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Bob Mould at 89.3 The Current

16 Jun

June 14, 2011

By Jeff_mcl

When I moved into the dorms at college for my freshman year in 1985, I won the roommate lottery.  My new roommate was from Beaver Dam, WI, and came into the room, put down a boom box and hit play on a cassette tape from Husker Du, Flip Your Wig.  And, my life has never been the same.  No offense to the rest of the album, but I used to listen to the first four songs on that tape over and over and over again.  “Flip Your Wig”, “Every Everything”, “Makes No Sense at All” and “Hate Paper Doll”.  Rewind.  Repeat.  Endlessly.

Well, since then, a quarter century has gone by.  My roommate and I have done a lot since then and we still keep in touch.  We’ve both had kids, been married and divorced, rented apartments, bought homes, done good things and bad, and made and lost many a friend.  Pretty much what anyone that has lived 25 years of adulthood has done.  Including Bob Mould.  The only difference is that he wrote a book about it.  The book, which was released June 15th, is called, “See a Little Light, The Trail of Rage and Melody”.

This was my first time attending an in-studio at The Current, and I was very impressed with how things went.  Mary Lucia conducted a wonderfully executed, hour long in-depth (but lighthearted) interview that included Q&A, a book reading and four songs from the ‘80s including two from Husker Du and two from Mould’s solo work from that period.

Mould took the stage, standing alone with his guitar and an amp or two, in his trademark black t-shirt and blue jeans.  He started out talking about his simple goal for the book: to paint a picture of his experiences – “show, don’t tell”.  He then talked a bit about the challenges that presented when one really stops and reflects on their life.  Even admitting that in some cases, “I wasn’t really thrilled with the person I had been”.  He played the first song of the set, the obvious choice, “See a Little Light” from Mould’s first solo album, Workbook (1989).

Lucia started the interview portion of the afternoon at the beginning – at least the beginning of Mould’s time here in Minnesota.  When Mould moved here from New York as a young man, he talked about visiting record stores, Cheapo Records in St. Paul to be exact, and how that was how he met other musicians – specifically Grant Hart, with whom he started Husker Du soon thereafter.  He talked a lot of about the prolific career that Husker Du enjoyed before signing to Warner Brothers, which in his opinion, triggered a couple changes in the band that eventually lead to their demise a brief 18 months later.

The breakup provided a nice segue to Mould’s only book reading of the day.  He read a long section from the book describing his life immediately following the band’s end, focusing on a couple months in 1988.  He was living in Pine City with his partner on a 10 acre farm, spending long days of doing nothing but simple chores around the house and property.  But on one particular day, he stopped at a music store halfway between Pine City and the cities, and bought a blue Fender Strat on the spot.  It’s the only guitar I’ve ever seen him play (I think? And, I’d call it teal…but, whatever.  You know the one.).  And, to see him talk emotionally about acquiring it while tapping it in acknowledgment of what it has meant to him some 25+ years down the road, was a very special moment.  That guitar turned out to be just what Bob needed at the time, and it sparked a creative flurry of new songs; songs that eventually made up his Workbook album.

Mould also talked about spending some of that difficult period in his life just sitting at his house and turning up the music so load that “the sound was taking me away from everything”.  It makes me emotional just thinking about that statement again.  “The sound was taking me away from everything.”  How many times have you been there?  Turning to music in difficult times in your life… I know I’ve been there.  I’ve been there a lot.

Mould’s second song was from that period of time, “Lonely Afternoon”, also from Workbook.  It was even more powerful given the greater context of the book excerpt lead-in.  He said, “let’s go backwards and play an old one”, and played “Something I Learned Today” from 1984’s Zen Arcade.

They then talked a lot about Mould’s time in the band Sugar, a band formed almost by accident, as Mould was basically thinking he was hiring musicians for another solo album.  The good news from this discussion is that Mould left the door open for doing a show as Sugar in the future.  He said things like, “that door shut gently” and “I wouldn’t say no” and “never say never”.  Although he did clarify that by saying that he didn’t necessarily want to “saddle up the old horse and tour the country”, but I’m more hopeful than ever that a Sugar show will happen at some point in the future. (Ed. note – me too!)

Mould ended the discussion talking about being a gay musician and how he was always so conscious about making songs gender neutral, and how much he toiled on that point through the years.  And then he implored, “Don’t worry about what the song means to me.  Music is always, always, always what it means to you… It is the soundtrack of your life.”  It was as if he was talking directly to me.

Mould then spun the volume knob on his guitar, and played a particularly scorching version of “I Apologize” from 1985’s New Day Rising to end the performance.  I’ve seen Mould play in every chapter of his career, and I’m used to him saying “Hello” at the beginning of a show and “Thank You” at the end; and not much else in between.  It was a pleasure to spend this particular afternoon listening to his songs and stories, and I’d gladly do it again.  Anytime.

You can catch a replay of the full performance today (Thursday, June 16th) on 89.3 The Current at 4:30.

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