By Alastair Sutherland
office sipping coffee, some of which he's just
spilt on his leg. For a guy who has a reputation as being intensely private
and/or pathologically withdrawn, depending on whom you believe, he seems
friendly and unguarded almost normal (indeed, he is clad in the
traditional Hüsker Dü "normal guy" garb T-shirt, black jeans,
Nikes, two-day stubble).
ob Mould, Hüsker Dü's guitarist, is sitting in an easy chair in the
band's downtown Minneapolis
It's just that every time he opens his mouth, it's clear that a lot of thought
has gone in to what he's about to say.
"I'm always fascinated that music can open people up to ideas," he remarks,
wiping at the coffee spill. You can conjure
up images, you can tell a story, you can be real didactic about it and tell
people what they should do. But I think the real power of music is that the
listener can get out of it
whatever he wants."
The man who has written 11 of the 20 songs on the new Hüsker Dü
double album, Warehouse: Songs and Stories, pauses for a second, then
continues. "You know, some
people come up to me and say, 'Just rock it, man,'
and some people some up to me and say, 'Hey, that one song you wrote, well that
exact same situation happened to me once and boy did I lose my top, but maybe I
wouldn't have if I had've heard that song.' And like that can mean a real lot
to me. It just shows that there's so many different ways to approach it.
It's probably safe to say that Bob Mould, 26, is the introspective and possibly
dark side of the Minneapolis-based rock/pop/thrash band that he has played in for
the last eight years (Warehouse is their eighth LP). He is, by his own
admission, "not a big going out kind of guy." During the making of
Warehouse, he spent most of his free time at home, painting the walls and
listening to public radio ("It's great. They'll play an hour of ethnic music,
then some folk singing, then maybe a little punk
rock"). In the past his songs
have been sad, angry, and sometimes
downright brutal in their self-loathing:
his voice an agonized scream, his guitar a wall of discordant noise (the way he
attacks his Ibanez Flying V is unorthodox and has undoubtedly been influential,
yet he doesn't consider himself a good guitar player "People will ask me
to jam and I'll tell 'em, 'Well, I don't really play that well.' I certainly
my guitar around in the trunk of my car looking to jam.").
And he says he is concerned not only with the state of the world, but also with
the state of his home.
"There are a lot of things I find upsetting," he confirms. "I wouldn't say that
I'm a brooding type of guy, but I do like to sit back and look at things and
try to add up what they all mean, whether I'm watching advertising on TV or just
watching people on the street. I try to see things as they are, and in that
sense I suppose I could be pretty much classified as paranoid."
When I ask him if he would agree that Grant Hart, Hüsker Dü's drummer
and other songwriter, is a
happier person than he is, he just grins and
laughs softly. "Yeah, I would say that's a fair assessment."
Enter Grant Hart, 25, the yin to Mould's yang (bassist Greg Norton, 27, is the
flowerpot man). Hart is bubbly, full of life, and in another time and place
would probably have been a hippie playing his bongoes in the dirt. He enjoys
the Beatles and pop melodies, and the tunes he writes tend to be more
Mould's. He's comfortable with his muse, and if he exudes any one thing, it's
"Yeah, I'm pretty virtuous in my constant good mood," Hart says. "You see, I
came up with this little theory a while ago, that all the people who've been into
punk music for the last seven or eight years are becoming the most docile people
around. I think it's really Janovian, like primal therapy or something. They've
been getting all this aggression out and it just makes things wonderful."
Does this theory also apply to Bob?
"I think he's come a long way," says Hart (the two met in 1978 when Hart, a Twin
City native, was working in a record store called Cheapos and Mould, who is
originally from upstate New York, came in to browse). "He used to be a lot more
somber, but now he knows what he likes. He knows
how to have a good time."
Do you ever have to cheer him up?
"Hmmm, usually not so much
that as 'Hey Bob, don't bring me down.'"
Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Jeremy and Chad the history of
great pop music is riddled with opposites that attract, and the songwriting
nucleus of Hüsker Dü is no exception. "He who writes it sings it, and
we'll help each other with arrangements, but basically we'll compose on our
own," says Mould of the Hüsker compositional process, and heck, it's a
process that seems to have paid off, from the blitzing fast, damn near
unintelligible hardcore of '82's Land Speed Record to the experimentation
of '84's Zen Arcade to the sheer kaleidoscopic beauty of Warehouse:
Songs and Stories.
And speaking of the new record, your verdict on it please, Bob.
"I think it's the best we've ever done," says Mould, "but of course I always say
So does everybody, but this reporter, in this instance, tends to agree. A personal
recollection: for the purpose of doing this interview I got my copy of
Warehouse from the record company in the form of an advance tape, and the
first few listenings left me cold. It sounded like Hüsker Dü all right,
and it was harder than Candy Apple Grey (last year's "major" debut), but
I had some trouble differentiating the songs. furthermore, I hadn't really
been a major fan of the band since about mid-way through '85's New Day
Rising. Other acquaintances, however, began to rave about the album: one
fellow claimed loudly that anyone who didn't like it didn't deserve to exist;
another chap, a
Toronto writer, was so enthralled and discombobulated by
Warehouse that he was inspired to use a
local-underground- paper-of-ill-repute as a forum for a lengthy rambling and
pretty much rabid dissertation on the semiotics of Hüsker Dü. So I
went back to the tape, and sure enough songs began to emerge beautiful
songs, with subtle
shadings of noise and harmony and wit and grace and wisdom. I like it better
every time, and I'm only now beginning to know which song goes with which title,
let alone understand the words.
Call it a case of dynamic tension, a system of checks and balances, an example
of the sum being greater than the parts, call it, as Miles Davis once said,
anything it seems that this time out the Mould/Hart dichotomy has
in a near perfect whole.
Says Big Bob: "There aren't as many diversions as there were on Candy Apple
mainly because we were working together a lot more as a band.
Although we write separately and Grant and I are very different people, it's more
of a unified idea, because it's more of what we'd like to do in a live context."
And yes, the Hüsker Dü show is on the road again, complete with
unspecified cover versions, material ranging as far back as Zen Arcade,
and opening acts that will feature such unknown Hüsker discoveries as
Christmas, Run Westy Run and Terence Simien and the Mallot Playboys. What kind
of crowd can we expect, you ask?
"There's no dress code," says Bob.
"Happy, friendly and peaceful," says Grant, elaborating that "I really don't have
that much in common with some 14-year-old antisocial prick with a mohawk, but
when I was a 14-year-old antisocial prick with a mohawk I developed some
friendships and camaraderies and I see the young people who've grown up, who've
been my peers at other times, and it's all nice that we're all pretty nice
One thing's for sure, though when all is said and done, probably some time
in early '88, the band won't be retiring to beach houses in Malibu or luxury
apartments in the Dakota. No, they like it right where they are
Minneapolis/St. Paul, or in Greg Norton's case, scenic Redwing, Minnesota, 60
miles to the south.
"Minneapolis is just a nice place to live," explains Mould. "I mean, I don't
mind competition, because I usually win, but I don't like the rat race in New
York or L.A. Here people are allowed to grow at their own rate, both as people
and as musicians. I don't mind visiting New York or L.A., or going there for
business, but only in small doses."
Adds Hart: "In L.A. there's a problem with backstabbing, and in New York it's
more a case of general brown-nosing. Backstabbers on one side and brown-nosers
on the other. People still have to maintain themselves like human beings, you
can't be a jerk. And the thing is, the people in Minneapolis are just so
gosh-darn friendly that it can't help but contribute to the rock scene."
Well, all I can say is that if albums like Warehouse: Songs and Stories
are the result, long may Hüsker Dü dwell in the land of Moore.