Melissa Auf der Maur (a.k.a. MAdM) is known for her days as the bassist and backing vocalist for Courtney Love’s band, Hole. She has since gone solo and has just released her second album, Out of Our Minds (or OOOM for short — she loves to abbreviate). The album combines twelve tracks with a live-action short musical film shot by independent filmmaker Tony Stone, which premiered at Sundance last year to critical acclaim. We recently caught up with Auf der Maur at her upstate New York home where she discussed independent creativity, Vikings, and the ghosts of Hole’s past.
Is MAdM your new moniker?
Since I joined Hole and had to sign my first autograph, I’ve always just done my initials, MAdM, like “Mad M” or a strange typo for madam. It’s kind of Victorian in tradition, and it’s just an alternative way to refer to me.
How did OOOM come together?
When the music industry began to shift, Capitol Records went through a firing spree. At that moment, the structure was pulled from under me, and it kick-started a creative instinct to make as much art as possible to survive. I began as a visual artist. Me joining Hole was like a walk through the looking glass. I felt very loyal and obligated to continue my career in music once I was given that opportunity. When I made my first solo record, it was the first step to get to where I am now, bringing all of these elements — the visual, conceptual, and musical — all into one project. I’ve never worked so hard on anything in my whole life.
In the music video and film there are bleeding trees, Vikings, and you’re dressed in forties noir. How did you and director Tony Stone come up with the concept?
I’ve always had a thing for Vikings, since I was a young girl. I saw a rough cut of Tony’s Viking film [Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America] and understood right away that was the guy who could bring this project with me to another place. I saw the film, met him, and I said, “Will you make a fantasy film component to my album?” And the story began. I knew [in my film] there would be time travel, Vikings, witches, the forties, women on the eternal hunt for the heart …
And giant fireballs.
Tony’s the kind of guy who’s like, “We’re going to crash a car, we’re also going to make trees bleed, and we’re going to make a fireball kite. The more outrageous the better!” There’s a lot of blood and fire, and I see them as substances that are life forces. To me it makes total sense, but I leave the viewer to wander through the puzzle.
I was reading your blog and came across a recent trip you took to Los Angeles. You wrote that you said good-bye to your past there. Did you mean your time in Hole?
Definitely. My L.A. days were my Hole days. The ghosts of that are all over L.A.
So there have been some rumors about Hole and the new “reunion.” For the record, did you contribute backing vocals on the new Hole album, Nobody’s Daughter?
No, I didn’t. Courtney Love jumped the gun and said I did when didn’t. It’s her world; it’s her decision — it’s her way of doing things.
How do you feel about her using the band name with a completely different lineup?
Even in rock and roll, I believe there’s a right and wrong. I’m still close friends with Eric [Erlandson, co-founder and former guitarist of Hole], and he’s the only one who can do anything on his end about it. He’s a peaceful man who has made great efforts in his own life to find peace. I feel protective of the legacy of Hole and my memories in it. It wasn’t even so much about doing a reunion. I told Courtney, “I support the retrospective of everything done in that time. If and when you’re ready to look at that, I’ll support it.” What’s so funny is that she can come out and say that I asked her to do a reunion. That’s not exactly what was said. What I said was that I think a retrospective would be incredibly valuable right now and that’s obviously not where she’s at.
She’s been playing your old songs. How does that feel?
It feels confusing. Most of all, I’ve always wished the best for her. I want her to be happy. I want her to be musical. I care about her well-being. When she gets an idea in her mind, that’s what she stays with regardless of what other people think or feel. I put my foot down when she shockingly declared Hole was playing its first shows. All I was really trying to say was that I hope it doesn’t blow the opportunity for a real reunion and retrospective. You can’t just do Hole Two again later.