Bob Mould looks back over his 40 year career with Hüsker Dü, Sugar and solo ahead of his UK tour

Although the band Bob Mould made his name in, Hüsker Dü, may have imploded in acrimony 34 year ago, he has gone on to become a legendary figure in punk and alternative rock circles.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 5:58 pm

And the singer and guitarist will be coming to these shores to celebrate the release of a mammoth boxset series collating his post-Dü career – and his most recent solo record Blue Hearts. The Distortion series comprises of a whopping 31 LPs across four boxsets, or there’s a single 24 CD version.

With his bandmates in Hüsker Dü, Grant Hart and Greg Norton, Mould moved from hardcore-punk into more melodic territory, helping pave the way for acts like Pixies, Nirvana, Green Day and countless others who have acknowledged their debt to the band.

Throughout his career Mould has mostly stuck to the power trio format – notably in the early ’90s as Sugar (whose two albums both made the UK top 10), but there have been detours into electronic music and even a period as a wrestling writer en route.

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But on his latest UK tour he will be travelling solo, and cherry-picking tracks from all across his career.

He toured his native US last autumn, when he was vocal on social media about following the rules regarding Covid – in particular the wearing of masks.

Speaking to The Guide from his home in San Francisco, Bob says: ‘The shows were great, the crowds were great, but it was a bit of a challenge in this new environment of touring with tonnes of restrictions and things we need to do to stay healthy, but everyone made it through the tour in one piece.’

Given his outspoken approach to mask-wearing and getting vaccinated, has he had much blowback from his fans?

Bob Mould is touring the UK in June, 2022. Picture by Blake Little

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‘I would say all but a handful have been very accepting. There are always going to be people who, for one reason or another, disagree with the message, and maybe this is not the show for them, he chuckles. ‘When you're in the overwhelming minority, it's not the best show to attend.

‘I'm an older artist,’ he’s 61, ‘with a bit of an older audience, and I think everyone's really mindful of others' health.

‘In the US people were very happy to see the guidance, it actually brought more people to the shows than I think would have come originally, especially when word was getting out that people were being completely compliant with the request to keep masks on.

Bob Mould's four-part retrospective boxset, Distortions is out now. Picture by Blake Little

‘For people who opposed my views, that's ok, there'll be more touring later when things are different. You're always welcome but you've got to heed the request until further notice.’

The Distortion series and Blue Hearts were all released in 2020, and Bob says he originally had ‘big plans for 2020, lots of touring, special events,’ but of course Covid kicked much of that into the long grass.

Putting together Distortion had been a five-year labour love for Mould.

‘I was completely involved day-to-day with overseeing the production of the records, revisiting the remastering, and working with Simon Marchner, the graphic artist in Munich who reimagined all of the album packages – everything got new covers and new liner notes, there’s a lot of great testimonials.

Bob Mould is at Concorde 2 in Brighton one June 9, and Engine Rooms in Southampton on June 10. Picture by Blake Little

It was a long, long project, but really stepped up in the year before the first release, when we really started digging in with everything.

‘It was great working with (record label) Demon and they did a wonderful job with it. We had some production snafus, as everybody's been having in the past two years – things like sourcing cardboard boxes in the Czech Repbublic or whatever it was...’ he laughs. ‘It's maddening stuff.

‘But they're all finally out there, and this tour is a a good way to celebrate and bring light to the project.’

For the past decade and five albums, Bob has had the same rhythm section backing him in the studio and on the road – John Wurster on drums and bassist Jason Narducy, so recent setlists have tended to focus on that output, with a smattering of Husker Du classics. But going out and touring solo, gives him a more free hand.

‘With solo material, since I only have to rehearse those songs a little bit to remember them as opposed to rehearsing a band across all of that material. With the solo shows, the sets tend to be a little more open in terms of material from (1989 solo debut) Workbook, (it’s 1990 follow-up) Black Sheets of Rain, (and his 1996 first post-Sugar effort) the Hubcap album, the more obscure Sugar songs.’

Bob describes Blue Hearts ‘the most punk-rock’ of his last five album – a 14-song blast of controlled anger and protest songs, it is a deliberate contrast to 2019’s Sunshine Rock.

‘With Sunshine Rock, it was a very conscious effort to write a brighter more optimistic record. The two albums prior dealt with the successive passing of each of my parents. It was a concerted effort to write to the sun, to the brightness and to the light.

‘With Blue Hearts, that album, the idea of it started with (lead single) American Crisis, which was an outtake from Sunshine Rock for obvious reasons – it wasn't the brightest song!’ he laughs.

‘As I started writing with that song as a tentpole, the political climate in America was getting really dark, and it was very easy fodder for words.

‘Simultaneously there were a lot of things happening that were very reminiscent of the 1980s for me, as a gay man, feeling that blatant marginalisation that was upon me again, and I couldn't help but think back to the early ’80s and what things were like under Reagan, and the beginning of HIV/Aids and how the government didn't really respond and how the evangelicals were holding sway over the Whitehouse in the ’80s... and there you have it!

‘It was as if I had seen all of this once before in my life.

‘The record was written and recorded just as Covid was becoming known. I guess I didn't factor that in to the writing of the record, but it's strange times...’

Before the pandemic Bob had been living in Berlin, and had returned to San Francisco in 2019, where he had always maintained a place, fully intending to go back to Germany.

But then Covid arrived.

‘By March 2020 there was not so much travel,’ he recalls ruefully. ‘It became clear pretty quickly that Berlin was not going to work out for a long time. So, as opposed to keeping a place there and dealing with more government paperwork, visas and stuff like that, I sadly let go of it.

‘That was interesting – having friends going over to my flat and on FaceTime video, going: “Do you want this?” “Do you want that?" “Who gets this?” “Who gets that?” I never really got to leave properly.

‘Some things got shipped back and the rest got given to local charities and friends and businesses that had a use for a television set or whatever.’

While we may still be riding out the pandemic, how does he feel about his home country now that Trump is, while not quite a memory, at least out of office?

‘I'm happy to see that the majority of the country believes in science and trusts vaccines – that's always a good thing during a pandemic.

‘Aaah,’ he sighs mulling the question, ‘it's tough times. It's tough where you're at. It's tough where I'm at – there's a lot going on at the moment.

‘At the end of the day, politics is local, it starts where you live, it starts in your neighbourhood and in your towns and cities and it grows from there.

‘The world is changing so fast, I think it's all we can do is to pay attention to what's happening around us in the immediate sense. In a global sense it's tough, people aren't travelling, people have different agendas.

‘I don't have children, but I can imagine what it's like for people who do trying to navigate sending children back to school, with health issues and societal issues.

‘I try to stay optimistic, but there's a lot going on, it's so challenging right now.’

Has he started thinking about solo album number 16 yet?

‘A lot of my creative energy at the start of the pandemic went into wrapping up the boxsets.

‘I'm used to writing an album, recording an album, then touring an album, then taking a moment to review all of that before I start writing the next record.

‘When mother nature hit the pause button on the tape machine back in the spring of 2020 I was sort of at a loss of what to do in my writing cycle.

‘I've been writing some music – keeping journals and keeping track of my thoughts, but I don't feel like I've really started writing another record in earnest.

‘I'm hoping that these solo shows and the more I get out and see people and play Blue Hearts and play the legacy stuff, and I get to see how people are feeling and reacting to what I've been doing, that has a lot to do with informing my writing process.

‘Short answer: I'm not writing as much as I should be, but I'm hoping things will start to come to me as I get out and do more shows.

‘That's always been a source of inspiration to me.’

Bob was due to tour the UK in January/February, but was this week postponed.

In a statement he says: ‘As I mentioned last fall, I’m always concerned about the safety of my audience as well as venue workers. In early December 2021, I realised it would be difficult for me — even with three vaccinations on my dance card — to stay Covid-free for the entirety of the January/February 2022 IE/UK Solo Electric tour.

‘Today, I’m happy to announce those shows have been rescheduled. All tickets remain valid. Refunds can be available at your point of purchase.

‘Apologies in advance for any inconveniences. Lots of moving parts had to be repositioned before announcing these new dates. With that being said, I’m hopeful for a better 2022, I’m anxious to get back to work, and I’m very excited to see you all this June!’

The tour now kicks off at Concorde 2 in Brighton on June 9 and is at Engine Rooms in Southampton on June 10. Go to bobmould.com/tour.