Anyone remember Melissa Auf der Maur?

Auf der Maur branches out

"We won't dig too deep into the witches' healing powers and drive to rip the Viking hearts out."

Melissa Auf der Maur was setting the parameters for our interview earlier this week. The topic? MAdM, her persona in an elaborate new project, OOOM (Out of Our Minds), a "3-D concept album" that includes a forthcoming CD, a half-hour film, a comic book and website.

It's "a conceptual fantasy world, spawned from sound," according to the site, which will be properly launched in November (an intriguing basic version is up already at, along with a three-song EP. Everything else will be out in the spring of 2009, hence her hesitation to go into too much detail. For the moment, we know only that it is a story of witches, Vikings, bleeding trees, car crashes and time travel, set to a rock soundtrack.

Auf der Maur performs Saturday in Montreal, and has a few gigs in Norway and Holland - her first forays back into the public eye in a few years.

Montreal's prodigal daughter has survived her rock star 20s (touring as a bassist for Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins) and her subsequent emergence as a solo artist (on 2004's hard-rockin' Auf der Maur album), and has floated back down to earth.

After a stint in her hometown, she now lives in a house in the town of Hudson, in upstate New York, with her boyfriend and her cat, Isis.

"I tried to move back full-time," she said, of Montreal. "But I didn't fully connect. I couldn't make a new connection there. Everything was eclipsed by so much history."

Now in her mid-30s, having been around the world and back, Auf der Maur's quest continues.

Hudson is a perfect halfway point between Montreal and New York City, offering her a tranquillity she hasn't found anywhere else at any other time in her life, she explained: "I'm the happiest I've ever been."

If her Auf der Maur album was her coming out party, the MAdM project (also self-titled, after her initials) is her branching out.

"The first album I wrote in the 90s between the ages of 22 and 27," she said. "I was a woman who wanted to show a female take on rock music . . . This is another direction. The world is so different than it was in the 90s."

Her debut "burnt me to the core," she said. "I worked so hard. I did 190 shows in one year. I was thoroughly exhausted. But it went phenomenally in Europe. I played there five times that year. Right off the bat, (the music) connected quickly with Holland, Scandinavia, France, Germany and England. It was an incredible experience, more than I ever dreamed of."

In North America, it was a different story. The disc was a "big dud," in the States, she said, explaining at least part of the difficulty by the fact that "they don't play girls on rock radio. It wasn't an excuse, it was true, there was only so far we could go."

Even so, she managed two tours there, including the Robert Smith-curated Curiosa tour, with Interpol, Muse and Mogwai. "That was one of the best tours I've ever been on," she said.

The followup album would have come out in 2006 if her label Capitol hadn't crumbled. With the help of a good lawyer, Auf der Maur escaped with her new music in hand. But it was a drawn-out process, leaving her in a "crazy limbo."

First, she fine-tuned the music, which she had begun recording in Pembroke, Ont., with Jordan Zadarozny and Nick Durand of her old Montreal band Tinker, and drummer Vince Nudo of local metal heavyweights Priestess.

She then hopped around the U.S., teaming up with producer Chris Goss (who oversaw her debut) and an array of big names including drummer Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails), Ryan Adams, Billy Corgan, and the living out of "a rock 'n' roll dream," a duet with goth-metal icon Danzig.

When she could take the music no further, Auf der Maur explored other avenues.

"My creative survival instincts kicked in," she said. "I had to do something. I had a lot of time on my hands."

Hence the film, comic book, website, etc. - all collaborative efforts with people she has met along the way.

To be continued, sometime in 2009, with more on the witches and Vikings.

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