Hüsker Dü’s former hardcore punk gets confidential about how the swirl on the old Capitol labels just sends him.
“I’m trying to stay away from club drugs.” BOB MOULD
“IT’S RAINING today,” says Bob Mould, gleefully, down the line from his San Francisco abode. Since 2016 he’s split his time between SF and Berlin, but it’s not the novelty of Berlin weather arriving on the West Coast that explains his sunny demeanour. “We’ve had several weeks of major wildfires and some pretty toxic air,” he explains, “so this rain is a great relief on both fronts.” Mould’s new album Sunshine Rock, however, is a consciously cloudless affair, from its title to its sleeve’s homage to the iconic Capitol swirl found on classic Beach Boys vinyl. “I was trying to write to the sunshine, to the bits of optimism I could hold,” he nods, referencing its big melodies, its unabashedly ‘pop’ bite. The approach was, he admits, “a little bit against my nature,” especially for the man who delivered such bleak masterpieces as Black Sheets Of Rain. But, at 58, Bob Mould is of a mood to embrace change. And the change clearly suits him.
Why move to Berlin?
I love the city; I have a lot of good friends there. My living situation in Berlin is white walls, and no possessions – a blank emotional canvas, as opposed to San Francisco, where all of my stuff is. Thoughts take different paths when you have most of your life in front of you. Berlin’s a fresh environment, and I’m growing as a person, learning new things, connecting with new people, having some crazy times, and trying to stay away from club drugs – I’m too old for that.
Is it a relief to not be living in Trump’s America right now?
I enjoy not living in the saturation of all that noise. In Berlin there’s parallels, like the AFD [far-right party Alternative Für Deutschland]. But American news is like the opening credits to The Brady Bunch, except it’s nine politicos all arguing with each other at once. America is fully saturated, and fully divided.
Sunshine Rock consciously aims for an upbeat mood…
My last two records [2014’s Beauty & Ruin and 2016’s Patch The Sky] were mainly informed by pretty great loss: losing my dad, and then my mom. Going to Berlin, it really behoved me to stay optimistic, and simplistic, and melodic – to go back to the emotional connection I had with music as a child. The sleeve… I watched that symbol spin on a turntable through my childhood. And the music that was coming out of the speaker when that visual was spinning was my salvation – I grew up in a pretty violent household. None of this is ironic – I went to some lengths, sometimes against my own nature, to go back to a simple place.
Are there any plans for further Hüsker Dü reissues, following 2017’s Savage Young DŸ box set? Have you won back the rights to your albums on SST Records?
The box set definitely cleared out the archives, in terms of unheard music. A lot of that stuff was floating around on the internet, but it had never been remastered and it never had as deep an accompaniment as [reissue label] Numero gave it. As for the SST stuff, as long as the music is available, and people are getting paid, I guess that’s all you can ask of what’s left of the music business (laughs).
Were you able to make peace with Hüsker Dü drummer/vocalist Grant Hart before his death in September 2017?
We had a long-running peace, really. Everybody in the band was in contact while we worked on the box set – I think we understood Grant was having health problems, but we didn’t know the severity, until towards the end. That was tough for everybody. But everything was pretty peaceful at the end, and the box set stands as a great testament to that early body of work, as did our cooperation at the end. Hüsker Dü was a great band, a great first band, a real important band. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if it weren’t for Hüsker Dü. And I never forget that.
Tell us something you’ve never told an interviewer before.
I have illegitimate children around the world, and every year at Christmas we all get together. No, I’m making that up… I’m hard-pressed, really, because over the years I’ve shared way more than I should. Honestly, I have nothing left.
“It behoved me to stay optimistic”: Bob Mould, back to a simple place.