Interview: Melissa Auf der Maur - From Danzig to "Let the Right One In" ...
Mon, 17 May 2010 09:11:04
Out of Our Minds isn't just another record for Melissa Auf der Maur—it's a whole way of life.
For her long-awaited sophomore album, Melissa built a mini-movement all our own. She coupled the album with a short film and comic book of the same name, essentially forging an all-immersive experience for Out of Our Minds that takes fans beyond the membrane and into the very soul of the music itself. The record is a collection of heartfelt, personal and unique rock 'n' roll that's alternative in the truest sense of the word.
Melissa Auf der Maur talked to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino in this exclusive interview about Out of Our Minds, her favorite vampire movie and working with none other than Glenn Danzig on "Father's Grave."
With Out of Our Minds, you tap into something very ethereal and strange, but it's super catchy at the same time. Is that what you were going for?
Excellent! I like that! It's a very simple way of interpreting it and perhaps it's me in a nutshell. Nothing is intellectually "gone for," everything is just heartfelt. I don't write songs in a clinical way where I decide what I'm going to do. They just come. Often, I write songs alone in my bedroom. However, I wrote "Out of Our Minds" with an amazing drummer who I had in the studio with me. It came out of real organic musicianship. Some songs are written without effort and they tell you. In this case, the song told me what my album was going to be about. Once it was born, the whole project became incredibly clear.
Did this song dictate the course of the whole album?
Absolutely! Without this song being written, the film wouldn't exist—the 21st century concept wouldn't exist. Literally, it's a song about an ethereal journey. It's a cry to travel out of our minds and into our hearts standing by. I feel like that is very apropos of the 21st century. As computers take over our landscapes and we fight to continue to find our honest, emotional truth and the feminine balance to the wars going on and the destruction to mother nature—all of that is somehow reflected… I feel like this song was a very innocent mirror being held up to what's going on and what may need to be done on a very personal and internal level.
Is the album about those internal revolutions?
The actual song and the whole project are. The film is a reflection of the story of the song. Essentially, it's an eternal female character on the hunt for the heart, looking for the center. In the video, there's that lost-in-time secretary who gets in a car crash. She time travels to find the heart of a Viking—the heart of a bleeding tree. As a woman, I'm just an extension of any woman at any time on the planet earth trying to find the heart of her reason for being here—the heart of her record the heart of her relationship and so on. I'd say every single song on the album is coming from that place, but "Out of Our Minds" says it best.
Did the time between albums, help you fully realize this vision?
Part of the reason it was so long had to do with the music industry shifting and falling apart. All of a sudden, I didn't know how I would release the record. Halfway through the making of this record, Capitol Records crumbled. I had to reinvent myself. I had to become self-produced, self-funded and self-released. That was an incredible learning curve and artistic decision. At this point, I decided I didn't want another record company involved. I decided to take on the brunt of the work. That made me grow as a person. Deciding to make the film version, I was a producer, a caterer and a creator. That helped me expand as an artist and a human again. Once I realized it was going to be so long between my first and second record, I knew that it couldn't just be a record. It had to be a lot more. So I worked every single minute of that time between those albums, and I did a lot of expanding as a person and as an artist. The woman in the video is the central character of the film too.
Did the record, comic book and film all come from the same place?
Yeah, it's because of my love of collaboration. One of the reasons that music chose me a long time ago is that I LOVE PEOPLE. I love working with people. Even the most difficult relationship in music is still my favorite thing because I love to collaborate. The amazing thing was taking that love of collaboration and making my records the way I make them, but then working with a filmmaker and an illustrator. Then I'm working with sci-fi online guys to inspire me and figure out how I bring this to multiple media portals.
Speaking of collaborations, how awesome was working with Danzig?
My absolute 17-year-old girl fantasy came true [Laughs]. I'm the luckiest girl I know. You know what the good news is? He was the most generous hero I've ever met, and I've met most of my heroes. He's the most generous, talented, heartfelt and incredible person. One might be intimidated. He blew my mind! He's the most phenomenal cat-loving and independent artist. He's punker than anybody. That guy is independent! He's taken "D.I.Y." to massive levels within the comic book world and the music world. I have more respect for him than I ever did, and he was already my hero. The song we did together is "Father's Grave." He plays the gravedigger, and I'm the girl that lost her father. He digs her dad's grave. It's a conversation and a duet. It's the first time I've ever written a song for someone else, and it's a blues dirge. I don't even like blues music [Laughs]. It just came out! I knew the story I wanted to tell, and I knew who I wanted to write it for. It was a really interesting creative challenge to write a song that tells a story for a particular actor.
Doing this independently, do you feel you really got to realize the vision inside yourself?
Yeah, and that could not have happened if I was relying on some outside corporate entity. It would've stopped and started. That's one of the reasons why leaving Capitol Records was the best thing that ever happened to me because I wouldn't have had the kick in the butt to survive. Most of this is plain survival, I need to make art or I will be an unhappy woman. I've been happy my whole life because I've been making art so I'd better continue to do that! In this day and age, with the landscape changing and the industry morphing, I just thought the sanest thing in the world I could've done would be to make the most multi-layered experience. I can secure my seat in sharing the stories I believe in with humans in any form possible. It's the language of dreams and the language of the subconscious.
Have you seen any good movies lately?
One of the last movies I saw that I loved was that incredible vampire movie from last year, Let the Right One In. That movie caught me. It's just a beautiful story. I love that juxtaposition of the beautiful innocence and the total terror. Twin Peaks was my idea of a good Saturday night as a young person. I like going for things that are on that we don't know which way is up kind of way—the living in a dream thing. I don't like gore so much, but I was trying to explain the blood that occurs in the visuals of my project to my mother. I told her, "I don't even find blood gory. It's a beautiful and a fact of life." Literally, it's the part of the film and the artwork. I'm emerging from an ocean of blood. To me, that's life. That's not horror. We have this beautiful red life force flowing through us and it connects us from one day to the next and one person to the next. That's just beautiful. It's not scary.
Are you ready to go out of your mind with Melissa Auf Der Maur?