Hüsker Dü Database
Magazine articles & interviews

Alternative Focus #3, 1985

From the information given in the intro to this May 1985 interview with Greg Norton, Alternative Focus seems to have been a Providence RI publication. The interview took place during the period between New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig, a time when the Hüskers' artistic development was continuing to progress at an ungodly pace, while the band garnered increasing public attention and critical acclaim.

The interview was accompanied by a capsule history of the band, really just a series of reviews. There's a link to that piece at the end of this page.

An interview with Greg Norton, bass player with the Minneapolis-based trio Hüsker Dü. Interview was conducted at the Living Room, in Providence RI, on May 3rd, 1985* by Patrick. Special thanks to Claudia Manley for helping out with the tape recorder, etc.
AF: I know everyone must ask this question, but how do you respond when people regard the New Day Rising album as a commercial album? Do you see the band heading inthat direction?

GREG: Well, we are not making a conscious effort to sound more commercial, we are simply maturing as musicians and songwriters and are able to play our songs better, and people take that and say the music is more commercial because it is not as rough as the older material. If anything ever does make it as a top 40 hit, that's fine with us, but we're not purposely trying to achieve that goal.

AF: The band has certainly changed so much from the first album. Do you think you have reached a final format of musical style, or is there more change ahead?

GREG: We are still evolving. You heard the new stuff tonight, and it's even different from the New Day Rising material. I don't think we are gonna find any particular groove and stick with it, if that's what you mean. Then it would start to sound boring and repetitive. There is a difference between out first and second albums, second and third, third and fourth, etc.

AF: Do you see yourselves as the same band that you were in your early days?

GREG: Sure, we are just older, that's all. That was the summer of 1981 when Land Speed came out, and this is 1985. A lot happens in four years. As you get older, you start to see things in a different light. When Land Speed came out, that is what we were into at the time. That was our thing at the time. Records are like photographs; they document what is going on at the time, just as a family photo album

shows what was going on at different times. Our records pretty much do the same thing.

AF: Since you broke out of the hardcore mold a while ago, how would you describe your sound today?

GREG: For lack of a better term, I guess we do play rock 'n' roll. The terms "punk" and "hardcore" have lost their meaning. When they were first coined, they stood for something, but are no longer representative of music. As far as today is concerned, they are reflections on style and fashion, and we are into music, not fashion.

AF: I read yesterday in an interview where Bob referred to the band as a "hardcore" band. How do you think he meant that statement?

GREG: Well, what is the definition of "hardcore?" If you are really involved with something, then you are "hardcore," and we are deeply involved with our band. Bands like us, the Meat Puppets, and the Minutemen are always labeled as "hardcore" bands, but all three bands are totally different in style.

AF: There seems to be a lot of bands from the Midwest, and Minneapolis, that are on the rise. Do you see this as a type of "Minneapolis Invasion?"

GREG: Well, I don't know about an invasion, but the Replacements just signed to Sire, and I think Prince sort of tilted the spotlight toward the area. There is a lot coming out of the area: Bob Dylan, 20 years ago! Before that, it was Eddie Cochran. It doesn't really get press attention until something big comes along. The same thing happened with Athens, Georgia, with bands like the B-52s and then Pylon, and now it's REM. I think a lot of places probably have similar stories.


AF: Would you say that New Day Rising has been the "biggest" album so far?

GREG: Yes, I think so.

AF: I could ask a dumb question like, "Where did you derive the name for the band?" but that's an old one, so instead I'll ask a slightly better one: Where did the band logo come from? The circle with the three lines.

GREG: Well, that is kind of interesting. We were trying to come up with a logo, and we had this book, with like a thousand different symbols, for like designs. We decided to pick five symbols and from there we would use whichever one at least two of us agreed on. Well, none of us picked the same one, so that was the closest thing we could come up with. How does that sound? It was the closest thing all three of us could agree on. A real intellectual process for sure.

AF: Have you ever thought of doing a video?

GREG: We have a few ideas for a video, yeah.

AF: For a new song, or one we know?

GREG: A new song. We have a couple of ideas we are playing around with.

AF: Are you into wrestling at all? I've heard the band has a liking for it.

GREG: Sure, I enjoy a good match now and then. We are into it to a degree. Being from Minneapolis/St. Paul, which is the home of the AWA, it is kind of hard not to be like wrestling.

AF: How long have you been playing bass guitar?

GREG: I got my first bass when I was about 14 years old, but I didn't do anything with it until I met Grant, which was about a year before the band got started. He and I would get together and play, but I really didn't know how to play. Then he met Bob, and we formed a band and picked the stuff we wanted to play.

AF: So you guys like frisbee?

GREG: I love frisbee. We all play
frisbee. I played a lot of frisbee when I was in high school. I used to work my schedule so that I would have the whole afternoon free on Friday to go outside and play frisbee.

AF: Here is a real general question: What do you listen to in your spare time?

GREG: Oh, we get into a whole lot of different types of stuff. Bob and Grant get into a lot of 60s pop and psych stuff. I get into a lot of jazz, big band jazz, even a lot of heavy metal; as of recently, a lot of electronic music, industrial music, etc. We all pretty much share the same basic musical taste, though.

AF: It seems that your audience still looks to the band as a hardcore or punk band, even though you have moved away from that. Are you happy with the type of audience you have?

GREG: I like the way our audience is. There will always be people who want to hear us play older stuff, but there a lot of people who have grown with us. Also, there are a lot of people who come to see us who didn't know us back in the days of Land Speed Record.

AF: Any particular reason why you don't play anything from the first record live?

GREG: It is just that there is so much new stuff. Tonight you heard us play a lot of brand new stuff. We have another album coming out in like September. We still have stuff to play from New Day, Zen Arcade, and all the way back to Everything Falls Apart.

AF: Were you three guys all in another band together before forming Hüsker Dü?

GREG: No, this is my first band, and Bob's first band, but Grant was in another band earlier.

AF: Oh, I heard Grant say you were all in another band and you each left one at a time and eventually found yourselves in this band.

GREG: He must have been kidding around. We played our first gig together as Hüsker Dü. We played our first show together on March 30, 1979.


AF: So, what is the band's current relationship with SST records? I have been hearing a couple of different stories.

GREG: Our relationship with SST records is that we make records, and they put them out for us. And we do our tours, and they help us out in terms of promotional things: They do the promos of the albums for us in terms of radio and stuff like that. It's a good, healthy working relationship.

AF: Have you had any major record companies looking at the band, without mentioning any names?

GREG: Yes, there are some.

AF: Have you been considering any of them, or are you happy with SST?

GREG: We are not looking around for anything. We are not shopping around for labels. We have never solicited a major label to come and listen to us or anything like that. Anything that has happened, they have done on their own. We have not gone to anybody; they have come to us. We have not called anyone and said, "Oh, come and hear our band." It has just happened by itself.

AF: If you were signed to a major label, your music would have a much greater possibility of breaking mainstream listening venues and becoming what most people would consider commercial. How would you respond to that?

GREG: Like I said before, we are not out there trying to make that happen. If we had a hit song, fine. But we are not going out of our way to make that happen. I don't think a bigger label would necessarily indicate we would be breaking into top 40 or anything like that anyway.

AF: I read that the band was planning on taking the summer off as a vacation to do as you please, and stop touring and recording for a little while.

GREG: Yeah, we are taking the summer off, or at least that is what we are saying right now, at this point. But that doesn't mean anything, knowing us! Here it is May already and we are going to be on the road until like the 19th, and then we go home to play there on the 20th of May. A week later we are on our way to Florida and Georgia for a week, and then back
home, before doing a short tour of the Midwest, for like five days or something. And we also have a show to do in Minneapolis somewhere after the Georgia and Florida trip. As of right now, that is all we have down, as it stands. But who knows what will happen. We would love to take the summer off.

AF: How is yur reception in Minneapolis? Are you considered as local heroes?

GREG: Well, so much is going on there right now we certainly are not local heroes with everybody, but we do get a good response with the people there. We get as good or better response in other parts of the country too. One good thing about Minneapolis is they are starting to finally get a good radio thing back again. It has always been a way off from being a good radio town, as say Boston or other cities.

AF: Hüsker Dü seem to tour a lot more than most bands. Is this true, or does it seem that way because you play the area so much?

GREG: Yeah, we do tour a lot. Being from the Midwest makes it a lot easier to do it. Doing an East Coast tour in like two or three weeks is very easy for us, as is going to the West Coast, or the South, or whatever. Take a band like Black Flag: They are from California and have to be on the road for like three months at a time in order to come all the way east and back again. It is easiest for them to do the whole country at once. They tour more than we do, but we tour a lot.

AF: How is your reception in Europe?

GREG: We have never played there, so we can't really say what our audiences are like there. We still get a lot of mail from Europe, and our records are available over there. We should be going over there in September.** Records in Europe are difficult to keep track of, so it is hard to say how they are doing over there. It is a lot harder to call up someone in Europe and see how a record is doing than to call SST in California. We will only be there for like three weeks and will try to get to as many places as possible. We seem to have a good following in Italy and will try to get down there if possible, as well as Denmark, the UK, and possibly France, etc, depending on time.

*Actual date was probably 04 May 1985.
**Little did Greg know that less than two weeks later he and the Hüskers would be playing, on rented equipment,
a one-off at the Camden Palace in London. The fall 1985 Europe tour did, in fact, eventually happen, much as
Greg describes.

(Continue to "Hüsker Dü History")

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