Fear and loving in the world of musician Melissa Auf Der Maur.
On your blog, you say that if you're lucky enough to find love, you "must be willing to work your ass off to keep it." In your experience, is it really that hard?
That's just where I'm at with my personal evolution. Every time you fall in love, you're educated more. Maybe I haven't found the relationship that just happens without work. But I don't believe people were born to be monogamous, not only sexually, but also emotionally. It's more natural to have your heart tingle or your eye catch something of interest, even if you're madly in love with someone.
In my early and mid-20s, I had this ugly, ugly jealousy thing. It consumed me in one of my first big love relationships, and actually probably destroyed it. Both of us had it. If that person looked at another person—let alone spoke to them on the phone, let alone made out with them, let alone fell in love with them—it would ruin the world. It was the most devastating, murderous thought.
But I can honestly say that through what I've learned in love and life, and through fulfilling myself in other ways in the past few years with, say, my music, I believe that next time I'm in love, the fear of losing the person won't be there anymore. Now, not only would I not lose him if we broke up or if he made out with anyone, the love could survive—just like it could survive death. If a person dies, you still have the love.
Have you ever collaborated with someone you were in love with?
Oh my God. That's my absolute dream on the planet Earth. For me, love and music are completely intertwined. When I love a band, I feel the same thing as when I love a person. I've only ever been in love with musicians. My dream scenario is probably not going to happen, even though I tried it once: The first band I started, when I was 21 years old, was with my boyfriend at the time, Steve [Durand]. It was the most torturous year and a half. We had to constantly decide, "Is it the love relationship that's our priority today, or is it our music?" It had to be one or the other. Eventually we decided the music was the thing we wanted more from each other.
In the end, it was the best thing that could have happened to us. Six years later, when I was done with Hole and the Pumpkins and I decided to make a solo record, Steve was the first person I called. Our friendship remained intact because it was never a love breakup. It was a music breakup. Two of my favorite songs on that record are ones he and I wrote together, ten years ago now. He's my only consistent collaborator. We just toured together for an entire year. That, to me, is a big part of my understanding about love: It can transform.
Do you think we love music for its voyeuristic glimpses into other people's lives?
Absolutely. Music is universal, international, and nonintellectual. It's ours all together. That's why a song can save us. One feeling a guy had 30 years ago and wrote on a piece of paper can save a girl 30 years later from a day of depression. That is beautiful.
On your debut album, you sing frankly about personal things. Was that uncomfortable?
I wanted to make an album that was a patchwork quilt, emotionally and musically, of eight years of my life. Lyrically, it almost had to remain vague. All the lyrics came from my diary, and most of them came from dreams. I didn't even edit them. I'm not particularly proud of them. I just wanted to make music and write cool melodies and use my voice as an instrument. That's why the opening howl on "Followed the Waves" is my favorite vocal moment on the record. On the new record, I'm thinking about the lyrics. Just like starting the blog, I realize the potential of that communication channel.
So how did you tap into what you really wanted to say?
I did something I've never done before, which is lock myself in isolation by the ocean in Massachusetts, in my family's summer home. I spent two months there, and discovered the beauty of being alone. I'm an urban girl who is in love with people and with devouring the freakiness of humanity. But I spent two months when I wouldn't get out of my pajamas for four days. I fed my brain with books and watched all the movies I've never been able to see. I started the blog. I sat there with my four-track, and wrote and searched for the heart of this record from noon to midnight every day for two months. And I found it.
Jonathan Cohen is a new york-based writer and editor for billboard. Melissa auf der Maur’s second solo album will be out in 2006 on Capitol Records.