June 25, 2011

Blogging is like making albums, says Bob Mould, but writing a book is different.

A video interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Buy his memoir here. And here's "Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock."

ADDED: At 7:55, the interviewer asks him about his sexual orientation: Mould knew from an early age that he was gay, but he didn't reveal that to the general public until much later. Does he regret that? Mould says he wonders what his "work would have appeared to be" if he had been out when he was, say, 23. "It would have recontextualized the work."

Noting that others did the "heavy lifting" of being the spokespersons for gay musicians, he says he was "so focused on my music that I didn't have time to be gay.... I was very self-hating.... I felt keeping my work separate from my sexuality was really important and was one of the things that drove me crazy... not wanting to admit that they were intertwined. Wanting songs to be gender neutral."

It's an odd stunt in rock music — isn't it? — to keep sexuality out of it, to make it gender neutral. But his point is that he wanted to reach a large audience, so, given the small proportion of potential listeners who are gay males, you can understand that he would want to make the songs seem applicable to more people — not that everyone listens to song lyrics to find resonance with things in their own lives.

AND: Writing that update got me thinking about Cole Porter, who was gay, but wrote some amazing love songs — like "Night and Day" — that millions of listeners who are not gay men resonate with, even knowing he was gay.

ADDED: Robert Christgau reviews both of the books I've mentioned. Christgau tells us that Mould claims to have a 175 IQ.

34 comments:

The Crack Emcee said...

"Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock."

This, too, is bullshit.

Must be time for more coffee. Bye!

Robert Cook said...

I remember seeing Husker Du perform at Maxwell's in Hoboken back in the 80s...they were fierce!

They certainly did not, however, "launch modern rock."

Better than Husker Du were their labelmates on indie SST Records, The Minutemen, a truly spectacular punk band unlike any of their peers. I last saw them, also at Maxwell's, just two or three months before their singer and guitarist, D.Boon, was tragically killed in a crash of the van in which he was a sleeping passenger. (Their former bassist, Mike Watt, now plays bass for the Stooges.)

Ann Althouse said...

"They certainly did not, however, "launch modern rock.""

It depends on what you mean by "modern."

(Just kidding.)

Shouting Thomas said...

If you've got to go to these extremes of intellectual bullshitting to want to listen to somebody's music...

Their music isn't worth listening to.

You just convinced me not to listen to this guy.

Amazingly, nobody had to write some bullshit essay to convince me to listen to Chuck Berry.

Shouting Thomas said...

I've been playing and listening to Cole Porter since I was a three year old first playing the piano.

I played and listened to Cole Porter because his music sounded good.

virgil xenophon said...

Amen, ST!

John said...

Another great love song written by a gay guy that no one realizes was is Son of a Preacher Man It was written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins who were both gay. The protagonist in the song is really a guy looking back on his first homosexual experience. The wistful tone of the lyrics indicates he is older and stuck living in the closet.

John said...

And Husker Du were not fit to tune The Replacements' guitars.

Phil 3:14 said...

so, given the small proportion of potential listeners who are gay males, you can understand that he would want to make the songs seem applicable to more people

Didn't seem to be a problem for Freddie Mercury

John said...

Didn't seem to be a problem for Freddie Mercury

But Mercury was one of the greatest frontmen of all time. The rules just don't apply to him. They do apply to a lesser talent like Mould.

John said...

Shouting Thomas,

If art has to be explained to you, it may be clever but it is not great. Great art manages to be both clever and appeal to people at a visceral level no explanation needed.

The Crack Emcee said...

I was very self-hating....

And somebody's got to pay for that, somehow, some way, some day.

I thought of Freddie Mercury, too.

This is bullshit.

Robert Cook said...

"And Husker Du were not fit to tune The Replacements' guitars."

I never got the supposed genius of The Replacements. I bought one album of theirs, LET IT BE, and it was...good...but it didn't strike me as any sort of blinding masterpiece, and I was never tempted to try any of their other albums.

sonicfrog said...

It's an odd stunt in rock music — isn't it? — to keep sexuality out of it, to make it gender neutral. But his point is that he wanted to reach a large audience, so, given the small proportion of potential listeners who are gay males, you can understand that he would want to make the songs seem applicable to more people — not that everyone listens to song lyrics to find resonance with things in their own lives.

Not that I've written a lot of "love songs", but yeah, as an occasional song writer who is also gay I completely understand this. I've written one song about the Sonic-Mate, but if you didn't know it was written for him, you wouldn't know it is one gay sharing his romantic feelings with another. Typically, the few love songs that have come out of my head are based on more of a story about two people being in love, and what their lives are like, and less on my own personal experiences. It's the classic story telling approach.

But then, a good love song - I mean a REALLY GOOD one - is very hard to write. There is sooo much schlock out there and so few really good love songs. Most songs that have to rely on repeating the words "babe", "baby" or "love" a bazillion time is in my judgement crap!

Shouting Thomas said...

I'm a big fan of bluegrass, Althouse.

Some of my favorite players are hard core Southern Baptist fundamentalists.

I've met and played with a few of these guys.

Without exception, they are also hard core sinners... drinkers, drug users, and skirt chasers.

They never wanted to talk religion with me. Should I have asked them?

Shouting Thomas said...

How old are you, Kookie?

You've got to be under 25, or else you belong in a loony bin.

Robert Cook said...

"How old are you, Kookie?

"You've got to be under 25, or else you belong in a loony bin."


Hahahahahaha!

John said...

Cook,

I think Let it Be is really overrated. Tim is by far the best Replacements record. It is just great three chord pop music. If you like more punk stuff, Sorry Ma Forgot to Take Out the Trash is very good. Both are better than anything Mould ever did. Their last record "All Shook Down" is quieter and very good as well

Frankly, I don't get the attraction to Let it Be. It, along with Please to Meet Me are lousy records. You fucked up Cook. You listened to the critics an bought the wrong record. ;-)

tfmaguire42 said...

Ehh...maybe he was selling his fans short, maybe he realized the limits of his talent. But he was also 23. There's only so much wisdom one can (or bother to) expect from the young.

Phil 3:14 said...

They do apply to a lesser talent like Mould.

So its a talent issue not a sexual orientation issue.

Bartender Cabbie said...

Husker Du. Forgettable band. Doesn't even register as a top 100 in the influence dept.

Fred4Pres said...

Attraction to another human being and love is not a gay or straight thing, hence the reason a Cole Porter song resonates. I am sure Irving Berlin drew into Jewish cultural experience to write his songs, but you don't have to be Jewish to have them resonate to you.

Frankly I would rather go to a Husker Du show or listen to them, than listen to what motivated them.

Fred4Pres said...

Husker Du is over rated BTW. I saw a lot of bands around that time and most of their contemporaries. Husker Du was okay, but they were not as good as their competition at the time.

Fred4Pres said...

One thing I have found over the years is umlats in your name do not make you cool.

Hank Rearden_WI said...

Husker Du was cool for the Village, Hoboken, and your major college towns, but the music was frantic and hollow - as in their Zen Arcade and Warehouse Songs albums. Candy Apple Grey was their only album i found listenable and at that they had to nearly jump to the bubble gum pop side.

When Mould went solo he found his place. roaring guitars, incredible solos, lyrics I could follow and remember. And my wife hated it. Workbook, Black Sheets of Rain, and his Copper Blue,with his band Sugar, are well crafted, tight, and at times sinus clearing. You'll wish your stereo went to 11.

edutcher said...

Never heard of Husker Du, but Ann's point about Cole Porter, I don't think, is that amazing.

Porter was an artist in the same vein as the Gershwins and Irving Berlin. That's why his music survives his generation - it speaks to people generally.

george said...

I wasn't aware that any artist, anywhere had ever claimed Husker Du as one of their influences.

I remember when they were touring the college network but I was too young to go. My impression at the time was that they were just like the cheap beer that was consumed at the frat parties they played. There was nothing to distinguish them but they would do if they were all you could afford in a pinch.

So having read this I went to Amazon to see what I missed and all I can say is that apparently they recorded their work on one of those old tape recorders with the built-in mic because there is no way anyone could have done anything related to mixing and come up with that product. Who knows what the songs sound like. You can't get through all of the hiss and noise to find out. And this is coming from a guy who likes heavy metal and hard rock.

wdnelson93 said...

I'm glad artists like Porter and others did not focus on their sexuality in their art. What a loss it would have been to the general public. I found out recently that one of the authors I appreciated the most as a youth - Langston Hughes - was gay. Whatever. He was IMHO a great writer with an appeal that extended far beyond the culture he was immersed in.

Deanna

wv - resstran A few people stayed and admired his work, the rest ran blindly away.

Saul said...

I don't think Husker Du would have suffered if Mould had come out of the closet. They were a great band, but they didn't launch Modern Rock. You can't put that on any band, but if you wanted to narrow it down, it would probably go to the Ramones/Sex Pistols. Husker Du, The Replacements, etc., were part of a second generation wave of the relaunching of rock.

New York said...

Husker Du were at their best at the end of their hardcore punk period. Zen Arcade and Metal Circus sound faster and more angry than seemed possible at the time. Those albums rank together with the first releases of Black Flag and Minor Threat.

Lost My Cookies said...

Copper Blue is a fantastic album. You can listen to that record over and over and not get tired of it. It's really well done.

TW:shest. Has something to do with Cleveland I'm sure.

Strelnikov said...

"Now that I'm your favorite thing..."

Drew W said...

I saw Bob Mould talk about his book in New York on Thursday night. I’ve been a big fan of his for almost 30 years now and interviewed him twice for music magazines in the ’80s. I haven’t read the book, but was disappointed by what he read from it. That’s when he did read, as mostly he seemed to talk to the audience off the cuff, which was fine, but not much help if you want to give people a sense of your book. He talked mostly about his creative process and his life before and after coming out as a gay man. (Note to Andrew Sullivan fans: Bob’s into bears, too, and did talk about that in some detail.) His discussion of how he wrote music for various projects was of only limited interest to me, and I have just about every piece of music the guy ever recorded.

He skimmed over the Husker Du years -- fair enough, lots of musicians don’t want to revisit their hallowed golden era one more time -- but some dramatic things happened to him then. On the eve of what would be the last Huskers tour, their manager committed suicide, and at the time there were rumors about the interpersonal machinations that may have played a role. Is there something about that in the book? And in any event, a rocker’s memoir should have some good touring stories, not necessarily of debauched excess, but more often of humiliating misfortune. (Bands usually become so attached to their touring disasters they rank them by severity. He told few road stories, aside from one amusing mention of playing after Nirvana on tour, and night after night having to step out onto a debris-strewn stage that they would have inevitably just trashed.) And he only mentioned in passing the months he spent on tour with a pro wrestling show. Come on, there must have been something entertaining to tell us about that! Ultimately, he seemed to find almost nothing funny, surprising, or poignant in his book to read to us, although for all I know, all that stuff might be in there.

Fortunately, he spent a lot of time that evening up from his stool, singing and accompanying himself on guitar, showcasing material from his first solo disc (Workbook, 1989) up to his most recent (Life And Times, 2009). I would’ve loved another funny anecdote or two, but hearing him sing his brilliant songs was well worth my money.

John Lynch said...

He "confesses" to a 175 IQ.

Interesting choice of words in the review.