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Bob Mould wrestles with emotions in his songs

From Hüsker Dü to Sugar and now as a solo artist, Bob Mould has long been a songwriter and singer influential enough to help shape the careers of bands such as Nirvana and the Pixies
/ Source: contributor

From Hüsker Dü in the 1980s to Sugar in the 1990s and now as a solo artist, Bob Mould has long been an American rock icon and a songwriter and singer influential enough to help shape the careers of bands such as Nirvana and the Pixies. Mould, who now lives in Washington, D.C., will release his new album, “District Line,” on Anti Records on Feb. 5. The first single, “The Silence Between Us,” has already been released. Six Questions caught up with Mould over the phone shortly after celebrating the New Year.

Doug Miller: On your Web site, you linked to an article by Carrie Brownstein (formerly of Sleater-Kinney) in which she said that your songs “seize on a moment and wrestle it to the ground; they are intimate and memorable emotional battles, fought and not always won.” Is that your master plan?

Bob Mould: No. I’m a lover, not a fighter. Every day something happens, and not all of these things are song-worthy, but when an idea spills out of my head, I don’t take the time to analyze it; I just keep it moving forward. And a three- to five-minute musical window is not much to work with. Much later on after it’s been written, I guess I have to figure out what it’s about, but I usually don’t dwell on the battle or the circumstance after the fact. I’m more of a rowboat and less of a dam. It’s easier to be that way.

Miller: Speaking of wrestling, you’re into it. And Ultimate Fighting, too. How did that happen and did it have any effect on your music?

Mould: I watched wrestling as a kid. I loved it, stayed with it, and in 1999, I got asked to be part of the creative team at WCW making the storylines and outcomes and how to shape the product. It was the craziest seven months of my life. We had a three-hour live show on TNT every night. I was into it. As far as the music connection, I think in wrestling, you’re trying to get a character elevated in the eyes of the audience to the point where they’ll buy T-shirts and tickets. I mean, in wrestling, you’re trying to make the audience believe that John Cena is actually a Marine. Yeah, of course when I’m on tour, I’m trying to sell T-shirts and tickets, but you can’t really compare the two.

Miller: You also had an all-around advice column in the Washington City Paper called “Ask Bob.” Any really weird questions that you had to answer?

Mould: I got some that didn’t make the column that were weird. The funniest one was from a journalist from D.C. who now writes for a paper in Arkansas. His question was, “How much money are they paying you to write that B.S. column?” I thought to myself, “Well, how much does 21 square inches in City Paper cost each week?” It’s like, do the math, dude. It’s an ad for me every week. My picture is in color in there every week. The arts page was the centerfold in the printed paper. It’s all about the star power, baby. (Laughs).  But I actually enjoyed the column. People asked about grilling on the barbecue, sound-proofing their house because they have babies, all kinds of things.

Miller: So, living in the nation’s capital these days, would you be considered a Beltway insider?

Mould: The town’s all abuzz right now, because we’re in the playoffs. It’s a weird place. I love my neighborhood, but the town confounds me. I don’t understand one bit of it. I don’t understand what goes on K Street with the lobbyists. I’m pretty far removed. It’s a weird place to live, especially right now with this regime and the war and how things are going. I think it will all change soon, but I don’t know if I’m an insider.

Miller: You’re a blogger, though. I clicked a couple links from your site and actually ended up seeing photos of the beef tenderloin at your Christmas dinner. So you’re opening up your life. Is that comforting to you in some way? Is it strange?

Mould: That’s just the age we live in. I am surprised at myself for being as open as I am about my life. I don’t think there’s any harm done, though. People who are interested like it. Not many people go to that length, but it’s cool that it’s there. I have a pretty great life, and I don’t mind sharing selected moments with people. They cast a flattering light on my wonderful life, especially considering how miserable I seem to have been for most of my life. You know, the work getting to where I am was pretty intense. I was a pretty down guy for a long time. People wondered, and I guess the tenderloin is there to let them know that everything’s OK.

Miller: I’m not going to ask you a question you’ve probably gotten every time you’ve ever been interviewed in the last couple of decades because I’m above that, but what did you think of the Police’s recent reunion and the prospects of Led Zeppelin getting back together?

Mould: I didn’t see the Police the first time they were around, and I didn’t have much interest in it this time, although I heard that it got better as it went on. I heard the first few shows were absolutely horrifying. They did all these skedaddle-y versions of their songs. But apparently they sort of went back to playing it the way they did it on their first three albums and it got better.

As far as Zeppelin goes, now that (drummer) Jason Bonham’s got a reason to be there, it’s more interesting. The first time around, maybe the gravity of it didn’t really hit him. But now he’s up to speed, and I heard the show (in London) was great. I wasn’t a big Zep fan. But I know what your question is. Put it this way: It’s like the Pixies. I played shows with them in 1989, they got back together for a tour, and I’m glad they cashed it in. I was intrigued, but not interested enough to go. I have no interest in going, because I have good memories of those times. I personally don’t want to duplicate the place I was in 25 years ago, so I don’t see that happening.