The linked long term phenomena of falling electoral turnout and a decreasing percentage of those who do vote, voting for the two main parties, leaves politicians in power with the active support of an increasingly small minority of the population. To date this has not seriously impacted on consent – the Majority are apathetic, and devoid both of interesting sources of useful political information, and of social cohesion. Membership of organisations of horizontal solidarity is also in long term decline.
I would love to see an attempt at long term quantification of the difference between the parties in terms of the manifesto policies they offer. I have no doubt that there will be a very sharp reduction in difference, or rather policy convergence between the parties. If you look at 1911 – social insurance, pensions, power of the hereditary aristocracy, 1945 – nationalisation of major industries, initiation of the NHS and full welfare state, and 1983 – privatisation, nuclear weapons – there were very real and sharp political differences that offered voters a distinct ideological choice. The country – and your own future – could be recognisably different dependent on for whom you voted.
The last two times our government changed parties, the new party came in to pledge to continue the fiscal measures already projected by the treasury under its predecessors. Anyone who believes the Treasury would be fundamentally different under Balls or Osborne is delusional, and responding to tribalism not real difference. Who introduced tuition fees? New Labour. Who accelerated the “marketization” of the NHS? New Labour. Who vastly expanded PFI? New Labour. Who bailed out the banks? New Labour.
In effect, the parties offer exactly the same neo-con policies. NATO, Trident, Occupation of Afghanistan, Privatisation, Tuition Fees – the only apparent alternative at the last election came from the Lib Dems, and the electorate grasped at it in larger numbers than a third party had ever received before, something we have quickly forgotten. The reason that we have forgotten it is that Clegg, who was never any kind of Liberal, dumped the entire radical heritage of his party as soon as he came to power.
There is a much wider point to what happened to the Lib Dems. Two other changes – the introduction of PR for the European Parliament, and the large increase in expenses for MP’s staff – had made a radical change to that party. Lib Dem conferences were suddenly places of power dressing, not woolly jumpers. A great many young professional politicos – MPs research assistants, and staffers from Brussels – were all over the place. Bright, presentable, highly paid, most of them had no connection with liberalism, had never read John Stuart Mill or Hazlitt, had no idea who Lloyd George was and cared less. They had latched on to a rung of paid political work, had become part of the political class – that was the entire purpose of their activity. The woolly jumpered chap who had campaigned about paving stones in Salisbury and passionately wanted to abolish Trident and adopt green energy became sidelined, an amusing anachronism, the subject of the jokes of the sophisticates.
Of course, their focus groups showed that the people want policies which the ever shrinking ownership of the mass media promotes, because they are the only policies they have ever heard of. But the people no longer trust the ownership of the media, and the expenses scandal caused a much-needed scepticism of the appalling political class. People are desperate for leaders who look honest and say something different.
So do not despise UKIP supporters. They are not vicious racists. They are in fact brighter than those stupid enough to continue voting for the three neo-con parties, despite having their lives crippled for the next three decades to pay unconceivable sums to the bankers. The UKIP voters at least wish to punish the political class and wish to hear of some different policies.
The problem is that the only alternative of which the mainstream media is prepared to inform them is Mr Farage and his simple anti-foreigner maxims. Many of the bankers are keen to leave the EU, as Nigel Lawson told us. So if people want an alternative, that is the one they will be offered. Only in Scotland have people been offered a more radical alternative – and while I do not wish to exaggerate the economic radicalism of the SNP, they are markedly to the left of Westminster on issues like tuition fees, healthcare and PFI.
The great question of the day is, how to put before the population, in a way that they will notice, a radical alternative other than simple right wing populism. I have a strong belief that there remains a real desire in society for a more social policy, for a major and real check on the huge divergence between rich and poor, for good public services, for a pacific foreign policy, and for leaders not just in it for the money or to promote wealthy interests. But how do you get that message to people?
Bob Mould began his musical career in 1979 when as a 19 year old he formed the legendary Minneapolis punk rock group Hüsker Dü. Between then and their break up 9 years later the band developed their style from 30 second thrash workouts to producing some of the finest skewed rock music that the 80s bore witness too.
If being in one legendary band was not enough Mould then formed Sugar and found great success (especially in the UK) in the early 90s as well. The debut album ‘Copper Blue’ is still generally regarded as the greatest album to have been released in 1992, a year that also saw the release of REM’s ‘Automatic for the People’, Pavement’s ‘Slanted and Enchanted’, PJ Harvey’s ‘Dry’ and Sonic Youth’s ‘Dirty’. This was no small feat and thoroughly well deserved. It would seem that surely lightning wouldn’t strike 3 times for the guy. Would it?
Well, since Sugar’s untimely demise Mould has embarked on an incredible solo career, this has resulted in at least 2 albums that I would consider classics and many other fantastic collections to boot. Don’t believe us? Hit YouTube and you’ll see. The most recent of these classics would be last years fine effort ‘Silver Age’. The record’s tone matches that of the abrasive guitar ridden ‘Copper Blue’ and added in with his recent work with the Foo Fighters this has once again shot Bob into the spotlight.
Speaking via Skype all the way from the U.S. of A Mould gives us the lowdown on the new album, his autobiography and just what happened when he met up with Punk legend Pat Smear.
Wallernotweller: The ‘Silver Age’ album has been out for a while now; when you completed it did you have any idea how popular the album would be if you returned to that guitar saturated Sugar type of sound?
Bob Mould: Well I figured people would enjoy this record because I enjoyed making it immensely. I knew ‘The Decent’ was a pretty solid song and ‘Star Machine’ was a pretty cool song but this whole response to the album, well, I am very happy with it. It had been a while since I had honed in on that type of album I guess. I think everything that led up to the writing and the recording helped, it was all good stuff, the 20 year anniversary of ‘Copper Blue’ coming up and taking 3 years away from writing music and the build-up that that created in my head and having this goal of trying to write a short and loud guitar pop record. Plus all that stuff like hanging out with the Foo Fighters, all these things combined made it really easy for me to put the record together.
WNW: Watching the ‘Star Machine’ video was a joy from beginning to end. Your comedy timing was impeccable. How did that come about?
BM: Jon Wurster [Drums] is such a natural at that stuff but for me it was like pulling teeth. The guy who put together the film is called Jon Glaser and Jon is an American comic who has done a lot of TV, he had a show called Delocated and now he’s on a show on NBC (one of our national networks) called Parks and Recreation. We started with a couple of ideas but Glaser really dialled it in the treatment. We shot it all in one day in New York and we tweaked it a little bit as we went but it’s pretty much all Glaser’s idea and I knew that Jon Wurster would be great in front of the camera so I was like “Just make it about Jon”. He is the guy, so we went with our strong suit, it was pretty funny.
WNW: I’ve noticed from video interviews with you that you have a dry sense of humour and as I said your timing is great, have you ever thought about doing a spoken word show like Henry Rollins does?
BM: That’s funny you should say that, the closest I have gotten to that was in 2011 when the book was released [Bob and Michael Azerrad’s autobiography of Moulds life; ‘See a Little Light’] and I did a lot of touring to promote the book and the format that I was touring in was playing solo and electric for a couple of songs then I would read a passage from the book. For instance I would read the passage from the book from 1988 about being up on the farm in Northern Minnesota and writing ‘Notebook’ and then I might play 4 or 5 songs from ‘Notebook’, then maybe I would jump to another era and describe the process or the environment that I was in that allowed me to write these particular songs or albums. That is the closest I have ever gotten to spoken word.
People that know me know that I can be a pretty funny guy when I want to be but I just never let anybody see it (laughs).
WNW: If there was an offer to do full spoken word do you think you would take it seriously?
BM: I think I’d hold out, I’d rather hold out for my own sit com (laughs). No, what Henry Rollins or Jello Biafra does is incredible. Hats off to what they do, I could never do that. I can be funny in small doses. I don’t think a TV show or a spoken word performance would be good for me.
WNW: Going back to the new album now can you tell us a little bit about the track ‘Keep Believing’?
BM: Yeah, I can give you all the skinny on that one. I t was one of the last songs that I wrote the music for and the first part of the song remained pretty much as it is now. But I had this chorus that was sort of an awkward, clumsy chorus musically; I was trying to do too much with it. So when the 3 of us were doing the basic tracks for the album we looked at each other and said “What do we do with that part” So me and Jon were in the room and I started playing prototypical Bob Mould chord changes and the part where that solo comes in, that ascending riff, the part before all the back end comes in well I just sort of threw it out there as a riff and Jon was like “That sounds good”. It turned out to be a really cool musical bridge that gets you from the front to the back.
So I said just give me 30 seconds and I’ll just dial it in, so we dialled it in and got rid of the other part. When we dropped it in there it was like “A-ha! That’s it!” It didn’t really need a chorus; it just needed that solo bridge to get it to the end of the song.
So we had the music recorded, then fast forward 2 months and I’m working with my engineer and we have the entire album mixed except for that song and we only have one day left so we have to mix that song and after write words for it. (Laughs) I really have no idea; I know what I sort of wanted it to be but…
So what happens with me, and I’m giving away a little secret here, is that I have these boxes of 45’s that I had when I was a kid and I used to listen to them when I was 5 or 6 years old. I listened to them every day and memorised every stich on them backwards and forwards and whenever I am stumped I go back to that box of singles and then I start playing music and something will happen. But we were in the studio and all my singles were at home so I went on YouTube and started pulling up videos and finding these songs and I pulled up this one song and I thought that’s it, it triggered everything. After that I spent half a day dialling in the words and then the engineer was getting everything ready for me to sing over. By 9 o’clock that night I had created this elaborate puzzle and tribute on the back end of the song about The Byrds and The Beatles, all those things that are the touchstones for me. I spent about an hour singing it and we started piling on the harmonies for another hour. By 10pm I had totally blown my voice and spent the last couple of hours mixing the song. It was pretty crazy but it’s such a beautiful song.
With those words I was floundering all day listening to old songs just to find a way into it and then finally this one song just opened the door.
WNW: And the song?
WNW: Okay, was it those singles that got you into music in the first place or did you really the pleasure of music when you left home?
BM: Oh no no, I was into music as a small child, my whole childhood was music. That was my escape from the life that I had. Those records that I am talking about, they kept me alive as a kid, I am looking at them right now as we talk, they are right there.
The beauty of the book for me was that I know these things because that’s who I am but I didn’t understand how woven together everything was and we never know it unless we do take the time to sift through all of it. We can have a general idea that this led to this and that led to that but in writing the book and this is where Azerrad was key was that he had that perspective from the outside of it all. He would say to me “So you knew you were gay when you were five, you grew up in this violent household but you had this music that pulled you through. Okay look at what you did when you were 20?” How do you tell that story, how is it connected?
WNW: Do you think you gave too much away about yourself in the autobiography?
BM: Oh, that’s fine. There are parts of the book that are unflattering to me. There are parts that show how out of my mind I could get, that I could be mean spirited at times and show how controlling I was but again go to the beginning and read those first two chapters and it will all make sense, you’ll see it. It’s not that it explains away all of my poor behaviour in my first 48 years of life and there is a lot of stuff that I am not really proud of in there but it’s an attempt to tell the story as completely as possible, those things had to be in there.
WNW: Did you revisit the Hüsker Dü back catalogue when you were researching the autobiography?
BM: No, those songs are embedded in me, I don’t need to go back and put them on to relive them, I pretty much know how those records go.
I understood going into the book that the allure for doing the book to the publishers was the Hüsker Dü story. It took up more of the book that I would have given it, if I were the King of France I wouldn’t have done as much on that but I understand and I understood it before I agreed to do the book so I have no complaints there, it was part of the deal. With all things being equal then maybe that is the way things are supposed to be and that is how it is, there is no changing that.
WNW: I understand that you must be sick of answering Hüsker Dü questions especially after pretty much everything was discussed in the book but one thing that wasn’t clear in the autobiography was whether you think that the creative and competitive dynamic between you and Grant fuelled the strong song writing in the band? Every Hüsker Dü release contained way more killer than filler.
BM: Um… I think that that’s a major consideration. I tell you, when I look back on the whole thing I think that when the band was working as just us versus the world there was some amazing output but when the band became us versus us it didn’t pay the same dividends. It begun as the 3 of us against the world but when the world noticed us and they started observing that unspoken competition and when the light got shined on it then that is when things started to go a little awry. So yes, it was the best of times, it was also the end times.
I really think that that happens in all parts of our lives, those dynamics with a significant other or with a work collaborator. It’s those things that you all know but you never say and when other people pull at that thread it starts to unravel and it can get really fucked up. Sometimes I think that you should just let it be and not try and unpack everything in your life all the time and then maybe you’ll have this really happy life (laughs). Also be mindful of letting people into your life who try and unpack your shit for you, just say “Wait a minute! We all know that, we don’t need to say anything about it”.
WNW: All recent interviews with you tend to focus on you meeting up with Dave Grohl recently and recording with him, well that’s cool an’ all but what interests me is that you met up with Pat Smear at the same time…
WNW: How was that for you being a massive fan of The Germs, how did you two get on, what was he like?
BM: Oh my god, well you know that Dave, he is like the sweetest guy in the world and I love Dave and I am so appreciative of him letting me get a little bit of his spotlight for a brief moment, he didn’t need to do that but… Going down to his place to work on that song, when I walked in at Pat was sitting there I was just like OH MY GOD! I grew up with The Germs, that album was really important to me. I was like “Well yeah this song we are working on is really great but Pat, what was it like working with Joan Jett? (Laughs)” Pat was like huuuuh?
That was a really great experience. And Butch Vig too, Butch and I worked together in Madison, Wisconsin in the original Smart studio back in 1984 I think it was recording a local band there called The Tar Babies so we hadn’t really got together in ages. The whole thing was so great, there’s Pat from The Germs and there’s Butch from the old days and there is Dave… it was like, Shit! This is pretty cool.
WNW: I can’t imagine as a fan what walking into that room must have been like, Pat Smear, My word, he is such an iconic figure in my house.
BM: Well yeah, and then when I was out doing the dates with them in the fall of ’11 we hung out, you know how people run into each other at catering and backstage and so on and Pat and I would just crack each other up. They had this kind of fancy espresso machine every day that showed up in catering and Pat wasn’t into it so I said that you have to try it, I have one at home and it’s awesome. He’s always like “Hmmmmm errrrrrr”. So anyways we had some dinner and I said we’ll have a small bit of desert and then we can have a couple of coffees. When he did it he was like “Holy shit, that stuff is so strong!” I said you are gonna play for three hours you’ll be fine (laughs). That’s the stuff right there, push button espressos.
WNW: Have you begun to put together a follow up to Silver Age as of yet and if so is it going to keep the same tonality?
BM: I’m gonna quit while I am ahead…
Nah, I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it. All I know is that right now with Jason [Narducy, bass] and Jon we are killin’ it, we are really killin’ it live, we really like playing together and its effortless and natural and I think that our interpretations of the Hüsker and Sugar stuff is pretty much spot on without sounding like a cover band. I think ‘Silver Age’ has shown what we can grow into as a 3 piece, like we can just go into a room and make a record. The smart money says more of the same. So we shall see but I can look back at my own history and I sometimes don’t play that sure bet, whether it’s ‘File Under: Easy Listening’ or ‘Modulater’. I know what I can do to my own stuff so for now all I can say is that for now we are gonna play some shows, have some fun and then write some songs and just see what happens.
WNW: Mr Bob Mould thank you very much for giving us your time today.
This interview I conducted originally appeared in pennyblackmusic in May 2013. Click the link. Read till bedtime.
Now here’s an article in Cities today on the evidence of suburban poverty in the US. It covers the work of researchers Alan Berube and Elizabeth Kneebone, who stress the importance of regional responses because anti-poverty policies designed for dense urban areas ‘transplant poorly onto suburbia’:
‘We’ve seen that the suburban safety net – it’s much thinner, it’s much patchier, and it’s spread over greater distances.’
There’s also a reference to the part played by transport systems in the coming period:
‘It’s significantly harder to address poverty through transportation when low-income households in need of it live dispersed over larger areas. Suburbs also simply lack the built-in networks of service providers that have grown up over decades in inner-city communities.’
I will go on pointing out, because I think it’s important to do so, that in nthe UK this austerity is at best unnecessary and a puerile, and very nasty, form of ideological folly. Who can possibly need more evidence? I was speaking last week to someone who still thought that austerity economics was a justifiable response to ‘Labour’s excessive spending.’ Sigh.
The Secretary of State for Education has reached record-breaking levels of self-delusion this morning with his accusation that headteachers who disagree with him are ‘defeatist’.
Evidence from brain and genetic studies suggests we should regard suicidal behaviour as a disease in its own right, a move that may help prevent suicides
“The latest news that has reached us from Poland makes it clear beyond any doubt that the Germans are now murdering the last remnants of the Jews in Poland with unbridled cruelty. Behind the walls of the ghetto the last act of this tragedy is now being played out.Zygielbojm’s suicide was a deeply reasoned and socially responsible act. But according to the values prevailing in our own society, it should be dismissed or even condemned as a “futile gesture”, a “pointless sacrifice” – and therefore something pathological, neurotic, “self-indulgent”. All my political life I have heard this said about any sacrifice made for a just cause. It was said in the 80s about the miners who tried and failed to save their communities, and about the councillors who stood up for local democracy against rate capping and got surcharged and chucked out of politics for their pains. It’s being said now about Palestinian hunger strikers. It has been the stock-in-trade of Third Way, post-social democratic politics, where to sacrifice one’s political career or “viability” by standing up against power and prejudice is viewed as a self-evidently self-defeating folly. Surely it is this ideology of self-serving “pragmatism” that ought to be dubbed “self-indulgent”? What’s truly pathological and neurotic is the “common sense” of egocentric individualism, the obsession with personal success and status, the desperation to conform to an inhuman, destructive social order.
The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out, but indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenceless millions – tortured children, women and men – they have become partners to the responsibility.
… I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being murdered. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, in their mass grave.
By my death, I wish to make the strongest possible protest against the passivity with which the world is looking on and permitting the extermination of the Jewish people. I know how little life is worth today, but since I was unable to do anything during my life, perhaps by my death I shall help to break down the indifference of those who have the possibility even now, at the last moment, to save the handful of Polish Jews who are still alive from certain annihilation.
… My life belongs to the Jewish people of Poland, and therefore I hand it over to them now. I yearn that the remnant that has remained of the millions of Polish Jews may live to see liberation together with the Polish masses, and that it shall be permitted to breathe freely in Poland and in a world of freedom and socialistic justice, in compensation for the inhuman suffering and torture inflicted on them. And I believe that such a Poland will arise and such a world will come about…”
This is a neat idea for bringing a street or community together. The South Norwood Tourist Board are currently working with a local primary school on it and I first saw it work in Totterdown in Bristol.
On one day everyone sticks a blue plaque on the front of their house. The plaque is a simple paper plate painted blue. On the plaque is written some thing about someone who lived in the house before you e.g. Mary Wills plumber lived here 1943-67 or Fred Smith grandfather lived here 1932 – 45 or whatever you can dig up from chats or censuses or wherever. kids will love finding out stuff abut their house. Then declare the street day open and wander up and down sharing your new knowledge with everyone and having a chance to talk to neighbours you’ve never spoken to before. Simples.
My heart sank today when I read that the QPR striker, Loïc Rémy has been arrested on suspicion of rape. It sank because once again we were reminded of the rape endemic that is found in the UK. This story centers around three guys and one girl, but reminds me of the 85,000 women who are […]
by steve4319 on May 15, 2013 at 03:33PM via Hynd’s Blog http://stevehynd.com/2013/05/15/on-loic-remy-and-how-football-fans-contribute-to-the-uks-rape-culture/
The greater joy lies not in crossing the finish line, but in rising to the challenge. We thrive less on our achievements than on our challenges. Achievement’s pleasure is fleeting, but it leaves behind an encouragement to spur us on to the next success.
Set goals, create plans, measure progress, course correct, and celebrate upon arrival. Learn to make life a series of milestones and reaching those milestones a lifestyle. Look back for encouragement and forward for direction.
A life spent in the past or in the future is thoroughly dissatisfying. If all hope lies in the past, life is already over. If all hope lies in the future, life never begins.