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Thursday, June 20, 2002

Auf Der Maur calls on friends for solo album

By PAUL CANTIN -- JAM! Showbiz

For her debut solo album, former Hole/Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur got by with a little help from her friends.

It just so happens that the Montreal-born musician's list of friends includes some heavy musical company, and they were all available to contribute to her debut album, "Auf Der Maur."

"The diversity of players reflects a spirit of musicians supporting other musicians and playing music for fun's sake. The process in itself was worthwhile," Auf Der Maur told JAM! Music of the album, which is nearly complete, although no release date or label has been set.

Among the musical friends helping her out on "Auf Der Maur" are drummers John Stanier (Helmet) and Brant Bjork (Kyuss) and guitarists Steve Durand (Tinker), Jordon Zadorozny (Blinker The Star), James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins), and Eric Erlandson (Hole).

As well, she worked with two men she describes as "musical heroes": Queens Of The Stone Age's Josh Homme and Nick Olivieri.

"I am so lucky I have all these talented friends. It is not too hard to find musicians who are available to play. It just so happens the most generous people are also the best and were willing to play," she says.

Auf Der Maur self-financed the sessions and worked with producer Chris Goss (Masters Of Reality). She is only now focusing on which label might release the results.

"I was looking for a partner to help me put together a very particular kind of album-thing I wanted to do: have different musicians for different songs and sculpt it as songs needed to be sculpted," she says.

"(Goss) responded quickly and positively and said he wanted to be the guy who would help me make this record. He said he hadn't heard this kind of music coming out of a female before, actually.

"He had worked with a lot of guys before in this type of music -- heavy but feminine. He said it would be an honour to work with a woman. And he just liked the music. It wasn't all gender-oriented."

Despite the successful results, Auf Der Maur says that in the wake of the Smashing Pumpkins split, she wasn't always so sure a solo album was in her future.

"One of the reasons why I took 2001 off (is) I didn't even know what I was going to do with music. Maybe I was going to play in a cover band the rest of my life," says Auf Der Maur, who is currently fronting the Black Sabbath cover band Hand Of Doom. (See Hand Of Doom story here.)

"I wanted to wait and see if the magic of music came back to me after years of heavy touring and not enough creating, and music becoming a very odd thing. My relationship to music had become very army-oriented. I was a soldier, a hard worker who never got enough satisfaction from the music. I didn't know if I was going to make my own record.

"But this happened very naturally to me. I started going through all my old demos and realized I had an entire album's worth of material that had been sitting there for years."

As for a label, Auf Der Maur says she is focusing on indie companies in Europe who have a passion for the music and can devote attention to her album.

In North America, the situation is a little more complicated, and she says she may have to look to one of the better major record companies.

"There are definitely some big companies that are better than others, that are literally smaller companies. They don't have 200 bands, most of them being R&B," she says of the domestic music biz.

"If there was a cool label -- like DreamWorks and V2 are good labels that have less music and it is kind of quality attention they have more time to give. I think the only way it will work is if I find an individual who really believes in the project. Wherever that person is, I will take it."

Although her recent musical history saw Auf Der Maur playing in the shadows of some larger-than-life personalities (Hole's Courtney Love and Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan), she has managed to attract an impressive following, with enough devotion to create websites in her honour and trade live tapes of her rare shows.

"I don't think about it enough," she says of her cult celebrity.

"Somewhere along the years of dealing with the kind of super in-the-spotlight individuals I was working with, I developed a very particular relationship to all that: Not denying that there are fans out there, but just -- I don't pay too much attention to it," she says.

"It is not real. Music-loving is real, and anyone who loves music and is interested in the music I am making, I am so happy. I am so lucky that there are people who want to hear this record. Anything beyond that is not reality and will confuse me and other people."

As for naming the album after herself, she says there's plenty of hard-rock precedent for that sort of thing.

"In the spirit of all heavy bands -- Danzig and Van Halen did it. I have a bizarre German name that is very Gothic and difficult to pronounce, like Rammstein. That isn't easy to pronounce, but people like it. It is very honest, because it is my last name.

"And it looks cool written in big Gothic letters." (More on Hole and Smashing Pumpkins)

Melissa Auf Der Maur


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