BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS
Grant Hart is a character. For the slightly above-average music historian, Hart’s story plays like this: Drummer/songwriting partner of Bob Mould in influential punk band Husker Du, fall out with Mould happens, band breaks up, Hart forms Nova Mob, band breaks up, goes solo. The End. True, this is Grant’s story but it is only a piece, a section, a fragment of a life that deserved a closer look.
In the new documentary Every Everything: The Music, Life and Times of Grant Hart from filmmaker Gorman Bechard (director of “Color me Obsessed”, a doc on The Replacements and the rabid fan culture surrounding them) Hart, the man, the artist, the character is examined in great detail to full effect.
Hart seems to be both at peace and at battle with his life. Nothing illustrates the point more than this sad tidbit from his childhood: Grant started drumming because, at 10 years old, he lost his brother Tom, who was a drummer, tragically in an accident. Grant inherited the drum set and started playing because a family member thought it would be a way “for Tom to live on.” Hart is a man constantly looking for something, looking for himself. To do so, he seems to be ready, willing and able to lay his demons in full view.
Therein lays the beauty of Every Everything; where many iconic rock figures would most likely hide behind anecdotes from their career , vagaries, and a need to keep their legend intact, Grant throws everything on the table and starts chopping away.
Between discussions of his love of the art form of collage (his love of art coming from his father, a man that taught drafting), his fascination with Studebaker cars (especially the 1955 Studebaker Champion he rebuilt), the kind of drumsticks he uses and his drum set up, he speaks candidly. Everything is fair game, from his well-documented drug use “I invested a lot of money into my blood stream instead of tangibles,” to his venomously powerful disdain for SST headmaster Greg Ginn (“He made a lot of money off us [Husker Du]).”. He’s Captain Smith with a pocket full of iceberg warnings; maybe Husker Du will finally be the last airtight compartment to flood and take him down.” His love of Beat patriarch and friend William S. Burroughs is what makes him shine. “Bill and I never had a sexual thing but I did love him. We were affectionate to one another.” It is Burroughs’ unpublished re-telling of sorts of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” that grew to be Hart’s latest “The Argument.”
The one relationship that seems the most difficult to talk about is the one with his son, or more accurately, the lack thereof. “I wasn’t a good father, I wasn’t there. If he has this much dislike for me and I wasn’t there to influence him or his thinking about me, he must have been hearing it somewhere else.”
Though casual and relaxed during most of the interviews, one topic seemed to strike a nerve with Grant: how “rock stars” perceive the mythos surrounding Husker Du. He speaks of Husker fandom as being a badge to give you cred. “It’s a good thing to say you’re influenced by Husker Du. That’s your skinny tie, wear it proudly. But off stage the way they conduct themselves, the way they handle their business, they are just another bunch of penny catchers. I saw an interview with that guy from the Pumpkin band (Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins) where he said they were taking Husker Du and going one-step further. Well, I’ve listened to them, they’re ok. If they’re taking a step with what we did, I don’t know which direction it is, it’s not forward.” Hart’s honesty is both refreshing and surprising.
For all that has made Hart happy in his life, it is clear that there are some things stand unresolved and may never be. When asked about former band mate Mould, a relationship that has been stranded since the acrimonious 1987 breakup of Husker Du, Hart seemed to warm. “I love Bob,” he said, “We both know we can make quality music together and apart. Let’s get over 1987.” There is no braggadocio or attitude here, it is clear that he misses his friend. He described the breaking up of Husker Du and his relationship with the often stoic Mould as such. “The band breaking up was like the opening of a curtain, like jumping out of a plane and knowing the chute would open. There have been easier people to work with than Bob. But he’s the only one who could play something and it was exactly what I wanted to hear. It would always be, “I want to hear that again, I want to be involved in that. That’s my relationship with Bob.”
Unlike with Color Me Obsessed that had no participation from The Replacements or use of their music, Bechard seemed to have free reign over music, photos, interview and videos, which undoubtedly helped paint a stronger, more complete picture of Hart past the “songwriter/drummer in Husker Du.”
There are the obligatory live videos of Grant with other acts and Husker, especially one of their song “Diane” form Metal Circus. “We’d go to show and people would scream for “Diane.” Hart said. “It’s a song about a girl that didn’t get to live out her life, a life stolen from her. It’s from the killer’s point of view and people are yelling for it? After a while, it really bothers you.” None of the clips used are there just for the “look at me, I was in Husker Du” factor— everything that’s in Every Everything serves in building the narrative, progressing the story, completing a chapter.
The video shot during the one-on-ones with Grant are expertly done. Well known spots in and around Minneapolis/St. Paul are used as places for Grant to share his memories. Milestone spots like the club First Avenue, Twin Town Guitars, Creation Studios, the office building where Hart shot the cover for Husker Du’s “Metal Circus,” (a color version of the photo was shown here for the first time), the record shop where he first met Mould are featured. We even get a “tour” of the house he spent 40 years of his life in before it was destroyed by fire in 2011, a fire that destroyed his favorite guitar, memorabilia from his career and many things he held dear. “They’re only things. Thank God no one was hurt and I found my cats.”
The colors throughout Every Everything are vivid, often exaggerated. Atypical camera angles make Hart seem bigger than life, bigger than the mortal who build a legacy alongside Mould and Greg Norton that will most likely never fall away completely. Through all his life in music, Hart has been a man unafraid to do what he wanted. From Land Speed Record to his new, exceptional The Argument, a concept album based on Lucifer and God’s disagreement in John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost,” he has pushed past convention to be the musician he is today.
I am sure Hart hid things from Bechard during the filming of Every Everything; we all need have things to hide, to tuck away in little cabinets in our mind; it is good to keep some secrets. With what part of himself Hart was willing to share (and it was a big part) fans and non-fans alike should find the man on the screen to be fascinating, larger than the music he has committed to the Rock ‘n’ Roll storybook.
Hart is a man with a story to tell and Bechard’s film is a near perfect place to hear that story. All you have to do is sit down, watch and listen.
Every Everything: The Music, Life and Times of Grant Hart played the Raindance Festival in London on October 6 and New York’s CBGB Fest on October 10. For the next six months, the film will be playing indie cinemas and festivals before a planned DVD release in late spring 2014.