Bob Mould could rightfully be called the Godfather of Grunge, fashioning the “wall of guitar” sound that defined early alternative rock and laid the musical foundation for the grunge wave that came out of Seattle in the late 1980s.
Out of that wave came Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Mudhoney and a whole list of artists who carried the sound across the globe.
But it was Mould and his bandmates in Husker Du who laid the groundwork — and who returned in the 1990s to cement his musical legacy with alternative rock’s Sugar.
It’s kind of comforting to know he’s still around, still pushing the envelope.
(photo courtesy of flickr.com)
In a 2008 interview with Spin magazine, Mould was asked if he was bitter that the better-known bands of the grunge era had received more acclaim with his musical style than Husker Du had.
“You have to remember, somewhere in my basement I have the demos for Nevermind, because I was on the short list for producers,” Mould responded. “In July of 1992, Sugar were performing for 100 people in Morgantown, and a year later, we’re playing for 70,000 people in Belgium. Why would I possibly feel gypped? Not only did I get to spend the whole decade making great music, but more importantly, I was part of a movement of people who created great music and a lifestyle completely different from what had existed before.”
“So when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” showed up on TV, I went, “We won!” Why would I be bitter about not only being there, but getting to be here right now?” he said.
Mould was born in New York, a continent away from the future birthplace of grunge in Seattle. But it was in the Midwest, at Macalester College in Minneapolis-St. Paul where Mould would begin his musical journey.
It was there that he co-founded Husker Du in 1979, quickly establishing itself as one of the pioneers of underground alternative music — and among the first to sign with a record label when they inked a deal with Warner Brothers — releasing their first album, Everything Falls Apart, in 1982.
Husker Du raised eyebrows, and most importantly ears. The band’s initial brash punk sound gave way to more melodic and harmonious guitar tracks over the course of its seven studio albums. However, as the band matured tension in the band, fueled by rampant drug and alcohol abuse, began to tear it apart from within. It led to a bitter breakup in the late 1980s.
Mould retreated to Minnesota, but soon set to work on solo material. In 1989 he released Workbook, the first of his nine studio albums.
But Mould wasn’t ready to settle into a strictly solo career — nor had he given up on commercial success. In the early 1990s he formed Sugar, a pop-influenced rock band whose first release, 1992’s Copper Blue, became a mainstay on radio and college campuses alike. Sugar would release two full-length studio albums, and EP, a live album and a compilation album before disbanding in the mid-1990s.
Mould would go on to dabble as a DJ and even worked briefly as a professional wrestling scriptwriter. Still, he was far from done with music.
Through various compilation projects he contributed his songwriting and musical talent to both the big and small screen, writing the theme for TV’s The Daily Show. He has also continued to release solo albums, which have taken him into electronica and other genres.
Today the innovative guitar genius who helped mold the music of the ‘80s and ‘90s remains active, most recently playing behind his most recent album, Life and Times, which he released in 2009.
Who knows what he’ll do for an encore.
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(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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