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Friday, June 17, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bass Player For Hole Found Dead -- Rock Musician Kristen Pfaff's Case May Be Drug-Related

Seattle Times News Services

Death, apparently linked to drugs, has claimed another member of Seattle's well-known rock scene.

An autopsy today found no immediate cause of death for Kristen Pfaff, a member of Hole, a rock band led by Courtney Love. Love's husband, Kurt Cobain, was found dead from suicide in his home in the Denny-Blaine neighborhood April 8.

Cobain was the creative force behind his celebrated group, Nirvana. His death was linked to heroin, drawing worldwide attention and a crowd of 7,000 mourners to a memorial service at Seattle Center.

The 27-year-old Pfaff, a bass player and backup singer for Hole, was found dead yesterday morning in a bathtub in her Capitol Hill apartment.

Authorities think Pfaff's death may have been drug-related. There were no signs of injuries or violence, according to the King County medical examiner, but police discovered syringes and apparent drug paraphernalia in a cosmetic bag next to the bathtub. Toxicology tests have been ordered to help determine the cause of death.

Pfaff had been struggling with drugs, according to Ed Rosenblatt, president of Geffen & DGC Records, for which Hole recorded.

"We are greatly saddened to learn of Kristen Pfaff's death and extend our sympathy to her family, friends and other members of Hole," Rosenblatt said in a statement.

"This is all the more tragic because she had gone through a drug-rehabilitation program this past winter and was in the process of moving back to Minneapolis to be with old friends until the Hole tour resumed."

A friend told police Pfaff had a history of heroin use and had been hospitalized for it five months ago.

Pfaff's father, Norman Pfaff of Denver, said according to her friends Kristen had not recently been involved with drugs. "It's my understanding at the present time my daughter was not using drugs," he said.

That sentiment was echoed by the band's drummer, Patty Schemel, who said she didn't think Pfaff had used drugs since being in treatment last winter.

"It was an accident," she said. "She loved life and this shouldn't have happened. She was an amazing musician and a very beautiful person."

Schemel called Pfaff "funny, smart and talented.

"We're in shock. We were trying to get on with our lives after Kurt. Now it's Kristen. I'll miss her a lot. I loved her a lot."

Pfaff's father said he was toldhis daughter took a bath about 9 Wednesday night and when a friend, Paul Erickson, a member of the group Hammerhead, checked on her, he thought he heard snoring.

"It was common for her to fall asleep in the bathtub," Pfaff said.

Erickson didn't think anything about it and went to bed. About 9:30 a.m. yesterday, Erickson forced open the bathroom door, and the singer was dead, her father said.

He said Eric Erlandson, another member of Hole, also had been at the apartment Wednesday night. Both said there was nothing in Kristen Pfaff's mood to indicate any problem, he said.

Norman Pfaff would not speculate whether drugs caused his daughter's death.

"Let the autopsy speak for itself," he said.

Love's band yesterday issued a statement of mourning.

"We are deeply anguished by the loss of an extremely talented musician, a beautiful soul and a great friend," the statement said.

"She was an intense player, scholar and passionate as a musician and about life in every way.

"We are obviously very shaken by the tragedies affecting the band in the last months but have decided to continue on," said the statement, released through Hole's publicity firm, P.M.K.

If the autopsy confirms Kristen Pfaff's death was heroin-related, it may rekindle questions about the availability of heroin in Seattle, particularly on Capitol Hill.

In the days after Cobain's death, Love publicly denounced the drug trade there, saying Seattle police were not doing enough to stem the availability of heroin. She cited drug sales in specific apartment buildings, not far from the apartment where Pfaff died.

Seattle police pursued some of those leads, but no arrests were made in Cobain's death. A heroin-shooting kit was found next to his body.

Ironically, Cobain's heroin-related death forced Hole to abandon its scheduled tour. Pfaff's death will delay it again.

Hole had signed with a major record label, but Pfaff did not "like all the trappings," said her father. "She thought it was a little out of her control."

Pfaff was born and raised in Buffalo and she studied classical piano from ages 5 to 14. She attended Boston College, spent one year in Amsterdam as an exchange student, then went to the University of Minnesota.

It was in Minneapolis that Pfaff began playing bass and eventually joined the group Janitor Joe, an all-female rock band. While she was playing for that group, a member of Hole approached Pfaff, and she joined them.

Pfaff made a unique and vital contribution to the creative force of the band, Rosenblatt said.

While the recent Hole tour was put on hold, Pfaff toured again with Janitor Joe and had returned to Seattle just two days ago, her father said.

He described his daughter as "bright, personable, wonderful . . . very, very talented, smart, and she always seemed to be in control of her circumstances. Last night she wasn't," he said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Linda Keene and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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