interview with Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü; 1983
This is one of the oldest pieces of my professional writing I seem to still have among my belongings. Not the first by a long-shot, but the first I was ever paid for, by a syndicated publication, anyway. In this case, it was actually a spin-off of a defunct Mpls. weekly called The Twin Cities Reader, which was viewed by many as being the mainstream counterpart of the other local weekly, City Pages, which had been originally christened Sweet Potato upon its' inception in 1979. Some folks may recall they actually had a contest to determine the new name for the paper, and whatever it was I suggested wasn't picked—same for almost everyone else I talked to—so who came up with Sweet Potato?Read more or less
In December 1983, the Twin Cities Reader spawned a seperate publication called Nightbeat - presumably, to give the hipsters over at City Pages a run for their market. [In an interesting historical footnote, both weeklies were actually owned by the same company for a minute in 1997, when Stern Publications bought up both papers, then promptly folded the Reader.]
This interview appeared in the first issue of Nightbeat, and was my first paid piece of writing. I had been hanging out with the members of Hüsker Dü for a couple of years, at my old place of employment, The Longhorn, and like a lot of folks in Mpls, had seen Macalaster pals Bob Mould, Grant Hart & Greg Norton evolve into a powerhouse band, even though it seemed few could agree just what kind of band they were. Their self-maintained label, Reflex, became a substantial cottage industry—one of the first true "independent" labels—years before they achieved success at the level of a corporate major label. The band had just returned to Mpls from a brief tour in support of their third EP Metal Circus; I called up Bob and asked him to let me conduct an interview, in order to give him a chance to talk about something other than how fast he played guitar, or what town had the coolest music scene.
The interview took place in South Mpls, at the upper-level apartment Bob was renting at the time - over Thanksgiving dinner, actually (no meat, but there was a huge salad served in a black enamel roasting pan). Bob and I ate dinner, listened to countless Hüsker Dü outtakes, and pored through the band's fan mail together, before actually doing the interview. Twin Cities Reader Editor Martin Keller wanted me to follow up with an addendum, relating to the last days of local music venue Goofy's Upper Deck, which had closed its' doors after a rampage of vandalism earlier that year (loosely referred to by some as a "riot"), but when I talked to Bob about it, we both agreed that it seemed pointless to give the situation any more attention than it had already received. Nonetheless, Keller persisted. Subsequently, it would be many years before I considered writing for any syndicated publications again, as I wanted to avoid the sensationalist approach I was convinced they all catered to at the time. Having given it another attempt in the late '90s, and into the millenium, I realize I still feel pretty much the same way even now.
Interestingly, the article was liberally quoted from in a book which appeared in 2000, called Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991, by Michael Azerrad. I learned of this by purchasing the book when it came out, and discovering my own words throughout the chapter about Hüsker Dü. Although my article had been credited to me in the back pages, it was also referred to as being an unpublished manuscript (I'm not really sure where that information came from). When I attempted to set the record straight with Azerrad's publishers, Little Brown, a representative indicated that he got the "unpublished" document directly from Bob Mould, who of course could not substantiate that claim. Azerrad himself never returned any of my messages. Then again, some of these industry people can make themselves very difficult to reach when its' convenient for them. It still leaves open the question as to whether or not someone might owe me royalties for my published work, but when trying to negotiate with corporate types, I've learned not to hold my breath.
© J. Free / Night Beat Magazine; 1983