Interview: Melissa Auf der Maur

By JON GARELICK  |  October 14, 2010

There was a lot going on well above and beyond Courtney, the way I entered the situation, which is replacing a member who had died [bassist Kristen Pfaff], shortly after a husband had died. It was just epic in its emotions. Ultimately my years in Hole were very defining on a human-experience level and a priceless lesson in love and compassion. I wouldn't trade it for the world as far as what I learned about people. Not only because of the extreme situations happening within that band but also the amount of traveling we did, the extensive touring around the world, the cultural crossover. And also a social/political, women-in-music situation. When I look back on Hole, the things that are most strong and important to me are the personal defining moments as a human being as well as a women in a male-dominated field. Courtney and I couldn't be more different people, we come from incredibly different backgrounds, manifested in different ways, as artists, as performers, as people [laughs]. But I always felt really aligned with her. Ninety-nine percent of the time we were the only women on that stage on that [Lollapalooza] festival bill. So that's what I take away as the most significant parts of being in that band.

And how about Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins?
As far as Billy, it's simply the best musical lesson of my life. The musical abilities of Billy, Jimmy (Chamberlin), and James (Iha), the three that I played with and at one point during the big arena tour, the farewell tour, with a piano player named Mike Garson, who actually plays on "Father's Grave" and is a legendary collaborator with Bowie [the piano solo on ["Aladdin Sane"] and is a virtuoso avant-garde phenomenon.

The level of musical experiences I had in my year of the Pumpkins are absolutely the most defining — the final lesson in my craft that I needed to go solo. My parents brought me into the world as a living being and these two people [Corgan and Love] brought me into the world of music. Not that I wouldn't have had a life of music without it, but I was going to art school, I was working as a photographer and planning on working as a photographer. Music seemed like such a far-out-there aspiration. At this point music has become so outrageously part of my life experience that I am more centered in music. But at the time I joined Hole when I wanted to finish my art degree, it wasn't the forefront; it was the forefront in my youth-culture love of going to shows and meeting people based on music, but I had a very active life in art school.

In other words, it's become this phenomenal part of my life and those two people basically changed my life. Not many days go by without me thinking of them. They are unique, extreme people and I have mass amounts of respect for them. They are two of the most independent minded people I've met. I consider myself seriously independent in many ways — both my parents were freelancers and independent and raised me to be independent — but those two are lone wolves in different ways. They are really family — we are not in contact on a regular basis and, that happens in extreme relationships, but they are always near in my thoughts and heart.

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