Grant Hart is best known as the drummer/singer/songwriter of the iconic 1980s alternative-rock band Hüsker Dü, where — along with guitarist/songwriter Bob Mould and bassist Greg Norton — Hart released classic albums like Zen Arcade and New Day Rising. After Hüsker Dü broke up in 1988, Hart began a solo career with the album Intolerance, and then formed the band Nova Mob before resuming his solo career again in 1998. Hart’s latest album The Argument is based on John Milton’s work Paradise Lost and will be released by Domino Records in June. Hart recently sat down in an exclusive interview with Music Universe’s Ryan King to talk about that album, along with other pressing matters.
Your upcoming album The Argument was at least partly inspired by a treatment of Paradise Lost done by William S. Burroughs. There’s also a picture of Mr. Burroughs and yourself when you were still in Hüsker Dü, so you knew him a long time. What type of influence would you say Mr. Burroughs’ writing has had on your work throughout the years?
No direct influence, but Burroughs provided me with methods to find words and ways to unlock ideas. He was a fine gentleman. William’s “Lost Paradise” served as a motivational force as well as an inspiration.
How closely were you able to follow the storyline of Paradise Lost on The Argument?
The size of Paradise Lost is so immense that a quadruple album would not have been enough. Everything in The Argument takes place in the Milton version, but I could not possibly include everything from Paradise Lost. First I deleted all of the religion.
What can listeners expect from The Argument in terms of its instrumentation?
There are lots of guitars, keyboards, mallet instruments. Little piano,which surprises me. Lots of vocals. Found sounds.
One of my favorite-sounding albums is your late 1990s release Good News for Modern Man. It has a great, dense, wall-of-sound-type-sound to it. Do you ever think you’ll revisit that sound on any recordings? [Here is an example from that album, Nobody Rides for Free.]
That album was recorded under circumstances that will probably not repeat. I was given unlimited studio time and I knew that I would not see a penny from the label who owned the studio. They went out of business and now I own the record free and clear. Expect vinyl of it this year.
Do you have any plans for a tour of the United States? Additionally, there have been rumors that you will be touring with a backing band, will that happen?
The band – yes, the band – are from Ireland. We will probably tour Europe first, while we are waiting for work permits to happen.
Outside of your music, have you had any other art projects going on?
Lately I have been putting together the stuff for the record package. Yes, I have been doing a lot of visual things.
Hüsker Dü’s single “Amusement/Statues” is going to be re-released as part of Record Store Day 2013. Is there any chance of any further re-releases of any of the SST or Warner Bros. material?
We would like to. There are some legal obstacles to jump over first.
Your songs have been covered by a number of artists, ranging from Marshall Crenshaw’s cover of “2541” to the Foo Fighters’ cover of “Never Talking to You Again.” Have you ever noticed any standouts among any artists that have covered your songs?
I have heard rough mixes of the Therapy version of “Diane” that are a million times better than what was released. Some Germans called The Strangemen did a great cover of that as well. I do not care for the Foo version of “Never” . . . I think they never made too much effort . . . Honestly I am glad those fellows are free to do something else.