Walking the ‘Line’
Veteran virtuoso Bob Mould hits the road after two-year hiatus
Published Thursday, 13-Mar-2008 in issue 1055
Like a phoenix that rises from its own fragile ashes, seminal artist Bob Mould has consistently resurrected himself over the past 20 years.
In the late 1980s, Mould emerged from the shadow of his hardcore band Hüsker Dü’s drug-induced downfall to form Sugar, the acclaimed mid-90s alternative outfit responsible for the dense, hypnotic Copper Blue, which Spin magazine ranked in 1992 as one its top 20 albums of the year. But after Sugar dissolved toward the middle of that decade, Mould began to branch out and busy himself with a number of eclectic projects. Relying on his own genius, the renaissance rocker – who arguably paved the way for the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam – set out on his own, creating LoudBomb, a solo effort formed from an anagram of his name; jump starting a gay dance event known as Blowoff; and serving, however briefly, as a scriptwriter with World Championship Wrestling.
Despite two decades of well-publicized professional and personal turmoil, and myriad manifestations of his talent, though, Mould returns this year to his primary passion: pushing the boundaries of modern music.
As the launch of his first North American tour in two years looms, the heavyweight – whose latest album, District Line, is available now – reflects on his frequent collaborations with that other out acumen, Richard Morel; expanding his underground party presence; how he’s spent his time since he last took to the road; and why he’ll never reignite old flames.
Which, as Mould alludes, has something to do with getting burned.
Gay & Lesbian Times: A lot of people know you from your days with Hüsker Dü and Sugar, but what they might not know is that a few years ago you took a break from music and joined World Championship Wrestling as a scriptwriter. Why such a drastic departure?
Bob Mould: I have been a long-time pro wrestling fan, starting in my childhood. I had friends who worked in the business, and for years they casually asked me for ideas. In 1999 I was offered the chance to join on as part of the creative team. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and the hardest work I have ever done in my life.
GLT: After creative differences with the company, you returned to music. After so many years, and so many diverse projects, what keeps you interested?
BM: It’s what I enjoy best. It is my life’s work.
GLT: When I think of you, it’s hard not to think of Richard Morel, a frequent collaborator of yours. What makes your relationship work?
BM: Rich brings a wealth of experience from the electronic-music world, and I bring the rock.
GLT: You and Richard host something called Blowoff. For people far from the D.C. area, what’s Blowoff all about?
BM: It’s a monthly dance party held at the 9:30 Club, which is a live concert venue. We play lo-fi, indie rock, house, progressive house, and electro. Our crowd is mainly 30- to 50-year-old gay men, some of whom identify as bears or muscle bears. But, all music fans are welcome!
GLT: You and Richard started hosting Blowoff in 2003, and it recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. How has this gay dance party evolved, and are there plans for permanent residency in New York, where you’re throwing the parties sporadically?
BM: We have grown from spinning music for 30 friends in a basement to 1,000 people in a large concert hall. We will be at Highline Ballroom in NYC every two months in 2008, and we hope to expand to San Francisco in the fall of 2008.
GLT: If anything, you’re an experimental artist – from genres to instruments to monikers, you’re constantly reinventing yourself – but what do you consider your best work?
BM: My proudest moments to date are Zen Arcade (Hüsker Dü); Workbook (solo); Copper Blue (Sugar); Circle of Friends (live DVD, 2005 band); and the new solo album, District Line.
GLT: Your new album, District Line, is being heralded as a return to form of sorts. How do you take that? Do you think you’ve ever strayed from your form?
BM: I think it is a simplistic way for the record company to attract people’s attention. I hope my “form” has expanded over the years. Guitar-based composition is the core component of my entire body of work, and the new album is heavy on the core work, so maybe that is what the company bio is trying to highlight.
GLT: You describe the album as emotional and mature, while Billboard magazine says it’s filled with “pop songs.” Is the mag accurate in its description?
BM: I think so!
GLT: You begin touring in support of District Line this month, but it’s been nearly two years since you last toured, when your live DVD, Circle of Friends, was released. For those who caught that tour, how will this show stand alone?
BM: The upcoming band tour will be a continuation of what was documented on Circle of Friends. Guitar, bass, keyboards, drums. No-frills presentation. Songs from all periods of my career.
GLT: Finally, reunions are inevitable – especially if you’re still relevant and have a bankable following. And that’s not to mention that everyone from Led Zep to the Spice Girls have reunited lately, and it’s the thing to do these days. So … are there plans to appease your die-hard Hüsker Dü or Sugar fans? Will they be treated to a blast from the past in the near future?
BM: I have no plans, nor any interest, in reforming old bands. Those were great times at the time, but as time goes on I like to look forward as much as possible. The songs I composed and performed with those bands are now part of my current band repertoire. That’s the best I can offer, and I think most people understand.
Bob Mould will perform in San Diego on March 24 at the Belly Up Tavern. For more information, visit www.bellyup.com.