Typical Bob Mould: When he set out to write his autobiography, the former Twin Cities rocker got bogged down for many weeks transcribing interviews he'd done. That's the author equivalent of a musician doing the work of a roadie, booking agent or manager -- which, of course, were all chores that Mould's pioneering DIY band Hüsker Dü famously handled itself.
"I'm not a fast typist to begin with, and little did I know you could hire somebody," Mould gasped, crediting Minneapolis writer turned New York Times columnist David Carr for correcting him. "David said, 'You're supposed to be writing a [expletive] book, not transcribing.' Only then was I finally able to dive into the real work."
Almost three years in the making and a decade since he was first approached with the idea, Mould's autobiography lands in stores next week accompanied by a gig and bookstore appearance in the town he called home for a decade. Titled "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody," the book was a lot harder to complete than any of the 20-plus albums to his name, he said.
"I had no idea what I was getting into," said Mould, who was "coached" by veteran rock scribe Michael Azerrad. It was Azerrad's thick chapter on Hüsker Dü in "Our Band Could Be Your Life" that sparked the idea of Mould writing his own story.
"The reality is, I think most people who care already know the main points of my story: Where I was born, what my bands did, etc. Azerrad helped me figure out what my real story is: The significant events of my childhood and the established patterns of my behavior that keep showing up in my life, and that had a profound effect on my work."
There's a reason for all that burning angst and alienation in his old music, in other words.
The book starts out detailing his childhood in far-up upstate New York, including an alcoholic father and parents dealing with the loss of his older sibling. Not to mention that Mould already knew as a teen that he was a gay person living in a small, conservative town. As Mould puts it when discussing those chapters, "It's like, why do I need to explain 'Zen Arcade' anymore?"
Fans looking for "Behind the Music"-style riffs on "Zen Arcade" or other classic Hüsker Dü albums will get a modest amount of satisfaction. Mould said his main objective in writing about his first band -- besides setting the record straight that he and co-leader Grant Hart never had any kind of sexual relationship -- was to "tell the clear story about the final days." The band-ending tumult included the suicide of the band's road manager, David Savoy, and Hart's drug problems.
"All those things weren't necessarily the cause for the end of it, but they were good indicators that I should probably get out," Mould summarized by phone from his home in San Francisco. "I didn't relish telling those stories. It was nice to just say my piece once, and now we can all move on -- hopefully."
The book certainly moves on through a lot more. On the career front, Mould recounts the triumph of his first solo album, "Workbook," and the hard lessons he learned in signing away too much control to managers and lawyers at the time. That convinced him to stick to a simpler formula for his second band, Sugar, with which he enjoyed his biggest commercial success in the early '90s.
Mould writes, "Hüsker Dü was an eight-year ground war. ... Sugar, in 12 months, went from a punk-rock show in Morgantown, W.Va., to playing gigantic European festivals with Metallica. Which part of my life do you think I enjoyed more?"
Then there's the wholly unexpected career move Mould made in 1999 when he went to work as a writer/idea-man for World Championship Wrestling, detailed in one fascinating chapter "from a bygone era," Mould said with a laugh. "They've cleaned it up a lot and mainstreamed it, to the point where they don't even call it 'wrestling' anymore, but 'entertainment.' Which sounds a lot like Broadway."
Perhaps the brightest light shed in "See a Little Light" is on Mould's sexuality, a part of his life he never really hid but also rarely discussed in detail.
The book opens with a scene-setting/fair-warning story at a clothing-optional gay resort in Palm Springs, Calif. What it goes on to reveal, however, is that Mould has led a fairly stable, even wholesome romantic life anchored by three long-term relationships (including his current partner, Michael Brodbeck).
"I have a pretty large gay audience that I have neglected professionally for a lot of my career, that I haven't spoken to directly," he admitted. "So there's a lot of pent-up energy in that direction."
Now, there could be a lot of pent-up songs. Aside from his guest stint on the new Foo Fighters album and his continuing Blowoff dance shows, Mould took a three-year hiatus from crafting new music. He only just started up again a couple of months ago.
"It's my longest stretch ever, so I'm not sure what's going to happen," he said.
At the very least, when it comes time to write out the new lyrics he should have faster typing skills.
- Chris Riemenschneider
- On Twitter: @ChrisRstrib