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Magazine articles & interviews

Matter, Sep 1983

Matter was one of the most influential of the early-80s fanzines. The Albini piece in this issue seems to be the first article they printed on Hüsker Dü.

By Steve Albini
      There's a cool song Husker Du (there are supposed to be umlauts over those u's, but the typesetter doesn't speak Swedish) have been playing recently, and one of its lyrics is a repetitive chant, What's going on in your head?1 That's something fans and detractors of Husker Du have been asking for quite a while.
      "We started out just playing as fast as we could, to keep the energy level up, and we kept getting faster," says founder and guitarist Bob Mould. "We used to play all the time, since we weren't too well-versed on our instruments — we'd play a lot to get in shape. When the first single ('Statues'/'Amusement') came out, everyone expected it to be a really fast record, but we put out the two slowest songs we had. People out of town thought that we were an art band or something, so when we played out of town and started in with the fast stuff, nobody really knew what was going on."
      Some critics have said that the Huskers, as their Minneapolis neighbors have taken to calling them, are trend jumpers, moving from the PiL-esque sound of "Statues" to the hyperventilated thrash of Land Speed Record, their live debut LP, when tides changed. Husker Du say bullshit.
      "WE NEVER tried to be a 'hardcore' band or anything," Mould says. "We were really surprised when we found out there were other bands doing something similar, with the speed and everything. We just do what each song requires, we don't try to play slow or fast or anything. Right now we're at a stage where we have to think things through in a big way. We're going to try to do something bigger than anything like rock and roll and the whole puny band touring idea. I don't know what it's going to be, we have to work that out, but it's going to go beyond the whole idea of 'punk rock' or whatever.

Husker Du (l. to r.) Greg Norton, Grant Hart, and Bob Mould

      Immediate plans include the release and support tour for a new EP, Metal Circus, on the Minutemen's New Alliance label,2 a 7-inch single by the Minutemen on Husker Du's Reflex label and Reflex albums by Riflesport and Man-Sized Action.3
      "The Minutemen record is going to be a fun thing, real quick, which will make us a little money and get some more of their material out," says Mould. "The other two albums are from bands we think are really good, which we were able to afford."
      The last two Husker releases, the In A Free Land EP and Everything Falls Apart album, display a frenetic (not frantic) power laced with thick guitar, Greg Norton's rubbery bass and the Buzzcockish drumming of Grant Hart. Metal Circus will be in a similar vein, says Mould, although that wasn't premeditated.
      HUSKER DU have never been
very concerned with their image, which may be why so many people find them hard to peg. Their visual image has rested largely on the enigmatic record artwork they use, since the band doesn't like to circulate photographs of themselves, and don't look like what they sound like anyway.
      "The way we look isn't important," says Mould. That doesn't have anything to do with it. We move around a lot and put out the energy, so people can see we're working at it, so our hairstyles really don't matter."
      That's a good thing, since Husker hair is among the least "punk" of all hard-coifs. Greg looks like he stepped out of GQ, with cropped hair, trimmed mustache and muscular build; Grant could replace anybody in Motorhead (maybe two people in Motorhead), and Bob looks like a St. Paul gas station

attendant after a hard day's work. Skinheads they're not.
      Since they've started to acquire a bit of national attention, Husker Du have begun to catch some of the backlash hometown fans like to throw at successful bands. They've ben criticized for "not supporting the scene," which translates to "supporting the bands selectively, not the mythical 'scene.'"
      "SOME PEOPLE gave us shit for not helping out some of
the bands," says Mould, "but if we think a band sucks, why say otherwise to keep from hurting their feelings? The good bands, like Man-Sized Action and Riflesport, we'll do what we can for them, but we're not interested in being the Twin Cities Stamp of Approval. There are other people who want to do that."
      Husker Du run their record label out of Mould's spare room, but manage to secure national and international distribution for all their releases nonetheless. It's sort of a
cottage industry with them.
      "We've got a checkbook, a telephone, a desk and a typewriter. I have a file cabinet and Greg does all the artwork," says Mould.4 "That's it. We all work, but I usually do sound for other bands, odd jobs and things like that."
      Though most people can't dig a hole to fit Husker Du's sound, style, philosophy or image, Mould says the treatment and representation they've received from the press has been fair — for the most part.
      "That asshole from the Chicago Reader, Scot Michaelson, was the only person to really do us wrong," he says. "I don't know where he got that shit he wrote, but it wasn't from us. He thinks rock music died after Raw Power; what can you do with somebody like that? I told him I'd been corresponding with Throbbing Gristle for a long time and that I like some of their ideas, and he writes that we pattern ourselves after them. What an asshole."

1. The actual lyric is "What's going on inside my head."
2. Metal Circus ultimately came out on SST Records.
3. Rifle Sport's Voice Of Reason (Reflex E) and Man-Sized Action's Claustrophobia (Reflex F) were both released in 1983, but The Minutemen's Tour Spiel 7"
    (Reflex L) wasn't released until 1985.
4. Grant (= "Fake Name Graphx"), not Greg, was responsible for the artwork.

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