"I've been living in the shadow of larger figures my entire life," Melissa Auf der Maur says. Even during an interview to promote her most recent project, the former bassist for Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins speaks warmly of the larger-than-life people that spurred her interests in music and art in the first place. Among these include Courtney Love and Billy Corgan---two egos who directly and indirectly defined the '90s landscape that many associate with the Montreal bassist. But most important of all, there was Auf der Maur's father, Nick, the cheeky journalist, politician and stalwart Montrealer who died at 56 from throat cancer.
"My father is the reason I joined Hole," Auf der Maur says. "When Billy first told me to call them, I was absolutely not interested. But Nick said, 'You call that big Pumpkin up and reconsider.' He was one of the most phenomenal people I've ever met as a powerful life force."
In the decade since her father's death, Auf der Maur, opening for Stone Temple Pilots on Tuesday in Halifax, has become a bit of a powerful force in her own right. She's released her own solo record---2004's Auf der Maur---played in various side projects, including a Black Sabbath cover band called Hand of Doom, photographed people like Natasha Lyonne for magazines like Bust and endorsed David Suzuki as the greatest Canadian in a CBC campaign. After plans for a sophomore record stalled, Auf der Maur began taking things in her own hands.
"I was like, 'OK, the music industry is crumbling,'" she says. "My survival instincts started kicking in. I always knew the album would be a multimedia experience and I wasn't going to sign with a label. It's not what this product is about, or what the 21st century is about."
Her project, Out of Our Minds, is an album, film and an accompanying comic book (she collaborated on with New York artist Jack Forbes), which will be released simultaneously, entirely self-funded and produced by Auf der Maur herself. By chance, Auf der Maur caught a screening of Tony Stone's film Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America and was immediately drawn in by its no-frills depiction of Viking life, scored to romantic black metal. "I saw all the connections clearly," she says. "Tony's movie was modern, old, timeless and yet very specific. It's reality."
Stone, Auf der Maur and their crew holed up off the grid in Vermont to make a half-hour film about "an eternal female force that travels through time." For Severed Ways, Stone had his cast construct most of the sets, and the same happened here---Auf der Maur built a witches' hut.
OOOM is still largely a mystery to those who haven't seen the limited screenings at a few festivals and art galleries. Auf der Maur says it's all about sharing an entire experience that won't be limited to music lovers.
"I don't want to knock everyone over the head in the same way," she says. "I'm not a black-and-white individual. If people want to see me as a '90s rocker, cool. If they want to see me as some New Age artmaker, wicked. It's just nice to give people the options."