Hüsker Dü Database
Magazine articles & interviews

Alternative America #1, 1983

This perceptive interview with Bob (mostly) and Greg appeared in the premier issue of Alternative America, the publication date of which was evidently Feb 1983. Rather nicely-crafted as DIY efforts go, this Lawrence KS zine was an outgrowth of editor Blake Gumprecht's radio program on KJHK, the University of Kansas station. (After graduation, Gumprecht spent a couple of years as marketing director at Twin/Tone before becoming a full-time academician, earning advanced degrees in geography and going on to a university teaching career.)

     Formed in Minneapolis in the summer of 1979, Husker Du ("Do you remember" in Danish) released their first 45, "Statues", in 1980. After their extensive "Children's Crusade" tour of 1981 -- playing with the likes of Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and D.O.A. -- the band recorded their homecoming gig for a live album, "Land Speed Record", on New Alliance Records. A studio 45, "In A Free Land", followed early last year.
     Husker Du have just released their second album, "Everything Falls Apart", on their own Reflex label. Recorded in Los Angeles last summer with Spot (Black Flag, Minutemen) at the controls, it sold out the initial pressing of 5000 within days.
     Blake Gumprecht interviewed guitarist Bob Mould and bassist Greg Norton by phone from Fort Worth, Texas in the midst of the band's latest tour. Just after Christmas, Husker Du entered the studio again to record another album*, with release expected by summer.
     Blake: What kind of changes are in store for this** album?
     Bob: There is some quote-unquote "thrash" stuff, but there's some more melodic stuff on it too. There's our first cover song: "Sunshine Superman", by Donovan. The album, onn the whole, is a lot more like we are live now than "Land Speed Record" is. We're moving away from that. That's not really what we're into that much anymore. We like doing that stuff; we're just trying to progress a little bit musically. It's got the same intensity to it.
     Greg: It still has all the power of "Land Speed Record".
     Bob: It's not as many miles per hour; it's a few more riffs per minute now... a few more hooks thrown in.
     Blake: Why did you move in that direction?
     Bob: It's what we felt like doing. It's not that we can't play fast, you can just hear a lot of other bands doing that now, so it's time to start looking for another outlet.
     Greg: When we play live, the stuff off "Land Speed Record" is still fast. Actually, now we're probably faster. Theree's some stuff on the new record that's faster than anything on "Land Speed Record". There's some stuff on it that's slow too.
     Blake: Is it closer to "In A Free Land" type stuff?
     Bob: Some songs are. Some songs are a lot like "Land Speed...". A couple are a whole new direction for us, that we've had all along but haven't put down on vinyl yet. Some people would call it pop, some people would call it psychedelic. It's just another facet of our sound.
     Blake: Was "Land Speed Record" an attempt to document one dimension of Husker Du? I mean, the local reviews said it was a recording of Husker Du's "fast set", implying that there was something else that we weren't hearing.
     Bob: If you notice, at the end of the album, we say "we'll be back for another set." I don't think it was intentionally one-dimensional. It worked in a way...

     Blake: Oh, I'm not saying it didn't work. But if that's all you ever heard by Husker Du and had never seen them live, it would definitely give you an impression that might not be totally true.
     Bob: I think "In A Free Land" dismissed that. But, yeah, if that was all you'd heard... If all you had heard by Black Flag was "Nervous Breakdown", you might think that's what they sounded like too. If all you ever heard by us was "Statues" -- people who heard that for what it was might have been astonished by "Land Speed Record". People who heard "Land Speed Record" might not like "Statues", or "In A Free Land". They're all pretty different. It's nice: people like us as a band, and not as a thrash band.

     Blake: What is it about noise and speed that seems to appeal to Husker Du, particularly with the all out attack of "Land Speed Record"... that white noise... fast as hell... no pauses between songs?
     Bob: It's just straight energy. I don't know what the world view is, or what the implications of it are. To me it's just that I get up there,
* Metal Circus
** Here it is evident that the album in question is the just-released Everything Falls Apart, not the record-in-progress to which the introductory paragraph above alludes.

and I just get wired as hell. That's what I want to do. I get my enjoyment out of playing at that speed, because I'm pushing myself to a point where I'm almost passing out because I'm trying so hard.
     Blake: With the speed and the noise -- since Husker Du isn't just trying to be a heavy metal band -- is there ever a problem, particularly live, with some of the lyrics being lost in a blur?
     Bob: Sure. I guess if we felt really strongly about it we'd pass out lyric sheets at each show. I guess that's just part of playing that kind of music with that kind of equipment.

"It's just straight energy. I just get wired as hell. That's what I want to do. I get my enjoyment out of playing at that speed, because I'm pushing myself to a point where I'm almost passing out because I'm trying so hard."

When we play places with adequate PAs, all the lyrics can be heard. When we play someplace where the vocals tend to get buried... I don't feel real good about it. I thnk the lyrics are inmportant. You can get the idea, subconsciously maybe.
     Blake: The idea that the full frontal attack of the music will tell you something even if you can't understand all the words.

     Blake: In an interview with Destroy LA magazine, the person asked "What are your lyrics about?" And one of you replied, "Not many death and famine songs. We used to do a lot of that kind of stuff, but we just sort of figured out the other day that you can't change the whole world in a song."
     Bob: It gets real hard I think, not particularly in our case, but with a lot of bands who do that kind of thing. With that kind of speed and music, and those kind of lyrics... it becomes sort of obligatory in a way.
     Blake: That you write about tthose types of things?
     Bob: Yeah, that you write... "Reeaagaan suuuucks." It's good and all that kind of stuff, but we really don't have a lot of control over it, face it. A lot of these bands are pretty idealistic, and that's all well and good, for them. They think they can really do something. But I'm not out rioting in the streets. I'm not throwing firebombs. I'm not spray-painting the capitol. So why should I sing about it? It's not right to lie to people like that.
     Blake: do you think a lot of bands are lying to people?
     Bob: I think a lot of bands tend to be incredibly fictional. The stuff we're singing about now is more the stuff that hits us in the heart.
     Blake: Like what?
     Bob: Personal stuff. The big anarchy movement, you know... great-- anarchy. Where did it come from? It rhymed with "I Wanna Be..." Now everybody has adopted this incredible word that can solve all problems. I just don't buy that. There's other things. You can do things for yourself. If you don't believe in a government, don't call the police the next time you get your house broken into. If you believe in anarchy, leave your doors wide open at night... Live where you live. Don;t say one thing and do another. It's a lot more social commentary now. We've always tried to do that-- to paint a picture, like with "Bricklayer" and "Big Sky"--
     Blake: "Big Sky" was one I particularly wondered about, reading the lyrics. I couldn't really quite figure out what that one was about.
     Bob: I'm not really sure. I just wrote that off the top of my head. I don't really now what it means either. We wrote it on the road. It was just something that came to me in Calgary. That's Big Sky country. Then you have "Big wheel, big deal". If you ever look at a sticker on a 7-11 ice cream cooler, those two are together. Maybe it's just the idea of lots of images flashing by at once.
     Blake: Everyone seems to ask what Husker Du means. But why did you pick that particular name?
     Greg: Husker Du is kind of an ambiguous name. If someone sees it, maybe they'll remember the game. Maybe they'll have never heard of it before.

"'Anarchy' -- great. Where did it come from? It rhymed with 'I Wanna Be'."

It's not something that they could look at and think, "Oh, those guys must sound like that, or look like this, because they're called Husker Du." They really don't know. If they want to find out, they're going to have to come and see us.
     Bob: It's not like-- Social Red Youth Dynasty Brigade Distortion. I mean, when you see a name like that you can pretty much guess that the band has been listening to music for a year, and playing instruments for six months, been in a band for two months, and they wrote all their lyrics the night of the show. That's all well and good.

I don't have any qualms with that, but I don't want to be lumped in with them. That's not the way we want to be seen.
     Blake: Husker Du seems very concerned with responsibility. One thing that comes to mind is your refusal to have your pictures on the records. Do you think it's something fairly important that a lot of bands overlook?
     Bob: With so many of the bands being so new, a lot of them don't really accept the responsibility that goes along with it. When you're trying to make an important message to people, like an anti-war statement or an anti-nuclear statement, you have to be very careful when you say things to people. When you're on stage you have a lot of persuasion over people. I don't think a lot of the kids, especially the younger bands, realize that they can really get into trouble by saying one thing and doing another. It's the fastest way to lose credibility.
     Blake: How does something like pictures of the band come into that?
     Greg: Basically we feel that the music should carry itself. It doesn't really matter what we look like. Unfortunately, it's true that some people probably wouldn't pick up a record by us if they saw a picture of us, because maybe they're into a certain kind of look, that we might not have. The music is the main thing, not what we look like.
     Blake: I've heard comments from some people that you're a bunch of 80s hippies.
     Bob: (laughs) That's cause Grant has long hair.
     Blake: But in a broader sense-- some people seem to think that ther is some huge separation between what was going on in the 60s and what someone like Husker Du is trying to do.
     Bob: I don't think there's any real difference. In the 60s, there was probably a small number of people who really knew what they were doing and really knew what they meant. Then there were a lot of people that conformed to this non-conformist thing. We're probably seing a lot of that right now. C'mon kids, it's fine to look this way. It's like wearing spikes and stuff. We don't do any of that because if you wear them, you better live it. You don't take them off when you go to the bus stop. You don't take them off when you go into a grocery store. Wear them or don't wear them. It's the weekend punk thing.
     Blake: Along the lines of responsibility and thinking about what you're doing... Say if someone came up to you in San Francisco and asked for your autograph. What would you do?
     Bob: I'd probably give it to them.
     Blake: Why?
     Bob: Why not?
     Blake: It's kinda the same idea behind putting your picture on the album. Why should they want your autograph? That's getting back to what happened post-77 that was good was against. [Sic-- transcription error?]
     Bob: I'm not sure there's any harm in it. We jokingly do it. It's not like a serious thing, like we do an in-store at Rough Trade, stand behind the counter with champagne and sign autographs.
"I'm not out rioting in the streets. I'm not throwing firebombs. I'm not spray-painting the capitol. So why should I sing about it? It's not right to lie to people like that."

If someone is genuinely interested in the band, and they want us to sign something, I don't see the harm in that. I could see where it could be misconstrued-- the implication of "rock stars" or that image-ego thing. I never stopped to think about it.
     Blake: What do you hope for Husker Du to achieve, what do you hope people might get out of it?
     Bob: That they become better people. We don't want them to be like us; we just want them to be what they really want to be.
     Greg: Think for themselves.
     Blake: One final, equally dumb, question. If Husker Du had one thing they could say, in 25 words or less, on a world-wide radio and TV broadcast, what would it be?
     Bob: I really don't know. I'd have to be briefed.
     Blake: Think about it for a minute.
     Bob: Okay... Don't let your life be run by fashion; don't let your life be run by peer pressure. Think for yourself. Think what's best for you and the immediate people around you. Don't ruins what we have for everybody. Don't be selfish. (41 words - Ed)

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