little sooner. I
was enjoying it as much as I could, but, I think, having known those
guys for ten years, we sort of had to deal with each other every day
for ten years. And after a while you sort of get to know somebody so
well that maybe you don't like the environment that you have to be in with
them. It's not particularly that I disliked Grant or I disliked Greg
or any of their habits or lifestyles. It's just that after a while you
just go, "This isn't making me happy." And I could sort of tell that
everybody else was miserable because of it. You've really got to have the
guts to stand up and say, "This is enough." Just pack it in. I don't
think it's any one particular thing. I don't think it was Grant's
problems, which, apparently, he's documented very fully. I don't think it
was any dissatisfaction with Greg's interest or lack of interest in the band.
I don't think it had anything to do with me being a dictator and an asshole.
It had a lot to do with ten years is enough.
Are you in contact with Grant at all?
Do you see after a certain passage of time that will work itself out?
No. It's not a matter of anything to work itself out. It's just a matter of I don't have contact with him many more and I don't think that most of the people that knew him when the band was together do either. I don't think that it's [that] anybody's tried to get ahold of him; I just don't think anybody pays attention.
After the breakup, the first thing I'd heard about you was that you were forming a band. Was that just a false report or did you plan on starting a new group?
No, after having been in a band for ten years, the last thing I'd want to do is start another band [laughs]. That'd be analogous to getting divorced and getting married
When I write, I'm also writing these lines as part of the instrumentation.
I wasn't like getting the cello to her and saying, "Just play." There are
some very set ideas on that, and there are spots...on the record where I was
just sort of letting things open up.
Was there any resistance from Virgin to letting you produce yourself?
No, they made me do it [laughs]. Just kidding. No, I had these famed demo tapes that sort of started circulating around, unbeknownst to me, of stuff that I was doing just in a small studio at home, and, you know, I think that when I approached Virgin about working with them, when they heard these tapes they were all, "You don't need a producer. You know exactly what you're doing." I think that's one thing I guess I'm grateful for in my past is having done that as well with Husker producing the stuff, that it had shown that I had some experience with the stuff. But I think I showed that the ideas were realized and there was no need to bring anyone else in. Sometime in the future, if I could find someone, I could collaborate on that end producing and engineering. Virgin was very supportive and kept their distance, which I appreciated.
There are a lot of different textures onthe record, compared to past music. What kind of responses are you getting from old Huskers fans>
People are really amazed that I can sing [laughs], 'cause now they can hear it. I think the thing is sticking with people. Right off they're going, "The singing is so good." Then they're like, "God, the guitar playing has so much variety." There's some folkie stuff and neo-classical and the guitar-on-fire stuff, which I still love. But I think ultimately people are just saying, "These songs are really songs." They're stories themselves. The music seems to fit with the stories. A lot of people are just surprised that I had it in me. I am, too.
You mentioned "the vibe" Richard Thompson's vibe, your own vibe. Do
you think that someone listening to this record and Husker's records gets
a pretty good sense of who you are?
I think more so.... Again, when you're in a band...it sort of comes out on an even keel, all the emotions and the delivery and the content and just the overall effect of being in a band, which should be a democracy, shouldn't be so utterly personal as a solo record, I guess. This one's on me; this is no bouncing ideas off other people. You know, I locked myself away for a year, wrote letters to my friends and wrote songs. That's about it. So this is as personal as I can get. Everything there is first-person, I believe. Everything there is pretty true. Nothing there is a reaction to what anybody else brought to the project. This is like my ideas and that's it. There was nobody suggesting harmonies or things like that, or songs that would counter something that's being said: "Don't you think that's a little political?" or "Don't you think that's a little personal?" It's sort of like, this is it.
With that in mind, it's not a real happy album.
I don't know, I think it's a real thought-provoking record. I guess I just don't think of things in terms of positive and negative. I think of it as whether it's detached or whether it makes you get involved, not so much like this is a very heavy, down song. I just think, "This is a real heavy song because it made me feel something." There are a few songs that are pretty light, some that are not so optimistic, but they make you think about things. They paint a very detailed picture, positive or negative. I think all the songs are positive because they make me feel something. To me a negative song would be something I wrote where I backed off. I tried to put a lot of spirit into these songs, a lot of emotion into them. That's all I do.
Do you listen back to the Husker Du albums?
Not right now. I'm sure I will in five years. Right now I don't listen to much of anything. I'm
the next day or something. There's a reason that people get
divorced it's because they want to be by themselves for a while.
No, I didn't
have any intention of starting another group. Nor do I have any intentions
of starting another group, maybe ever again.
It's sort of nice not to be confined with working with certain people and only with certain people. It's one of the things in the past two or three years, I had offers to do solo records and solo tours. That was something I was continually turning down because when you're in a
just sort of writing. No, I think after nine or ten
years with the band it was just nice when it was over to let it lie. There
were some good records, though.
Do you have a favorite?
Zen Arcade was the best record.
New Day Rising is one I find myself coming back to.
Yeah, that was five months after Zen Arcade.
Does the sound on the Husker Du albums bother you at this point? I mean, you cleaned up the sound a lot for this record. Are there Husker Du records
band you're in a band. You
don't want to be, "Oh, and by the way, I do this solo thing, too." To me,
that was like you're trying to be above this unit while it should always be
equality. So now I have no limitations ... I'm much more comfortable.
And with doing this record, working with Anton Fier and Tony Maimone and
it was my ideas but also working with people who have certain ways of
phrasing statements, certain ways of adding different colors and qualities.
The cello's real nice.
Yeah, yeah. That's something I wanted to do for a long time. I know Jane from Tiny Lights, from New York. And I've also seen her playing classical stuff. And cello was an instrument I had been hearing for a couple of years as something I wanted to implement with my writing and voice and the way that I play. And it was the first opportunity I had to do that.
A few of the songs on the album reminded me of someone I didn't expect to be
reminded of: Richard Thompson.
Uh-huh. I heard that from a couple people.
Are you a fan at all?
Somebody turned me on to Richard's stuff last summer. I'd never heard any Fairport [Convention] stuff or any of Richard and Linda [Thompson] or Richard's stuff, and then I heard the Shoot Out The Lights record and I was like, "Yeah, this is pretty goddamned good." I think other than the fact that we both play guitar and sing and have that same vibe "Are you gonna live another six months?" but other than that ... it's flattering. I finally saw him play a couple of months ago. It was a solo show and I was just standing there with a couple of friends and he was playing ... and I was just sitting there looking at my hands going, "Should I practice more or should I just forget it?" He's pretty much a master.
you wish you had recorded differently?
Yeah. New Day Rising [laughs]. It's like just really noisy sounding. What I think with the new stuff, you know, clarity was real important because it adds a lot of focus. I think with the earlier stuff it's just such a wall of sound and a frenzy all the time, that it didn't matter what specific words were being said or what specific notes were being played because it was just sort of a feeling. You know, with the newer stuff there's a lot more attention to detail and trying not to clutter it as much so that people can try to focus on the stories being told and on the instruments that are being played trying to make it all more coherent. I think in that sense, too, that the old stuff was ilke a wall of sound.... I think the new stuff is still sort of that way, but there's windows now that you can see in and people can put themselves into the music more. It's not exclusive.
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