Bob Mould is one of those rare musical artists who has achieved musical success not just once but three times. From the late ’70s through the ’80s, he fronted the legendary punk group Hüsker Dü. Then in the early to mid ’90s, Mould enjoyed popularity with his group Sugar. Since then, he has maintained a very active solo career, most recently with his last album, 2009’s ‘Life and Times.’
But it hasn’t been an easy path for Mould, 50, as evidenced in his new and thoughtful memoir, ‘See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody,’ co-written with Michael Azerrad and published by Little Brown. Throughout his autobiography, Mould traces the personal obstacles and challenges that have marked his life, such as his childhood in a dysfunctional home in Malone, N.Y., and his homosexuality that led him to come out in the ’90s. Along the way, Mould talks about the stories behind his albums, such as Hüsker Dü’s ‘Zen Arcade’ and his 2002 solo record ‘Modulate,’ as well as his stint in the business of professional wrestling.
“I’d had all this anger and inner conflict when I was younger,” he writes. “I used music to express it, but the irony was that touring the world in a rock band, cooped up with three other guys in a van, was also keeping me from both growing up and coming out. Now … music was helping me heal the wounds and grow as a person.”
In this excerpt from ‘See a Little Light,’ which is out now, Mould talks for the first time about an episode that led to the breakup of Hüsker Dü. The split was preceded by the suicide of Hüsker Dü manager David Savoy and the drug problems of band drummer Grant Hart.
January 26, 1988. [Bassist] Greg [Norton] and I decide that we need to sit down with Grant and talk, to figure out our collective future. This is the story that has never been told. This is the story of the last time the three members of Hüsker Dü sat together in a room.
Greg and I drive separately to South St. Paul to meet with Grant at his parents’ house. Greg and I arrive and Grant’s there, but so are his parents. So we’re having a band meeting with the five of us around a homespun oval wood table, tucked up against the window of the small kitchen. Is this an awkward situation? Yes, most definitely. Grant’s mom is being cordial, his dad a little cranky, as usual. Beverages are offered, How was everybody’s Christmas?, small talk, blah blah blah.
We open it up with “Grant, how are you doing, what are you doing, what do you want to do, what are we doing here?” Grant takes a hard draw on his cigarette, and slowly says, “Well…” That was always Grant’s tell — this sort of pensive cigarette draw and then “Well …” Anytime he did that, I prepared myself for a bunch of words that wouldn’t really add up to anything.
He says, “You know, I just, you know, I really want to get back to work.”
I say, “Well, there’s this problem. Have you talked with your parents about what’s happening?”
Grant’s mother takes the floor. His dad is just sitting there, not adding anything, just grousing a bit. “I think everything’s OK,” she says. “I think it was sort of like — it seemed like a cold almost. I think he’s been good — he was sick for about a week, but, I think, it seemed like a cold or something.”
At this point, Grant wants to have a sidebar with me, so he and I go from the kitchen into the dining room, leaving Greg to sit with the parents. Grant asks, “What’s the advance for the next record?”
“One hundred seventy-five thousand, Grant.”
“We just need to get going. We need to put all this behind us,” he says in a shaky but hopeful tone, “and we need to get back in the studio. That’s going to be the best thing for us.”
I flatly reply, “I think we should go back into the other room.” We go back in, and the next statement from his mom is the one that does it for me.
She says, “You know, what I think might be really good is if — I just think that there’s too much work. I think if you just played on the weekends and weren’t working so hard …”
I flash back to the that summer after my first year of college, when I didn’t have anything going, didn’t have a steady job, didn’t have a dorm room, and I stayed with Grant’s family. I ate at that same table with these people many times, and the poetry of it is not lost on me. The same exact table. Ad now it’s come to this.
By this time Greg is turning three shades of grey. I’m just sitting there like, Oh my f—ing God, this might be the most dysfunctional situation I’ve ever been in, and I grew up in one hell of a dysfunctional home. I push away from the kitchen table, begin to rise, and say, “I think I’m done here. Good seeing everybody. I’m going to home to Pine City now.”
Greg follows me out and asks what we’re going to do. I say, “I’m going to come down to Red Wing and get my stuff in a day or two. I’ll talk to you then. I’m just going home now.”
That was it. It was over.