Bob Mould may not be an everyday name in popular music, however, he is frequently cited as a major influence on several well-known bands. In his case, acts like Nirvana, Soul Asylum, Foo Fighters and countless others have referenced Mould as a fundamental influence on their sound. We’ll call him a punk “influencer,” if there is such a thing.
Mould co-founded the seminal Minneapolis punk band Husker Du in 1979, back when “indie” bands were branded “underground.” The band was popular on college radio and played over-the-top live shows in dive bars, but never quite crossed over into the mainstream. He later formed Sugar, a band that saw modest success on the alt-radio charts in the mid-90s, with their debut album Copper Blue reaching #10 in the UK.
These days, Mould tours solo and is bringing his “Distortion and Blue Hearts” tour to the Greenwich Odeum Thursday, May 26. Be assured, however, this is no “guy and a guitar” show … there’s a lot of noise headed your way.
He’s played Providence in the past “a lot of Babyhead,” he noted in our interview, but this is his first time at the Odeum. He’s looking forward to coming back to RI.
“I love my work. I’ve loved music my entire life,” said Mould. “I was exposed to 60’s pop music as it was happening both on AM radio and through my late father purchasing used jukebox singles. Those were my toys as a young child. It only made sense that I would eventually end up making music.”
I was writing songs when I was eight, I didn’t know if kids were supposed to do that,” Mould continued. “I’m very grateful to still have the same job.”
He shared a bit more about what inspired him when he was growing up.
“When I was a child, I picked up a sensibility for songwriting, for melody, for the structure of songs. Of course, The Beatles were larger than life, the Mamas and Papas were huge but very different from The Beatles. In the 60s, we didn’t know what The Beatles had for breakfast. There was no Instagram. There was mystique and mystery, around these gigantic characters who you only saw photographs of. It was a very different time, storytelling in the 60s was very different than storytelling in the 2020s.”
“Those are the impressions I remember as a child, that magical piece of plastic that spins around and tells these stories. It was very magical, very different than what we have now,” added Mould.
“As far as a punk ethos,” he continued, ”I would attribute that to the early wave of punk bands, whether it was The Ramones or Television or Patti Smith, or bands like the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks or Joy Division. Those were the first wave of punk bands that I remember. By then, it was easier to find out what the message was, what it meant, and where it would reside culturally. Those were the bands and the ideas that showed me a path.”
It wasn’t easy for emerging punk bands to find gigs in the 1980’s, but musicians developed informal networks that helped grow the genre.
“I guess I got lucky with my first band Husker Du, we were students, we were fans, we were friends, and we came up with this blueprint that we used as a band for a number of years.”
That blueprint served as a touring model for a lot of underground bands in the 1980s. They would network and share bills all over the world.
“We were able to find each other and share those blueprints whether that was playing VFW halls or punk-rock dives that we could book for each other. As the 80s progressed we built this network, sort of a circuit that we could all contribute to and help each other. It was a pretty fascinating time. I don’t know if they’ll ever be a time quite like that again. That’s what we had,” said Mould.
There was a certain camaraderie among punk bands of that era.
“In those early days, you were just showing to play. Let’s use Vancouver for example, DOA would come to Minneapolis, and we would play a show with them and we would get to be friends. And they’d say if you ever come out to Vancouver let us know and we’ll get you some shows. So DOA is booking a show for Husker Du and the people that know about it are DOA fans. It was really simple, nothing complex at the beginning. And the supporting networks of underground radio, college and community radio, local fanzines, local free culture papers that had music writers, that’s how it got built,” Mould explained.
Alternative rock became more mainstream in the late 1980’s and rose to the forefront in the early 1990’s.
“As with anything in life, as you become more successful, you start to attract other people who are interested. Sometimes they come with good motives, sometimes they come hoping to make money, and sometimes they come just as fans. As people started to see the potential for financial gain, the major labels became attracted, and then as the 80s went on, it became a commercial endeavour. All of the sudden in the summer of 1991, when (Nirvana’s) Nevermind came out, it was off to the races we go, corporate rock I suppose, yeah, we won,” laughed Mould.
As for the Odeum show, Mould says he’ll be playing music from throughout his career.
“The majority of my touring this year has been solo electric. That’s me, with an electric guitar, an amplifier and a vocal mic. We’ll go as far back as Husker, the early solo records, some Sugar stuff, and later solo. I’ll be shining a pretty good light on the past decade, the five albums that I made for Merge Records. All through the songbook for sure.”
Music aside, Mould’s #1 message these days … “Vote!” he said determinedly. “Preferably Democrat, but just vote, because if you don’t they will take that away from us too, … we’re at a disgusting moment in our nation’s history right now, so please vote.”
Don’t miss this one – it should be a great show!