Bob Mould is one of the most influential figures in modern music. He formed the trio HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ in 1979, and started playing some of the loudest, fastest music ever recorded. Over the span of a few short years, primary songwriter Mould transformed HÃ¼sker DÃ¼'s music into something more complex, adding tuneful melody to their fast-paced sound. It is widely accepted that HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ was the key influence on alternative rock, with bands from Nirvana to the Pixies citing their impact. HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ was also the first American independent band to cross over to a major label, and their traumatic experience with Warner Brothers served as a warning for the indie bands that followed. Mould then formed the group Sugar, an alternative rock force in the mid-nineties. In the late nineties he started experimenting with electronica, and continues to make appearances as a DJ in the Washington D.C. area. A pioneer in the landscape of modern music, Bob Mould was one of the first openly gay American musicians and he continues to be an outspoken gay rights advocate.
Michael Azerrad is a preeminent rock critic whose feature articles have appeared in Spin, Musician, Details, and Rolling Stone, where he is a contributing editor.- City Arts & Lectures
Michael Azerrad is an American author, journalist and musician. He grew up in the New York City area and received his BA degree from Columbia College in 1983.
Bob Mould is an American musician, who attended Macalester College, and is principally known for his work as guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for influential 1980s punk rock band HÃ¼sker DÃ¼. After HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ split at the end of the decade, Mould formed Sugar, in the early 1990s. He released two solo albums between HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ and Sugar, Workbook and Black Sheets of Rain.
I am pretty good with that, as far as bringing people together and making making knowing that thechemistry would be good. So it's so it has been I have been shocked. He was very sort of reservedand very proper and well mannered; just sort of you know very kind of very self aware, but verysort of reserved in how he be. So and now you are going to ask me what do I think now, okay. Thatthat was totally wrong.Hello, everybody and welcome to City Arts and Lectures. My name is Michael Azerrad and I will beyour interviewer for the evening. Check the exit doors. It's a truism that life is a journey, but BobMould's life surely has been just that. He has been on a musical journey, a geographical journey andand a personal journey. However he is not into the rock-band journey. But he has been generousenough to let us in on this ride for nearly 30 years and of really good music.It started at the Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, when Bob began buying pot for a rockerdude who happened to play drums, named Grant Hart. And they started a band with another guy namedGreg Norton. And they were faster and louder than just about anything else any one had ever heardbefore them. And they were called "HÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼sker DÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼". HÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼sker DÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ went on to embrace this hard core soundthat was kind of revolutionary because they incorporated personal introspection and a sense of melodywhich was something that was missing from that style of music, and they literally blazed the trailacross the United States with other bands like Dead Kennedys and DOA and Black Flag and REM andall kinds of bands. And with albums like the Zen Arcade and Flip Your Wig and New Day Rising,cemented a reputation as one of the giants of 80s - 80s rock, really. And after HÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼sker DÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ was done,Bob did a whole succession of really; really great solo their albums which really pointed the waytowards making music after you are a punk. What you do when you grow up a little bit? And he hasfantastic albums like Workbook, an album he did with Sugar called Copper Blue and many, manyothers. He has explored electronic music and has a new DVD out coming up, which you just saw asample of, called Circle of Friends, and it just has an amazing body of work.We are lucky to have Bob as a kind of "a canary in the coal mine of time." As the first generation to begalvanized by punk rock enters middle age, he is letting us know about the dangers and the joys that lieahead. Judging by what Bob tells us we can look forward to rage, recrimination, self doubt and but ifwe are open to it, we can also look forward to a whole lot of self discovery. And so tonight we aregoing to speak with Bob Mould and here is Bob.Thank you, it was so kind, very kind of you. Well -.Bob, when did you start making music and maybe, why?Well, you mentioned Macalester College but there was actually some music making before that. I wasborn in on this day in 1960. In a small small farm town, it is the county seat of Franklin Countywhich is the northern most county in New York State. And very early I was very fortunate early inmy life to be exposed to music, both through my grandmother who actually cared for a cared for awoman who was struck by lightning, and I would go with her and the woman had a piano in her house,and I would hear things, I would just hear things on the radio and then I would go over to the piano andsit and sort of pluck them out exactly as they should be. I started writing songs I guess when I wasprobably like eight or nine. I still have a big folder full of songs I wrote back then and one of thoseplastic like M&E organs, like the chord organs, where you could hold down the chords with the lefthand, and because of that I have terrible piano skills to this day. But you know that combined withmy parents were in a Mom-n-Pop grocery store and because the same people who sold cigarettes alsostocked the jukeboxes, my dad would buy boxes full of singles from them for penny a piece. And thisis like 65', 66', 67' so you know, it's a great time to learn about music. So that is sort of where it allstarted, and it's the long version of it started.And I mean, I don't know if everybody is familiar with Malone, New York, but it's apparently aquite tiny town and it's wedged in between the top of the Adirondack State Park and the CanadianBorder and it is quite remote.And I was just thinking you know, I have always wondered you know I mean here you are, youknow artistic kid, may be a little bit of a misfit you know like what were you feelings about Maloneand how quickly did you want to get the hell out of there?I started applying for college in my sophomore year of high school. I took SATs very early. I neededI had an extra strategy. I mean it was a great place you know it was a very ideal like, you knowquite place to grow up, you know so you are used to very long winters, very harsh winters. You knowI guess I was a little different than most kids. I mean I had friends and stuff you know, I did sport inhigh school and things. So I mean I was you know engaged with other folks. But I new that I reallyhad to get away from that town as quickly as possible, partially because there was no jobs and partiallybecause my awareness as a homosexual, I mean as a gay kid I knew that it wasn't the place to be. Soyeah, I got accepted to Macalester College, I think at the end of my junior year, on an under privilegedscholarship, my parents were sort of and our family was sort of poverty line and I was lucky that Iguess they had a spot for me at the school. Macalester is a you know a good school and I was veryfortunate. And I also knew that there was punk rock in Minneapolis, already, so.Ah. There was an attraction though specifically about Macalester that drew you there, I remember youonce told me, which some of the teachers who taught there and maybe the mindset of the politics.Well there was yeah, both Mondale and Humphrey had teachings done at Macalester and I believeKofi Annan was also a Macalester grad. So I mean you know it was a school that was pretty youknow pretty rich in political discourse. I think they were one of the schools in the late 60s were if youwere actually protesting three hours a day, you know with SDS or like a proper organization, you gota 4.0. So and they also have they also go down in history as having the worst college football teamof all time. So it was that kind of place. So it was a good fit for me. I moved from up street New Yorkto the Twin Cities when I was 17 and you know, started embarking on theoretically a Three-twoprogram with Washington University in St. Louis in engineering and mathematics. And it didn't work out.So you just discovered punk rock in Malone?And what was that like? What did that mean to you when you heard it?Well, the path, the way that I got into it, it was a circuitous route, you know in high school I was intoKiss and Aerosmith and all that. My first concert was you know going to the Montreal Forum on abus with a bunch of my drunk friends on a high school trip to go see Rush opening for Aerosmith and Iwould buy you know, it was there you know its good stuff. So I would buy there was amagazine that was published in the mid 70s called Rock Scene. It was Richard and Lisa Robinson'svehicle for New York night life and bands and music. And they focused a lot on Kiss and Aerosmith, Iguess for friends of the Robinsons, but also they would always talk about these bands, like theRamones in Television, and Patty Smith and the whole CBGB scene at the time and I got sort ofintroduced to it that way and you know I thought they look sort of cool and I remember getting thefirst Ramones album when it came out and you know I put that on the stereo and I said, okay this isthis is music you know, this is what music is supposed to be. No offence to Aerosmith or any of theother groups but when I heard that everything sort of changed for me and I decided that I needed tomake that kind of music.And then you know you meet Grant and Greg and you are into discover band with Charlie Pine, Ithink the guy's name the Keyboardist - Maybe you should explain why you said poor Charlie.Poor Charlie ah near Macalester at the time there was two record stores. There was one calledCheaper Records, where Grant worked and there was a store called Northern Lights where GregNorton worked. And we all got knowing each other, you know just through this neighborhood thing.And we decided that we should start a band and there was an other fellow that worked at the recordstores, his name Charlie Pine, nice enough buy but he wanted to be like a front man and be like a belike a sort of a singer, song writer, kind of guy and he wanted to play Grant's Farfisa Organ and wearmirrored sun glasses and be sort of cool. And that lasted for exactly one and a half days. And he sort ofsaid, you got to go, this isn't going to work. And shortly thereafter we quickly wrote a set of originalmaterial and I think it was May 13th of 79', would have been the first official HÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼sker DÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ gig at the longheart of Minneapolis, opening for Curtis A, so.Did you I mean, did you consider yourself a punk?And what does that mean to be a punk? Are you still a punk?Probably. But back then I was definitely punk. You know the very affected fashion you know whiteyou know 25 cent white shirts bought a good word with nonsense written on them and things torn upand you know, very nihilistic drinking heavily, throwing typewriters out of third storey windowsand stuff like that, you know very crazy and actually a lot of crazy stuff and it was "See you," itwas that kind of punk rock thing. And we were a very you know HÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼sker DÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ was a very physical bandearly on, you know there was the Minneapolis scene at the time was sort of art influenced in some ofthese suburbs and and NBA sort of you know, bands were very influenced by No Wave and youknow, may be more of the Bowie kind of thing. And we just sort of stormed in and did this crazy noisy punk rock thing.Your first album is called Land Speed Record for a reason, it's very fast, but I mean it sounds like a 26minute car accident. Its and I mean that in the best way.Yeah, it's a good record. Yeah it cost $350 to make and there is a second set some where in our vault,so you haven't heard all of that.Awesome, and so so at some point you meet Black Flag and that's kind of sends you on a what wasthat that was a little episode, having Blue Paint I think.Yeah it was Blue Paint. HÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼sker DÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ did a did a tour in the summer of 1981 called the Children'sCrusade. We went up into we went up through Western Canada, I still have my social insurance card,then came down to San Francisco came down through Seattle, spent a lot of time in San Francisco,actually played five or six shows here in a two week period you know. Jello Biafra was was verygracious to open his home to us and help us get a number of shows that got a lot of attention frompeople. And the tour wrapped up in Chicago and it was the same night that Black Flag was playing, Ithink at a club called CODs. HÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼sker DÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ was playing at a small club and I think it might have beenAlbanians, I am not sure, I cant remember with sure. But anyways everybody came over after the BlackFlag show and we were playing our normal stuff, bouncing off the walls, destroying everything insideand some girl dressed head to toe in leather decides to there is lucky kind of Blue Paint gotinvolved and there is blue paint all over the floor. And She went over and grabbed one of the grantsymbols and started to scoop up the paint as if to pour it over the drum kit. And you know you knowGrant inherited that drum kit from his late brother and he flew out of the back and grabbed her andthrew her down in the paint and then picked her up and started bouncing her off the walls and leavingbutt prints all over the cloth. And about five minutes after that Greg Ginn, the guitarist of Black Flagcame up and said, okay you guys are like the craziest thing I have ever seen in my life. And it just sortand he got us hooked up with who had new Alliance records and you know, we submitted alive show that we recorded a few days after that and that became Land Speed Record, the first HÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼sker DÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ album.I mean you know you mentioned all those you know, craziness and violence like, that I think youknow a high degree of rage, I think, you know runs through almost the entire HÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼sker DÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼ you know,oouvre I have always wondered where that rage comes from? I mean what were you so pissed off about?Well that was 1981, you know, that was the Reagan era, that you know I was a I was a self hatinghomo sexual young man living through an administration that deemed me not not to be part of theprogram. And I think you know my own internalized rage combined with the political situation andof course, the lousy music that you know first and foremost needed to be disposed off. You know Ithink that you know my own personal situation like, but you know it was a musical cause. I meanwe really you know, there were like minor of people around the country, DOA Kennedy's BlackFlag, Effigies in Chicago, you know there is a lot of bands and it was a it was a lot of people sort ofrising up at the same time and realizing you know we weren't the music that was on the radio did notspeak to us, it was not about us, it was not for us. There were these empty VFW Halls and AmericanLegion halls over the country that you could get in for $50 or $100. And you just bring in a PA and putup posters and you could bring a man from out of town and have them you know, and draw crowdand and make a statement and begin to effect some change. I you know it was a it was a very,very unique time in music. I don't know if there has been anything like it since. But the problem wellthe 90s rave thing I think is closest. But but it was a really unique time.Yeah you know, bands like you were total like Johnny Appleseeds, right now there is this bigtouring circuit where bands can just you know book a tour it's really easy. There are so many placesto play in every city, large and small but back then it's it's hard to imagine better it really didn't exist.So you guys are - and Black Flag and the Effigies and all these other bands were just barn stormingthrough these the states playing often very improvised venues lounges and pizza shops and you knowwhenever you could do. I think you tell me once about a guy who you played in Calgary with the cow boys and Indians or -Yeah that was the beginning that was the beginning of the of the tour that despond laying on record,it was six nights at the Calgarian hotel in down town - in lovely down town Calgary Alberta Canadaand you know Calgary in the early 80's was was an oil town, it was a boon town, it was a renegadetown and the venue was pretty wild, it was - we were doing four sets a night, getting paid fifty dollars anight and there were - it would it was a situation where there were literally cow boys and Indians.Forget forget the forget the improper use of you know the vernacular but - and they were literallytaking pool sticks to each other until the punks showed up and you can sort of do the math as to whathappened then. Cow boys and Indians got along just fine, so in literally you play a set and you wouldjust be run, grab - take your guitar and run up the stairs and go to the front, the rooms would be at thefront of the hotel and look out the windows and just watch the fights pouring out in to the street andthere was a woman who got stabbed on Tuesday and she was back on Thursday.So it's no it was it was really - I mean there was a lot of that happened, there was a lot of therewere some good stories from San Francisco - the Vats was the place here in early 80's I don't know ifany body in this room was ever in the vats, it was the old brewery it was small brewery vats that thepunks used to hang out in and they would sleep in the vats, well I remember one morning the - theowner who was a bit out of his mind had some thing like a brain tumor or some thing and led hisDobermans into the vats and it was you know so so stuffs like this was sort of normal you know hejust - that was what this thing was about, even nobody had any thing but instruments and stories to tellon gas money and that was really what that was about.So you you release few records, land speed records, MEPs, you signed to SST and eventually you putout a double album which was kind of like some thing that you know journey did - sorry and you knowthat was kind of like a nervy thing to do in the punk rock world.And and this this record calls Zen Arcade gets critical kudos you know up the up the wazoois like really it was very high up in the village of voice chart novelists - all these accolades and itwas a really incredible - it remains an incredible album what what possessed you to make such agrant statement and it's a - it's actually a concept album it's like a it's a story.Yeah it's it's not it's not one like a Tommy Claud or Finia, so you know the - coming of age storyyou know sort of you know loosely wrapped in you know computer game design and you know thatkind of thing you know the stuff that was going on then. The band was - the band touring nonstop,were very prolific, we were rehearsing and writing constantly and just had this you know huge amountof material that was all semantically linked to - was very very - - very sort of very very personalcompared to the earlier work that we have done and just you know said about recording a doublealbum, it took - only took four days to record, it was actually recorded on used two inch tape that wasthat was originally, it was a Bee Gees midnight special concert that we had to hand erase twice throughthe machine before we could start recording and it was it was a you know that was great period Imean that that that period just sort of that that was that was like as the the critical moment forthat band, September of 84 "Zen Arcade", January of 85, "New Day Rising" and September of 85 "FlipYour Wig". Basically four albums were at the material and thirteen months, two of the albums youknow "Zen Arcade" and "Flip Your Wig" both "Zen Arcade" and "New Day Rising" both gettinglike you said a lot of - a lot of - a lot of critical claim.