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Jun 04, 2009

With his new album and upcoming autobiography, Bob Mould looks back on a life of stories and songs.

By Michael Tedder


Bob Mould has spent his life combining blistering guitar and blistering truths, and he’s written some of the most achingly sad (“All This I’ve Done for You”), sweet (“See a Little Light”), angry (“Again and Again”) and hopeful (“Celebrated Summer”) songs of the past several decades. He also has contributed more than his share of epic guitar excursions to the lexicon of American alt rock.
Whether as member of proto-alterna-rock legends Hüsker Dü, leader of aptly named hard-pop trio Sugar or in his ever-mutable solo career, Mould has rarely stopped moving. But that doesn’t mean his forays have not occasionally taken his fans by surprise (his brief retirement from rock and subsequent trips into electronic music) or pretty much befuddled everyone within earshot (his bewildering stint in the late ’90s as a scriptwriter for World Championship Wrestling).
If he’s been feeling reflective lately, he’s earned the right. During a recent two-night stand at New York City’s Joe’s Pub, Mould took a break from playing songs from his new album, Life and Times, to ask the audience if they knew what that week was the anniversary of. He proceeded to run through most of Workbook, his 1989 solo debut.
“I think as I get older, I sort of accept the things that I’ve done a little bit more easily. I don’t mind pointing it out,” he says, in the courtyard of the hotel he was staying at. “I’m sort of a sucker for that kind of stuff.”
Released a year after Hüsker Dü broke up, Workbook saw Mould embrace a contemplative, acoustic style that was remarkably different from his earlier more volatile, hardcore punk. “I was aware that it was not going to be in my best interests to emulate what I had just done,” he remembers.
It was also the first sign that Mould would have a viable life after Hüsker Dü, and Life and Times is molded in Workbook’s reflective spirit, from the stripped-down title track to what he’s called one of his favorite songs he’s ever written, “I’m Sorry, Baby, But You Can’t Stand in My Light Anymore.”
Though he spent much of the beginning of his solo career trying to move on from Hüsker Dü, that legendary band has been on his mind lately as well.
Mould insists that Hüsker Dü will never reunite, and he continues to have frosty relations with drummer/songwriter Grant Hart and the owner of early Hüsker Dü label SST, Greg Ginn. However, Mould says there has been talk of rereleasing their catalog in a manner similar to last year’s lavish Replacements and New Order reissues, with “very early demos that nobody’s heard and other live recordings. Everyone is actually starting to talk about that,” he says. “I’d love to go back and make [Hüsker Dü release] Flip Your Wig sound right. It’s in the works, but right now, I got three jobs.”
About that third job: Mould hasn’t limited his reflecting to his new record.
Between performing and DJing, he’s been working on a currently untitled autobiography, due out next year. He’s writing it with writer Michael Azerrad, who wrote and produced the Nirvana documentary, Kurt Cobain: About a Son, and profiled Hüsker Dü in the essential indie-rock primer, Our Band Could Be Your Life.
“He knows more about the ’80s than I do, which is good, because that’s a period I don’t remember very much,” Mould says. “Everything after I got sober is great, but there’s a little bit in there where I need some coaching.”
He has long been forthright about the tensions and substance abuse issues—both his and others—that tore Hüsker Dü apart. It’s the other stuff that proving harder to talk about and—even though he is 75,000 words in—write about. But, as ever, he’s not going to let anything slow him down.
“The real personal stuff—family origin, relationships and dynamics, things that are way outside the realm of what people know—that’s the stuff that’s been harder to deal with, because that’s stuff I don’t talk about,” Mould suggests. 
“I’m like, ‘why am I doing this to myself?’ But I’m pretty much just jumping in and writing what I know, because that’s pretty much what I’ve done my entire life.”

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