Expecting somebody who’s been slugging away in the indie rock trenches for more than 30 years to put out two of their best records in their 50s is usually a fan’s setup for disappointment, but that’s exactly what Bob Mould has done.
"Silver Age" (2012) and "Beauty & Ruin" (2014), both cut with the invigorating rhythm section of Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster, are among the former Husker Du and Sugar singer-guitarist’s best work. In 2011, he was the subject of a tribute concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall that was released as a DVD, "See a Little Light," which was also the title of Mould’s reflective and revealing memoir released that same year. We caught up with Mould, who lived in Austin for a time in the ’90s, ahead of his show Saturday at the Mohawk.
Austin360: You went way back for pieces of the 7th St. Entry (the small room adjacent to the legendary First Avenue in Minneapolis) set list recently. Is that something we can expect through the tour, or was it more the homecoming vibe and Jason and Jon’s prodding you that made that happen? And what was it like playing the Entry again?
Bob Mould: We added a handful of early songs for the Entry shows, hoping that they would go well enough to add to the regular rotation. Entry is always fun. It’s changed some, but not much, from the early days.
The current lineup is very, very strong and really seems to have invigorated you. What is it about the chemistry between the three of you? You always put together great bands but this one is locked in like Sugar.
We get along, we travel well together, and we like playing these songs for people. It’s really simple. I think this is a great band, and many people think it’s my best band. I’m not going to disagree with that assessment.
The line in your book about how you’ve come to realize that you and your work mean a great deal to a relatively small group of people was one of the most level-headed and grounded things I’ve ever heard an artist say about themselves. At the same time, you have the Disney Hall tribute, you have Dave Grohl talking about how awesome you are and nobody did more to lay the indie infrastructure and break punk rock. How does it not go to your head?
I have a small and loyal following compared to many of the artists who played the Disney Hall show. I’m content with the way my "career" is going. I wouldn’t say no to being wildly financially successful but there’s typically trade-offs that aren’t necessarily ones I’d like to make at this point in my life.
Speaking of the book, it seems like it gave you a real opportunity to revisit your past and re-learn some of your own presumed history. Tell me about that.
I don’t know what "presumed history" means. I went into the book project with no agenda and no idea how it would turn out. I worked hard to be accurate, I tried to be fair in commentary toward others, and I think I revealed quite a bit about my personal life. I think my story is fairly interesting.
A guitar question: A lot of punk and metal emphasizes the low end for maximum heaviosity. You use a capo a good deal and often voice chords higher on the neck, which is fairly unusual in your musical neighborhood. What inspired you to do that?
Just wanting to change up the keys I was writing in. Boredom, really. Once I started using capos it gave the songbook more variety.
‘Hey Mr. Grey’ has the line, ‘Kids don’t follow.’ A wave to the Replacements, who had a song with that title on ‘Stink’? And did you happen to see them when you both played Riot Fest in Chicago last year? I believe you were both on Sunday.
An accidental wave that I instantly recognized and kept in the song. I saw them at Riot Fest last fall. They were quite good and people are thrilled to see them play.
You’ll be teaching songwriting at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, this fall, I hear. What are you going to tell them? Any secrets you can share?
I’m doing one small workshop. I don’t know if it’s strictly songwriting or a broader look at creating music, but it should be fun. I’ve done a few of these (workshops) before and they went well.
Anything you miss about old Austin, or does that place not exist anymore?
I miss Liberty Lunch. (Note: Mould played a solo acoustic show in the club’s final days.) I miss the airport. I miss Las Manitas. Austin is changing fast. I have lived in San Franciso for the past five years and it is also changing rapidly. Time moves forward and it’s best not to dwell too heavily on what was.