Punk-rocker Bob Mould started writing protest anthems with his band Husker Du back in the mid-1980s. Now, he’s back with a new project inspired by the protest movement of 2020.
On Blue Hearts, the singer takes on issues like climate change, equality and corruption, using the same driving guitar and lyrical sounds that have made him rock royalty. “I felt compelled to take some of my currency that I built up over the decades and put it toward these subjects,” he said.
Mould caught up with Reset to share more about the album — and how music has the power to create change.
On why he decided to make this album now
Bob Mould: This album presented itself to me late last year. To go backward, a couple years ago, I put out a record, Sunshine Rock. It was supposed to be a happy album for 2019. And one of the songs that I’d written for that record was called “American Crisis.” … And I guess between when I wrote that song and now, a lot of the concerns that I had have only increased.
About a year ago … I was wrapping up a number of years of living in Berlin, Germany, and there was just a moment when it felt like … the third year of the first Reagan term back in 1983. It was just one of those moments where I was like, ‘This is deja vu.’ I’ve been through this before and it was awful, and I felt compelled to work from that position. … I do remember in 1983 how I felt as a young gay man, certain of my sexuality, unsure of my sexual identity, with a government telling me that I was less than, that perhaps, you know, this was God’s punishment for, you know, speaking about AIDS, this was God’s punishment for my behavior, things like that. And thinking about marginalized communities then and now, it’s sort of frightening.
On taking a stand in his music
Mould: I felt compelled to be very blunt and very clear with people with sharing what I see as my story to date. Sometimes in my position being, I guess, generally a rock musician or a pop musician, you know, people look at the work on different levels. In this moment in history, I wanted to take a look back and remind people, you know, I’m not your normal guy. I have felt oppressed for a good part of my life. Things have gotten better, but at this moment in time, it seemed really important to go on the record to sort of memorialize my story for people. I think I think we’re one of those moments where history will start taking a look at what everyone else has decided to do with their voices or with their votes, with their activities. And I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew where I stood.
On how music can create change
Mould: I believe music can change the world. With Husker Du in the 1980s, you know, and Chicago specifically played such a big part in hardcore punk and underground music, so many independent venues and great bands like Naked Raygun, Strike Under … and everybody was just building this alternate world that was outside of corporate rock and hair metal and private jets and cocaine and groupies and all those things that were unattainable to so many of us at that time. For me to look back on that period of time to find clarity for the voice that I’m trying to put to my work now is real, real key. Again, Chicago is such an amazing music community and has been for decades. We all think we were all just doing what we could back then, and this is pretty much all I got to do right now.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Press the “play” button to hear the entire conversation.