Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner Is Embracing Change While Trusting His DIY Instincts


"It's bleak," jokes Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, referring to the release of his band's upcoming untitled record. The album is nearly ready, but needs more funding to get it out the door. As a result, the band is trying their hand at PledgeMusic, selling band nostalgia, original art, and unique deals such as a "lifetime guestlist" to help get the record out of the studio and onto your iPod.

Pirner is up front about the perks and pitfalls of crowdsourcing a record, but he's excited for the new music to get to fans. The band has seen a lot of change in recent years. With the death of original bassist Karl Mueller and other member turnover, it's a new start for the group, and Pirner is beginning to embrace those changes.

Gimme Noise spoke with Pirner, who now lives in New Orleans, as he returned to Minnesota for a tour of mid-sized Midwest cities with John Mark Nelson, American Scarecrows, and Carnage the Executioner.

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Gimme Noise: Is the new record fully recorded?

Dave Pirner: We probably have a few tweaks to do on it. We are still trying to pay the producers. [Laughs.] There are a lot of funny ways that I could try to sum up the experience of making this record and it's become something that I have more control over than I want. It's really a DIY situation and, in a way, I'm built for it. Soul Asylum started as an indie band with no fucking help from anybody and we're used to that. That part of it feels almost more normal than going to Japan for a press junket. [Laughs.]

It's a record that I've been trying to make for a really long time. There's a lot of music that I was trying to work on and develop, and none of the material was really landing with the band. Over time, the band has evolved and I've evolved as far as trying to communicate the music to the band. A lot of it starts as me in the studio in New Orleans messing around. People have been asking me if living in New Orleans has influenced my writing. This is really the first time it's going to come out on a record.


I am too humble to say I'm influenced by these great musicians in New Orleans, but it works its way into my limited punk rock tools and comes out probably kind of blunted.

Are you label shopping or self-releasing it?

We're going to shop it and it's fucking bleak. [Laughs.] We're going to see what's out there and we pretty much know. These days a lot of people prefer putting their records out themselves and I'm not sure I'm one of those people. I don't really have enough business sense. I appreciate when I finish a record that I can hand it off to somebody else to do the marketing.

It's definitely a changed landscape. For better or for worse, I just feel really lucky to still be doing it.

What led you to PledgeMusic?

It was pretty fucking alien to me. I was really not focused on whatever that is. I felt like I was being asked to panhandle, and that's rude. [Laughs.]

As it turns out, we found a 1982 t-shirt in the practice space that I did a Sharpie drawing on, and we made 14 of them. We thought, "somebody wants this," and that's charming. I've also seen the comings and goings of the Hard Rock Café and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and how people like to catalogue nostalgia. 

I really liked touching Bo Diddley's guitar (and then I got yelled at and had to put a white glove on) when I was in the archives, but it's cool. You see Sly Stone's hat; you get to hold Elvis Pressley's gun--that's fucking awesome. I think it's pretty silly, but it's also in good fun. To that effect, I've been making art my whole life and there's an opportunity here for me to sell a painting to a fan. It's cool that someone is that into my songwriting. To that effect, they're pitching it as a way for the fans to get closer to the band. It's definitely a different way of thinking about it than the last time I put out a record.

With all of the intangibles, is there a timeline for its release?

Let's put it this way: we were going to call it, "Everything Takes Forever."

There's this constant push to create a fake deadline. We don't have anybody else telling us when it's done and that's always been a joke for me. Until somebody takes it away from me, I'll keep trying to tweak it.

I've got the artwork and all that. We're good to go. We're touring the Midwest, getting people back on the Soul Asylum train.

Is the band's line-up pretty settled now?

The paradigm that [drummer] Michael Bland drew was, for him, being in a band is more like a job and, for me, it's more like being in a gang. I've become more mature or empowered by Michael just saying, "This train is rolling. It's your song Dave. Let's do this, and if somebody doesn't want to come along, let's just get someone else." I never really felt that way about Soul Asylum before. It's a huge leap for me. [Laughs.] Through that we've really evolved into something and can execute different types of music. It's a really broad talent pool and I love it.

After this mini-tour, you're joining the Meat Puppets this summer.

I've been friends with them and a super fan forever. I understand not everybody is going to be into it. Some are going to say, "I don't understand Soul Asylum but I love the Meat Puppets and vice versa," but, for me, I want people to understand the Meat Puppets. I think Curt Kirkwood is a genius guitar player and a magical dude. I'll see younger guitar players looking at him: "What the fuck is he doing?" Just shut your mouth and listen.

Soul Asylum Tour Dates:
With John Mark Nelson, American Scarecrows and Carnage The Executioner
Apr 10 Fargo, ND Fargo Theatre
Apr 12 Bismark, ND Belle Mehus Auditorium
Apr 16 Mankato, MN Mankato Events Center
Apr 17 Rochester, MN Whiskey Bones Roadhouse
May 2 Memphis, TN Beale Street Festival
May 23 Arlington, TX Levitt Pavilion

With Meat Puppets:
Jun 5 Minneapolis, MN First Avenue
Jun 7 Chicago, IL House Of Blues
Jun 10 Indianapolis, IN Rathskeller Biergarten
Jun 11 Kalamazoo, MI Bells Eccentric Café
Jun 12 Cleveland, OH Hard Rock
Jun 13 Pittsburgh, PA Mr. Smalls
Jun 18 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
Jun 20 Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Bowl
July 25 San Francisco, CA The Independent
More dates to come.

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