Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Melissa Auf der Maur!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! The day when I shine the spotlight on female artists, musicians, writers, creative women of all stripes who I think rock and deserve your attention. Last week, I hosted Brenna Red of The Last Gang, a band I discovered via MySpace and completely adore. Brenna volunteered to give out a whole prize pack of The Last Gang swag and the winner of it is In Bed With Books from MySpace! Please send me a myspace message with your address info so I can pass it on to Brenna!

Okay, you know how I often ask my Women Who Rock about any Wayne's World "I'm Not Worthy" moments? Well I am about to have mine....

My guest this week is a legendary musician who played in one of my all time favorite bands (Hole) and performed at the best concert I've ever seen (the October 21, 1994 Hole show at the Metro in Chicago which felt so life-altering as a 15 year old), and she toured with one of my favorite hometown bands (The Smashing Pumpkins), not to mention her amazing solo album which contains one of my personal anthems ("I Need I Want I Will"), oh and my character Marissa in IWBYJR, the cool, beautiful older sister who plays bass, well Marissa sounds a bit like Melissa because she is totally a tribute to MELISSA AUF DER MAUR!!!!

That's right. Melissa Auf der Maur is here for Women Who Rock Wednesday! You've most likely heard of her, but if you haven't you are in for a treat. If you have, well you are probably as excited as I am! So check out her amazing interview and be sure to leave a comment about it because Melissa was kind enough to donate a signed t-shirt as a prize!

Meet Melissa:

Q: You are definitely a Jill of all trades so to speak. You went to a performing arts high school, are a photographer, have played bass in Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, not to mention your amazing solo career and your next solo album will be accompanied by a film and graphic novel. So which interest came first? How did you discover your various talents, through the help of supportive parents and teachers or did you have other early inspirations?

My mother was Montreal's first female rock DJ and raised me with great music and stories. She sent me to experimental arts and music school from grade 1 on- my choir teacher Mr.Edwards introduced me to the power of music while guiding our kid choir through Mozart's "Requiem". My father was an independent politician and freelance journalist from tough immigrant parents, who raised me to be an "individual" and avoid being a slave to "the man". My home town Montreal, is an artists paradise: low cost of living, beauty, late nights, great food... it's all culture all the time. I never believed I couldn't be a photographer, musician, writer, gipsy traveller.... I am a grateful product of my environment.

Q: Tell us about your early years as a musician. What drew you specifically to bass guitar? When did you start playing (or if you answered that in the above questions, when did you join your first band) and who were some of the musicians (particularly women) who inspired you?

Trumpet came first- I was the only girl trumpet player in my high school band, and I held first chair, meaning I was the leader. Early childhood music education really trains the ear and pays off later. Meanwhile my mother's record collection guided me, and then by the time I was a tiny teen Blondie and Cindy Lauper blew my mind- so my role models were planted- then came all the beautiful sad music of The Smiths and The Cure......... then shortly after I graduated from high school I payed 1$ to see a brand new band with only a 7" out on Sub Pop Records, and they REALLY blew my mind- and their stoic platinum blond female bass player D'arcy must of cemented the deal in my subconscious. I started my first band Tinker shortly after, and the bass came so naturally to me. Upon reflection now, I understand what attracted me to the bass- it was the feeling. You feel the bass, you don't hear it, watch it or listen to it- it's deeper then that. I call it the mother of all instruments. The role it plays in music making is very particular- it unites all the elements together- the rhythms, the melodies and arrangement. You don't notice it unless it's gone. I love her.

Q: I think you are an amazing live performer. I've seen you several times with Hole and on your own. I know others are equally enamored by your live performances because there is a community dedicated to documenting the live performances of Hole and its members, So can you talk a little bit about what you get out of performing live and share some of your memorable onstage moments?

In my experience as a human it's simply the best way to communion with others. I am sure it is what religious people can feel in church. I didn't got to church, but I began going to rock shows from about 13 years old on- Montreal was incredible liberal and my parents were very relaxed, I loved the experience. Shows were a big part of my social life and development. It was also a very exciting time in music- late '80's and early '90s- independent and alternative music was exploding. Around the time I began to play bass I had a dream about the power of music bringing people together, it involved a pyramid, aliens, the Smashing Pumpkins, the band Kyuss, a large group of random people and me. This dream directly lead me to commit my life to music - the song "I need I want I will" is the tale of the dream, as well as the spiritual core of my first solos album. Also, my live experience was very minimal when I joined HOLE at the age of 22- I had only ever played 7 live shows with my first band. My first show with Hole was at the legendary Reading summer festival in England in front of 65,000 people. That was powerful and surreal, and became the symbol of how extreme my journey in music was to be.

Q: It would be almost impossible for me to choose my favorite Hole, Smashing Pumpkins or Auf der Maur song, so perhaps you can tell my readers in case any of them aren't familiar with your work, which songs in your body of work you are most proud or fond of and that they should go check out to hear what Melissa Auf der Maur is about?

The first Pumpkins album Gish changed my life- it really was the first album that really inspired me to play. 10 years later when I joined the band for the farewell world tour, I got shivers every time I played one of those songs live, in particular the song "I am one".

During my 5 years with Hole we only made one album, but it was an epic one "Celebrity Skin". We worked over two years on that, it was the most focused I had ever been on any singular project and I am extremely proud of my work as bass player, songwriter and back up vocalist on it. In particular the song "Use once and destroy" which Courtney always referred to as "Melissa's song" as is spawned from a bass line of mine.

My first solo album "Auf der Maur" was a culmination of all my years of music dating back to my first band, through Hole and the Pumpkins- I had been writing and defining my style all along, and finally committed to put it all into one album. I am very proud of that album particularly cause it had always been a fear of mine that I would not have the guts to ever make my own record- but I did. The song "Followed the Waves" was the song that gave me the confidence to commit to making the album. I still listen back to the 4 track version that I recorded alone in my NYC apartment, and think "Hey! That's heavy!", and there is where I found the guts to go it alone.

My new 3-D concept album "Out of Our Minds" is something I am eager to share with people in 2009- and that is a reflection of my new found commitment to unite all my modes of expression together: Visual, Conceptual and Musical.

Q: You've collaborated with some amazing musicians over the years from your bandmates in Hole and Smashing Pumpkins to the amazing talents you had on your solo album including Mark Lanegan (one of my absolute favorite male voices), Josh Homme, and Paz Lenchantin. Do you plan to collaborate with any of these folks again and who are some of your dream people that you'd like to collaborate with in the future?


I have been so lucky to play with the most talented people I know. By talent I mean individuality, singular voices and true commitment to music for all the right reasons. I will continue to collaborate with my old and new friends. I am extremely proud to add one of my long time heroes : Glenn Danzig to my sacred list of collaborators on this next album. He agreed to do the first duet of his career with his devoted fan, Me!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your next project, which I have heard involves an album, a film, and a graphic novel? What is it and when and where can we get our hands on it? I think it's awesome that you are using so many different mediums to express your vision, can you tell us a little bit about where you got the idea and what you feel like you've accomplished?

I began making this second solo album while still on Capitol Records, but as the queen technology began to shine and the beast of the record industry began to crumble, I got tangled in a lot of red tape! My album was held hostage for what felt like forever, so as I could not release my music, I turned my creative energies to collaborations outside music while I fought to free the album. What began as frustrating proposition turned out to be a great creative kick in the butt. This 3D concept album has been 3 years in the making, and is aimed to be released in spring '09. BUT between now and then I will launch my new multi layered website where you will be able to find clues to all elements of the project unfold- including a 3 song EP of new songs available on digital and vinyl only as of Nov 20th on my myspace. I am also please to report I got out of the major label beast and have emerged an independent artist.

Q: I always ask two standard questions of my Women Who Rock. The first is a two parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge. We like to see the true roots of rockin' women!

Album: BLONDIE greatest hits

Q: This seems almost silly to ask of the woman who played bass in two of the biggest (and IMHO best!) bands of the 90s, but what was your biggest rock star moment? Maybe it was a concert you went to or played, a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, a time where you just got the rock star treatment, or just a really cool moment like the one your friend Cecil Castellucci describes here.

As I mentioned the defining "me and music" moment for em was my first show with Hole- that's when I knew this journey was serious. It also is a magical and massive festival. Exactly 10 years later to the day I played the same festival in support of my solo album- and that further illustrated this long and wonderful journey.

All the big and magical moments have always involved the music- not the fancy hotels, people or grammy parties- more the live show revelations and the studio collaborations. Writing "I need I want I will" with Josh Homme (of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age") one of my greatest musical influences was another explosion in the "i believe in the magic of music" part of my being.

Basically everything I have experienced in music has been a revelation, as I know it is a great luxury and honor to call her my main ride in this life. I am blessed by the music gods and I wave to them in the sky on every full moon. " I HEAR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Thank you, Melissa!!!!

I don't know about you guys, but I love Melissa even more now! What great answers and you can tell she really feels the music just like we do as music fans. So check out her myspace. I know I'll be on there next Thursday, November 20th to download her new songs and order the vinyl! And please, go ahead and leave a comment about the interview or why you love Melissa and her music right here and you will be entered to win a signed t-shirt from Melissa! I will choose the winner at random next week when I am proud to feature another amazing musician and good friend of mine, Jenny Hassler of heilige! Jenny's an up-and-comer and if you enjoy Melissa's music, you will love hers too, so please come back next Wednesday and learn all about it!


Anonymous said...

I saw the title of the post in my Google Reader and got all burbly with excitement! I love Melissa! Great interview. Lucky you :)

Liviania said...

This is such an awesome interview. I loved reading about how passionate she is about music and I really look forward to the new album. Bass players don't get enough love, but I absolutely agree that you miss the bass line if it isn't there. I like to joke that the music isn't loud enough if my heart isn't trying to beat in time to the bass.

bunnybea said...

Such a great WWRW! I actually had "real a lie" in my head yesterday and couldn't find my iPod to play it! I love Melissa's music, style and photography. Her show in SF was cancelled when I had planned on going and I would love to see her tour again soon. Thanks for an awesome interview!

Anonymous said...

That was a fantastic interview, Stephanie! :D

Melissa's so articulate - especially when it comes to explaining her music. I especially liked when she described the bass : "You feel the bass, you don't hear it, watch it or listen to it."

And you have fantastic writing skills yourself; and many thanks for sharing this interview!