The life of Kristen Pfaff, a talented young bassist on the rise in the music industry who tragically lost her life at the age of 27 to a heroin overdose.
How Did Pfaff Become a Member of the Club?
Kristen Pfaff was a musician, a bassist born in Buffalo, New York, who died tragically from the heroin overdose in 1994. The location of her sudden demise was Seattle, known as the unofficial heroin capital of Washington at that time, and her age then was 27, like that of her close friend and musician Kurt Cobain who died just a few months before her.
During the Early Days
Pfaff led a chequered life, stumbling upon her musical career only a few years before her tragic death due to substance abuse.
Interestingly, Pfaff’s academic interests were in the field of Women’s Studies, and she was a counselor for rape victims before becoming a full-time bassist and songwriter with the Minneapolis based band, Janitor Joe, of which she was also a founder member.
Pfaff allegedly started ‘dabbling in drugs’ during this period of her life as she was beginning to transition into the rather hedonistic lifestyle of a rock’n’ roll musician in the 1990’s. Janitor Joe began to do well for itself, and the band started touring the country.
The Increasing Struggle Within
It was on one such tour in California that Pfaff was scouted by the members of established Seattle based alternative rock band, Hole.
In spite of initially declining, Pfaff ultimately shifted base to Seattle to begin her brief but memorable stint as the bassist of Hole in 1993. It was at this juncture in her life that her drug abuse began to increase substantially as she started to interact with peer groups where ‘everyone was doing dope’.
Her bandmate at Hole and one-time lover Eric Erlandson later spoke of Pfaff’s initiation into heroin abuse due to an acute sense of isolation, “She moved to Seattle and felt disconnected from everything, and she made friends, drug connections…”.
Efforts at Recovery
To counter her own growing depression and drug abuse Kristen left Seattle to return to Minnesota once Hole had completed recording the album, ‘Live Through This’, which it was working on at that time.
Kristen then enrolled herself at a detox center in Minnesota in February 1994 in order to overcome her addiction to heroin and her tendencies towards substance abuse.
She even took a break from working with Hole to tour with her old band, Janitor Joe, in the spring of 1994. After the tour when she returned home, she was to all apparent knowledge ‘clean’ and had been able to successfully deal with her demons of drug abuse.
The Sudden End
Kurt Cobain, one of her fellow-musicians and closest friends in Seattle suddenly died in the same year at the age of 27, and she made up her mind to return permanently to Minneapolis.
However, she decided to make a trip to Seattle in order to wrap up her work there. On the morning of the day on which she was supposed to leave the city and return, the 16th of June 1994, Kristen Pfaff was found dead in her Seattle apartment with syringes of heroin and the paraphernalia of drug abuse lying around her. She succumbed to what was legally termed, ‘acute opiate intoxication,’ and her death at the age of 27 bought her that one-way ticket into the Forever 27 Club.