Armed with only an acoustic guitar, Bob Mould has been electrifying audiences across Europe and the USA in a slightly quieter way than he used to. Alastair Mabbott discovered a serious, but not sombre, craftsman.
A few things you might already know about Bob Mould: When he sang ‘Allyourpain and
misery/ Don ’1 keep putting them on me' on The Golden Palominos‘ last LP. he could well have been speaking on behalfof his detractors, who feel that rather too many of his songs are drawn from the box marked ‘Pained and Miserable‘ themselves; when he‘s really letting it pour out,
he‘s got a roar like a rutting bull elephant; he‘s one of the greatest rhythm guitarists ofa generation; ; and he used to sing in a vaguely famous
Minneapolis power trio called Hiisker D'u. Since that band‘s less than harmonious split,
drummer, songwriter and co-vocalist Grant Hart
has released a creditable solo debut. Intolerance, and followed it up with a concept album best ignored. Bob Mould. meanwhile, recorded two albums which put a new twist on his Husker Du style and released the most gorgeous and accessible single of his career in ‘See A Little Light‘, which somehow failed to do the business it deserved. Bassist Greg Norton is rumoured to be
running a boardwalk doughnut stand.
Hart may have had poppier tunes, but the
Bob Mould: ‘I haven’t really applied mysell lo the an at writing good pop songs in a while
1990 was not my best year.‘ He breaks into a short laugh, well aware ofhis reputation for dourness. ‘The best way to take care of that is to get rid of everything and start over, which is what we‘re doing right now.‘
There was a similar stock-taking period after the break-up of I-Iiisker Dii. when Mould retreated to
the countryside. lost weight and penned the
intensity of Mould‘s songs and performances have I left him with a loyal following. He has been . touring. solo and acoustically, since February,
playing shows that have reportedly been leaving
; crowds stunned. Now. acknowledging his neglect of British audiences, he‘s working his way back across the Atlantic to make amends and play on
Scottish soil for the first time since 1986.
‘As you‘re probably aware,‘ he says. ‘l‘m not with Virgin Records any more. The situation I had set myself up in, the people I was playing with and the label I was working with made it difficult to address Europe properly. Having gotten out of my deal with Virgin earlier this year, I‘m trying to rectify the situation single-handedly!‘
Mould is, he explains, ‘trying to reorganise for next year. For the new record, for the new band. I‘m actually feeling really good about things again:
introspective. more acoustically-based songs for Workbook.
‘I feel I’ve been through more in the last twelve years than most people do in a couple of liletimes.’
‘It‘s not as drastic as that. but it‘s a similar thing. Trying to get control ofall the business stuff back in one place, artistically just trying to get a different outlook on things. We‘re trying to surprise people again with a whole different approach. So it‘s been a good year for that.‘
The second solo album, Black Sheets OfRain. heralded the return ofthe panorama-of—noise guitar sound. Mould attributed its harder edge to his move to New York. where he still lives. In which case, what‘s on the cards now‘.’
‘Boy, I don‘t know, I mean. all the material‘s
0N FOLOWING PAGES: BUDDY GUY O NANCI GRIFFITH O NITZEB EBB
written for the next record and I‘m still writing for things beyond that. But the new stuff is a lot more optimistic. I think the thing that people would
expect now is an even darker record. and that
; would be a very easy thing to do. I haven‘t really
; applied myself to the art ofwriting good pop songs in a while. and I know I can do it, a lot ofpeople know I can do it, [just haven‘t gotten around to doing it.‘
No doubt he will. ifnot on this album then the next. Bob Mould is serious about his craft.
"I‘here‘s not really much else in my life. The : performing part is what fuels the writing process.
to see what is being understood, what things are
maybe too oblique or too personal, that aren‘t
reaching people. I need to see what other people i feel about the work. That‘s really all I enjoy. I
don‘t have any hobbies. I don‘t feel I need any.‘
It‘s hard to get used to the idea of an optimistic
2 Bob Mould when his songs seem so heavy with regret about ageing and the passage of time. He insists, though, that that’s not intentional.
‘I still feel younger than I should, considering all the things I‘ve been through in my life. I feel I‘ve been through more in the last twelve years than most people go through in a couple oflifetimes. I don‘t let it get to me. There‘s nothing you can do to fight it.‘
Bob Mouldplays the Mayfair. Glasgow on Sun I.
The List 22 November— 5 December NW 27