Over the past few years, Melissa Auf Der Maur, otherwise known as MAdM, fully immersed herself in a conceptual world while embarking on a brave new adventure inward to find her muse. Along the way, she delved not only into her music, but also mastered countless other pursuits, such creating a film and starting her own label, all to help fuel the creation of her ongoing multimedia narrative, Out of Our Minds.

Her latest release, Out of Our Minds, is a gesamtkunstwerk, or, total work of art.  The album’s music was created in conjunction with a 28-minute silent film project and a comic book, all exploring the theme of “female force on the hunt for the heart” alongside such ideas as time travel, parallel universes, the supernatural and internal revolutions.

Your recent shows in the U.S. are happening in unique venues like NYC’s Housing Works Café, which is a departure from your usual band stage.
melissaaufdermaurtalkThis is important for me for this project since it’s so oddly shaped and not just music.  This will hopefully bring it to people in different environments and different communities, those who might appreciate it but who might not have come to it if it was just music.  This just reflects the project better–if I have a little bit of film, a bit of intimate dialogue as well.  In some ways, it became an experimental, concept project where I was evolving with technology, with myself, with my collaborators, with the industry.  Everything was sort of shifting.

As much as I believe the music can speak for itself, I also think it’s important to bring context to it.  It’s very satisfying to do this very different kind of sharing, especially with everything that’s happening on the internet, and my blog that I kept up along the entire making of this project.  Almost the entire development of this project has gone in this conversational way… The whole thing is a statement of development and evolution.

Has starting your own label and doing the business side interfered with you as the artist?
There have been a lot of uncomfortable sides to this, such as becoming a business woman, which is not something I’ve ever had to do.  I basically lived in the creative fantasy land of things and at one point during the making of this project, I realized the only way I was going to survive and to protect my vision was by being able to start taking responsibility for the ways that I make and release these things.

It’s kind of the most boring part of this conversation we’re having so I won’t dive into it too much, but the point is, the harder I work on the more boring details, the better the music became because I would fall in love with the music more.  Every time I would step away from the business stuff and maybe go into the studio to record the last songs for the record or go play a show, I would be filled again with the emotions as to why I was doing all this hellish computer paperwork.  Literally, the music evolved while I was diving into all these new strange territories for me.  I credit not only all the boring business, but also, the collaboration with the film maker and going to a film set, and living in that reality for months.  I would try to bring the same emotional intent that I put into a song into the language of cinema.  The different process that that was, as opposed to creating a song, would totally change my perspective and when I’d go back to the music, it was literally a fresh take on it.  The album developed because of a lot of these strange, non-musical things.

madm-245x300 It must be empowering to now be your own boss.
When I go into the creative zone, it’s an unbelievable vacation now.  The live shows have been more inspiring than ever.  At SXSW last year, it was the first time I was playing the shows with the idea of “I’m going to start my own label.”  The fact that the music was going to be the spokesperson for what it is I am trying to do has definitely made me more connected to the music and made the shows much more rewarding.  Even when it was one of those one in the afternoon things in a crappy club and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, there are no monitors?”, I remembered that I put myself there, I booked the plane ticket, so I just did it.

A lot of artists do have to mix the DIY-business side with the creative process early on in their careers but I obviously, had a very strange A to Z jump, so I’ve been trying to work backwards getting back to where I was, but with the additional strength of having life experience, musical tools, business experience, and some sort of established music goal or careers.  It’s all fine.

I definitely am programmed to rise to and embrace a challenge versus hiding from it.  We are entering a very unique place as long as our ability to communicate with one another.  Technology is bringing us so close and giving us so many tools to express ourselves, so it’s a very good time for individual empowerment.

Will you be doing a full-band, rock tour in the fall as well?
In the fall, I’ll be doing a full tour.  In the meantime, I’m looking for like-minded creators, whether it’s people who dabble in storytelling or visual arts since I’m looking to curate a small, traveling concept tour.  I’m looking for musical diversity, and want to bring in visual artists whether that’s film or illustrators as part of the tour.  This is definitely an amazing verging of the arts time.

Now that you’re technologically involved in all this multimedia work, do you still find time to get back to other art pursuits not directly connected to the album or the film, like your photography, etc?
Good question. It’s hard. I just got home this weekend and I go in and out for this presentation over the next month or so, but then we start shooting the sequel, or prequel, to the film and the video.  We’re going to start feeding on new story lines and doing location scouting. There’s something about working with film and a like-minded person, Tony Stone, the director, who has a very similar take on film as I do to songwriting, being able to merge those two has definitely been one of the most creative breakthroughs and inspiring things that’s happened to me.  That’s been keeping me fueled and knowing that the next couple of months are going to be great.  Just knowing how this is the landscape of the song that I’ve made, and how to dig into the meat of it.  It’s a continuation of a theme.  Some people might think we’re out of our minds or something, but it’s been a very honest dive into a parallel world called Out of Our Minds, and we’ll continue to expand on it.

There seems to be a lot of depth, and much more meaning to your new album and silent film than meets the eye.  What kinds of themes were you exploring with this project other than the more personal ones?
We’re trying to find the meaning ourselves over years.  Some of the songs came from a dream I had and often, you need to take time to decode the meaning of such things.  I don’t want people to think I’m just fascinated by my own subconscious or my own world.  It’s more of a collective, subconscious thing, connected to magic, environmentalism, feminism, realism and industrialization.  All of these themes are those we orbit around in the film and I do as well in the song aren’t just my world, but it’s part of a collective pool that’s happening with my collaborators as well as everyone.  It’s a question of where we are in the 21st century, not only in the arts, but as a human race.

With all the natural disasters and changes happening in the world lately, that makes sense.
I mean, we were just trapped in Europe because of a volcano!  There’s a lot happening to our modern world right now that’s pretty shocking.  The oil spill… our earth is bleeding, our resources are fading, our leaders are corrupt, our economy is broken.  We have built a very limited structure in which we live.  There are lots of holes in this plan that we’ve made to build this modern age.  We’re embarking on a new chapter since we’ve found the digital age.  I’m not saying my collaborators and I can take on this massive thing, but in our modest, little human way, we’re trying.  We’re trying to channel what the fuck is happening.


It’s not just escapism, but going back to find the reasons such things are happening or came to be.
A lot of the greatest inventions we have, even religion, came from inner answers that came from things like a dream someone may have had, or someone may have seen an apple fall on someone’s head… the smallest, abstract things happen and they kick start us into thinking, which is why I invite people to travel out of their minds and into their hearts.  The problem is that we’ve completely limited the solutions to these crazy, mental and intellectual concepts.  That’s not the only answer.  We’ve created an imbalance, obviously.  Often with the weighty, intellectual process, there’s no room for real change or progress.

I feel like I have no choice but to do this.  On the creative level, I don’t mind the risks involved.  That’s really been fun for me.  It’s been the question of “what does an artist do in the 21st century?” that’s made it an adventure.  How to survive while taking creative risks while trying to do it from within and not take other peoples’ money or let other people tell you what to do.

How did you go about asking Glenn Danzig to sing on your very personal song, “Father’s Grave?”  He’s quite a guest vocalist.
He’s the ultimate guest of honor.  It’s not like I know him or could have just called him up out of the blue to ask him to do this.  He was like a total stranger.  I created a song for him and invited him to partake in it.  He was a hero of mine since I was young, but I knew it couldn’t be something as casual as calling him to ask if he’d like to howl on my record.  That wouldn’t be worthy of his presence.

This came from being able to put myself out there, write this song, sing his parts, and send it to him along with an elaborate letter as to what he’s meant to me, along with a personal story of the song and the woman who lost her father… I had been told that he hardly ever collaborated with anybody and it was highly unlikely that he’d accept the invitation.  I’d heard that unless he really “feels” it, he’s not going to do it.  He personally called me back months later to say “I really like your song and let’s do it.”

That, to me, was the most rewarding thing of all.  It really is just two musicians and a song.  It was a man, a woman, a song, and no paperwork or money or anything else.  It was purely artistic, and that’s why I do what I do.  That’s what brings me together with not only other musicians, but people who love music, whether it’s the people who come to the show or who write about the music.  Music brings like-minded people together and I guess that’s what is great about a song bringing someone like myself and Glenn Danzig together.  It’s proof that no matter what stage someone is at, how successful or not successful, I’ve learned that he’s still just as DIY or punk as he was when the Misfits started.

It shows there’s a lot to be said for taking a chance.
A lot of people are afraid to take a risk and go for what they want.  A lot of people are like embarrassed and say, “I’m being fan boy” or whatever.  But I’m a fan girl, that’s all I do.  I tell people that I love their music.  That’s what my entire musical path was about.  It started with me telling Billy Corgan I was a fan and I loved his music.  I was never afraid to look like a goof ball, so neither should anyone else.  It brings you closer to the things you believe in.

Some feel it’s not cool to show your true self these days.  It seems we’re scared of honesty.
These days, people are afraid to be emotional.  I was always looked upon as the “hippy” in Hole or the “new age person.”  I just feel like I’m realistic.  I like being honest and looking for the roots or the emotion.  I’m looking for the heart of the people I work with or the people I meet. –Madeline Virbasius

Melissa Auf Der Maur Official Site