Melissa Auf der Maur
On Her Past, Present & Future…
June 2010
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman

“Uniting conceptual story telling, music and visual art has always been my deepest desire. OOOM is my first step in that direction, and it has been a sensational experience.” That’s how Melissa Auf der Maur has described her new multi-layered, otherworldly and entrancing record, Out Of Our Minds, which not only showcases her skills and vocal timbre to perfection, but is also an all-immersive 21st Century multimedia project that is accompanied by a fantasy film and comic book. She explained to Kitchen Sink: “It started as my follow-up solo album, with a personal / creative promise to myself to expand not only as a songwriter, but to bring my roots as a visual artist into my life in music. But first, I had to write many a song to find the theme and concept. When the song Out Of Our Minds was written, that’s when I was given my sonic and thematic direction for the whole project.”

Addressing the film’s mythologies, folklore and vikings, Melissa noted: “The central theme of the project is the hunt for the heart – be it the heart of the matter, or the heart of a viking, it is a quest towards the emotional centre, symbolised by the heart in certain circumstances, as I am using the language of symbols, dreams, music and the subconscious. Ultimately, it is an invitation into a world of that.” Although MAdM typically composes most of her songs alone in her bedroom, she is a keen collaborator and for this LP, as “one woman and a hard drive,” she worked with a number of different producers and mixers over a 3-year-period, in studios across Canada, California and New York, even singing a duet with one of her biggest inspirations, Glenn Danzig.

Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, from the age of 7, Melissa devoured her Mum’s record collection, went to music school, became a club DJ when she was aged 17 and later formed her first band in the early ‘90s, Tinker. Although she is undoubtedly best known for her roles as a bass-player in Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins, thinking of Courtney Love as her sister and Billy Corgan as her big brother, summing up her time with both groups as an invaluable life education and learning curve. However, after that period was over and she had pursued other musical paths, believing that “life is about change and evolution,” since 2004, Melissa has fully-embraced being a solo artist (citing recording the song Followed The Waves as a huge confidence boost), loving the freedom that it has offered her and even setting up her own label after leaving Capitol.

Stepping up from where her debut left off and broadening her dynamic range – with a stream of sounds that will lap over you – as to why OOOM took so long to complete, she told one reporter: “The weird thing in my case is, I was always being creative and made no time at all for practicality. And now I’ve had to learn to channel my creativity and live in dream land and music land when I need to, and also how to run my own label and finance my production company, embracing all the technologies from online to actual manufacturing of the things. For me, the challenge has been how do I learn to be practical rather than how do I find time to be creative.” And from creator to consumer, check out to purchase a variety of exclusive and bespoke collectible packages, with Melissa confessing to the Guardian: “As much as I consider myself an artist in thrall to the Victorian, pre-Raphaelite and renaissance periods, I’m actually a modernist at heart.”

Renowned as one of the coolest and most beautiful female musicians in rock, not to mention as an artist of distinction, MAdM thinks of the bass as the “mother of all instruments,” in that it nurtures and enhances all other players! Also a passionate and published photographer, some of the red flame-haired sorceress’ other inspirations include; Alan Moore, David Lynch, Anais Nin, H R Giger, J W Waterhouse, Francesca Woodman, Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age and The Smiths. Taking time out from her busy schedule – with a UK Tour hopefully planned for later this year – Melissa has thoughtfully answered some of my questions about her magical sonic potions and how the bewitching musical cauldron that is Out Of Our Minds, helped her to find her voice…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.To begin with, have you been pleased with the response to OOOM and what have been some of your favourite events to help promote the record, film and comic book?
“It's been such a LONG process in development, making and releasing this mad project, that the journey of making it is so intertwined with the releasing and "letting go". So it's all a big WOW. Some highlights however:

#1 – OOOM Film being curated at the Contemporary response? partner to the JW Waterhouse Pre-Raphaelite painting exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts this past winter. Back in my photo / art school days, the pre-Raphaelites were one of my favorites and I was even then contemplating the contemporary version of the movement... The curator of the museum, had no idea of that or even my background in art, even I had actually forgotten what an integral part of my inspiration it was, she simply saw the film and felt the connection. THAT felt better than graduating with straight A's, not to mention the setting in which the film was placed – high art high tech heaven! (Sundance Film Festival Premiere was great too!)

#2 – OOOM presented at WOLRDCON SCI-FI Festival. Being invited to present the whole project at the 67th annual world science fiction festival was amazing! Exactly the world and dialogue I want to open up to this project of mine. I met Neil Gaiman there which was a thrill, and with every comic book store I visit with this project, I crave to be part of that mind-expanding creative community, more and more!

#3 – Letting the songs speak for themselves. As I said, 5-years-in-the-making, holding these songs in HURT. The March 30th FULL MOON eve of the release of this album on my website, I took a 24-hour vow of silence. No blog, twitter, facebook... thank the lord, the music could speak for me. Knowing the songs are out there, for people to discover whenever they stumble upon them, brings me a deep inner peace...”

2.I read that this album helped you to find your voice, so I wondered if you would be able to expand on this, as I think your vocals sound fantastic?

“My first album I wrote on my 4 track in my home, in my 20's, having never sung lead vocals live before. I recorded the album never having performed them before. The 180 shows I played in support of my first album, was a transforming challenge – a lot of what I "sang" (or sometimes more of a monotone talk) did not translate well live. That was lesson number one, that lead me into the writing and making of this album... Within that lesson, was the commitment to GROW not only as a vocalist but as a writer and storyteller. "What are you trying to say and share?!?!" So the search for the message was a huge part of finding my voice... I so profoundly wanted to share my HEART, and ALL of me... so I had to dig really deep, beyond my diary musings about romantic love puzzles and out came OUT OF OUR MINDS – the title track came very early on in the making, and in that witchy yell, and invitation to step into the dream and heart side of things... I found my voice and my message.”

3.Having established yourself as a successful solo artist, which musicians do you think have also made strong solo albums – either after having left a band or whilst also being part of a group?

“Karin aka FEVER RAY from the Knife, is not only one of my favorite albums of 2009, but an amazing solo album! Otherwise... I don't keep an eye on pop culture from that perspective I must admit... In fact, other than all of the beatles and some of zeppelin, I can't think of many solo artists from bands... I'll think about it.”

4.Of all the LPs in your record collection – from those you bought at an early age right up until now – are there any in particular, where you never skip a track?
“All albums by THE SMITHS.”

5.Some songwriters believe that “songs are already there and it’s their job to find them.” Would you agree with this + of all your compositions, are there any that you had for a long time before the right words came along to fit the music, or vice versa?

“I definitely believe the idea that most creative ideas come from our subconscious, aka collective unconscious... so belong to all of us really, we are just antennas receiving. But then, once you've received the seed of creation, a lot of the rest is up to you fine-tune it. Some ideas come more fully developed, or just one line... So each song has a different ratio of "sub" and "above" conscious... make sense?”

6.Of all your songs to date – from solo material, to collaborations, to Hole – which ones have been your favourite to make from start to finish?

“OUT OF OUR MINDS & FOLLOWED THE WAVES were the clearest and easiest songs to fall out of me for my solo records, and I love the magic feeling of "ease" when making a song… So in that case, I think "use once and destroy" (aka "melissa's song" courtney used to call it) is one of my favorites, as it came form this bass riff that was rolling in my fingers and grew from there…”

7.Can you remember your very first bass, and which bass players do you most admire / what are some of your all-time favourite bass-lines?

“Still have my Squire Precision, great bass. Eric avery from jane’s addiction was certainly one of the first bass players I noticed. Amazing lines.”

8.You said that a couple of tracks on Out Of Our Minds were written with a drummer, and that it was “a revelation to actually write with a drummer and not a drum machine.” So, with this in mind and as the relationship between lead singers and lead guitarists are always well-documented, who do you think are some of the great rhythm sections in the history of popular music?

“Fleetwood mac – during the making of celebrity skin we were invited to sit in on there rehearsal for the first big reunion – we went with our producer michael beinhorn, and he kept nudging me to pay special attention to the bass and drums relationship. That was one of the first times I really understood it... But in history, obviously the most famous and undeniable duo are led zeppelin's bohnam and jones.”

9.A lot of musicians talk of how with interviews, they’re worried that they may make them overanalyse what they do, whereas others like the fact that interviews can make them understand and think about their music in different ways. How does talking about your songs make you feel?

“I've gone to art school, done therapy and I am a woman... so I like to talk about my feelings and yes, I do learn from other people's perspective and questions... I'm the opposite of a pent-up incommunicative man in a band. Not afraid to be called new age... and I love how old things take on new meanings...”

10.What’s the most unusual gig / venue that you’ve played and if you had an unlimited budget, what would be your dream stage set-up?

“A tropical themed dive strip bar in niagara falls NY, was certainly the weirdest place and a dwarf KISS cover band called "mini kiss" were on the bill that night too. Dream gig: old ship on a virtual ocean with horses and fireballs.”

11.As a visual artist, can you tell us how the film and comic book that accompany OOOM developed over time?

“The story and message in OOOM came from the music, then the next step was to bring those stories and feelings into visual versions. The pinnacle of that was meeting the director tony stone that I made the film with. I had seen a rough cut of his first feature film "severed ways: the norse discovery of america" (out now on dvd in the UK!), a lo-fi viking epic set to black metal and brian eno... and fell in love with the oddness of seeing vikings in digital pixels, and the amount of nature and long takes... Very unique feeling, so that was the turning point, looking to him, who knows the language of cinema and how to build a physical / visual world, and then merge the feeling of a dream and arrangement of a song into that... I do think it’s a true hybrid of film and music AND man and woman actually... Then the comic is a reflection of the film with a few twists and I wanted to only use BLACK & WHITE and RED, to not compete with the film's incredible color of nature AND the red was to bring out the BLOOD, which is the CONNECTOR in OOOM. As jack forbes the illustrator was a recent graduate and had never been published before, he was really open and great to work with.”

12.On a similar note, of all your photographs, do you have any favourites and do you have any further news on your planned book?
“Ah.......... that question always lands heavy for me. Biggest hurdle: DIGITAL. I have not digitized my massive 20-year archive yet... so until then, I don’t think the retrospective book I've been dreaming of can happen yet... In the meantime, I've just been invited to become a Lomo amigo and as I have still not converted (and may never) to digital photography, I have new found inspiration for taking photos again... The past few years, the moving picture and music have consumed me...”

13.In the past, you’ve talked openly about your dreams and some cultures believe that if you have the same dream 3 times, it will eventually become a reality. Is there anything similar to this that you believe?
“I believe your dreams are your reality and know better than our awake selves. A reality you can trust!”

14.What have been some of your personal highlights / defining moments, during your career so far?
“A cat sleeping on my lap while typing this interview out is quite perfect... Otherwise, it's the diversity of my travels and people I've had the opportunity to work with – to maintain that is my goal.”

15.Lastly, chips or cream buns?

“DEF CHIPS (with vinegar!) savory all the way!”

A very special thanks to Melissa, and to Rachel @ Rachel Hendry PR, for all of their time and help.

“Travel out of our minds and into our hearts”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?