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Magazine articles & interviews

B-Side, Apr-May,1991

This article, essentially an interview with implied questions, was published in the middle of a long gap between releases for Bob. Black Sheets was eight months in the past, Copper Blue a year in the future. Bob had just finished his last electric tour with the Black Sheets band and was about to embark on a string of solo acoustic dates (although it seems that the interview probably took place during the waning days of the electric tour). It was a period of intense songwriting activity for him, one that was to produce a slew of classics. (Photos by Joe Hughes. Bob accompanied by Anton Fier and Kim Deal in group photo.)

Bob Mould


-By Amy Beth Yates

       Does Bob Mould have an evil twin? Most Bob Mould articles have that doom and gloom and he- must- have- a- noose- hanging- somewhere- ready- and- waiting- for- that- fateful- day- he- can't- take- it- any- more type bent. I mean they couldn't have interviewed the same Bob Mould I did. Having vaguely made his acquaintance several times during the Husker Du years, I knew that he was a guy with a great sense of humor and outlook on life. Where was that Bob Mould hiding? Although in reality it's more like where are these journalists' brains hiding? To listen to Bob Mould, and I mean really listen, is to experience a full range of emotion - anger, hate, love, exhilaration, and to feel relieved and reassured. If you just take the time, it's easy to identify with the characters in his songs, because Bob Mould is Everyman. Everyone who thinks, feels, worries, and - yes - gets depressed. He's one of the few performers who cares about his audience, who still takes time to talk to them, who respects them, and in a way understands them. And now it's time to let him speak for himself.

       "Usually when the lighter side of life comes around to my door, I just enjoy it. I'm just living it and enjoying it. My usual mode of writing isn't that I'm depressed all the time or whatever, it's just what I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about things that are puzzling to me, that eat at me and bother me and I'm not sure why they are the way they are. And I've always found that the thing that amkes me happy out of that is writing songs and words, and stories and trying to figure out what's really going on, just opening up your mind and letting words come out. With writing these wprds that are eventually turned into songs, that's how I deal with... I don't want to say turmoil but different moods, different questions that are always in front of me that I don't have the answers to."

       "I enjoy it a lot. I think that it's important to see who the people are who identify with your music. One of the things that made Workbook so interesting for me was that there was no audience in mind when it was written. Those were strictly songs for me to listen to at home and through circumstances it ended up that I got back into music in a public sense and made a record. That's one of the big differences between Workbook and Black Sheets Of Rain, all that touring and getting back out and seeing the audience, the people who were listening and responding to it. It's really necessary. This process works on a lot of different levels, there's the experience that leads to a song, and the writing of a song, which to me is the most fun part. There's the idea of documentation, where you're making a record and actually physically manipulating the material to make it sound a certain way and that's the version that people more than likely will remember for the rest of time or however long people care. But then there's the final step, which is sort of a validation, where you perform. It has a lot to do with the audience and your frame of mind and all those things that inevitably lead to more experience, that turns into more songs, it just keeps you going. I like a chance to show my stuff to people (laughs) and perform. I think that the audience is sympathetic because they've been there too, not that I want sympathy but I think that they can understand and I appreciate that. I don't get wrapped up in a lot of bullshit, I just want to get up there and tell stories. And it's worth it at the end of the day, to see people enjoying it and to walk out the back door and hear people say things that I never thought people really said, but do. Like this kid told me that he was having a hard time with this relationship and he didn't know how to fix it or say it, so he played one of my songs and I was like - wait - I thought that it was a joke. It struck me strange, but I could appreciate that."

       "It's a mix of the two, old and new fans. Workbook reinforced my belief that there were a lot of people who listened to Husker Du and Bob Mould for the stories. Not just the sounds and the raging guitar and the aesthetic, but for the real meaning or story and trying to glean some information as to who I was. With Workbook for me since it was such an isolated statement, it gave people a real opportunity to get to know me better as a person. And these people will always be there. The people who were into the other aspects of it- the sounds, the atmosphere, maybe they're into Fugazi now or Sonic Youth or Helmut [sic] or somebody else now and that's cool. Because maybe those bands address that kind of congeniality more than I do now, but the people who are into the stories are still there. There's also a new audience and I'm not sure where they came from and they have a completely different take on the whole thing because they don't know my past that well or they are just finding out about it. And it's real interesting to have a portion of the audience there because they just heard about you. I've got to walk a strange line when I'm out playing because I know there's a mix of old and new fans. It's a lot to think about every night. But for better or worse that's what I do. I try to show people that we all have times when we wonder if we're worth anything or not. Or whether there's a reason to keep living or if what you're doing is the right thing. We all have those funky little days of self doubt and a lot of the songs come from that. Some nights it's really hard, I don't look forward to singing 'The Last Night' or whatever song has got my goat that day, but I signed up for this whole thing and nobody's making me do it. I'm pretty grateful to be able to do what I do and I don't take it for granted - like a lot of people do. It could all end, in some weird way."

       "I like interviews because I get to clear up a lot of the grayer issues. You know, where people think that I'm depressed all the time and that I must be having straitjacket fits. I work all day on my music and I watch television at night or play pool, go bowling... I like to cook, I like to have fun. I enjoy life too, I just have a bad habit of documenting the dark side. It's nice to let people know that I'm not going to keel over tomorrow.

       "It's funny, some writers say to me 'You know, it sounds like you've been listening to a whole lot of REM.' And I say 'Well, REM listened to a lot of Husker Du.' You don't want to say it a lot of times because people think you're being arrogant, but we probably have similar record collections."

       "I look at it as a band, but it's my voice and my songs. It's like a band with a main songwriter and a singular voice. The three of us try to approach the material so that it makes the most impact on the listener and makes us all sound good. It's not just me and these other guys who play. It's a weird relationship, it's a good one and everyone enjoys it, but it's a strange one to describe to people. It's like having the best of both worlds and we have a lot of fun. And that to me is the bottom line. It doesn't have the implications of other band experiences I've had where everyone has to be equal and it's a democracy and nobody rocks the boat. Our dialogue is open to each other, which is something that I'm not used to and I enjoy it. I wish that I had had that sooner. We talk openly about the music and how to make it better and it's not just a routine. But inevitably I have the final word."

       "I think that that is symptomatic of why Husker Du had to end. It had become very ritualistic and very routine. Everything had its place and time and all the songs were three minutes long and that was about it. When I broke off with that and started writing for Workbook, I was in a mindset where I really wanted to do storytelling and evolving the tale a little bit further. Developing a character and a situation and a place and a time. And in order to do that you have to spend time, and that's one of the styles that I always wanted to work in. And you know it never dawned on me before that the songs aren't as fast as they used to be. (laughs) So they're going to be a little longer."

       "I'm into NWA wrestling now. I go down to Philly and see matches every month. I've been into it since I was 11 years old. That's the one thing that I follow besides music, that and cooking. Music, wrestling and cooking, that's enough to keep me happy."

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