And A with ] MELISSA AUF DER MAUR

[ Q

FYI: pop culture news

May 27, 2004|By Timothy Finn | Timothy Finn,Knight Ridder / Tribune

Melissa Auf der Maur came through unscathed by her years with Courtney Love and Billy Corgan in Hole and Smashing Pumpkins. If what doesn't make you bitter makes you wiser, Auf der Maur must have her doctorate in whatever behavioral science pertains to group dynamics and how they survive someone with the personality of a hurricane.

Early next month, Auf der Maur, 32, will release her self-titled solo debut on Capitol Records, a project she funded and created on her own. The music in Auf der Maur is heavy, melodic and slightly progressive, the kind of music you'd expect from a girl who used to sit in her bedroom in Montreal teaching herself Rush tunes on the guitar.

This spring Auf der Maur spent a month in Europe, where she christened her touring band, her new music and her life as the leader of her own rock group. From a hotel in Luxembourg, where the European tour ended, she talked about stepping out of someone else's big shadow and into her own ray of limelight.

The music on your record is heavy, kind of gothic and melodic. The melodic part makes sense, but the other parts are a little surprising. Is that a typical reaction?

Some people say that. What's interesting is I've never released anything before, so no one had any real reason to assume what I'm about. I did some collaborating on Celebrity Skin, which was Hole's masterpiece pop album. I contributed some vocals and some melodic ideas. But I'm a heavy rocker before anything.

You brought some well-known friends into this project: Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and your former mates James Iha and Eric Erlandson. How did you decide whom to recruit, and were you afraid you might concede some control to your guests?

Oh, no. It was all as simple as this: This project is the most personal and important thing I've done. I invested every penny I had into this record. All my friends are musicians, and I believe in the brotherhood and sisterhood of musicians.

I had a list of songs and a list of friends and a list of the ideal scenarios for each song. I knew exactly how I wanted each song to sound, and I reserved a spot for the people I wanted in each song. I knew everyone's style inside and out and had a reason for wanting them in a certain place.

And everyone complied?

I was brought to tears several times by the generosity of my musician friends.

Is being a woman in rock music still a problem or an issue?

Inside the industry it's fine. I get great support among my musician friends. There's no sexism there. Maybe among the men in suits, the men who run the business, there might be some sexism, but they would be that way if they were running a bank instead of a record label.

I've been lucky. I choose not to be a victim. That's why I signed with Capitol. Andy Slater believes in women artists. He has a history: Fiona Apple, Macy Gray. He believes in unique women making music. I'm happy to represent women in a landscape where women are in the minority.

What valuable lessons did you learn during your time in Hole and the Pumpkins?

My time in Hole, when I was 22 to 27, was the most educational and formative in terms of lifelong lessons. In Hole, I discovered who I was and what my values were. I learned to speak up for who I am. When you're in an environment with really intense people, you either step up and speak up or just evaporate into the background. In those years I learned to become tough.

What I learned, and what I respect most about Billy and Courtney, is the way they live their lives. They are very honest in terms of knowing exactly what they want and then going and getting it. And I say hurrah for that.

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