Q/A: Melissa Auf Der Maur

Hole's bassist gives Rollingstone's Mark Healy some celebrity skin

Melissa Auf der Maur fixes herself a cup of tea and apologizes for sounding tired. The twenty-six-year-old Hole bassist was out late last night in Los Angeles with other transplanted Montrealers: childhood friends Rufus Wainwright and Leonard Cohen's daughter, Lorca. "We were at a karaoke place in Koreatown," says Auf der Maur. "I got to close the night with 'Born in the U.S.A.'" Auf der Maur comes from a long, lively line of Swiss libertines; her late father was a celebrated anarchist newspaper columnist in Montreal. Perhaps being brought up by an anarchist is the best preparation for her work -- in February, Hole began a two-month, thirty-seven-city North American tour with Marilyn Manson.

Why "Born in the U.S.A."?

When we were in Australia in January doing the Big Day Out festival with Marilyn Manson and Korn, we started being kind of perverse and thinking of our band as Bruce Springsteen. We were like, "We don't have to compete with theater rock. We don't have to get dressed up in batwings, do we? No -- we're born in the U.S.A." Though the sad part of that is that I'm Canadian.

Do I sense a competitive vibe with Marilyn Manson?

No, it's just because we started touring with them. Their live show was very dramatic. You got Korn, then Manson, and then we're like, "Good morning! Wake up, the sun's down, and we're singing pop songs."

Any funny run-ins with Marilyn?

No funny run-ins, just fun -- doing tequila shots with him before the show or having wonderful debates at the after-parties on theater rock vs. real rock and girls vs. boys. Tons of stuff. Manson is -- of all things -- a grounded guy.

Is it tough traveling with a strong personality like Courtney Love?

She's pretty protective of her space. She lives in a bigger bubble than most. I'm still excited to see every band, mingle like a maniac and go to after-show parties. Courtney's a little bit more grown-up.

What does Auf der Maur mean?

It means "on the wall." When I'm in Switzerland, people laugh their heads off because it's such an outdated, freaky name that people think it's a stage name. The name's practically extinct, and there are no men in my family. My ninety-five-year-old grandmother is always pounding my heritage down my throat -- reminding me that I'm the last one in North America to further the name. Lately, I've been thinking about the kind of man who will father my children. He'll have to have no connection to his family heritage, because there's no way I can give up my name.

What else are you looking for?

A water sign like myself, for the emotional depth. I always get sucker-punched for another water sign.

Like a Scorpio?

I actually wear a Scorpio ring on my index finger, so if I put my finger up to the wind, I'm hoping that my Scorpio man will come find me.

Do you own a Swiss army knife?

I have many scattered in my mess.


No. Absolutely not. In fact, it's a family joke. None of us wears one. My family is a wild bunch of folk, very eccentric. I grew up thinking Swiss people were insane. My father said, "Just so you know, we're the only Swiss family that's like this."


How do you know all this Swiss stuff? Actually, I do have some at home, packed away in my mum's basement. My grandmother is a very good yodeler.

Better than Jewel?

Oh, yes [laughs]. She's not Swiss.

A friend said he saw you holding hands with Evan Dando.

Evan and I have held hands many times. Evan holds hands with everybody. He's a cuddly teddy bear. I haven't seen him in a while. I met him way before I joined this band. Evan's my big brother in this rock world.

Do you have any other big brothers of rock?

Billy Corgan -- he's not so huggable, but I love him. When I was nineteen, the Smashing Pumpkins played at this punk-rock bar in Montreal. My roommate threw a bottle at Billy and they got in a big fight. So I went up to Billy after the show and apologized on behalf of Montreal. Then we became pen pals, and a few years later, Siamese Dream came out and I wrote a letter to the P.O. Box on the Siamese Dream album: "Dear Billy, do you remember me? I finally got my band together. Can we open up for you when you come to Montreal?"

Somehow, they got that letter. (Writing to P.O. Boxes works, kids.) So basically, my band's fifth show was opening up for the Smashing Pumpkins. And my big brother, my inspiration, was standing on the stage, watching me play. And when I walked offstage, he put his arm around me and said, "Kid, you've got it." And I said, "Really?" Six months later, he called me and said, "I think you should come play in my friend Courtney's band." And it all seemed like a very big mystery, and I originally said no. Then I thought about it and realized that it was my ticket out of Canada. I like rock & roll fairy tales.

You grew up with Rufus Wainwright and Leonard Cohen's kids, Adam and Lorca.

Rufus' mother and my father have been partying together for, like, forty years. We grew up in a very small English-speaking community in a wild French world. Both our families were very much in love with the Quebecois fire for life. They're the biggest partyers. I grew up not even knowing that AA or NA existed. I moved to L.A. and I was like, "What? People have drinking problems?" Where we grew up, it was the thing to do. It's how they enjoy life. Not that I'm saying everyone should go out and drink. Some people can and some people can't. But at home in Montreal, me and Rufus grew up watching the parents who could.

Rufus told me you kissed him once.

I was the girl who looked like a guy, and he was the guy who looked like a girl. I didn't date guys until later in life, and he never dated girls. In high school we looked at each other and I was like, "I don't understand. I don't really like guys. Do you like girls?" "No." And so we fell in love. And we kissed once. And I am pretty much the only girl he's ever kissed.


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