Issue 50 of the venerable SoCal punkzine
Flipside, which came out in
the summer of 1986, featured an interview with Hüsker Dü conducted
a few months earlier, during the band's three-night residency at the Roxy in
LA. This was shortly after the release of
Candy Apple Grey, a time
when the band's departure from SST to sign with Warner Bros was still a very
Interview by Jon Matsumoto
Hüsker Dü is extraordinary because the Minneapolis trio has
expanded musically without sacrificing its incredible, electric
intensity. A lot of hardcore bands develop into other areas, but usually
this also means the tempo is slowed down to a semi-crawl or the heavy
guitars are held back. Not with this new and always improving Hüsker
Dü. Yes, the group's new album contains a few acoustic numbers.
But, while the Hüskers have gotten more melodic and engagingly
folksy, it still (90% of the time) resounds with the energy and volume of the
best hardcore bands. In early May, when the Hüskers were in town to
play a three night stand at L.A.'s Roxy Theatre, I had a chance to talk to
bassist Greg Norton and guitarist/vocalist Bob Mould at the headquarters of
its new label, Warner Bros. in Burbank.
Jon: It's amazing how Minneapolis is suddenly all the rage in the rock circles because of the number and the quality of bands that have come out of thereyou guys, the Replacements, Soul Asylum, and of course Prince and his related groups.
Greg: Yeah, but it's always been there. It's just about everywhere something's going on. I guess after "Purple Rain" got really big people started saying, "Oh, Minneapolis!" and then they say, "Wow, there are other things going on here too!" Us and the Replacements were growing and even more writers started looking at Minneapolis. But it's the same with Athens, Georgia, Boston and Austin Texas.
(At this point, Greg and I were ushered into another room. Here Hüsker guitarist/vocalist Bob Mould is waiting patiently, having just finished up with a separate interview.)
Bob: You're taping over a Beatles album.
Jon: It's been taped over a number of times. It was a Beatles album about four years ago.
Bob: Okay. "Hey Jude" is not that great of an album anyway.
Grant**: I was kinda glad we moved in here. I wanted to have a cigarette but I wasn't sure if that person (who usually occupies the office) smoked or not.
Jon: Are you friends with the Replacements?
Grant: They started shortly after we started. Both bands have sort of gone on parallel lines. We don't see them a lot any more. They're on the road and we're at home, or we're on the road and they're at home.
Jon: You never know what you;re going to get at a Replacements show. They're real unpredictable.
Bob: It's part of them.
Jon: Sometimes I get the feeling that they're deliberately trying not to further their careers, at least in the commercial sense.
Bob: It's hard to sat what their goals are or what they want to get out of it. I'm not sure where they're at.
Jon: Do you see Hüsker Dü going in a certain direction artistically?
Bob: Each record we work on the blueprint and then take it to the studio. If we haven't been doing it live then we have a little work to do. If we have been doing it live then it stays the way it is. As far as direction, each album basically is just the mood of where we were at the time. As far as conscious change, we're changing all the time. It's hard to say if there's a direction we're heading for. There's sort of this road, but there are a lot of detours that you can take. There are a lot of different gas stations out there.
Jon: Is it pretty hard writing songs on the road?
Bob: Yeah. It can be done. You can write anywhere. In the bathroom if you want. I myself tend to take a journal. I take notes on the road, either mental or written notes. Just assimilate everything. I have one room at home where I just sit and work a lot. I try to remember things I saw or was thinking about. I open up this exploding box of notes. Sometimes I have page one from something and page two from another and they end up being one song! It's like two different universes. It's like seeing different images and spitting them out. They come out in different orders.
Jon: How about a song like "New Day Rising?" What inspires something like that?
Bob: Yeah, it's three words. That was more of a liberation than a poetic thing. It wasn't poetic at all.
Jon: I thought maybe you had seen a beautiful sunset like on the cover of the album. You know that album cover reminds me of a story Mike Watt told me when Rolling Stone wanted to shoot the Minutemen for the magazine. At first they had taken some shots at the beach. But those pictures were rejected by the editors because they weren't punk enough. I thought maybe you were trying to shatter the whole punk stereotype with that cover.
Bob: No. That was just a pretty obvious cover for the title. It should have had a sunset.
Jon: Is there a strong sense of community with the bands in Minneapolis? It was real strong here in L.A., but it seems to have died down a little.
Bob: there always has been. We all run into each other. Of course, it's not a very big city. All the bands have a sense of responsibility to the scene. But I think all the bands want to be judged individually as well, and not just be a "Minneapolis band." It's a real responsible scene. There aren't many bands wrecking clubs or anything. That doesn't happen.
Jon: Here we've had problems with the police...
Bob: I think in Minneapolis everyone takes the music near and dear to their hearts. The music scene is so good for Minnesota. It's probably the biggest export the state's ever had!
Jon: It seems like there are a lot more home-grown bands now. People don't feel like they have to move to L.A. or New York to make it. I think that's been good.
[Bob's response was apparently lost in another editing accident...or perhaps was actually the latter portion of the statement above.]
Jon: It could be interesting though. If you really hated L.A. you could come here to live and then write an incredibly angry, cutting album.
Bob: People around the country are all different. That's what's great. Bands from Georgia have a different way of looking at things or getting them across. That's what's cool about it. You should be able to make it on your own terms.
Greg: I think those bands that feel you have to move to L.A. or New York find that there are too many people and bands out in those areas.
Jon: Did you get offers from other labels?
Jon: How did you decide on Warners?
Bob: Warners was the most reasonable of the labels about listening to our concerns about not wanting to be packaged or marketed. Don't make a big stir, just let us put out records. Don't try to make us something we're not.
Greg: They were real sincere.
Bob: Yeah. You have to grill them about why they're interested in you. "You got Van Halen, ZZ Top and Dire Straits. What do you want us for?"
Greg: I think some labels may hear a buzz about somebody and they may have never heard of them before, but they'll say XYZ record company is really hot on this band and they're about to sign them so they say they'll sign us.
Bob: Warners was the label that was interested in us when Zen Arcade came out. We kept turning them down, but they were very persistent. When we finally sat down to talk to them they had some good reasons.
Greg: My experiences have been very good with Warners as far as publicity goes. I heard Legal Weapon signed with A&M, but when they went into the studio the company said, "No, don't do that; we want you to sound more like Bryan Adams."
Bob: That didn't happen to us. We said we didn't want to be the next whoever. And they said, "We don't want you to be anything else. We like the way you sound."
Jon: Do you have a lot of material for the next record?
Bob: We have a lot of songs as always. But we haven't gotten together to figure out what we're going to do yet. We're too busy touring. Then we're going to take the summer off and do some work on the next record. Maybe the album will come out early next year. It's really up in the air [hmmmm]. We're one of those bands that have lived and died by a timetable for the last five years. I just tore the damned thing off the wall when we started this tour. I said, "This is silly." I looked at it and there wasn't but five days off and I said, "I can't do this any more." I was not going to kill myself. We're just going to go home and cool out and work on some tunes....
Jon: Do you have any final words to add?
Bob: No words of wisdom today....
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