Hüsker Dü Database
Magazine articles & interviews

Bucketfull of Brains #13, 1986

Context suggests that this interview was conducted just after the release of Flip Your Wig. Bob refers to October as being in the future, so the time can be fixed as September 1985. The magazine itself, I'm assuming, came out in early 1986; as is usually the case with Bucketfull, no date appears on the cover. I've fixed a few obvious typos, but let stand oddities of grammar and punctuation.

 There is a new rock 'n' roll. The seed is sown. In the
 fertile topsoil of electro and hip-hop, with it's
 combination punch of rash enthusiasm and unbridled
 experimentation. There are trails back of course. But
 the ink is tenuous.

 And then there's the music of groups such as the Died
 Pretty and the Screaming Tribesmen, with it's ineffable
 pull on memory and emotion. Thoroughly modern, as an
 aeroplane is; it takes off fine but somebody else
 invented it.

 And Husker Du. Someone had to do it, someone had to
 shed the skin, throw off the shackles of retrograde,
 self-congratulating delusion that the Eighties thrives
 on.  Husker Du rewrote history with 'Eight Miles High',
 taking a sacred cow and making something with it
 instead of just bleeding it dry. Then they freed the
 slaves with 'New Day Rising', their first intimation
 of pop genius; 'Zen Arcade' had the same ridiculous
 level of instant accessability and jubilant melodic
 invention, but it was a trifle coarse.  Now 'Flip Your
 Wig', and notably the single 'Makes No Sense At All',
 has shifted the paradigm of pop ruthlessly, rearranging
 the pieces. These are the ones I picked up in
 The conversation with Bob Mould and Grant Hart.

 B.O.B.:  Let's start with the deal with WEA.
 B.M.:    What deal?? Everybody's talking about it but
          nothin's been signed. 'Flip Your Wig' is on
          S.S.T.; we're going to start recording in
          early October but no one has signed us. We've
          been approached by numberous labels and I think
          I know which one I want to sign us, I think
          it's WEA. They're the only ones that're
          pursuing it with any fervour.
 B.O.B.:  On a major label, given the opportunities that
          entails, what effect will there be on your
          approach to working?
 B.M.:    None. It would give us a little more flex-
          ibility as far as taking time to do it; as far
          as what the end result is, with the labels
          we're negotiating with part of the deal is
          that we produce the records ourselves where
          and when we want and for how long. It's funny,
          the ones who're really interested do not want
          the band to change; they like us for the
          reasons everyone else does.
 B.O.B.:  There is something about your music that makes
          everything else seem insubstantial. What is
          your secret ingredient?
 B.M.:    It's ' the foom-bah' !
 G.H.:    We know what it is but we can't tell you......
          maybe it's extracting our own happiness first
          from the quality of the songs?
 B.O.B.:  The album 'Zen Arcade' made me think of, for a
          variety of reasons- being a double, the
          lyrical content which was revolutionary for
          the time, the diversity and mastery of styles-
          is 'Freak Out' by the Mothers Of Invention.
          It's a situation where a development is
          inevitable, but until someone actualizes
          the thing it's intangible.
 B.M.:    And then everybody goes: "Oh, we were going to
          do that!"
 B.O.B.:  No one can say that about your records; no one
          else would have.

Bob Mould, Greg Norton, Grant Hart. Photo: Greg Helgeson

   B.M.:    I hope not or else this whole thing has been
            for nought!
   B.O.B.:  It's been called 'hardcore psychedelia'. How
            apt is that?
   B.M.:    Is it psychedelic (laughs).... ask Three
            O'Clock what 'psychedelic' is!
   G.H.:    Yeah, purple microdot...!
   B.O.B.:  Don't go near the mirror, boys!
   B.M.:    Oh jeez.....you heard about them? (laughs) I'm
            not particularly fond of... I have all the
            Beatles and Monkees albums, y'know, I liked
            it the first time around. I'd rather not give
            those bands lip service, that's as bad as good
            press is good as bad press I can give.*
   G.H.:    The Three O'Clock not the Beatles! But it's
            interesting how you can find new applications
            for already existing objects, it's like
            Marcel's bicycle wheel.
   B.M.:    Who are your six favourite Beatles? Donovan,
            Pete Shelley, Frank Sinatra, Doug Fiegler,
            Eno, Julian Lennon....Marshall Crenshaw!
            They've expanded their line-up.

*This is more likely a bizarre transcription error than Bob trying to emulate Joyce.

 B.O.B.:  I recognized your new B-side as the Mary
          Tyler Moore show signature tune. Are you TV
          fans and watchers of American culture general-
 B.M.:    It's a mirror. It's just nice to see what the
          status quo thinks is outrageous, because
          that's what you'll see on TV, not what out-
          rageous peple think is outrageous. It tells
          you a lot about what the national thought is,
          because it is such a big country the only real
          hook up is TV. Sort of pervasive on each
 B.O.B.:  Are ther literary influences on your world-
          view and song content.
 B.M.:    For a fictional writer, someone like Eugene
          Burdick who wrote 'The Ninth Wave', 'Failsafe'
          and 'The 480' where it's an exposure of how
          the media and events can shape faceless
          objects into icons. Then, Fran Leibowitz,
          which is completely dry city humour just
          realising the absurdities of living in
          Megalopolis. A lot of post-war Japanese
          writing, Mishima and stuff, where it's "you
          think you're bombed, try this on for size,
          this'll make you feel good". I ike finding
          humour in the absurd.
 G.H.:    I was never a real fan of fiction once I grew
          out of children's literature. I don't find too
          much time to read anymore but I read all of
          Steinbeck's books and a lot of non-fiction,
          like World War Two stuff which intrigues me
          'cause it seems like such a great big event.
 B.O.B.:  To a lot of people who fought in it it was
          certainly the major feature in their lives.
          But a lot of that is people seeking exper-
          iences that never satisfy them because they
          never make contact with truth, which isn't an
 G.H.:    Well, y'know, a lot of people go back up in the
          attic when they're forty years old and put on
          their high school football sweater and it's
          like, God, the Allies were the biggest team
          ever assembled for a championship sport.
 B.M.:    I don't think that sort of reliving the past
          is unhealthy for some people. I think in
          perspective it's alright.
   G.H.:    You have to think about your past happiness to
            put your present happiness in operspective.
   B.O.B.:  I wouldn't agree with that myself but.....
            How much work and pre-production goes into
            your songs?
   B.M.:    It depends on the individual song. Some of the
            ones you think are classics that take weeks to
            work up are not that well-liked and some that
            you write in five minutes are the best.
   G.H.:    The best songs write themselves. They just use
            the author as someone to hold the pen, just a
   B.O.B.:  Are you alluding to a mystical process?
   G.H.:    No; just that the best songs I've written have
            poured out of me....
   B.M.:    But that's not music using you, that's you
            using music as a vehicle. If you're saying
            that it came out of nowhere and mystically
            forced your body to do it, I mean, yeah, it's
            to that extent but it's a learned experience,
            it's not an unconscious thing.
   G.H.:    It didn't happen before I played, yeah....
   B.M.:    Everyone has the greatest song in the world
            in their heads, it's a matter of using your
   B.O.B.:  How do you feel about 'New Day Rising' now?
   B.M.:    I think the songs still stand up real well in
            retrospect. The production leaves a lot to be
            desired; it's just a matter of working with
            too many people with too many ideas on how it
            should sound, ours should have over-ridden
            everybody else's. Just a classic case of too
            many cooks in the same kitchen. Whereas 'Flip
            Your Wig', the new one, we did all ourselves
            and it's head and shoulders above 'New Day',
            as every record should be above the previous
            one. I tend to like 'Zen Arcade' a little more
            in retrospect than I do 'New Day'. 'New Day'
            was a step backward, but it was a good place
            to take it; 'Zen Arcade' was a little heavy
            for what we were up to. The new one goes back
            to the idea of the live thing, a straight
            ahead rock 'n' roll album; every record should
            not be like 'Zen Arcde', it would get
            ridiculous, a bit. 
                               INTERVIEW BY: CRAIG ANTLER.

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