One of the elder statesmen of indie rock, Bob Mould is now 55, and in rehearsals with his current trio, he’s learning the fine art of thrashing with dignity. “It’s always pretty physical,” Mould says from his current home, San Francisco, where he’s lived since 2009. “But with age comes that ability to play smarter instead of harder. I can get the same effect without completely wrecking myself. And I have to. I can’t conjure up the same physically when I was 20, and I’m just that not crazy mad at the world anymore.”
Perhaps not, but as Mould’s plugged-in new album, Patch the Sky, demonstrates, the former Hüsker Dü frontman has hardly calmed down. The album is very much of a piece with Mould’s work over the last 35 or so years, a window-rattling reminder of the time when indie rock — a term that now can mean just about anything — was fierce and uncompromising.
Raised in upstate New York, Mould moved to St. Paul in the late Seventies to major in urban studies at Macalester College, a liberal arts school. There, he met drummer Grant Hart and bass player Greg Norton, and the trio (initially augmented by a keyboardist, Charlie Pine) rehearsed in Norton’s basement. Eventually, they dubbed their band Hüsker Dü (Swedish for “do you remember?”) after a vintage board game. Balancing raving, raging hardcore with melodic songcraft, like a hurricane with pop hooks, Hüsker Dü made some of the most indelible music of the Eighties before self-destructing in 1988 (a tale laid out in candid form in Mould’s 2011 memoir, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody).
In the decades since that band’s breakup, Mould has embarked on a journey has taken him in and out of power trios (including the short-lived Sugar) and into electronic music, and he’s approached it all with the same intensity and forward motion. He insists that the launch of a Hüsker Dü online merch store last fall does not augur any sort of reunion, and one of his few concessions to nostalgia was his 2012 tour commemorating the 20th anniversary of Sugar’s Copper Blue. “I could have toured Copper Blue for four years, but oh, God,” he says. “I don’t intend on slowing down or stopping.” We slowed him down just enough to extract his thoughts on 15 highlights from his music and career.