Interview: Melissa Auf der Maur

By JON GARELICK  |  October 14, 2010

What specifically was the nature of your musical education with the Pumpkins?
It was mainly Billy's work ethic — it's in that legendary James Brown realm. My first day in the band I was told: there are no days off, you can't make mistakes, and you can't get sick. I had to learn a massive catalog, including what was at that time one the biggest selling double albums. And remember, they have box sets of B sides. Billy wanted to be able to pull from that catalog at any moment, and we were on a world tour where we quite often opened for ourselves. So we would play an hour opening set and then play a two-and-half hour set of our own. I still have somewhere in my archives a binder. You know I didn't go to Berklee, I don't write music out. I wrote it out in my own cryptic way and I had this binder and I could not play a show without my reference notes, because they would make up a new set list every day. And he was really tough. I couldn't make a mistake and I didn't want to. I did once and he called me out, it was really rude.

What did he do?
He just said, "It's her fault." On stage. And it had been my first week in the band, and it was just the top of the song. But, in other words, there were unbelievable standards which again, I really respect.

Now I want to go back and listen to the bass on those records.
Well that was the other thing. He played the majority of the bass on those records. So they were very much his parts. I was given CDs of every album with just the bass and drums, so I had to learn it exactly as it was played on the albums and luckily I had the references because sometimes you can't hear them in the mix and it was amazing. I learned the difference: yeah, you can play a "B" but if you're not playing on the exact same place that he's playing it on the neck, that "B" is not the same "B." It's a matter of the nuances, of how you get up to that note. And now that I'm my own band leader and I have these musicians who come in and have to learn my things I realize, "Wow, had I not had that lesson I certainly wouldn't be as tough as I am right now." It makes a big difference. Because when I joined Hole, my God, I'm almost embarrassed how loose my interpretation was of those songs. Only years later I listened to those records and I thought, Oh my god, I didn't even do them justice. I played my bass parts right and I'm very proud of my bass playing on Celebrity Skin, but I had to learn the other parts of the other players.

How didthe Out of Our Mindsproject start?
It started in New England, in Massachusetts. I spent every Christmas of my life on Cape Cod. My grandparents moved to [Sandwich] Cape Cod in the '70s and I spent a portion of the summer and winter in Cape Cod throughout my entire youth. I was very close with my grandfather, and he died just as I was completing my solo record. I moved out of New York City and moved to Cape Cod when I got off the year tour of my first record. That was actually a completion of 10 years — Hole, the Pumpkins, my first solo record — perfectly nestled within 10 years to the T.

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