Q&A: Bob Mould On See A Little Light, Blowoff, Hüsker Dü And Being "Pretty Fuckin' Out" At 51

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Brendan McWeeney
When Bob Mould—ex-"miserablist" and noise-pop architect behind Amerindie rock gods Hüsker Dü and alt-pop gurus Sugar, as well as under his own name—writes in his brutally honest autobiography tour de force See A Little Light of a revelatory moment in 1998 when he retired his notorious downer persona of "the Rock Guitar Guy, the Angry Man, the Pessimist and the Self-Hating Homosexual" and finally embracing his sexuality, he's not joking around.

As he tells it, the proverbial weight was lifted and that watershed moment proved vital to the still continuing evolution of Bob Mould—the Blowoff DJ, perpetually prolific musician, acclaimed author and proud gay man who's at peace with Hüsker Dü and, more importantly, himself—at least for the time being.

Speaking with Sound of the City from San Francisco, Mould is quite the jovial, loose fellow, having just jammed with Foo Fighters the night before and prepping for his reading/performance tour and Blowoff gigs. He even offered up some kind words for his former bandmate Grant Hart.

First off, I actually saw you live way back in 1989 when you played at The Bottom Line for Workbook.

Woo-hoo!

When you look back at Workbook and those shows compared to present day, what stands out for you?

Well, I think those New York shows were the prototypes for, I guess, "Bob: Version Two" [laughs], post- Hüsker. In the book, I talk about that I remember it was maybe just a few days before those Bottom Line shows where I did a test run with the new stuff and the new band and the new everything at Maxwell's and how freaked out I was. Hüsker is a big shadow to try to get out of, and at the time I sensed I'd done it with [Workbook] but I didn't really know how to present myself. I had this different body and this different music and everything was different. I was like, "Fuck me."

But as far as [going from] the 28-year-old man that put out Workbook and coming fresh out of this punk rock thing to the guy who just got forced into fucking jamming with the Foo Fighters last night in front of 11,000 people and playing Tom Petty and not knowing the song [laughs]... a lot of things are happening there [laughing].

That was a scary time and an exciting time for me. '89 was a hell of a turning point for me and the beginning of a very long learning process—learning a lot from playing with Anton [Fier], Tony [Maimone] and Chris Stamey—who was great to work with—to a year of solo stuff to Sugar. That was a really good point for me just to learn to be a band leader after Hüsker Dü, which I guess was a democracy. Grant and I sorta had control of the songs but everybody had to sign off on everything, or it didn't happen.

I was 28 [then], still not closeted but not out. I just turned 51 last week and I'm pretty fuckin' out now [laughing].

Throughout much of Hüsker Dü's lifeline, your bandmates [singer/drummer] Grant Hart and [bassist] Greg Norton took a back seat while you handled the bulk of the managerial side of things, basically acting as tour manager and you talk about that at length in the book. Had you not taken an active role of booking tours and such, would Hüsker Dü had endured?

It could have gone in a number of different ways. I never really thought about it, but the first thing that comes to mind is that SST [Records] probably would have run us into the ground. The second scenario is a big-time management company comes on and the band would have imploded instantly because I like to control things and Grant was pretty uncontrollable. That actually worked to our benefit that I could control it from within. Those were the first two outcomes I could see if I did a "what if?" I'm sure there are other iterations but those are the two that come to mind right away. SST would have killed us—or we would have killed ourselves quicker with a big manager trying to direct traffic.

Do you think because you had your shit together as far as business savvy is concerned and Hart didn't, is one of the reasons why you are successful and he's struggled, post-Hüsker?

You know, Grant's a really good guy but we are very, very different. And anybody who knows, any and anyone who's dealt with the two of us, will tell you that right away; people that met us then, or even recently, will quickly say "it all make sense now." Grant had an incredible gift. You'd probably have to ask him about the choices he's made. I think I outline in the book pretty clearly what I saw the last 18 months of the band to be. And I gotta be honest: After I walked away from the band, I really had no time to keep tabs on it. It was really one of those things where I could tell I just gotta walk away and I really can't even compete with that. I just really want to keep moving forward.

For Grant, God bless him. He's been through a lot, especially recently—a couple of personal hardships that are really fucked. The beauty of him being in the Twin Cities, I guess, is the music community that is still there has been really supportive of him and I think that's important. He'll be fine.

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