, merch, personal photos – from the dawn of riot grrl, a movement they basically invented. But the “tour” announcement was definitely a pleasant surprise.

The punk band drew criticism, however, because tickets were only available through AES’s ticketing platform AXS, which of course left some fans out in the cold, even as scalpers began posting tickets via secondary markets in excess of $900 (face value was just under $50 with service fees). The band immediately announced a second L.A. show for April 26th; it sold out just as quickly. It’s certainly possible that more shows could be announced (particularly in New York, Hanna’s homebase) but it’s always a bummer to have to hit refresh dozens of times to no avail. At least there are plenty of YouTube clips from Bikini Kill’s heyday.

Toto Forever

When Toto penned their only number one hit, “Africa,” released in 1981, they probably didn’t think about the tune’s longevity. Sure, it’s catchy, but no one could’ve predicted its late-exploding popularity as the lyrics made their way into countless memes and TV shows like Stranger Things and South Park boosted recognition. Now, thanks to Namibian-German artist Max Siedentopf, “Africa” is never going to go away – because he’s erected an installation in the Namib desert, in which six solar-powered speakers play an MP3 of the song on a constant loop.

Siedentopf told NPR that the installation was “supposed to be a bit like a treasure that only the most loyal of Toto fans can find.” Indeed, it could be anywhere along the West Coast of Namibia, as the desert stretches some 1200 miles along the coast. Being a desert, the area is “nearly rainless,” and its name is derived from the Nama language, implying “an area where there is nothing.” And while it isn’t one of the two specific African landmarks mentioned in the song (Kilimanjaro/the Serengeti), maybe the installation will finally put Namibia on the map for Toto devotees.

That New New

Panda Bear teamed up with Dean Blunt to create the video for “Token,” from PB’s upcoming LP Buoys (out February 8 via Domino).

James Blake dropped a new album with very little fanfare; stream Assume Form below.

Weyes Blood hasn’t officially given any details on her forthcoming record, but she’s shared its first single, “Andromeda,” which was produced by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado.

HEALTH is slated to release VOL. 4: SLAVES OF FEAR via Loma Vista Recordings on February 8 and have shared its blistering second single.


Dawn Richard (aka D∆WN) shared “sauce” from her forthcoming LP new breed, which is currently streaming over at NPR ahead of its January 25th release.

Experimental found-sounds duo Matmos celebrate the upcoming release of Plastic Anniversary (and 25 years as a band) with first single “Silicone Gel Implant;” they debuted some of their latest compositions at a Yo La Tengo Hannukah show this past December.

Swedish punks Makthaverskan are putting out a new 7″ and have shared its A-side, “Demands.”

SPELLLING shared “Under the Sun,” from forthcoming Sacred Bones LP Mazy Fly (out February 22).

Following a few sold-out reunion shows, San Jose art rockers Duster are back in the studio and have released their first single since 2000 album Contemporary Movement.

Xiu Xiu shared a disturbing video sequel to the equally disturbing “Scisssssssors;” both singles appear on Girl With Basket of Fruit, out February 8th.

Cardi B teams up with City Girls in a video for “Twerk,” which seeks to reclaim the booty-shaking dance move for black women everywhere.

Along with additional details about their upcoming collaborative album Lux Prima, Karen O and Danger Mouse shared the LP’s next single, “Woman.”

Lastly, we can’t get enough of this Leggy track from their upcoming LP and are super pumped about their January 23rd show at Baby’s All Right with Daddy Issues and Desert Sharks.

End Notes

  • Lana Del Rey, Jared Leto, and Courtney Love starred in a Gucci commercial released this week, soundtracked by Link Wray.
  • Cardi B posted an expletive-laden political rant via Instagram on Wednesday, criticizing the government shutdown. It’s already been remixed by the Autotune the News dudes. Belcalis Almanzar 4 Prez in 2o20!
  • Panorama Music Festival is going on hiatus as parent company AEG looks to secure a new location.
  • Sony has finally dropped R. Kelly in light of the disturbing allegations of his behavior toward women. Scrutiny has intensified for the artist since Lifetime aired their much-discussed Surviving R. Kelly documentary earlier this month.
  • Matt Daniels has updated his chart mapping the largest vocabulary in hip-hop, with Aesop Rock topping the list. You can toggle it so that it shows only members of Wu-Tang Clan, who clocks in at #5 (the GZA’s solo work is ranked one spot above, at #4).
  • Speaking of the Wu, there’s a documentary coming to Showtime in the spring that features the iconic NYC rap crew.
  • Bandcamp is opening a brick-and-mortar outpost in Oakland in February.
  • Gladys Knight has agreed to perform the National Anthem at Super Bowl LIII on February 3rd. The soul singer made some controversial statements about Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback whose police brutality kneeling protests left him a free agent. The halftime show will be headlined by Maroon 5, with special guests Big Boi and Travis Scott.

NEWS ROUNDUP: VMAs, Nicki Minaj Tour Rescheduled & More

2018 VMAs

The VMAs aired Monday night, with Camila Cabello taking home the video for the year for “Havana (feat. Young Thug).” This year had the most high profile celebrity no shows, including Beyonce and Jay-Z, Drake, Childish Gambino, Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran, and Halsey who stated she didn’t come because she wasn’t nominated for any VMAs despite directing all her own videos this year and MTV #wcw-ing her to death. Only J Balvin and Gambino weren’t present to accept their awards. Other notable moments included Madonna’s awkward tribute to Aretha Franklin and Cardi B making her first post-baby appearance by winning the Best New Artist. VMA viewership is unfortunately at an all time low, even after switching the ceremony to a Monday night to avoid competition from other shows.

Nicki Minaj Reschedules Tour

Nicki Minaj rescheduled the North American leg of her co-headlining tour with FUTURE, claiming she doesn’t have time to rehearse after pushing back the release of her fourth album Queen by two months (though some say the changes are due to low ticket sales). This week she also blasted Travis Scott and streaming services for her album not debuting at number one on the Billboard charts despite being number one in 86 countries. 

The New New

New indie singer-songwriter supergroup group Boygenius – consisting of Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Pheobe Bridgers – released three new songs this week which will appear on their self-titled debut EP, out November 9th via Matador. 

Yoko Ono released “Woman Power,” a track that originally appeared on the 1973 album Feeling the Space. The feminist anthem will be on her new album Warzone, due out on October 19th. 

J Mascis announced new album Elastic Day, and shared the new song “See You At the Movies” out November 9th via Sub Pop.

End Notes

  • A tribute to Courtney Love has been announced for Basilica Hudson’s biennial Pioneering People fundraiser in Hudson, New York, on October 27th, put together by her former bandmate Melissa Auf der Maur along with artist Joe Mama-Nitzberg. It includes a star-studded cast of hosts including Michael Stipe, Chloë Sevigny, the National’s Aaron Dessner, Ryan McGinley, Yelena Yemchuk, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Brandon Stosuy, and others.
  • Snoop Dogg will  be releasing his first cookbook, From Crook to Cook, published by Chronicle Books in October. Better stock up on those special herbs now.

MORNING AFTER: Vegan Noodles and Sake with Veda Rays

I internally scream about 20 times coming off the Q train, badgered left and right about handbags, handbags, handbags. Truthfully, last time I was in Chinatown I was below the legal drinking age. But Veda Rays vocalist James Stark made a very emphatic pitch for Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant. So I’m here. I don’t want any handbags, but I’ll deal to dine with Veda Rays, and I’m down for any sake brunch that’s steeped in a sense of Eastern Mysticism.

If I’m not mistaken (I’m not) I have met drummer Jason Gates at Aviv. We’ve had bonafide conversations, his visage lives on one of my records, and he has a fun, eccentric energy that could power the Christmas lights on my street. As for Veda Rays as a whole, well, they’re the real deal, with a cerulean-soaked sound that could’ve been adjacent to the Batcave but has also been long cultivated in the Brooklyn scene. And their live performances pair it with captivating visuals; flickering television snow or twitchy orange monkeys set an ominous mood throughout.

Yup, these are the professionals, guys.

Hm. I feel good. In the past I usually show up with some sort melodramatic ennui. But I had my cards read Tuesday and things might be turning around.

Or they won’t, but let’s just get through brunch first.

The Scene: So yeah, this place. Recommended by a friend of synth player Maria Joanna Bohemia, the band have become obsessed with its kosher Thai offerings. Like they did a whole incidental vegan food tour of LA and this place is still top tier. And since they were long overdue for a visit and have been talking it up to bass player Renzo Vous (who still hadn’t been), it felt like the right move. They also love the Chinatown location, the appeal of old school New York; in his email James mentioned that their friend Ben Hozie of Bodega Bay said Veda Rays seemed “hatched out of the aughts NYC scene” (James only superficially agrees).

Sold. Although guitarist Gonzalo Tomé isn’t here today, Renzo and I are going to try out this food, and Jason arrives just as we’re about to get our sake. Let’s do this.

2:05 pm We’re talking about mutual friends (you already know where this is going, right?) and James says, “There was an old Veda Rays video where I killed Tarra.”

I respond as expected. “That’s the best!”

“Well, we pulled it down because it was…not being well received because of the violence-toward-women factor.”

Huh. “I get that, I get it being mis-perceived like that.”

“And when we made it it wasn’t such a Thing, but then there was a bit of rumbling, and as a couple of years went by we took it down,” James says. “But the premise had nothing to do with that – it could’ve easily been a man. It just happened to be a woman in the chair.”

So what was the premise, then? The band was riffing on maniacal, cultish figures to illustrate their song “Wait for Teeth to Show.”

“So the letter shein means tooth, right?” James starts. “There’s a tarot card that corresponds with that which is this fire card. The video would show flashes of the card, and the idea of a tooth in this context is like…in simplest terms it’s like, ‘The big fish eats the little ones,’ and you can’t understand the nature of reality in black and white, really. Things that seem horrible could actually be releasing energy so it can reform.”

“There’s a bigger purpose,” I fill in.

Basically yes. “But it wasn’t [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][about] malevolence towards women,” James concludes.

Anyway, Tarra’s very much alive and well – they saw her earlier this week reading tarot cards at Muchmore’s.

“She just gave me a reading recently and it was pretty positive,” I mention. At the end of Brooklyn Year One, I pulled the Ten of Swords from the deck, a mermaid stabbed several times over.

“So that’s you with the swords in your back. That’s the worst one!” Tarra said cheerfully.

2:17 We’re talking about Anthony Michael Hall because of reasons and Maria mentions Siouxsie and the Banshees is in a bad ’80s Anthony Michael Hall movie. Like, look at this, guys.

“We were talking to our Lyft driver in LA who seemed to know Siouxsie and Budgie, and apparently she was quite the marketer,” James says. “She would put her insignia on like, everything.”

Jason perks up at this. “What are you talking about? What are you saying about Budgie?”

“The driver had a really weird resume – he lived with Angie Bowie for a few years. But his biggest stint as a bass player was like…” James turns to Maria. “Do you remember?”

She does not. “It was like, Anita Baker, Rick Springfield…” she lists, though the memory seems fuzzy.

“WAS HE HANGING OUT WITH BUDGIE A LOT???!!!” Jason interjects again, to which it needs to be clarified that you know, that was just a name in passing.

“He just thought we were just like these rock and roll people and that we were in love – we weren’t offering him any information,” James explains, and I can’t argue with Lyft guy’s evaluation because the pair are wearing sunglasses and machete earrings, respectively. “And he was saying we’re like Siouxsie and Budgie.”

“She would wear her own shirts. Some people frown upon that. I always kind of liked it,” Jason says.

“Where do we all stand on that?” I ask in a sad attempt to be a journalist.

James answers first. “I like it, and I do think about it a lot.”

Jason goes next. “I like it, I’m for it.”

“We’re pro,” I deduce.

“We’re generally pro,” Maria says more tentatively.

Renzo’s a bit more upfront. “I’m on the fence with that one.”

2:32 This is approximately when our food gets here and I just want want to assert that it was totally delicious. Moving on.

2:50 The band questions me about my day job which is basically to reenact episodes of Riverdale on Snapchat (among other things). Then I ask if they have any day jobs.

“I work at a pizzeria,” Renzo offers.

“That’s cool, I love pizzerias more than anything,” I respond. Facts.

“I work at Sizzle Pie. It’s like a punk, heavy metal pizzeria.”

“That’s amazing,” I say, dead fucking serious.

“King Krule came in,” Jason mentions.

“Yeah, King Krule came in,” Renzo says. “Actually I met Dylan Sprouse there the other day.”

“WHAT!”  I shriek before explaining.”D-Dylan lives around there, my friend Lisa sees him constantly, I read this interview and it was like, ‘Dylan Sprouse and I are hanging and he takes a mouthful of beer and we’re at Tørst in Greenpoint.’ And I was like, ‘THE FUCK, Dylan’s at Tørst in Greenpoint.'”

Like he’s never there when I’m there. Rude.

“He actually left the pizzeria after his slice because we didn’t have beer,” says Renzo. “He was great. Different path from his brother for sure.”

In Brooklyn Year Two I pulled the Knight of Pentacles, a stabilizing, some would say “boring” card. And I preciously projected that onto all the wrong people. The cards are never wrong, but sometimes I am.

So silly! Like mixing up two Sprouse twins. Like, that was forgivable in 2010, it wasn’t in 2016.


3:30 We’re splitting up leftovers when Jason asks what band I’m into, and I say something to the effect of, “Def. Grls made me fucking french toast, so them.” But no, he says beyond the scene. “Oh, just in general, my favorite band is Hole.”

“Hole! I love them,” Renzo says.

“OH really?” I ask. “Yeah, Courtney Love is my favorite ever and I’ve loved her since I was like 13.”

“Yeah, I saw her a few years ago with Lana Del Rey.”

There’s a lot of excited bubbling at the table because this obviously sounds like a perfect tour marriage and I only saw Courtney with fake Hole in 2010. Tl;dr Maria and I were both her for Halloween at different points in our lives.

“I was her when I was 16,” Maria says. She checks her phone to find a picture.

“I’ve never dressed up as her,” Renzo deadpans.

“I had three costume changes,” I explain. “I cried. I threw a wine bottle down the street. I was very in character.” (But blah blah blah you guys already know this). Anyway, Maria quickly finds the picture and passes it around the table.

“It doesn’t quite work because I didn’t have my hair,” she says.

“But I get it, because you have the pose spot on, and the slip is really good,” I add.

Incidentally, I didn’t do the Courtney Love costume for 13 years because Tarra did it first, and I wanted to have respect for her costumes.

“You should start a web series with her,” Jason says. “Tea and Tarot with Tarra.”


4:43 “None of that blue light is translating right now, right?” James asks.

I look into the viewfinder. “No, it’s purple at best.” We’re at 169 Bar, one of the last dives in the LES, lounge-y and bathed in cool tones. After another drink, we take pictures while Jason lets loose on his feelings about Beyoncé (off the record, not sending the Beyhive out for him). But the band’s liking how my coat matches with the pool table, so they force a group of people away to take glamour shots.


Even though we can’t get the perfect shot I can’t deny that Veda Rays live their life (and create their art) strictly in cool tones. But they also have a rawness that feels very old school New York, the scene that I dream of but was Before My Time.

I get off the L, fighting the light ennui coming on. Ugh, stop! The future looks good! I have the Queen of Swords in my future and a container of noodles in my handbag.

You can listen to Veda Ray’s new EP “Shadow Side” on Bandcamp, follow them on Facebook, and catch them at the Mercury Lounge January 6th.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

MOVIE REVIEW: Hit So Hard (The Life and Near-Death Story of Patty Schemel)

I’ve been on a bit of a grunge binge lately. It could be that the onset of certain anniversaries, observed by nearly everyone who cared about music in the mid-nineties, turns collective thought to the anti-heroes of the genre who destroyed themselves in the process of creating it. But for all the stars that burn out, there are some who reticently fade away – at least, until now. One of those stars is Patty Schemel, drummer of Hole. I was lucky enough to meet Patty (along with bassist Melissa Auf der Mar and guitarist Eric Erlandson) at a book signing just a few weeks ago, and it was there I became aware of another Hole-related project – a documentary entitled Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death Story of Patty Schemel.

Hit So Hard is certainly unique in its focus. Though a drummer’s playing is the heartbeat that propels any song, drummers are so often pushed to the back of the stage, hidden behind a shiny kit, while more prominent players soak up the spotlight. Renowned in Seattle circles for her powerful drumming long before becoming a part of Hole, Patty Schemel struggled with alcohol abuse while exploring her sexual identity, and with that came a deep pain that made her work as a musician that much more honest and immediate. With very few female role models in her situation (the handful of them, including Alice de Buhl of Fanny, Debbie Peterson of the Bangles, Gina Schock of the Go-Go’s, and Kate Schellenbach of Lucious Jackson, are interviewed in the film), Patty fearlessly blazed new trails with each twirl and flourish of the sticks. But as Hole began their meteoric rise to rock stardom, that very trail became a treacherous one, filled with tragic death and out-of-control addictions.

Schemel’s story packs a huge punch, but filmmakers David Ebersole and Todd Hughes don’t present it with a flow that’s concise enough, fidgeting around from subject to subject with jolting affect. Schemel’s extraordinary life is offered in dissected segments which fail to render her life cohesively. The sophomoric use of hot-pink title cards in punk-rock fonts are intensely grating and make the whole film feel like a series of movie trailers for a documentary that never happens.

That being said, the doc has two things going for it. First, the breadth of interviews with those who were closest to Schemel is commendable, including her bandmates from Hole (even Courtney Love appears in all her plasticized “glory”), friends from the Seattle music scene, and some very candid commentary from her family members. Secondly, parts of the documentary focused on the most nostalgic era of grunge are culled from personal footage that Schemel captured with a camcorder she was given while on tour. But the footage she captured is not just tour footage – there are hours of heart-rending home videos of Kurt and Courtney just after the birth of their daughter, Frances Bean, filmed when Patty lived with them in Seattle. We see the fragility of this family unit, knowing the future in a way the subjects could not when the footage was shot. It is equal parts beautiful and tragic, and serves as a reminder of how integral Schemel was to the drama that would later play out.

And while most can give at least a brief summary of the somber fate of Kurt Cobain, original Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff, or many of the other heroin casualties of that era, Schemel’s story has been obscured for years. Hole’s popularity went through a resurgence after the release of 1998’s Celebrity Skin, and while Schemel was featured in promotional photos from the era, punishing producer Michael Beinhorn took the drum parts she had written and replaced her recordings with those of session drummer Deen Castronovo.  Understandably, this sent Schemel into a spiral of self-doubt resulting in her departure from the band, followed tragically by relapse, homelessness and prostitution. As someone who idolized this band, listened to that album on repeat, and never knew that Schemel had been replaced by a hired gun, this was the one thing that was extremely shocking to me – I’d always thought I was listening to Schemel on the record, not some beefed-up jock completely unconnected to the compositions or the group dynamic. I felt almost ashamed that I hadn’t even noticed the awkward doppelgangers standing in for Schemel in music videos, and was appalled that none  of her bandmates stepped into help her while she was living on the streets and Hole was living it up.

But Schemel’s story ends on a happier note; these days she passes on her drumming skills as a music teacher (several of her students are interviewed, which is kind of mind-blowing) and rehabilitating stray dogs. She’s survived the storm of making it big in a heroin-addled rock band and lived to tell the tale. Even if her story is presented in a somewhat sloppily cobbled package courtesy of the filmmakers, it is still a compelling piece of rock-n-roll history well worth telling.

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