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Soul Asylum Rediscover Their Punk Roots

Dave Pirner and band record punk covers album

March 30, 2012 1:42 PM ET
soul asylum
Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum performs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

Although they have a brand new studio album, Delayed Reaction (429 Records), ready to go on July 17th, Soul Asylum have also recorded an album of punk covers they expect to release at some point in the near future.

The band's appreciation of vintage punk shouldn't come as a surprise: Soul Asylum began as a punk outfit. "When [Soul Asylum] started, we were Loud Fast Rules," guitarist Dan Murphy tells Rolling Stone. "We practiced at our bass player, Karl's – who sadly passed away – garage. We covered the whole first side of the green Clash record [1977's The Clash], with 'Career Opportunities,' 'What's My Name,' 'Janie Jones.' And we did 'Sonic Reducer,' the Heartbreakers – the good Heartbreakers, with Johnny Thunders, mind you. So that was really a big part of where we were coming from."

The group's singer-guitarist, Dave Pirner, adds that it was drummer Michael Bland who instigated the project. "Michael was kind of egging me into it, actually. We had been sitting around in the studio, and Michael talked to the manager about it, and that was . . . I don't know how long ago. And then over the most recent times of getting together, we went after it.

"I knew the genre well enough to have a back catalog of things I knew off the top of my head. I just started throwing them at Michael, and it was a blast. I think that was probably the most important part of it for me – it really had to be fun, in a punk rock way. It had to be balls-out, and I think we got some results. It certainly sounds better than we used to, when we played a million miles an hour."

While some time-tested punk pioneers were covered (the Stooges with "TV Eye," the MC5 with "Shakin' Street," etc.), there are quite a few lesser known tunes that were tackled as well, including "Your Generation" by Generation X, "Borstal Breakout" by Sham 69, "Attacking the Beat" by the Suicide Commandos and "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" by the Dead Kennedys.

"The one that surprised the fuck out of me that I thought we did really well was Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart,'" adds Murphy. "It's kind of a shoegazer, mopey song, but you put [on] some guitars and Dave singing, to me, it sounds pretty good."

According to Pirner, at least one non-punk tune was included, featuring a special guest. "I do have [the Meat Puppets'] Curt Kirkwood playing on a song – 'Move Me on Down the Line' by ZZ Top. It was hilarious. They pulled up in their van, he pulled his guitar out, hooked up his guitar, played this awesome solo, packed up his shit, and went down to his gig in New Orleans!"

Murphy admits it's still up in the air as to how these covers will be issued. "To me, it seems like they're completely another thing to release somehow, whether we release it on our website, Myspace or any of that stuff. We definitely want it to get out there, we want people to hear it. It's a total mixed bag."

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