Bob Mould is rock-solid

The stocking cap shows Bob Mould's not as hot-headed as he used to be
Peter Ellenby

Now 51, Bob Mould is at peace — but still amped up. After several records throwing the former local's rock, folk, and electronic sounds into mixed-bag results, this year's Silver Age marks Mould's return to rip-roaring rock. The record's 10 propulsive tracks are easily the loudest (and catchiest) since his 1992 debut with Sugar, Copper Blue. At times, it's breakneck enough to recall the speed-fueled pace of his '80s material fronting Twin Cities indie icons Hüsker Dü.

Silver Age peeks into Mould's past for inspiration, which he also did in last year's memoir, co-authored with journalist Michael Azerrad, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody. The book pulls no punches while chronicling Mould's rough childhood as the son of an alcoholic father in small-town upstate New York, his struggles coming to terms with his homosexuality, and Hüsker Dü's acrimonious dissolution. Despite the turbulence, what emerges is a portrait of a man who has worked hard to become comfortable in his own skin.

Mould spoke with City Pages prior to his September 15 gig at First Avenue, when he'll perform Copper Blue and Silver Age back-to-back.

City Pages: Why did you swing the pendulum back toward raw rock on Silver Age?

Bob Mould: Spending three years on the autobiography was pretty taxing, so when I got back to my own musical drawing table I just let things come out. I knew I didn't have to choose my words carefully because there was no copy editor but me. Also, the 20th anniversary reissue of Copper Blue was coming up, and I wanted to create a sort of loose companion piece for it — as that was one of my favorite records I ever made. I've been making more studied records the last 10 years. Modulate was very much out of my comfort zone, and my naive attempt at making an electronic record. Everything was very considered on those last three records too; it was all very clearly articulated. This album has none of that. We just bashed it out together quickly. I think that immediacy comes through.

CP: Do you find it harder now creating from a place of personal contentment?

BM: The book for me was a way to unload a lot of my personal baggage by going on the record with it for the first time. Now that I'm free of all that, it opens up a lot of possibilities. I'm more aware of being in the moment because I'm not worrying about the past anymore, or trying to predict a future I can't control. When I write songs I really view myself as a messenger, I just try and be a vessel for different ideas. Maybe sometimes that's a "tortured artist" message and sometimes it's "I wish my neighbors would stop banging on the wall."

CP: How did writing for WCW wrestling and making forays into DJing ultimately inform the music you're making now?

BM: I really needed to take away time from rock music to essentially build a gay identity. I didn't have a problem with being gay in and of itself, but I had no functioning identity in relation to my sexuality, I had just compartmentalized my life so much. Some of the choices I made artistically may not have been the best, but I was learning my way through it. The DJing is still very important to me artistically. If I wasn't doing that I probably wouldn't have been turned on to bands like No Age or Fucked Up, who have kept my love for making music fresh. Someone on the outside might say, "Hey, get off the decks and pick up your guitar." If you were actually living my life, you'd see it all fits together.

CP: Is it weird to still be so strongly associated with the Twin Cities even though you didn't grow up here and haven't lived here since 1989?

BM: It's where my music career started. I live in San Francisco now, but Minnesota will always be my first. Especially coming back to play First Avenue, there's gravity to that for me. I have a lot of history in that room that I can't really run away from. I think the first time I played back there was in 1980 when it was still called Sam's. A lot of memories come flooding back whenever I'm in Minnesota, both good and bad. It's always a challenge. Part of me just wants to come in and blow the place apart. The challenge is to make people forget about everything you've done before, and hopefully put on a show so powerful that all anyone is talking about is what just happened.

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