"I think for those of us who love music we’re very aware of our place in the overall scheme of things, and try to help out whenever possible. I just try to stay engaged and always listen to music.”
For a man with a seemingly steadfast resolve to always move forward rather than look over his shoulder, the last few years have been a time of comparative reflection for Bob Mould. Firstly, he penned his acclaimed 2011 autobiography See A Little Light: The Trail Of Rage And Melody – a powerful tome covering everything from his rural childhood, his time fronting seminal '80s Minneapolis hardcore/rock act Hüsker Dü, to his sexuality and struggles with addiction – and now he's making an all-too-rare Australian visit, playing songs from Sugar's revered 1992 debut Copper Blue, as well as tracks from his excellent new album Silver Age and a mix of older songs ranging from the Hüskers right up until the present day.
He might be revisiting the past to a degree, but Mould seems pretty content with his lot in life at the moment, playing rock'n'roll again after a decade or so flirting with dance music and electronica.
“To be back on the road and back onstage and a little bit louder and a little bit faster is pretty good right now,” he smiles. “When I was working on the book, I started in September '08 and I really put music aside as far as writing music. I knew that the 20-year anniversary of Copper Blue was on the horizon, and part of me felt that when I came back to writing music that it might be fun to look at that template again – just shorter, loud guitar pop songs. I was thinking about it as I was wrapping the book up, and I think that combined with the 20-year anniversary coming up and knowing there would be reissues – a lot of things transpired to get me back in that headspace. It's a bundle of fun and I'm really into it, it's super great.”
Copper Blue got incredible traction for Sugar upon its release, a string of compelling singles driving its sales far past anything Mould achieved with Hüsker Dü in the '80s, although Mould puts this success down to timing and good luck as much as good management.
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“Yeah, of all of the things that went into making that record what it was, the timing of things was always key,” he recalls. “On my end, at the end of 1990 after making two solo records for Virgin and [1990's] Black Sheets Of Rain being a bit of a disappointment for them, and then spending most of '91 out doing solo acoustic touring – I remember coming down to Australia that year, my first time down – it was really just about getting back to basics. And then getting with David [Barbe – bass] and Malcolm [Travis – drums] and making those records and being in an environment on Creation and Ryko with a lot of likeminded bands, it was good timing. And Nirvana got really big, and I think people were really respectful towards that kind of music, more so than ever.”
Mould's current band has a similar power-trio set-up to Sugar (and Hüsker Dü for that matter) – he's joined by Jason Narducy on bass and Superchunk's Jon Wurster on drums – and the music of his most recent release isn't miles removed from that of Sugar either.
“Silver Age has a similar template – it doesn't sound like Copper Blue, but it's got the same kind of feel,” Mould concurs. “I'd put together a similar rock trio, so once I'd got done writing the book, once I got back to writing songs, that was where I started – I sort of put my foot back in the water with that kind of sound.
“2011 was a really fun year – the book came out in June, I was going around doing a lot of book readings and performances where I would read and then play songs, read and then play songs – and it was also a year where I spent a lot of time with the Foo Fighters. Dave [Grohl] had me come in and sing on [Wasting Light track] Dear Rosemary, and then he had me come and open a couple of shows, and then he had me come out on a lot of shows where he had me DJing and then getting up and playing with them, so a lot of 2011 was doing that and playing with the Foo Fighters all that time, even for just a couple of songs each night, really gets you in that headspace. All of that energy really got me looking at that type of stuff again. Then there was a period towards the end of 2011 where I'd be writing and then go, 'Does this sound like a Foo Fighters song?' or, 'Does this sound like a Sugar song?' I was just, like, 'It's fucking just what I do, I'm not going to worry about it',” he chuckles. “It was sort of confusing, but in a good way.”
It seems like the wheel has turned a full circle with Mould being influenced by the Foo Fighters, a band who's famous frontman has long acknowledged the role of Mould (and Hüsker Dü especially) in his musical upbringing. Even with a new wave of bands like No Age, Japandroids and Fucked Up lauding his influence, Mould states that he doesn't spend too much time pondering his considerable musical legacy.
“I only think about it when I'm talking about it,” he laughs. “When I get up in the morning I'm usually just thinking about my coffee and getting to work as quickly as possible like everybody else – I get up and just want to work on my music. But it's great. I mean Hüsker Dü, what a great first band to have – you couldn't ask for a better way to start all this stuff. We made a lot of great records and I know how much that stuff means to people – I'm very aware of it. And going back and looking at it – all of the stories and all of the people who helped out early on, all the things that happened and how it affected other bands like Nirvana and Pixies and stuff like that, and now having bands like No Age and Japandroids citing us – it just keeps going, and that's really cool.
“But I try not to think about it too much, even though I'm totally aware that it's there. There were so many great bands who helped us, especially in the '80s, like Minutemen and REM who were so helpful as well, they were very giving to a lot of bands, and that follows through now to the Foos and how Dave is with opening acts, he's really hands on, he's still active too – I think for those of us who love music we're very aware of our place in the overall scheme of things, and try to help out whenever possible. I just try to stay engaged and always listen to music.”
Bob Mould will be playing the following dates:
Friday 8 March - The Zoo, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 9 March - Factory Theatre, Sydney NSW
Sunday 10 March - Annandale Hotel, Sydney NSW
Wednesday 13 & Thursday 14 March - Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 16 March - The Rosemount, Perth WA