The alt-rock god on Nirvana, wrestling, gay culture, and Jon Stewart
Bob Mould fronted the seminal indie-rock bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar, worked as a creative consultant for World Championship Wrestling, and wrote the Daily Show theme. Now, with help from music scribe Michael Azerrad, the openly gay singer-songwriter, 50, has chronicled his extraordinary life in See a Little Light.
Yours is almost certainly the first rock memoir to open with the author getting into an altercation at an all-male, clothing-optional resort.
[Laughs] That was Azerrad’s idea. He said, ”People are inundated with books. You’d better hit them as hard as you can, as fast as possible.” It’s a little embarrassing. But whatever.
More seriously, you write about a lot of dark times, from being molested at 18 months, to your strained relationship with your father, to the rise and breakup of Hüsker Dü. What was it like to look back on all of that?
It sort of broke me a couple of times. It’s very personal. But the people who have followed me for the first 30 years of my career would be disappointed if it wasn’t this way.
You mention that a young Jon Stewart tended bar at a Hüsker Dü show in Trenton, New Jersey. Was he a good barman?
I got to drink for free, so I honestly wouldn’t be able to answer that, either out of ignorance or being drunk.
But that’s not how you ended up writing the Daily Show theme, is it?
No. The credit for that connection goes to [The Daily Show co-creator] Lizz Winstead. I grew up alongside Lizz and a lot of other people in the comedy world. Lizz asked if I had any music kicking around, and that was one of the two B sides from my eponymous ’96 solo album. It worked out great. It’s a kick to hear it on TV.
Did it really pay for a house, as you write in the book?
It still does quite well for me, thanks!
Hüsker Dü’s first major TV appearance was on Joan Rivers’ late-night talk show alongside Ian McKellen and an 85-year-old marathon runner. That sounds like some fantastic TV!
It was wild. You’re like, ”What am I doing there?” I guess that’s the beauty of the train wreck of late-night TV sometimes.
Hüsker Dü were a huge influence on Nirvana. Were you envious of their success?
Not at all. Nirvana was a great band. I had the blessing of playing a number of shows with them in Europe in the summer of ’91 just as Nevermind was about to take off. You could see they really believed in what they were doing. It wasn’t a prefabricated band put together to capitalize on what Hüskers, or Pixies, or Sonic Youth had done already. They were clearly pretty genuine.
You publicly came out in 1994, but you didn’t really explore gay culture for several years. Why was that?
Being happily partnered at the time, I wasn’t one for exploring that side of my personality. If we jump up to ’98, ’99, that is where I strike out and begin to make my gay identity. It’s a very welcoming community, and once I got in, people started coming up to me saying, ”I used to go and see you play 20 years ago.” That’s the beauty of it. Here I am thinking, ”This is my unique story,” and there are tons of people around me that had the same story.
You’re a huge wrestling fan and in 1999 took a sabbatical from music to become a creative consultant for the WCW. Is the world of wrestling more or less crazy than that of rock & roll?
It’s very similar. The wrestlers are groomed to be superheroes, but they’re as fragile as most musicians.
While working for the WCW you started doing steroids and write in the book how, soon after taking the first pill, you were ”ready to f— a Coke machine.” Don’t steroids lessen sexual desire — or at least the ability to act on it?
They get your libido way up. It’s just a matter of what happens at the end. I guess your b — -s shrink a little bit, is what I’m trying to say.