Hüsker Dü Database
Magazine articles & interviews

Mac Weekly, 1982

Mac Weekly, student publication of Bob's alma mater, Macalester College, published this piece in the issue of 05 March, 1982.

By Philip T. Sudo

     "Eat shit and die!" yells a drunk from the crowd as Hüsker Dü ambles onstage for an encore.
     "We'll work on that," says shirtless bassist Greg Norton. "Just bring it up here and we'll try."
     Norton straps on his instrument and cranks the volume-knob of his amplifier sharply to the right. Guitarist Bob Mould plugs his lead cord in and does the same.
     The feedback screams like an air-raid siren—a signal of impending doom.

     Hüsker Dü (pronounced HOO-sker DOO) is the name of a Dutch [groan...] memory game meaning "do you remember." On the box cover is a slogan reading, "The game where the child can outwit the adult."
     Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton took the name and formed a hardcore punk band. Not just punk, but hardcore punk. They take all the electrical power a place can generate, run it through their hands and send it out in jarring volume and frenzied speed.
     For two-and-a-half years they toiled with little reward, playing before small audiences when punk was as dead as Sid Vicious. But the times seem to have caught up with them. Punk rock is in its second phase, more serious in intent and more threatening than ever.
     For the last decade parents have feared that the world of their children would be worse than their own. This is that world. The new punks are those children.
     By doing what they've always been doing—albeit more professionally now—Hüsker Dü has moved to the vanguard of what is becoming the most important American political music movement since the 1960s. Their "Children's Crusade" tour last summer, and the resulting live album Land Speed Record, catapulted Hüsker Dü to the top of the hardcore league. A recently recorded single, scheduled for release on April 1, should bring the band even greater attention. "In A Free Land" is, Mould says, "probably the best song we've ever written" out of their seventy-plus original numbers.
     Currently the Hüskers are laying plans for a "Free Land" summer tour of the West Coast and possibly England. Not only is their album selling well in America, but in countries such as Italy, France and Finland. The band will push to get its new single into Poland and the Soviet Union through underground channels. Lyrics for it will be written in a dozen different languages.

     Hardcore punk is the protest music of the '80s. "It's the same idea [as in the '60s]", says Mould, a Macalester urban sociology major: "anti-war and anti-establishment."
     Singing songs with folk guitars in the park is a tried and failed means of change, Mould says. "It didn't work the way they did it. We're not going to sit back and be passive and hold flowers over our heads. If somebody wants us to go to war, they'll have to make us.
     "It may not work the way we're doing it, but we're going to give it a go."

     Mould suggests that political apathy may be less a function of disinterest than fear of failure. Students in the '80s are too caught up with winning and getting ahead; if they can't win, they don't play. "You don't have to win, you just have to try," Mould says. "You may not get what you want, but at least you'll fail knowing you tried your damnedest."
     "Trying is the first step, and most people don't even take it. You can't win if you don't try."

     The band launches into its encore like commandoes hitting a beach. The notes fly as though they were bullets from a machine gun. Every one hits.

Fight for your country,
Fight for your life!
Days are numbered
Soon dismembered

Ultracore! Ultracore!
We won't die in your fuckin' war!

The volume shakes bodies. No way to escape it. Forty seconds of hell under gunfire.
     The barrage stops—but only for an instant.
     Another song starts.

     Hüsker Dü doesn't use music to attract people: they use it to assault people. It's ironic that a band so anti-war is so war-like in its sound. In a sense, the band is at war. "Art is a weapon if you know how to use it right," Mould says.
     Where '60s protests sought to rally as many people as possible, Hüsker Dü seeks only the handful of truly dedicated—hardcore— followers. "I would say we're either the most loved or the most hated band in the Twin Cities," Mould says. "We don't have middle-of-the-road followers."
     Often the lyrics are buried under the thick sound of the instruments. "You have to fight your way in to understand what the message is. It's not handed to you." But with song titles like "MIC (Military-Industrial Complex)," "Push The Button," and "Data Control," you know what the message is about.
     "We get criticized sometimes for thinking too much," Mould says. "It's not like we contrive these songs out of thin air. We sit around and talk politics, as well as business and pleasure and music. We've got something to say, and it does piss us off."

     Hüsker Dü could probably reach more people if they played their songs softer and slower. But the compromise, Mould says, would be fruitless. "Once you get to the level of bands like Chameleon, the audience doesn't care what the songs say. All they want to do is put on their finery, get drunk, dance, and have a good time. If we were accessible and still had the message, they wouldn't care anyways."
     Bands like The Clash, which shed their punk image for a larger audience while still espousing a political message, are hypocrites, Mould says. "After their first album, The Clash had absolutely nothing to say. Their politics are so timely now, and they're so contradictory. They say, 'We hate the system, we hate the government, blah, blah, blah.' and look where they are—on fuckin' CBS, a huge corporate structure.
     "Things can be changed by just making a few people wake up. One way to do that is to kick 'em in the face, like we try to do with our music. If they feel threatened enough, they'll respond. The only way modern politics keeps forging ahead is by groups threatening the established order."

     The crowd starts to "Thrash," trying to keep pace with the music. Some'jump in place, hands in jacket pockets, wired on speed and beer.
     Suddenly a pair go sprawling on the ground, wrestling amidst feet and empty beer cups. Quickly others begin to pile on the two, and the floor becomes a pro wrestling Battle Royale. Bodies are flung, pushed, blocked—all in aggressive fun.
     The band plays faster.

     Most of the media attention punks get focuses on violence—the slam dancing, riots, and vandalism on the West Coast. Minneapolis has had little problem with violence, as most of the "hardcores" know each other and don't try to hurt one another.
     Still, the destructiveness overshadows the political side of the music. Bands are often blamed for instigating the violence, but the serious ones (like the Dead Kennedys with their song "Nazi Punks Fuck Off") are condemning it. "The fighting, the trashing of clubs, the police harrassment—it just makes us more above-board and less threatening," Mould says. "Once those punks get arrested, the police start getting files and start to understand the culture. Once they start to understand it, it becomes part of the mainstream.
     "I don't condone physical violence unless it's between consenting adults. Like in football or boxing. If they want to knock each other silly and make a shitload of money having people watch it, fine. I don't enjoy getting my head beat in and I don't savor the idea of kicking somebody's nuts through his mouth."
     In "You're Naive," the band berates those punks who think their violence is political:

Tell me you're an anarchist
What's that swastika in your fist?
You're naive, you're naive
You don't know who to believe

"We don't tell people what to think; that's not our goal. We tell people to think, period.
     "We play so fast and rattle so many songs of in a row it doesn't give people a chance to turn to their friends and say, 'What do you think of it?' You can't do that with us when we're playing that fast and loud. We don't always stick to that, but when we do, people have to think about it in their own mind. They can't listen to their friends' opinions and get that acceptance."

     As Hüsker Dü plays the last chords of the night, they become savages unleashed. Mould flings his guitar off with one hand, beating the strings with the other as though putting out a fire. His amp thunders in electric mayhem, a train grinding its brakes on at full-speed.
     Hart, after abusing the drum set in his way for over an hour, hurls his body into it like a fullback on the goal line. The pieces crash across the stage.
     Watching this from a safe distance are four motionless college boys, dressed in nylon sports jackets, attending their first punk show. They point and laugh at the spectacle under the lights.
     Mould seizes the microphone, thrusting a finger back at them. "Why don't you fuckin' learn something, huh? Go kiss somebody else's ass, we're not gonna give you the show you wanted. You have to make the show for yourselves, you lame assholes."
     The band stage stumbles off stage, through the crowd, and into the dressing room. "That was Hüsker Dü," the DJ says. "And the stuff on stage is what's left of our PA...."

Back to Hüsker Dü magazine articles page
Back to Hüsker Dü database main page