Before saying goodbye in a transatlantic phone conversation Monday, Grant Hart suddenly asked, “What time is it back home?”
Talking from the London offices of his new record label, Domino (home to the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand), the Twin Cities music vet rather ominously explained why he needed the time: “I’m expecting a phone call from a lawyer in Los Angeles.”
After 15-some years of interviewing Hart — and a half-hour of talking to him at international rates this time around — I knew it was best not to get into that one. The 52-year-old indie-rock pioneer and former co-leader of Hüsker Dü always seems to have an assortment of controversies and battles that can really get him talking, sometimes with seething venom and sometimes with charming poetic flair.
He does more of the latter but plenty of both in a new Kickstarter-funded documentary, “Every Everything,” whose subject is Hart himself in all his time- and music-industry-tested glory.
From the same filmmaker who did the tedious 2011 Replacements fan documentary “Color Me Obsessed,” the movie premiered last month at the CBGB Festival in New York and at London’s Raindance Film Fest. Hart will return home in time to perform at the Amsterdam Bar after the film’s local debut Wednesday at Landmark Center as part of the Sound Unseen festival’s opening night.
Asked what he thought of “Every Everything” — named after one of his Hüsker Dü songs — Hart confessed, “I’ve only seen the parts where I’m interviewed. I had to clear those scenes with a legal team to make sure there weren’t any improprieties on a certain matter addressed in the film.”
You see what I mean?
That particular reference was to SST Records and its notoriously litigious founder, Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn, who has been accused of underpaying Hüsker Dü and other bands their royalties over the years. Hart said there has been legal maneuvering to take back the Hüskers albums from SST and give them the (long-overdue) reissue treatment, but that brought up another quicksand-like topic of discussion.
“The first draft of the settlement said that all rights of the remasters would be in control of Bob Mould,” Hart said. “I obviously had something to say about that.”
Actually, Hart is surprisingly conciliatory toward his ex-bandmate in “Every Everything,” even expressing a friendly love for Mould at one point in the movie. Still, he said by phone, “It’s not really forgiveness. It’s more of a benign acceptance.” He went on to denounce the “reunion-itis” that he said some fans inflict on both him and Mould.
“I’ll have someone come up to me and say, ‘I haven’t seen you since 1985,’ and I’ll be like, ‘How is the fact that you’ve ignored everything I’ve done for the past 25 years a good way to introduce yourself?’ ”
“Every Everything” fills in the gaps, detailing Hart’s various solo forays and post-Hüskers band Nova Mob as well as his work as a visual artist. In one scene, he creates a collage out of old magazines bought at Midway Books. Filmmaker Gorman Bechard asks him what the piece is titled. Hart replies, “I call that $250.”
Unlike Bechard’s Replacements movie, “Every Everything” features music and a lot of classic performance clips from throughout Hart’s career. It also captures his most recent highs and lows. On the low end, he takes us on a tour of his family’s house in South St. Paul, which burned up in 2011 with many of Hart’s personal effects inside. The house has since been demolished. He now resides with a friend in Little Canada.
On the high end, the film shows Hart readying arguably the most ambitious album of his career, “The Argument,” which Domino issued over the summer. The 20-song collection was inspired by a 1½-page William S. Burroughs manuscript based on 17th-century English poet John Milton’s 10,000-verse epic “Paradise Lost.” Hart was a friend of Burroughs, the late author of “Naked Lunch.”
“[His] manuscript was scarcely a full treatment, but it was substantial enough to give me direction,” Hart said. “I knew if I was going to do [Milton’s poem] in order from start to finish, I was going to wind up with five albums worth of material. So I recorded the first and last songs first, and the rest started filling in piece by piece after that.”
Although his plans to tour with an Irish band he employed this spring on a U.K. trek have been sidelined — that was another sore subject — Hart still has grand ideas for staging “The Argument,” which include film projection and even ballet dancers. Fulfilled or not, those plans underline the most positive aspect of “Every Everything:” It shows off Hart’s relentless, sometimes outlandish artistic drive, which has cost him ample personal strife and probably a real shot at wealth over the years.
Asked to reflect on that synopsis of the movie, Hart sternly replied, “If this was a movie about a dead guy, that’d be one thing. But I’m still here, and thinking too much about this movie would probably be devastating to my work.”