BLURTING WITH… Grant Hart

“Pairing me and Bob
Mould would be easiest [for a Husker Du reunion]. I don’t think either of us
would be interested in playing with Greg Norton.”

 

BY
HAL BIENSTOCK

 

During
an era where seemingly every alternative band from the 1980s reformed, Husker
Du has remained noticeably absent from the reunion gravy train. In 2009, calls
for the band to get back together grew louder than ever thanks to the return of
Grant Hart – who wrote many of the Husker Du’s most beloved songs – and of
course Bob Mould’s Husker Du-focused set with No Age at the All Tomorrow’s
Parties festival and a solo tour which found Mould dipping further into the Husker
catalog than he has in a long time.

 

Hart’s
latest solo album, Hot Wax (Con D’or Records) is his
first in 10 years, yet it fits perfectly into the continuum of his career,
offering the same mix of punk and ‘60s-style garage rock that defined his songs
in Husker Du and as a solo artist. Hart, it should be said, is criminally
overlooked at times, a situation that Hot
Wax
should handily rectify.

 

We
talked with Hart about the album, his relationship with Mould and the prospects
of a Husker Du reunion.

 

***

 

BLURT: You’ve been out
of the spotlight for a long time. What got you writing and touring again?

 

HART:
I’ve done a few projects here and there. And half of this album was recorded
five years ago. I started working on it at this place in Montreal, but it gradually became tougher and
tougher to get studio time there. I decided to finish it in Minneapolis, and once I made that decision,
it was only four months until we completed it. It’s sort of two different
records in that sense.

 

 

I think a lot of people
assumed the break was because of your troubles [with addiction], which have
been well chronicled.

 

The
chronicling has gotten to the point where the chronicling is more trouble than
the troubles were.

 

 

What do you mean?

 

I
went through a period of addiction that was shorter lived than the topicality
of it has been. The years surrounding the end of Husker Du were troubled times,
but I put them behind me with the demise of that band. Now, I constantly read
about things that happened 20 years ago. It’s often described as a many-year
struggle with addiction. It’s something that a lot of the media fixate on. But
I guess I understand it. It’s sex drugs and rock and roll, right?

 

 

So, you’ve been clean
for a long time?

 

[My
addiction problems] were drawing to a close at the time Husker Du broke up. One
of the things that made it possible for me to make those changes was removing that
band and influence from my life. When the band broke up, there were certain
people whose interest it was in to broadcast those facts of my private life far
and wide.

 

 

Why would anyone do
that?

 

There
are two of us that contributed greatly to the output of that band. It’s not people
from my camp who kept making it an issue. It was brought up as a means of
hobbling me artistically.

 

 

What do you think when
you look back at your time in Husker Du?

 

I’m
not going to complain about having shared a band with Bob. I cannot think of a
guitar player I would have rather played with. When I look back at Husker Du,
we had nine years where we completely fucked with people’s minds. I look at
that band and it’s hard for me to deny being proud and satisfied.

 

 

After bands like the
Pixies, Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine got back together, people look at Husker
Du as the last big 80s alternative band that they want to see reunite. Is there
still a lot of bitterness there between you and Bob?

 

When
people compare us to the Pixies, I say we never needed to be influenced by the
Pixies. We influenced the Pixies. If they chose to celebrate their midlife
crisis by milking the cash cow, that’s fine. Should Husker Du make that
decision, and I recognize that’s a slim chance, I’d like to think we’d do it
for a cause greater than financial remuneration.

 

And remember, if we were to take the reunion route, it would
have to be three of us for it to be valid. 
Pairing me and Bob would be easiest. I don’t think either of us would be
interested in playing with Greg [Norton].

 

Why
not?

 

Greg was never our peer. One of worst things that ever
happened to the band was when someone told him he should write songs too. He
wasn’t a songwriter, but how do you tell a guy that? How do you tell someone
“Your songs suck.”  That was one of the
frustrations that led to the band being devalued in our hearts. And once it
ceases to be fun, it’s merely lucrative.

 

The breakup of the band is one of worst things that happened
to Bob or me. But we couldn’t read the future. There was nothing sadder than
being around in 1992 or 1993 and watching people like Smashing Pumpkins or
Stone Temple Pilots make millions and millions of dollars. That was when the
vacuum we created was really obvious.

 

And you also had an evolution of attitudes then, so someone
like Frank Black who would be eventually bigger in terms of record sales than
Husker Du had been, would look back and fool themselves into thinking they were
more important or more influential. Maybe more people heard you, but you’re not
more influential than that which influenced you.

 

Do you ever feel like
your contributions to Husker Du are overlooked?

 

This
isn’t thrown out as a condemnation of Bob, but I think that my fans know my
material better than a lot of Bob’s fans know his material. The reason I say
that is every time I’ve gone to see a Bob Mould concert, someone has yelled out
the name of one of my songs. When I’m out touring, I maybe hear that one out of
five concerts.

 

The
last couple of years of Husker Du proved this, but the larger your audience is
the more dumb elements it’s going to encompass. Bob’s fans who never heard Husker
Du, but heard Sugar first have more of a “Grant sucks” kind of attitude. I
think with the popularity of Copper Blue,
Bob ended up with a bunch of cowboys for listeners.  If Bob and I were as competitive as our fans
are, we would have never gotten past Land
Speed Record
.

 

 

I’m surprised to hear
that you go to Bob Mould shows.

 

The
only times they’ve ever been uncomfortable is because of the effect I would
have on the people immediately adjacent to me. I don’t like going to a show and
being watched unless it’s my show.

 

I
think the world is better off [with Bob and I having separate careers]. They
get more music this way, and if anyone wants the old records they’re still out
there.

 

 

 

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