Personality Clash: Craig Finn Vs Bob Mould

Hold Steady man talks to the alt.rock hero
Personality Clash: Craig Finn Vs Bob Mould
Craig Finn is the front man for epic Brooklyn rockers The Hold Steady. This month, however, sees the release of his debut solo album.

Bob Mould is an alt.rock hero. From the rousing punk of Hüsker Dü, the visceral power of Sugar, and his solo work, he is a champion of noise.

Just weeks after he took part in a tribute concert to Bob, which also included performances from Ryan Adams, Dave Grohl, Spoon and No Age, Craig requested to speak to his musical idol in the hope of gleaming advice on growing older and going solo. Priding ourselves on making wishes come true, Clash connected the pair in conversation.

CRAIG:
We were honoured to be able to take part in a tribute to Bob that happened at the Disney Theatre a few weeks back. The first two bands I got into when I was growing up were The Replacements and Hüsker Dü and some of my earliest live experiences were those bands. I turned forty this year, and thinking about that tribute really looked back on a lifetime of music. It’s sometimes hard to imagine aging gracefully in rock and roll, and I think that Bob, for being a lifelong artist and an adult, there’s something really interesting about how he’s navigated his career.

BOB:
Thanks for the kind words! It’s funny, when I got to thirty-eight I started to really reconsider what I was doing. And it wasn’t so much in the context of “I hope I die before I get old” or, you know, that classic rock and roll mentality. I had other reasons for reconsidering what I was doing. I don’t think it’s that difficult, really; once I wrapped my head around the notion that if I could keep my faculties and my physical abilities and the spirit of what I was doing intact, yeah it wasn’t going to look exactly like when I was nineteen. I think there’s a way to sort of embrace that early angst and shape it into something else that you can keep presenting to an audience who, oddly enough, gets old with you.

CRAIG:
Yeah, that is the thing, I mean, your audience does grow. I’m really impressed with songwriters - someone like Springsteen - who can write for adults too. It’s not just about driving a convertible with the wind blowing in your hair. And that is exciting to me about rock and roll. There is exciting things that happen even at this age. But I’m wondering, Bob, about volume. The actual loudness of what you do, did you ever get tired of that or feel like backing down? I know you’ve done quieter music, but is that something that brings fatigue?

BOB:
Umm, yeah it does. I mean there’s obvious things that happen. I mean, the volume begets a certain kind of aggression. When I’m on a stage and it’s super, super loud and it’s tearing people’s heads off, that’s the stage that has been set. And to be able to sustain that every day for decades, I don’t know how good that is for one’s health. I know for my hearing, I’ve got tinnitus on the left side, I sort of deal with it. That gets a little unnerving and it makes me wonder do I want to keep playing loud all the time.

CRAIG:
I made this solo record - I’m actually in Austin right now rehearsing the band for some shows around it. It’s a quieter record and it really rejuvenated me to go back and play loud with The Hold Steady. Taking a little break and doing something creative at a different volume I think really sort of renewed me. Because I find the crushing volume to be really fatiguing, or very tiring.

BOB:
Do you find now if you’re playing in a quieter setting and you’re aware of all that extra space, does that affect the way you look at your words or look at your performance or look at the content?

CRAIG:
Yeah. With the solo thing especially I feel like I’m driving with the vocals, where I’m used to running alongside or screaming over. Which is nice, but I don’t know that I think one way is nicer than the other. It’s nice to exercise a different muscle and get some perspective on it. To scratch that itch, if you will.

BOB:
Most definitely, yeah, having different tools and different colours to work with. I know when I stepped away from always loud rock band, and started doing solo shows or DJing or whatever, that it gave me a greater appreciation of the loud when I went back to it.

CRAIG:
Yeah, I think that’s where I’m at now. I really have fun with the loud, but maybe through exploring some other things. The other thing I was thinking about, it seems like from reading your book that maybe you’re feeling there might be contentment in your life that you’ve been searching for. I’m wondering if when you find contentness and you get to a good place whether it’s harder to write?

BOB:
Oh my God! That’s totally the loaded question. It’s like, ‘Oh no, Bob’s happy, and his work’s going to go shit!’ If that happens and I have a happier longer life, so be it. I somehow doubt that any kind of contentedness is permanent. I don’t know if that’s what life really is. I think life is a series of struggles to get to certain places and when we get there and we find ourselves content I maintain there’s always something bubbling under, because none of this is permanent. Nothing is permanent. Personally I think I’m able to recognise when I’m content and I’m able to be in the moment and enjoy it more. Whereas twenty-five/thirty years ago any kind of happiness was something that needed to be destroyed because it was a way to make new things happen. And that is great when you’re young! It’s always a chase, for me; it’s always a chase for perfection, it’s always a chase for the best idea. As soon as you think you have it you start to think of a new one that’s even better and that never goes away. That’s what I want to be thinking about the moment that I die. I don’t want to be thinking about being happy, I want to think about what could be next.

Craig’s solo album, ‘Clear Heart Full Eyes’ is released 23rd January on Full Time Hobby.

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