Capturing Grant Hart will never be an easy task. But director Gorman Bechard assembled quite a bit about the renowned Hüsker Dü drummer/singer/co-songwriter in the new documentary film Every Everything: The Music, Life & Times of Grant Hart. In it, Hart speaks candidly about his music, art, philosophy and life, in locations integral to his life -- including the empty lot that once was his home.
Gimme Noise recently interviewed Hart about the film and his latest solo album, The Argument, while he was in England. His wry, dark humor, brilliance, and way with words came through delightfully.
Gimme Noise: How do you feel about the film now that it's completed? In what ways, if any, were you able to contribute to its creative direction?
Grant Hart: Now that the film is completed, questions about it have become more frequent than the typical reunion, "Do you talk to so and so" type. I need to treat the film like it does not exist, apart from this Sound Unseen thing and the New York premiere. The film must have no lasting impact on my life, art, wardrobe, outlook etc. I appreciate the attention given to my work, but I am no longer the fellow that is in the film. I have moved on. Media is destructive. The rules of journalism have been used to wrap Rupert Murdoch's trash.
You've had the trials and tribulations of a hero, and reflect these in your music. How have your experiences detailed in the film shaped you?
The time of the filming was a dynamic time. Fire cleans more effectively than soap and water. I had always pictured myself as a warrior chief. One who seeks peace. Knowing that you are born under a special star is crucial for an artist in order for them to reach their full potential. I had visions from early on, and I knew that I would dispose of my property sometime, but I had imagined some kind of Potlatch instead of a fire.
After relinquishing everything to the blaze, I learned to be mindful of the things I wished to possess. I am pretty much down to musical equipment, art, and books. I hang onto documents for their archival value, but I am very different than the museum curator that I was. I even throw away junk mail and hotel key-cards now. If there had been animal life lost in the fire, it would have had terrible consequences on my psyche.
Had you and William S. Burroughs ever talked about Paradise Lost? Were you able to incorporate any of his writing within the songs of The Argument?
William and I really didn't speak about our work very much. Too many writers bothered him, and I noticed he was impatient talking about the craft with some of them. I do not like hipsters any more than he did, and they could swarm him. I did not take anything into the record from William other than some mood, tone and the similar exclusion of religion images. These are major changes. I would love to be with Burroughs and Milton at the same time, to hear their conversation...
Watching the film, I see parallels between brave, poetic artists such as yourself, Lou Reed, and Patti Smith. How has your artistry and inspiration evolved over time?
I take it all in, and my mind does the rest. Questions about what inspires someone are wasted on me. If I knew it, and I could control it, I would compose myself to death in a month. My technique is to learn as much as I can on an appealing topic, and then meditate on it. Not in any taught way, but in the way that I have found. Then I try to tap into my different levels and layers of consciousness in order to complete the inspired work. Study is important. Books are. Pens are. A blank page is. There are people that I have wanted to be like, but not completely. I have had several role models who wore trench coats, so I wear a trench coat. Engineer boots, same thing, although they hurt my feet after a long time. I played drums to mimic my dead brother.
You noted how you've never wanted to be similar to anyone, to always be "excited and exciting" Do you feel you are still excited?
Most of my affectations are to distance myself further from mainstream idiocy, rather than to move closer and to embrace it. Twenty-five years ago I loved Ray-Bans. Now the glasses say "Ray-Bans" on them in letters big enough to choke a moose. When I was at the CBGB's film fest there were a million creeps wearing the same frames that I had just replaced but had not taken possession of yet. I went without. It is better to run into things than to run with a dull crowd. I feel stagnated very easy. I like to find new ways to be boring.
It's great your record was released by Domino Records. How did this label connection and signing happen?
When it came time to look for a label, I had the choice of doing it on my own through MVD, the company that is my label Con D'or's partner. I was not powerful enough to do it myself and I had admired the work of Laurence Bell and Kris Gillespie from Domino. I kept sending them mixes and more mixes, and eventually they told me they wanted very much to do the project with me. Things are working out splendidly!
Do you find your visual art inspires your songwriting?
My music and my visual art inspire each other and make space for each other in my mind. When I "paint" outdoors in the summer, I end up having a notebook close to me to capture the words that start spilling out. Many times I get an idea for a record sleeve or poster while doing a song at home.
Every Everything: The Music, Life, & Times of Grant Hart. Directed by Gorman Bechard. Director Bechard, producer Jan Radder and musician/subject Grant Hart will be present. 21+, Doors: 6 p.m. Show: 7 p.m., $20-$25, Wednesday, November 13, at Landmark Center. Tickets here. See the entire Sound Unseen schedule here.
Sound Unseen opening night party featuring Grant Hart live performance. With Greycoats. 21+, 9 p.m., $10-$12, Wednesday, November 13, at Amsterdam Bar & Hall. Info here.