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Intimate Portrait: Melissa Auf der Maur

As bass player for two of the biggest bands of the ’90s,

As bass player for two of the biggest bands of the ’90s,Melissa Auf der Maur softened Courtney Love’s serrated edgesin Hole, then provided equilibrium to the Smashing Pumpkins afterD’Arcy left due to drug problems. With the release of herself-titled solo debut (featuring contributions from Queens of theStone Age’s Josh Homme as well as former bandmates EricErlandson and James Iha), Auf der Maur, 32, is finally ready forsome self-indulgence.

You’re in a strange position. Technically you are a veteran rock’n’roller, but you’re also an unproven new artist.I know! But after I left the Pumpkins, I wanted to start over fromscratch. I tried to return to this state of being a 20-year-old who waswriting music for the first time.

I heard you put all the money you made from Hole and the Pumpkins into this new record instead of having a label pay for it.Yes. Every penny. I wanted to protect my innocence. I couldn’t take therisk of getting other people involved and having pressure.

You fronted a Black Sabbath cover band, Hand of Doom,and there are serious riffs on this album. Will people be surprised byyour love of the “heavy”? Well, all my musical friends know I’veloved heavy music since 1990, but I guess I look more like an artteacher than a person who loves hard rock.

Speaking of, are you aware of your image? Most people consider you crush-worthy-you don’t try to be one of the guys.What’s so crazy is that I grew up so androgynous and so one of theguys. I started playing bass because I wasn’t that cute. I used to workas a DJ in a bar, and my guy friends were like, “Hey, do you wanna comedown and play live music and drink beer?” That’s how I got into this.Do you think I have an image?

Your publicity photo has you in ripped fishnets, posing seductively on the floor.Yeah, but I’m wearing my jacket. Those are my stockings. I went to artschool. I was doing stuff like this when I was 18. I haven’t changedsince I was a bohemian photography student.

Now that you’re a lead singer, what’s the most important quality all lead singers should possess? Oh, I still feel like just a musician. I don’t think I’ll ever be a frontwoman. Courtney is a fucking frontwoman.

Do you stay in touch with her? I don’t, which isfunny, because I feel as close to her as I ever did. But it’s almostlike with a distant relative. Phone conversations or casual dinnersjust don’t have a place.

What do you think of her recent troubles? I just wanther to be happy. Those five years we spent together were some of themost important years of my life. I feel our support of one another fromafar. I know she’s wishing me well for this record, as I am with hers.

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