On Friday night at San Francisco's Noise Pop festival, Bob Mould played Sugar's 1993 album "Copper Blue" from front to back for the first time in his career. The post-punk icon plans to take the album on the road, the latest look back in what's become a retrospective period for Mould: last fall, he was celebrated with a tribute concert in Los Angeles that featured Dave Grohl, Ryan Adams and others, and he released his autobiography, "See a Little Light," in 2011. But Mould's also at work on new music. In the weeks before his Noise Pop gig, we talked about the endurance of "Copper Blue," the '90s revival and the return of his "loud" guitars.
What do you think has made that album in particular stand the test of time?
Bob Mould: I don't know, it's a pretty optimistic record, compared to some of the work that proceeded it and followed it, so I guess it stands out for that… At the time I loved writing that record, I loved recording that record and I loved playing those songs so it's sort of an easy one for me. There's an early '90s thing that's happening right now that's out of the control of all of us. And it was good songwriting. In my book, I talk about the year leading up the recording and the release of Copper Blue and just how it seemed like things were lining up personally and in the music world that set the stage for that record to be my most successful.
What was the tribute concert in L.A. like for you? The musicians all seemed very excited to be there.
I was pretty speechless at the end of the night with just how great everybody played and just the song choices. Especially Britt [Daniel of Spoon], taking on "JC Auto" from "Beaster," I was surprised by that, he did a great job with it. Ryan [Adams]' takes on the "Workbook" and "Black Sheets" stuff. You know, just a really, really great night. Personally, it's fun to listen to those records again. I've always been a pretty forward-looking guy so it's been interesting.
At those kind of shows, anything can happen, it just felt like a really fun sort of party. Matt Pinfield did a great job [hosting]. I really wanted Matt there because he's such an encyclopedia of modern music and he's an old friend, he and I go way, way back. It was great to have him come in and tie the whole show together. It was nice to have Margaret [Cho] there, she and I are friends and she's very, very earnest about her music. Dave [Grohl], of course. Where do I even start with that? [ Laughs] Nicest guy in the world.
He was so energetic, even compared to everyone else - he was like a lightning bolt.
[ Laughs] He was. He's a great guy, it's been nice to get to know him over the past year and a half. Our paths had crossed briefly very ,very briefly and superficially over the past 20 years and it was nice when we finally got in a room and talked about stuff. I think it showed on stage what the chemistry's like.
Your current band is Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster. How did you connect with them?
Well, Jason, I've known Jason for about 20 years. He was a fan of my stuff and we met in Chicago in 1990 or '91 at a solo show. He brought me some of the music that he'd been working on. We just got to be friends and I really liked his work. He took the bass player spot with me in 2005, the "Body of Song" tour. With Jon Wurster, Jon came in and rescued the drummer spot on the "District Line" tour in 2009. We had a drummer -- nice guy, but it was tough, it wasn't feeling right and I think we all knew it. Jon had just finished up, I think, some Mountain Goats dates and he was available to pick up the west coast part of the tour. He just sort of jumped on board and ran through stuff at soundcheck and it was amazing. Haven't looked back. [laughs] He's an amazing player, really intuitive, really steady, really colorful. And he knows the catalog, the entire catalog from beginning to end. We travel well together, we hang out well together, so it's pretty cool. It feels pretty great.
And you're going to be working on a new solo album with them, is that correct?
Yeah, I've been doing a lot of writing, we've been doing a little bit of recording, we'll see where it goes. It's in forms and stages right now. I'm pretty optimistic.
Playing these "Copper Blue" shows, do you think it'll go in that direction?
Well, that's a great record to base a new album off of. I've been playing a lot of loud guitar lately so that could be one direction that it could lean toward. So, yeah! That's what we've been doing for a couple years out on the road.
Your work has influenced so many bands, as the tribute show showcased. Are there any new groups you're excited about?
I just heard the Cloud Nothings album a couple nights ago, pretty cool, pretty good stuff. I did not hear the previous record, which I guess was more of a bedroom record. This one's good, very earnest, you can hear it in his voice. Heard the new Silversun Pickups, it was pretty cool. I like their first album a lot, I think they're on No. 3 now. F***ed Up, I've been a fan for a long time and to see them get all the attention for "David Comes to Life" is real great. No Age, who I think the world of, they're really sweet guys and it's been great to get to know them and watch their progression. I was a really big fan of Tame Impala, I really like this band Yuck.
You mentioned there is an early '90s revival happening. Did you ever think that era would come back and be part of pop culture again?
Yeah, it was about time. Pop culture and music tend to go in cycles and I think the digital age has made things accelerate a little bit but the sort of deep early '90s that's happening right now, I sort of knew it was going to happen right about now.
Is there anything that should stay in the '90s?
No comment. [ Laughs] The good stuff will rise.