jam: CANOE -- JAM! Music - Karen Bliss's Lowdown: Insider Canadian music news: Auf der Maur creates album, film, comic Auf der Maur creates album, film, comic
Former Smashing Pumpkins/Hole bassist Melissa auf der Maur has completed her second solo album, "Out Of Our Minds," and it's part of a multidisciplinary Viking-themed project that includes a short film and comic book. They will all be released under her initials, MADM (pronounced "madam").
"MADM represents an eternal female force, travelling through time and space, on the hunt for the 'heart,' be it a human's heart or the heart of the universe," auf der Maur told Lowdown in an exclusive interview. "It's almost like a myth or fairytale that is explored in all elements: the album, the film, the comic -- as well as the web. Every one of them explores it differently.
"This is the early stages of this brave new world of multi-media and this potentially alternative business model of mine," she says. "A lot is to-be-determined beyond the three creative elements that are in their final stages -- art is done; business is to be done."
The Montreal-based Auf der Maur no longer has a record deal (she was on Capitol) and is looking forward to finding a business partner who could potentially release the entire artistic package. She recently attended Comic Con International, the world's largest comic book convention.
"I was basically building relationships because those comic book companies are crossing over into film and video games. Why not music?" she says. "It was so inspiring to be in an atmosphere, where in terms of creativity, the weirder the better, the more original the better. It's not about fitting into any box. That's my new world."
An avid sci-fi fan also fascinated by Viking legend, she knew she wanted to make a concept album off the top.
"I had originally been thinking that it was going to be more theatrical within the record," she says. "There would be interludes and storytelling because it started off as basically a hunt for the heart, as a timeless female force looking for every type of heart possible, be it the heart of the cosmic universe or a physical heart out of a warrior Viking -- the heart being a symbol that is within everything.
"And so it started off as a concept that I then, once I wrote the record, based on [the fact that] a lot of the songs are always returning to the thought of the heart -- it starts with a heartbeat; it ends with a heartbeat; there are heartbeats within it -- I decided that I had a story to tell that couldn't just be told in a song."
The album was self-produced with Jordan Zadorozny in Pembroke, Ontario, and Chris Goss in Los Angeles, in separate recording sessions. Goss produced her 2004 solo debut, released simply as "auf der Maur." Zadorozny of Blinker The Star was in her first band Tinker and is her long-time collaborator, who also wrote with Courtney
Love. As with the last album, au der Maur sings, plays bass, guitar and keys. Guests include Ryan Adams, Priestess's Vince Nudo and ex-Tinker Steve Durand.
"The album is pretty different from the last one, but, to me, it seems like a natural evolution," says auf der Maur. "It's far more dynamic. The last one was straight-ahead rock, I guess, but this one goes from heavy to atmospheric to sometimes just piano and five female voices to instrumental interludes. It's far more diverse."
She then met up with this filmmaker in New York, Tony Stone, whose first feature, "Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery Of America," just premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival. "Anything to do with Vikings, I immediately respond to because if there wasn't a Viking soul in me, I wouldn't make rock music. Vikings are a symbol of a male archetype I channel into the making of rock music, just as I turn to Glenn Danzig for inspiration. These male forces, help balance the woman in me," she explains.
The film is 30-minutes in length and includes a totally separate soundtrack to the songs on the album. It also contains no dialogue, but is instead scored by instrumental, psychedelic, trance-y rock music, says Auf Der Maur, who stars in it. She says the short, which was shot in Vermont on 20 acres of land Stone's parents purchased in the sixties, is a surreal time-travel fantasy that jumps between three time-periods --present day, 10th century (the Viking Age) and the 19th-century (at a logging camp).
"In my mind, it was like a 'Twilight Zone' episode that could continue into a mini-series if it wanted to or maybe even a Twin Peaks [type] episode, something that a vague story and a cliffhanger to be continued. Because it's time travel and because it's fantasy, it's endless," she says.
"So I started the collaboration with Tony and immediately had the idea -- because it's all fantasy stuff -- of, well, a comic book would obviously be the other way to tell this story."
She then joined forces with New York's Kevin McCleod, a.k.a. Mastermind, whom auf der Maur calls "a good friend and wild forward thinker gamer and web maniac." Working together on the storyline and look (she did not draw), she says, the comic "reflects" the album and film. "It's almost like the things outside of the frame that you might not have seen, which is again the idea of being able to be continued."
Auf der Maur, who taking a photography major at Concordia University in Montreal when she joined Hole in 1994, and has since been published in Nylon, Bust, Mastermind (McLeod's zine), Harper's Bazaar, and had her photos on display in The Kids Are Alright exhibit at Sotheby's, New York, has also photographed every step of Out Of Our Minds. "So I have a lot of amazing photos of this amazing journey which will be part of this evolving, multi-media," she says.
"I'm a visual artist fundamentally and music was a side note and it's just time for me to bring them all together -- storytelling, visuals, and music all in one." She has a web component too at xmadmx.com. Auf der Maur is looking at Out Of Our Minds as a life-long project that will be continued.
"Creatively, it made sense to create content, knowing how I like to consume things, where I want to find new version of things to keep me engaged," she explains. "People don't necessarily have to vision to create the business version of it, which is where I'm at a loss because I spent two years creating the content. Now, I need somebody to help me figure out how to do it and I think it's a bit over people's heads, but I'm doing my job. I'm talking to people and getting ideas."