patty schemel

patty schemel: ‘being a rock star is not what it’s cracked up to be’

You don’t know the power of seeing people like yourself somewhere until you see them for the first time. Patty Schemel — drummer for Hole, Juliette & the Licks, Upset — hitting the skins in the Miss World video was, not to put too fine a point on it, everything to me at that point in my life. The entire band was, but a girl playing drums? What’s a girl who wants to play drums more than anyone supposed to feel about seeing that that isn’t, “Yes!

Drummers tend to take a backseat. In Patty Schemel’s memoir — Hit So Hard: A Memoir, published by Da Capo Press — she makes a point of saying that they are the most replaceable member of the band. Sounds wild, but when you take into account the fact that the Beatles are the golden boys of pop music and everyone still finds time to rip Ringo apart, you’re gonna stop and rethink.

When I asked her what drew her to the drums as an instrument — and wanna say entity over an instrument, but entity would be Patty Schemel at her kit — she answers candidly. “I’d never heard of any female drummers.”

Speaking to her from my couch to hers about Hit So Hard and her time within what she refers to herself as that moment in music, it felt more like we were drinking juice and watching Netflix together. Netflix or Game of Thrones, which Patty tells me, is so good. I trust her. And also, it has dragons. You can’t go wrong with dragons.

We chatted about stuff like the having to relive bad memories, about drumming, about being a Woman In Music and the unspoken groaning of being just that and hearing those words way too fucking much.

My opening line was ridiculous. It was, “Hit so Hard really hits hard.” But it does, so I regret nothing. Was it painful to relive all of the bad stuff — addictive behaviors, losing friends, living on the street — that you went through, in the process of writing the book?

Yeah. It was difficult to go back there. It was sort of like being in a time machine.

The book was a collaboration. I would write, and then my co-writer — Erin [Hosier] — and I would work off a .doc, so when I’d go into describing something difficult, she’d make notes like, “Well, tell me more about this?” and she was just pulling more out of the scene from that memory.

It was so hard to re-emerge back into the world after writing about [that time], then just sort of feeling kinda off and realizing, “Oh. Yeah. It’s because you talked about the death of a very good friend.” [laughs] And even talking about the day-to-day things of being a drug addict; that struggle and that remembering. It never really leaves you.

Those thoughts. Like, my thoughts of having to get it. [laughs] You know, that all your world is, is acquiring drugs and that cycle. You never forget some of those things. So, to then purposely relive them, moment-to-moment, and describe them was really hard.

“I wanted to tell my story; not tell Courtney’s Story or Kurt’s Story. It was about my time within that moment in music. Some friends, at the time, didn’t make it out and I did.”

I volunteered at a rehabilitation center for a while and I saw a couple of people fall off the wagon and just like, saw them come in and out and in and out and I mean, I’ve got family members and stuff, so. It was just like, it doesn’t stop.

Yeah. It’s when I tell my story — when I talk in meetings and I share the way it was, then what happened and the way it is today — that I can see, in hindsight, how much it took to get clean and sober.

And looking and then actually seeing it in the story, you see that there is a reason why, in recovery and addiction, there are cliches like, “You have to hit bottom to get better” and “You have to lose it all…” ‘Cause that’s my story. I really had to lose everything — and, like, continually lose shit [laughs] — to realize it. You know, it wasn’t like I tried once, got clean and sober, and that was it. It was over and over again.

My goal for the book wasn’t to glorify it or romanticize it. It was about the honest truth [of being a drug addict]. I wanted to tell my story; not tell Courtney’s Story or Kurt’s Story. It was about my time within that moment in music. Some friends, at the time, didn’t make it out and I did.

In the book, towards the end, you talk about a girl you were in AA with, who died. Lisa. And you say, like, “Why not me?” Has that led to any kind of guilt or anything for you?

Yeah! I made the same mistakes that she made, so why am I here and she’s not? And, you know, she’s not more of a junkie than I was. So, I do. I guess it makes me feel, like, don’t waste the gift of recovery. ‘Cause not everybody gets to.

About the whole, you know, Pacific Northwest/Seattle/Grunge scene. You talked about how it was essentially was just your life. Like, it wasn’t this massive thing even though it was a huge part of you. Was that scene the first time you felt you’d found your people, or didn’t feel like so much of a misfit?

I guess it was when I found Seattle and punk rock. I saw more women playing music and people dressed the way they wanted to and expressing themselves the way they wanted to, and wanted to. Because I was gay. You know? I was a little more masculine, and so I found a place in that crowd, in that scene of music where I could be and that there were other people who were, and I guess we do all find each other.

“I also felt like a misfit and kind of like a freak because I was gay, so when I discovered drums, I felt like I was plugged into them. It felt good to hit them and to be creative and make music. And then, like a year after that, I had my first drink and felt the same sense of being at ease as the drums gave me, but it was through alcohol. Like, “Oh, now I feel like I’m a human.”

The way you talked about how ordinary that whole scene was reminded me of Patti Smith talking about the Chelsea Hotel inJust Kids. How it just was your life. Were you aware — before Nirvana or Alice in Chains had the hits — that you were part of something that was gonna be as intensely influential as it was?

No! Not at all. Growing up, Seattle was a place that big bands didn’t even stop — or barely would stop — you know, Van Halen would play a concert in Seattle. [laughs] For me, thinking that I was gonna be a drummer in a band and be a successful musician, my first thought was, “Well, that’s not gonna happen in Seattle!” And then all of a sudden, it was crazy.

In the scene of bands, there’d been ones that had some success in Seattle but it wasn’t like anything iconic. [laughs] Also, when you’re in it, it’s hard to see it as the way everyone else does. Like, when you look at a magazine that has photos of, 90s Grunge Seattle People [laughs] and then you look at it and it’s like, “Oh my God.” That was normal? But it’s actually a “look”. You know it’s like, ripped jeans and flannel and all of those typical things…

…and it’s all in the vintage shops right now.

And we wore flannels because they were cheap at the thrift store! That was why. So, everything sort of became magnified.

*It was at this point that the interview turned so Patty was interviewing me, which was both brilliant and my realization that my answers both a) weren’t interesting and b) I missed mentioning my number one British artist, David Bowie. My answers are redacted. Because I care about you all.

So, can we talk a bit about drumming?? Because I am kind of obsessed with drums, even though I don’t know how to play them. You talked about how your first drink of alcohol — the start of your addiction — and there’s that whole thing about drummers being larger than life. Do you think that loss of inhibition helped you to be a good drummer? What do you think about when you drum or do you just feel it?

I think because of the kind of kid I was — I remember wanting to play sports that boys played, and not being allowed because I was a girl — and this band came to my school and I saw the drums and I just connected with that.

I’d never heard of any female drummers and while in music, there was no line drawn where some grown-up was telling me, “You can’t play the drums because you’re a girl.” I mean, I had that problem in my band class but they couldn’t enforce it. So, I was drawn to the drums because boys were doing it

I also felt like a misfit and kind of like a freak because I was gay, so when I discovered drums, I felt like I was plugged into them. It felt good to hit them and to be creative and make music. And then, like a year after that, I had my first drink and felt the same sense of being at ease as the drums gave me, but it was through alcohol. Like, “Oh, now I feel like I’m a human.”

I felt comfortable in my body, the way I did when I played drums. But otherwise, I didn’t. So, there began the search to feel that state of comfort in existing and being in this body.

About the whole dudes drumming and stuff. You mentioned how if you were a girl, especially a girl drummer, the guy at the music store was gonna talk down to you? Are there any specific moments that you remember that really stick out to you where a guy has, like, talked down to you as if, “Oh a Girl Drummer”?

A lot at the beginning and still, even now, loading drums into a club and putting them onto the stage and then there’s the first person you see that you’re gonna work with, which is your sound person, and most of the time, it’s things like, some guy putting mics up in a certain way and I’d be like, “Well, maybe you could move that a little bit over?” And then him not respecting what I’m asking. I mean, like ‘cause he “knows better”.

Even now, when I tour with my band Upset, we move gear into a club and put it down, and then, like Nicole [Snyder], our bass player, sets her bass amp down and she just put it down on the stage and went back outside to grab something else, and the sound guy is like, “You can’t put your bass amp like that!” [laughs] And I just got enraged. I was like, “Yes! WE KNOW. We’re not even done setting up, so chill.”

Like, it’s constant. I mean, there are times when it doesn’t happen and sometimes, we’ll go into a club to set up and the sound guy will know who I am and then be respectful because I’ve already done this. [laughs] I feel like — I try to have so much humility, but also — you should respect me, Sound Kid. You should respect all these women! But then there’s also those great moments when we walk into a club and a woman is setting up all the mics. So we’re all like, ”Awesome!” And I see that a lot more than I used to, so that’s cool.

“Being a rock star is not what it’s cracked up to be.”

That is way cool. I also had no idea what had happened withHole, like how all of that went down. How damaging was being let go from your band to you?

At the time, it felt like a huge betrayal, but my part in that story — I’m not pointing my finger at anyone else in my band, I know I had a part in it — I could have been so much more prepared for that time in the studio. But also that we, my band, agreed to work with a producer who would do that. Like, being a band that was supposed to be feminist and we had moved into this sort of time in our career as a band where we had a big management company that was, you know, Metallica’s, and they were saying we needed to move onto this next step, which was arena-style, so that means using this producer that they’re recommending.

I guess I felt betrayed because I didn’t really have much of a say in that decision to work with him and then also, that they let it happen. And then walking out of the studio, at that time, being a drummer and playing drums was my whole identity. So, I felt lost after that. I mean, that was sort of the ultimate, last thing to go before the homelessness and, you know, drug abuse.

So, how do you cope with escapism? You worked at a dog groomers and then started a dog-minding business — Dog Rocker! — and the dogs made you feel better, what other things do you look for to escape now? Good things.

Yeah, my dogs make me feel real good. And drums make me feel good again. Playing music and writing new things. My daughter, my family, but also — and I wish I could say that I don’t — but the addictive drive still exists in me. And instead of picking up a drink or a drug, I’ll just eat. So, I have to apply all of my recovery stuff onto food. [laughs] Because it’s just one of those things that’s pleasurable. So it’s a constant thing, and now I’m like, “Fuck!” You know, now I gotta keep that in check.

But yeah, some days I wanna just shut off and escape and so that’s like, Netflix! [laughs] Something like that!

What do you like on Netflix? (She asks, with a deep and probing interest, having already finished Stranger Things).

Let’s see! I just finished that show Ozark, with Jason Bateman. It was good, it was okay. And then, this isn’t on Netflix but Game of Thrones.

“Sometimes it’s the simplest thing, like having a daily routine that you do. Like have your coffee and do your dishes and do your laundry, those are the things that give me a peace of mind.”

I haven’t seen Game of Thrones. I feel like the only person!

It’s so good.

What’s the most valuable life lesson you’ve learned in coming out from the darkness of addiction and loss and all of that? Not that the darkness ever really goes, but something you learned in or from those dark times?

I don’t know if it’s a life lesson but sometimes it’s the simplest thing, like having a daily routine that you do. Like have your coffee and do your dishes and do your laundry, those are the things that give me a peace of mind. And that the things that get wrapped up in, like, being a rock star, are so flimsy and bullshit. When I start to get any kind of ego, I start to feel like I should be of service to somebody and do something and not get wrapped up in that. I just think that– and to put it simply but it might sound weird — being a rock star is not what it’s cracked up to be. [laughs] It sounds so simple that way but for me, it isn’t.

Yeah! Sometimes simple is the most impactful. That’s supposed to sound wise too, but it didn’t.

I’ve found that there was so much more to me than I ever thought. When I got clean and sober and I started to discover who I was and what I like and what I’m interested in. Like, “Oh yeah! I like knitting.” [laughs] YES. KNITTING. You know, or whatever. You just have faith that–

Like when you mentioned not turning the Indigo Girls off on the radio…

–YES! [laughs]

Hit So Hard is not a further avenue to learn about Nirvana or the grunge/Seattle scene. It’s a book that doesn’t serve the purpose of filling in blanks; rather, Hit So Hard is a book from the perspective of one person who went through it all, took similar paths to others who didn’t make it on a different trajectory. This book is about Patty Schemel: one hell of a drummer and one excellent human being. Patty Schemel is a woman who survives to fight and fought to survive, and her memoir is a recommended read for anyone that’s ever felt just that little bit different.

You can find the Hit So Hard at all good retailers from Tuesday, October 31.

This exclusive interview was originally conducted for and posted on inspirer.life.
chrysta bell candice ghai

chrysta bell on ‘we dissolve’, twin peaks, and the truth in awareness

Chrysta Bell is attuned to the aura of the universe; to the static, the present, the here and the beyond. This is evident in her music, her thoughts, and her co-creations with director, David Lynch.

The openness of her spirit appeals to me. As a kid in England to the woman at the other end of the line, eight hours in the past, in a place called Oakland, just outside of San Fransisco and maybe even before that. When I tell her I reached out to her on a whim; that something told me to do so, the intonation in her voice lights up. “I am a big, big fan of good signs. They separate the moments,” she tells me joyously.

Talking to Chrysta Bell is like talking to the part of ourselves that we wrongly lock away on hitting adulthood. She exudes the meaning she finds in the world, which as a kid with her head permanently in the clouds, speaks to me, and we build on that. Our shared excitement, life philosophies, our shared dependence on caffeine, and the pesky little elves that deliver (and take) ideas.

“I think those signs are readily available if you’re really looking. I think they happen all the time,” she continues. “But there are just some times where just magic just slaps you in the face, and you’re like, okay, wow. Even my dense brain, just Zombie-walking through life, even I got that magic. It reminds you to be open and present and aware.”

Like me, the chances are you discovered Chrysta Bell as Agent Tammy Preston from Twin Peaks: The Return. When I tell her I watched the series on a 6-hour bus trip, shielding my laptop screen from the kids across the aisle from me, she laughs out loud. I picture her tilting her head back to go with the raucous bouts of laughter we exchange throughout the call and it makes me smile, even now.

Like me, you also may not have known that Chrysta Bell is, first and foremost, a musician.

Raised in San Antonio, Texas, Chrysta Bell Zucht’s world was swathed in music. Her mother is a professional singer who owned a studio with Chrysta’s late father and Chrysta gave her voice to the studio as a session singer, long before her post-high school uprooting to the state’s artistic capital, Austin.

Chrysta Bell met David Lynch almost twenty years ago when he became understandably captivated. Since then, they’ve recorded two full-length albums together—This Train and Somewhere in the Nowhere—and has recently released both an album and an LP independent of the pair’s collaborations.

We Dissolve—released via Meta Hari in 2017—was produced by long-time PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish and it was from that album that the track Heaven pulled me in, in my post-Tammy soul depression. The intoxication of Chrysta’s voice and the track’s rolling, Cocteau Twins-inspired guitar lick opened my ears to a new way of listening, and I had to reach out.

Luckily for me, something also told Chrysta Bell to speak to Inspirer, and I got to ask her questions about everything from her music to Twin Peaks, and how We Dissolve came to be.

“Take a moment to allow yourself to exfoliate the debris. When you take in all of that stuff—some of it is good stuff and thoughtful things, but a lot of it is like bugs on the windshield—it gets hard to decipher pure thought.”

It started with the weather. February sure is colder in Bristol than it is in Oakland.

So, you were in Bristol in February to record your album, We Dissolve, and you worked with John Parish. Like, the John Parish. PJ Harvey is one of my idols, so I was like… gasp. How did that all come to be?

Oh my God, I know. That is kind of how it came about.

I knew that I needed to find the next incarnation of my musical self; my musical existence and my sound and all of those things. After doing two records with David [Lynch] and identifying so much with the music that we were making, I knew that it was time for me to do whatever was coming next. I needed to figure out what that was as an artist. I mean, who follows David Lynch, as far as your producer—your captain—is concerned?

And I’m a collaborator. I love to collaborate.

I wanted to have a strong producer at the helm, and it had to be someone whose aesthetic and approach music wasn’t going to alienate the audience that I’d created with David or the music we’d made. So, the list was shorter and shorter as far as who could follow David and whose style could resonate with the music that I’d done.

I had a few people on the list and I talked to my manager [Annie Ohayon] about it. She was like, “Well, we can get in touch with John Parish. He’s a friend of mine.” That felt like a sign to me. I asked if she would please reach out. She represented Lou Reed for 20 years. She had amazing connections, but that she would just have John as a potential that she could just reach out to was… it felt very auspicious. So, she did reach out to him and we started communicating. I sent him some demos, and he basically said, “Yeah, I think this can work.”

“Someone told me an anecdote about the Beatles. Like, if they had to write down the melody, then it wasn’t good enough. And so, in my mind, I was like, if I’ve got a melody and I can’t remember it, then it’s not good enough. Eventually, I was like, fuck that. I am not the Beatles.”

He ended up being not only a talented, phenomenal musician but so low key and no fanfare. He does things impeccably well, like putting down entire drum takes in a single pass. He has a strong confidence, but it’s quiet. He gets the job done gracefully and graciously. He’s so lovely to be around and, all-in-all, I felt like we, scored on so many levels.

I have all these powerful associations with Bristol and John Parish, and so it was very satisfying and exciting to be able to work with him on the record [We Dissolve]. I felt like it was destiny. It was—it was destiny.

There are some things in your life where you’re like, “Oh, that was supposed to be like that.” And, sometimes, those things are great things, and sometimes those things are not so great things. Fortunately, in this case, the destiny was very positive and it worked out right.

Not everything does, but that worked out right.

With the demos, what was your process when it came to recording them? How do you come up with ideas for your songs and get them down on paper?

I have a songwriting partner in San Antonio, that I’ve been working with for a long time who works on key bass. Essentially, we’d sit in front of the computer—there’s a lot of sitting in front of the computer—toying and experimenting with sounds. He’s got a closet and a microphone. So then there’s a lot of me in the closet, improvising melodies and lyrics. That’s basically it.

The songs start in different ways. A lot of them start in my car and a lot of them start, like, I’ll have an idea when I’m about to go to sleep, and I have to drag myself out of bed. I’m always just like, “Oh, you rascal!” Those ideas that come right as I’m trying to fall asleep, I’m so grateful for, because an idea is so precious, but I’m always just like, “Oh yeah, you gotta make sure I work for it, man!” [laughs]

If you don’t make a note of that, you wake up all, “Awesome! This is such a good idea. I’m going to remember this.” And then you wake up in the morning and you’re like, “I… had a good idea?”

Nope! I’ve learned that the hard way. And then that’s the knife in the back that you’ve given to yourself. You’re like, this idea is so good, I won’t forget it. And then you do. But you remember the impression of how great the idea was, and you don’t have it. So, now you know that you’ve lost a great idea.

Someone told me an anecdote about the Beatles. Like, if they had to write down the melody, then it wasn’t good enough. And so, in my mind, I was like, if I’ve got a melody and I can’t remember it, then it’s not good enough. Eventually, I said, fuck that. I am not the Beatles! If I have a melody that I think is great, I’m gonna record it, because not everybody does this the same way. Maybe Paul McCartney didn’t have to write down or remember a melody by recording it or figuring it out on a piano because it was just so good that it wouldn’t leave his brain, but some of us are still human. [laughs] Everyone has to find their own way.

“I hadn’t seen Twin Peaks since I was very young, and what had made the deepest impression on me at the time was the music. So many of the concepts were so mature, sophisticated, and nuanced and the characters had so much going on, but the music and the visuals awakened something within me that was very special.”

Now, I try to give myself grace when I let an idea slip away. We have to treat our ideas as if they’re very, very precious. I guess maybe I think of ideas as little elves. Sometimes they come and hang out and sometimes they’re like, “Hmm, no, you didn’t treat us well the last time.”  If you’re a place that is a fertile territory for ideas or if ideas know, as entities, that they can come to you and that you won’t squander the opportunity to receive them, they will. I feel like the ideas are like, “Hey! I’m gonna go over to this lady, she takes care of business. This guy, he will drag his butt out of bed at three in the morning to write it down.” [laughs] Now I’m just visualizing all these little weird idea elves.

When I was a kid, I used to picture sentient mice in my head, running on little wheels. That’s kind of like idea elves! I think maybe if start running in the middle of the night and, then, are like, “Yeeeeah, you’re not waking up, so I’m going to go somewhere else…”

Yeah! I mean, how many of my great ideas have, like, gone over to David Lynch? I could be the one that’s helping him be so fertile with his ideas because of all the little elves turning away. [laughs] I’m working on that. I’m always working on being a better artist or better at life, and so much of that is the grace that we give ourselves when we’re not doing the right thing. There’s that moment where we can either get better or we can keep doing what we’ve always been doing.

2018 has already provided a lot of moments where I’m just like, “Okay. It is a new year, Chrysta Bell, you’ve got this. You can start fresh.” And I would say 67% of the time I am grabbing hold of that opportunity to start fresh, and then there’s the other 33% that was left over. And that’s okay. We’re human. We’re just doing this dance we call life.

…this is what happens when an interview before coffee. [laughs]

I wish I was this good pre-coffee. I’m like in the new season of Twin Peaks before Cooper gets his groove back and he’s like a zombie, and he’s walking and is like, “Coooooooooooffeeeeeee.” That is me. That is me all the time. Which is a good way to get on to Twin Peaks.

 I love Twin Peaks. I love Tammy. How did you get involved?

David was like, “Chrysta Bell, I think there might be a role for you in my new project.” I was like, “Oh really?” And then I said, “David, I haven’t watched it in a really long time, but I’m gonna go ahead and do that now.” [laughs] And so, I did.

I hadn’t seen Twin Peaks since I was very young, and what had made the deepest impression on me, at the time, was the music. So many of the concepts were so mature, sophisticated, and nuanced, and the characters had so much going on, but it was the music and the visuals that awakened something within me that was very special.

There’s a point where—because I’m so connected to David and there’s so much of his influence in me—I try not to inundate myself with his art because I need to have my own identity. I just hadn’t really watched Twin Peaks, and I now have, I have this gift of something that so many people have also felt so connected to and enlivened by, which I don’t know I would’ve gotten if David hadn’t asked me to be in it.

Twin Peaks is overflowing with magic and mysticism. I’m so grateful to everyone who made it, to make it come to the remarkable entity that has brought so much to so many people’s lives. To be a part of it—to even understand that I am a part of it—is a bit incomprehensible.

Slowly but surely, it’s sinking in.

I want to ask you about a transcendental meditation and how the process of that contributes to your ideas—your process, your songwriting, your music—your creativity. and everything like that. Are there any ways in which it helps you to channel those things?

If I could write the word “yes”, in neon, and blink it in your face, I would! [laughs] It does, but it does so much more than that.

Creativity is so much improved when there’s less clutter—all of that stuff that toxifies and bogs us down. And it’s not just creativity that’s assisted. It’s everything. Once you take a moment to allow yourself to exfoliate the debris. When you take in all of that stuff—some of it is good stuff and thoughtful things, but a lot of it is like bugs on the windshield—it gets hard to decipher pure thought.

What I mean is what’s coming from a place of awareness versus something that’s like, a thought-y thought; like something that got to you because someone said it somewhere or you heard it on a television show. There’s so much investigation of information, and I’m sensitive to it. I’m just like, “Wow, there’s a lot happening in my head right now.” In those moments, I feel clogged up. Like there’s no space for creativity. There’s not even a space to feel okay or to feel well or exuberant. It’s not that I get depressed a lot, either. It’s just that it’s a lot to hold. There is a lot going on, and our sweet spirits are just taking in all of this junk.

Connecting with loved ones, yoga; there are all kinds of things that cleanse you, but they’re just scratching the surface. They are all helpful, wonderful, beautiful things, but TM [transcendental meditation] is like taking a scrub brush to yourself. That’s so inelegant to say, but that is what it’s like; like you can clean a window, and sometimes you just get one layer of goo off of it and you’re like, “At least I figured out that it was a window because it looked like a wall…” [laughs]

You have these opportunities to release what you’re holding on to. And once you release it, you feel more peaceful. And once you feel more peaceful, you’re more open to ideas. TM takes you out of your own web of issues. It lets things melt away. And that is a profoundly powerful tool. I give it two big thumbs up!

“I think, maybe, some artists feel that if they’re not living on the edge of existence, that their art isn’t going to be potent, and I think David Lynch is a prime example that, that is not the case.”

There are a lot of people who are creative that create their magic from being low and from feeling isolated. And, it’s not that sadness is not something that can create beauty, but rather that what TM shows me is that you don’t have to make that sacrifice to be creative.

Clarity and inner peace can also create a beautiful flow, and it’s much easier to live and to be around others when you’re in a better place. I think, maybe, some artists feel that if they’re not living on the edge of existence, that their art isn’t going to be potent, and I think David Lynch is a prime example that, that is not the case.

Nobody has to suffer. We don’t need to suffer; we will and we do, but it doesn’t have to be absolute. There is so much to be gained from relieving ourselves of all that pressure.

Do you think that like we create our own meaning?

I once took this course called The Forum, and The Forum was all about getting down to the simple phrase that life is meaningless. At first, you rail against that because it seems like it’s such a violation or the taking of this life for granted, to say that it’s meaningless, but it’s the opposite of that. There’s nothing that can assess or assert meaning except for your own soul journey.

I think life is meaningless, but not in a way where nothing means anything. I mean it as in I think everything means everything. You can’t slice it up into bits. It’s like there is an all that is; there is a great unknown, there is an infinite awareness that is so much bigger than we can possibly fathom. Yet, we slice it all the time. One of the things that TM does is it gives you those minuscule moments of absolute truth. Like taking huge exhale. That’s just kind of how I see it.

Those moments are so we can appreciate where it is we come from and the connectedness that can be so comforting on a level beyond what our emotions can encompass. Beyond the feeling of happiness or sadness or anxiety or fear. It’s the totality of everything. That’s the kind of stuff I think about late, late at night and what brings me a sense of awe and of peace.

“People resist beauty every day, all the time; people resist love, people resist connection, and our world is toxic with resistance. But, when there is that surrender, it’s so beautiful, and that’s what this life is about. Breaking down that resistance.”

If fear starts to come up, like how this is so much bigger than I know how to understand. Like, I just want to handle life right now. I don’t want to think about the great beyond. When those thoughts come up, if I just surrender to those of life’s boundless joy and infinite wonder, the fear melts away. The fear is just fear of trying to make sense of things. And if there’s something we don’t know, we feel fear, right?—resistance, I like to call it—of the vast beauty.

People resist beauty every day, all the time; people resist love, people resist connection, and our world is toxic with resistance. But, when there is that surrender, it’s so beautiful, and that’s what this life is about.

Breaking down that resistance.

As a traveler, and not just on tour, have you ever had any of those moments of surrender?

When Inland Empire went to the Venice film festival—this was in 2006 or something—I had jet lag, woke up at midnight, and just started walking the streets of Venice. I had the most soulful experience. Like I was an apparition.

I was walking the cobblestones, and I walked and walked and walked. I felt like I was a part of the essence of the city itself. This was one of those moments when I felt like I was connecting with the greater humanity; to the idea of a city and all of the energy it can hold in its rocks; the wheels that have passed over and the seats that have sat on and the windows that people have cleaned. There was an integration with everything that was there. It was really beautiful and memorable.

There’s a song that David and I did later called, Somewhere in the Nowhere. There are parts of that song that reflect that feeling. In the song, it’s a little more intense. It’s screams and fights and crying coming out of the windows. More like beat poetry; kind of intense. But the chorus to Somewhere in the Nowhere is that same collective energy that I was sharing with all of these other beings in this city of Venice, Italy with all of its own history.

It had this energy of infinity, but it was still inside of a moment. It was all of those things at once. I think about that walk alone at night a lot. I’ve written about it. I’ve got a lot of those experiences, but that one was super special.

“It had this energy of infinity, but it was still inside of a moment. It was all of those things at once.”

Kind of like Chrysta Bell herself.

The thing about Chrysta Bell is I could talk to her forever. We almost did, even joked about it. Somewhere, on that cold-to-mild day in January, we were brought together to talk, and she’s right when she says to me that we should listen to the intuitive little voices we ignore for the doubt.

“That’s the elves again,” I tell her. “But we’re listening.”

She laughs, fervency in her voice as she proclaims, “That’s it! That’s it, I love it.”

Chrysta Bell is embarking on her European tour as we speak. Dates can be found on her website. Don’t hesitate to catch her live if you can help it.

Her eponymous EP, Chrysta Bell, is also available to stream and by, as of March 3rd here.

This interview was originally conducted for and posted on inspirer.life.