QUEEN BSS: Talking to Melissa Auf der Maur
As a key member of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins in the 1990s, through her own solo albums in the early 2000s, Melissa Auf der Maur was alt-rock royalty. Her post-music career is less high-profile, but just as formidable. She bought the refurbished factory in 2009 with her husband, independent filmmaker Tony Stone. Together, they run the Basilica center’s year-round schedule, bringing experimental film screenings, food festivals, and drone marathons to the small, but vibrant local arts community. Basilica Soundscape is the grandest use of its intimidating yet intimate structure, and the thing driving glowing New Yorker notices to their efforts.
She filled us in on her adopted home, and its signature event.
How would you describe the day-to-day arts scene in Hudson?
Tony and I moved up there in about 2008, and put it this way, when we got there all of our friends were over the age of 50—these really cool white-haired eccentrics who had all left New York City in the first wave of loft buyouts in the 90s. We started to tap into Bard College students who might want to work our film screenings, and then there was this new wave of basically super eclectic liberal arts students that started infiltrating. Those two demographics sort of explain the day to day, other than the fact that it’s kind of on steroids now.
Do you guys see Basilica Soundscape as a driving force, attracting creatives from the city to upstate?
Well, it’s hard to say, because it’s all happening in tandem. But the mission behind BSS is hoping that people in the city, which, the majority of our audience are people from the city coming to immerse themselves in a big upstate weekend. We create that to invite people to imagine what experiencing music and art is outside of cities. It’s not only because we’re out of the city, but we’re also away from the big corporate structures which make up everything nowadays.
Do you remember the first moment you realized the full possibilities of the right performance in that space?
Yeah, I’ll tell you exactly what it was. It was Basilica Soundscape 2013. It, still to this day, is one of my favorite moments of music and performance ever in my 20 years of commitment to traveling the world and seeing music wherever I can. It was the Friday night collaboration between Matthew Barney and Sir Jonathan Bepler, a four way conduction of Julianna Barwick versus Pig Detroyer, Evian Christ versus Pharmakon. It was in-fucking-credible.
It was the first moment I was pulled out of being the production manager / the mailroom / fucking every tiny detail of every thing that happens in that space. I was pulled out of my administration production role, and I saw all that was happening in its grand, experimentalism. Honestly it’s a struggle having an independent alternative music venue in the middle of nowhere. [laughs] It’s not easy.
It’s that moment that I can reconnect with that provides the inspiration for Tony and I to keep pushing uphill. I don’t that was experienced ever before…by anybody.
Exactly! And we didn’t even document it because we were too busy moving lights and shit. It’s never going to be experienced again, and it was one of the finest memories of that space.
Is that something you won’t let that happen again?
No, it happens all the time. [laughs] All these amazing things happen and it’s like… fuck… I was too busy checking that the door girl had change. Now I’m starting to think that it should be our default motto—“You only experience it here, and it’s not going to live on YouTube. Sorry. You have to take the train to see it, or else you’re not going to see it.” If you’re really in the moment, you don’t have to or want to be thinking about the future version of that moment.
Many big festival lineups are dominated by defunct bands reuniting, but that hasn’t been the case with Basilica. Is there a stated goal of focusing on bands that are currently active?
Yeah, we have definitely not been interested in the reunion shows. Even bands that I love, it doesn’t fit in the vision of what we’re trying to so with Soundscape. But I have no objection to reunions and I like the cycle of life and rebirth and death, and I think that’s a healthy thing and I think that’s beautiful.
I’m sure there’s been a ton of festival offers for reuniting certain Hole lineups, over the years?
There have been many conversations and attempts and ultimately decisions not to do Hole reunions. For bands that have really complicated histories, I think it’s really important to protect the integrity. You have to do it with all of the guts and purity that the original good parts of Hole had. Because a lot of these talks have happened since I’ve been directing Basilica, I’ve probably had a much more critical eye on it.
Honestly, what’s important to me right now is bringing relevant, quality art and music to the surface and to the world. That’s the most important thing. Unless the Hole reunion is that, I’m probably not interested.