This long, rambling interview is from Pages of Rage #5, out of
Winnipeg MB, where the Hüskers were in the
midst of a four-show, two-night stand at the Royal Albert Arms (the series
that furnished the live "Masochism World" used for the B-side of the
Eight Miles High single"). The interview, which features mostly Bob,
some Grant, and a smidgen of Greg, was conducted 21 Jan 1984.
To say that HUSKER DU have evol- ved from their first album 'Land Speed Record' is a non-statement. It also stands to reason that a band that has been around for so long is subject to change, and in HUSKER DU the change is obvious, Although we find it strange that the Huskers have never played Wpg until this recent show we also admire the band for their non-conformist attitudes. This is a fanzine and typically we interview the bands we enjoy the most. In the case of the Huskers, we watched and listened with open minds and although we felt the Huskers were competent musicians with a fresh, honest ap- proach, we honestly weren't impressed. Call us hypocrites, here's what happ- ened. HUSKER DU are: Bob Mould: Guitar, Vocals Greg Norton: Bass, Vocals Grant Hart: Drums, Vocals WHAT'S MINNEAPOLIS LIKE THESE DAYS? B - The Upper Deck closed; that was a place where a lot of bands played for a lot of years. It closed in October. I HEARD IT WAS A RIOT
plugged the band; they started boun- cing.... The papers said it was an all-out riot. B - It was a tax writeoff. But the- re's still the 7th Street Entry, Duffy's. WHAT HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN DOING? B - We were out on the West Coast in October and we went out East in Dec- ember. We haven't been traveling that much compared to what we used to do. We used to tour constantly. It gets tiring after a while. We're gonna take a break for a while, about four or five months. GONNA RECORD ANY BANDS ON YOUR LABEL? B - Yeah, we got two singles coming out this week on Reflex, OTTO'S CHEM- ICAL LOUNGE and FINAL CONFLICT, and we're gonna start work next week on Ground Zero's album, so that should be out in about four or five months. ARE YOU STILL ON YOUR OWN LABEL? B - No, we're on SST Records. IS YOUR LABEL JUST SOMETHING YOU DO PUTTING OUT MINNEAPOLIS BANDS? B - We don't have the money to put out our own records, silly as it sounds, since we're running a record label. But what happens is you have put all this money up front for 5000 records, jackets, whatever; that costs a lot of money. We just don't have
that kind of money to throw around. It's easier to work with smaller bands and keep it sustaining itself, whereas SST has the machinery, the extended credit, stuff like that, where they don't have to play it all at once. Being a smaller label, we can't do that. ARE ANY OF YOUR RECORDS RELEASED IN EUROPE? B - The new one's out in Europe. So is Land Speed Record. HOW WELL DO YOU THINK YOU'D GO OVER IF YOU PLAYED THERE? B - I don't know, I guess we'd probably go over all right...just do what we're gonna do. You know we're not gonna change our clothes or nothing, or put shit in our hair or something. BLACK FLAG got a real negative response, it seemed like. They're doing a lot better there now because the bands that were criticizing them have all pretty much fallen out of favor now, like the EXPLOITED. It's just nice to have the records out over there; it's exposure. We'd like to go over there; we were sup- posed to go over there two times before. We're supposed to go over
there this summer. I'll believe it when I see the tickets. SST have their
label set up over there now. They also have contacts with a booking agent
who used to book a lot of the bigger rock tours, so that may come through
What brought about the big change in your music since Land Speed Record ?
Grant: We change from every record. It always changes before we record the next record.
Bob: When we startred out we had a number of different styles we could play and we tried to fuse them all together. Now it's just starting to work.
Is it all the original members?
Grant: I quit.
Bob: As of June 1979...early '79. About five years now.
Five big years
Bob: Yeah, can't say that about a lot of the bands you guys have interviewed. Not that that's badjust shows who's serious about it I guess.
How do you keep going so long? What makes you do this?
Bob: Keep writing your songs, keep telling your stories. Things happen every day; you gotta record 'em.
Do you need a liking for traveling in cramped vans or starving?
Bob: No, I don't like it at all, but I do like playing. I don't especially like the way we travel, but it's the only way we can afford to.
What's the motivation?
Bob: Just to play, that's about it. I like music, I think we're good at it, and that's why we do it. Well, we know we're good at it...that's what keeps us going.
Grant: I like writing music and making records better than I like playing. But you gotta play. Playing's great.
Bob: That's what we do it for, just to play. I mean, we're not trying to subvert the youth of North America; we're just out to play our music.
So after playing this kind of music for five years, how have things changed?
Bob: People have gotten incredibly serious.
In what way?
Bob: Nobody's having any fun. It seems like a lot of people want to make it like this is a cause, like we're into the music for a cause, or we're into the music for an end result. You know, I'm just into this for the music. People who are into it for poitical motivationI just don't see any point, really. There's this thing in the 80s, this literal, radical thing, like feminists and a lot of the hardcores and stuff, where everything is taken at face value. Like bands will come through and say stuff like, "Well, the US is fucked, like, because we got all this evidence that we looked up in a library." It's all this literal interpretation, like feminists, that rape is violence against women, so literal, you know? Rape is exploitation against men as well. It's like they only take what they want, like the radicals who just have this little bit of information that is true, but they construe it so that it justifies their cause completely. And there's no room for argument because it's a fact. You know, if you start arguing on an artistic or personal level, it doesn't matter, because they're looking at it strictly on a literal level. That's something that's really changed a lot; when I first got into the music, people were concerned with things. There's nothing wrong with that, but people weren't justifying every.... It's just like it was a change, you know? Something to do. I'm not into changing political shit.
So when you're up on stage, then, you're not really trying to say anything? It's just "come on up and have a good time?"
Bob: Well, not so much that. We're trying to say things, we're trying to tell storiesbut we're not trying to dictate to people. There's a difference. It's hard to explain: we're trying to influence people to look at things that happen in their lives. You know, we're not just picking isolated incidents and saying, "This is a horrible, ghastly act of war" or something.
Like ragging on atom bombs.
Bob: No, I don't like 'em either, you know. I don't wanna die... could really put a cramp into the weekend.
Grant: Destroy your records.
Bob: You know, we just relate incidents or tell stories that could happen to Joe Average. We're not just getting up there and saying, "Hey, party down," but we're not saying, "Hey, this is dead serious; here's our manifesto." It's like we're somewhere in between.
Grant: This is the way we look at it. Take it or leave it.
Bob: Yeah, we're just telling our stories; we're not trying to change everything. We couldn't do that: we're only a band.
Grant: If you want to do something, clean up your house, straighten up your own bathroom, before you start. If people would take a look at who they buy dope from and then elect them president so they can stop complaining about Reagan...I mean, it's the same fuckin' thing.
Bob: It doesn't matter who's in there, you guys know that. It doesn't matter who's president or who's running the country, 'cause they don't anyway; all they are is a spokesman. They don't have anything to do with it. Everyone thinks that they push the button and they make all the money; that's not it. There's thousands of people in the political system that have more control than the President; it's just that they aren't a father image. It's a machine, wheels or gears or cogs, they all fit together. It's like a puzzle; put it all together and you have this image. That's what gets presented. You finish the puzzle and you show people the end result. You don't show them each piece.
So what'd you think of the place you're playing, the Royal Albert?
Bob: Not much, not much at all. We signed a contract to come up and play music; we didn't sign a contract to control the crowd.
So why did you tell the crowd to settle down?
Bob: 'Cause he threatened to cancel the show if people didn't behave. Tonight I don't care. People can do what the fuck they want. I'm not going to tell them what to do. It's like the laws are so intricate up heredance permits and bar permitsit's beyond us. We have no idea what all that stuff means. I can understand what he means though; the fire department sat outside for the duration of the show and for half an hour after. They sat outside because if they thought he was over the capacity they would have come in. The guy obviously wasn't anticipating the turnout. Even if he was, he did a couple of things that I just can't imagine a clubowner doing. He wouldn't let the people with the video camera in; there's nothing like turning down free advertising (for the bar). Also, we got the writeup in the paper; it's like a standard rule that when we play, press people are let in free, no questions asked, because they publicize your bar for free and they publicize the band for free. For him to do anything other than that was just bad business. It's the most foolish thing.
How are clubs in Minneapolis?
Bob: We get contracted to play music, we play music. They hire the bouncers, the doormen. About half our shows are all ages, and we do half regular 19-and-over shows. We have to do it 'cause we've got a crowd that's underage, and we've got a crowd that drinks. We try to satisfy both. People that drink when they go to see bands will not go to an underage show beause there's no booze.
You guys seem to have a beef or differences with the REPLACEMENTS. Care to explain?
Bob: The REPLACEMENTS are on Twin/Tone Records. Twin/Tone is a major independent label striving to act like a major label. They're really into artist development and all this kind of stuff...massive press lists. They have an incredible overhead. They sit there and they just call radio stations to make sure it's being played. Service the radio stations, service the press, then do followup calls, all that. That's like some kind of money we'll never see. It's more aesthetic differences than personal differences. I have nothing against them; it's just the way they do things I would never want to be part of. The REPLACEMENTS specifically are a fine band, they're a great rock 'n' roll band. They have a lot of things going for themlet's put it that waythat we don't have. By the same token, we have a lot of things going for us that they'll never have.
How do you live up to your reputation of being "the fastest band in the world?"
Bob: The songs that we wrote back then that were real fast, around '79, '80, '81, don't really hold a lot of meaning for me three years later. It's sort of hard to get up there and play a song and act like you're into it: I play songs that I'm into, not songs that I act like I'm into. I play songs that mean something. Most songs that we played for three years, we beat 'em into the ground. We just got tired of it.
Grant: Maybe someday we'll write an entire set of material that's like you could play forever and make us happy every time we play it, but I don't see that happening.
Bob: It's just a matter of being into your music. That's the arena mentality, playing all the favorites. That's the way I really look at it, like the bands that get up there and just play the certified gold, and it's real easypeople know what they're getting. With us, it's more that people should enjoy the fact that we branch out; we do things that may never be done again live, or may never sound the same again. We don't do carbon copies of our songs per se; we change things around a lot.
What happened when you came out with "In A Free Land" after Land Speed Record?" It wasn't as fast. What was the response?
Bob: Well, the B-side was still two quick rippers. The A-side was a little stronger, a little more structured song. It's evolution. We didn't completely abandon the fast stuff. On the new album there's seven or eight fast ones. But by the same token there's 12 medium-tempo ones.
Greg: Hopefully the longer you do something the better you're gonna get at doing it, whether it's playing an instrument or writing songs. I think we're writing better songs.
Bob: They mean more.
Greg: So why take up a limited amount of time for the amount of time for the songs that we've played 150 times?
Your first single was a lot slower than the later stuff.
Bob: "Statues?" Yeah, we were in a bad mood when we put that one out.
Grant: Those were the only slow songs that we had at the time.
Bob: That was pretty much the opposite of what we were doing live. We were doing maybe six or seven in that vein, compared to 30 fast ones, so we took the slower ones.
In all your grueling travels on the road, what have been some of your worst experiences?
Bob: Trouble doesn't seem to flock to us like other people. I don't know. Iowa City was weird; this guy was being real obnoxious and demanding that this punker girl give him a ride home, like pounding on her hood and stuff. We had to pull out the hardware like the tire jack and stuff and tell him to get out. The cops came and arrested her and let him go. That was kind of strange.
Grant: This band we were staying with in San Francisco, their landlord came by really early in the morning with his fucking Dobermans, and ended up pulling a knife on one of the guys and going, "I'm gonna kill you!" and all this shit.
Bob: We drove seven hours on a tire with no tread once. That's scary.
Grant: That's even more scary!
Who's your favorite wrestler?
Bob: Favorite wrestler? Don Morroco.
Grant: Don Morroco. And the Crusher. The Crusher I like because he's someone that's always been around.
Bob: I hate the Crusher.
Grant: Mr. Torture! Mr. Sayito!
Bob: Ventura and Sayito are such an unlikely pair. Sayito's good for tag because he gives such bad interviews. That sort of nullifies any ability in the ring.
Grant: Now listen here, Jack!!
Bob: The interviews are more important than the actual matches sometimes, as far as selling it on TV. They're trying to sell a product. Ken Patera has the best dye job in all of professional wrestling; you never see a black root in his hair.
Is there really a rivalry between people in Minneapolis and people in St. Paul?
Bob: Depends if you talk to WILLFUL NEGLECT or not. There is the Mississippi River. Minneapolis is an urban metropolitan city; St. Paul is an urban residential city. There were factions for a while, but it was something people fabricated to give them something to do. What kind of gripe is there? Who fuckin' cares, ya know? We could say Minneapolis rules over Thunder Bay or something. Like what's the big stink about, what's the big deal? It just gives people something to gripe about. It's like, "We're from St. Paul, so we're gonna wreck the bar."
Grant: Funny thing is, people from Minneapolis get totally lost in St. Paul, and it doesn't make any sense; everything is ass-backwards. And it's the same thing with people from St. Paul when they go to Minneapolis.
Bob: "Cause everything's in order there, ha ha! That's sort of like the LA syndrome. You know: we're Hollywood punks, we're Ventura punks, we're Orange County punks, we're Valley punks. You know, big deal, it's like gangs, little kids. It's our sandbox; don't play with our toys.
Do you ever get shit when you play out of town for not looking like punks?
Bob: We don't have to pay any atention to it when we're on the stage...they give us the microphones, don't they?
Grant: I had to laugh when we played in Boston, 'cause here's all these people with really short hair, like everybody, and here we're like, boom (imitating unknown musical instrument).
Bob: The only people that give us shit are Timothy Leary and Ken Keseyyeah, he's got a mohawk now.
Grant: Actually, a reverse mohawk! It's nice not to be recognized in bars.
Greg: It's like when we pulled into DC at the 9:30 Club. We're pounding on these glass doors to get let in, and somebody walks over and sees me and Bob and they walk awayand we're supposed to be loading in. Finally this guy comes over and we go, "Hey, we're HÜSKER DÜ, we're the band!" and the guy's just looking at us like, "Yeah, right, you're the band?" He let us in.
Grant: It's like we know we're in a band. We don't have to prove it by dressing one way or another.
Bob: People can do that. If you're into it, fine; it's whatever you feel comfortable with. If you wanna look like a hardcore punk, go ahead. We're not into the censorship thing. Peer pressure, that's all it comes down to. It's not like we're nonconformists on purpose. There's people that do that, try to be untrendy on purpose, because that in itself is trendy. It's just what I wear. These are my clothes, you know? Clothes don't play the guitar and sing; clothes simply cover up my genitals, that's about all. It's conforming to a nonconformist group. I just look at it that people should be comfortable with what they do, and be able to defend whatever they're doing. If somebody gives you shit about the way you look, you should be able to do whatever you feel comfortable about doing. Just like say, "I don't have time to be bothered about your opinion, because I'm comfortable with it." Defend it however you feel justified.
With Everything Falls Apart, you got mentioned in some major publications. How would you feel making the jump to "the big time?"
Bob: We just keep doing what we're doing. Once everybody else catches up with it, we're not gonna change to get popular. We're just doing what we're doing, and getting popular by doing it. I think that's the best formula you could have, just do what you're comfortable with and see what happens. We're not gonna, you know, "cop out."
Grant: If our records sell good five years after we release them, then...
Bob: In other words, what you're asking, it seems like, is "would you guys," or "how would you guys sell out?"
Not necessarily. What would you do?
Bob: How would we handle it? Probably get a road manager, an extra roadie, maybe a better van. That would be about the only way to handle it. We'd still do the interviews we'd still do the photo sessions, we'd still play the shows. We'd still do the same things; it wouldn't change us. My lifestyle wouldn't get more expensive if I had more money. I'd just simply have more guitars than likely. I'd put it into something more tangible instead of eating expensive food.
Do you think that once the pseudo-British Invasion Mark II is over that hardcore will catch on commercially?
Bob: Oh, you mean like that British dance stuff? I don't know. What do you guys think is going to happen?
(Oh lord! Praise be! someone asked us for our opinion! This was not supposed to happen! We were supposed to ask the questions here, not them! We were caught in a dilemma and here is what we said:
1. Uh, I hope it doesn't.
2. Uh, I hope it doesn't!)
Bob: Yeah, see, that's the thing. You have to be prepared if you think in the back of your mind that maybe you're gonna get caught up like the 60s movement did. You have to think about those things if you're really serious about it. To us, we're playing our music. I throw away the labels when I start playing. All the labels and categorizations go out the window as soon as you start playing the music. If you can overcome that...'cause there's bands that go, like, "Yeah, we're hardcore. We've got the X, we've got the Straight Edge." You're completely isolating yourself from a possibly larger audience. If you've got something important to say, why not say it to more people? If we get popular, we'll just keep doing the same thing; there's nothing wrong with having more people listen to you. If you don't, then maybe you're afraid you don't have anything to say. Like, "I only want this. I don't want to get popular'cause I know I'm full of shit and only 12-year-olds listen to what I'm saying." You can't change your frame of reference. We're talking to everybody: we're not talking to Straight Edge; we're not talking to hardcore; we're talking to everybody.
But what about people like Joe Strummer, who said things like, "We're gonna build a radio station with our money?"
Bob: It probably went up his nose. Well, that's the thing. It's like the anarchy thing: who's gonna run the boat once it's sunk? It's that kind of shit. It's like everybody else"If I had money I'd do this; if I had money I'd do that. It would be for the good of my fellow punks." That's bullshit. If you had money like that, you'd do whatever you damn well felt like. At least if you were smart you would.
Grant: You'd try to satisfy your most paranoid fantasy in your whole life, like Elvis.
Bob: Like Elvis did, yeah, or like any of those fat drug addicts with the Hawaiian shirts on.
You'd have to sell a hell of a lot of records.
Bob: For a number of years! Ha! Go Gosdo you think they're rich now? Where did they go? Where do a lot of these bands go? Look at all these people that sold zillions of records two years ago; they don't have anything to show for it now. THE KNACK, that's probably the best example. When a record goes gold, they ship 250,000 copies. They only have to sell twoit's shipped. Whatever they ship, it's "shipped gold." You always hear that term. Or this record "shipped platinum" in two days. When one of our records sells 10,000 we're gonna make a lead one and we're gonna have a big stink in Minneapolis, call a press conference, and gwet our "lead" records. Then at the end we can do a gig and have towels around our necks and bow.
Any last words before we march you off to the gallows?
Bob: I don't know. Just people should do whatever they're gonna do, I guess, and not listen to...bar owners. Just do what you're gonna do and do it well. That's about it....
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