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Interview with Soul Asylum mainman Dave Pirner

20 October 2013 14 Comments

By: Andrew

Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner

Dave Pirner

Grave Dancers Union was one of the first albums I owned on CD. Whether it was BMG Music Service or Columbia House, the message is still the same: to those companies I say – Thank You. I was never a “Runaway Train” kind of guy. I leaned more towards “Somebody to Shove”, “Black Gold”, and “Without a Trace”.

Soul Asylum Flood Zone Lemonheads Failure Concert Poster

I first saw Soul Asylum live at Jones Beach Ampitheater back in the mid-90’s. Although, Soul Asylum was at the height of their popularity, they didn’t belong on that stage; not in front of nearly 20,000 people, headlining one of the most beautiful outdoor venues in the country. The pacing of the set was questionable, as they ran through the hits, then played a couple of other tunes (they should have known the majority of the crowd was there to hear songs from Grave Dancers Union and Let Your Dim Light Shine), causing the set to flail to this awkward halt by the last note (just like I should have changed this run-on sentence, they should have rearranged their song order). In the late 90’s, they returned to this very venue and played a radio festival for K-Rock, being one of the first bands to take the stage (I believe both Fred Norris and Stuttering John from Howard Stern’s show played individual sets, then Fuel, then Soul Asylum). I was there, and it definitely hit home that, “Wow. From headliner to literally begging rock radio to play ‘I Will Still Be Laughing’.

Fast forward to New York City, April of 1997, and the band was headlining a since-closed club on West 21st St called Tramps. As a little tidbit in case you’re ever on New York City Music Jeopardy, the original tramps was located a couple of steps from Irving Plaza. Anyway, I learned of the show from the Village Voice. All major venues would take out weekly advertising to list their upcoming shows. The bigger shows would always have a larger font, or something a little more grandiose to make them pop. I saw Soul Asylum on the list, in normal font, and recall thinking: “Is this THE Soul Asylum? “Runaway Train” Soul Asylum? Or perhaps it’s some local jazz act?” It was *the* Soul Asylum. The same band that headlined Jones Beach is now headlining a club that holds a couple of hundred people and couldn’t even sell it out. Talk about frustrated incorporated.

Soul Asylum has been around for nearly three decades, and were born from a city that’s musically near and dear to my heart: Minneapolis, Minnesota. Yes, I’m from the school of Paul Westerberg can do no wrong and that The Replacements influenced everything. Also, there’s this heavy metal band with an industrial vibe called American Head Charge. Babes In Toyland, Husker Du…I could go on forever. Perhaps it seems I’m being a little hard on Soul Asylum. Just take it as brutal honesty, because first and foremost, I’m a fan of the band and have followed their career since my early teens. I’ve found Dave Pirner’s lyrics to be personal, sometimes-silly-yet-honest, and have always put his work up there with alternative rock royalty such as The Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Replacements, etc.

Soul Asylum Delayed Reaction CD Album Cover Art

In 2012, Soul Asylum released the long-awaited Delayed Reaction. It’s a solid collection of songs. I’d go as far to say it’s their most light-hearted, fun work since they were on top of the world many moons ago. If you’re outsite their core fanbase, you might want to take a quick peek at this offering. Clocking in at just above thirty minutes, you definitely have time to listen to the grungy, always snotty, always moody musings of Dave Pirner.

This interview features Dave being Dave, and it’s what you’re going to get out of him in 2013. It was conducted before their current co-headlining run with Fountains of Wayne (Evan Danda from The Lemonheads opens the shows). I know some of you are sitting there thinking, “Andrew, you could have been a little more positive with this article.” My answer to you is this: my opinions are always honest, and the facts are the facts. And our audience is more likely to check out Soul Asylum with this writeup than if I would have put them on the highest of pedestals.

So with all this said, check out Delayed Reaction, check out the interview…and as always, thank you for caring.

You can find all things Soul Asylum, including social media, on their official site.

You can download the interview (right click, save as) or stream the audio by clicking here.

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  • Boris said:

    The tone of this article is strange but also refreshing/honest. Still Soul Asylum sucks and everything since GDU has been embarrassing.

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  • hi-me said:

    It sounds like you got no love for Dave. Neither do I. I remember seeing him in the supermarket rags when he was dating Wynona Rider. A few weeks later she stole a purse in NYC. Dave = trash.

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  • Nikki P said:

    I’d really like to listen to the interview but can’t seem to find the link to it :/

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  • ALL KNOWING FORCE: Andrew Bilach (author) said:

    Nikki P,

    The links are currently down for this interview and the Sponge interview. We apologize for this inconvenience and have been promised they will be restored by later this evening.

    I also emailed you about this as well.

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  • ALL KNOWING FORCE: Andrew Bilach (author) said:

    It sounds like you got no love for Dave. Neither do I. I remember seeing him in the supermarket rags when he was dating Wynona Rider. A few weeks later she stole a purse in NYC. Dave = trash.

    I completely disagree with your comment. I understand where you’re coming from, but believe it or not this honest assessment will make the right people want to listen for the first time, or reacquaint themselves.

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  • Nikki P said:

    It sounds like you got no love for Dave. Neither do I. I remember seeing him in the supermarket rags when he was dating Wynona Rider. A few weeks later she stole a purse in NYC. Dave = trash.

    WTF does who he dated 20 years ago have to do with anything?

    Here’s a little Dave story for you…

    I went to a solo show of his in May. Me, my husband and a handful of other people were crowded around the front door, waiting for the venue to open and trying to stay dry in the rain. Dave came up, carrying a take out box and hung around talking to everyone, taking pictures and signing stuff. Crowded into the the doorway with us trying to stay dry. One of the other people there was a teenage girl with her dad. The girl is a musician and a huge fan of Soul Asylum/Dave Pirner. She had a vinyl copy of Delayed Reaction, which Dave signed for her asking if she even owned a record player. She said she did indeed and he was impressed. Then her dad told Dave how she was a musician and he was such a big influence on her, that she has been playing SA songs since she started playing guitar, etc. At that moment, I realized I had seen this girl’s cover of Never Really Been on Youtube and was like “Oh you’re Skyler!”. Dave looks at me and at her a bit surprised and was like “Hey, people know who you are, you should do a song with me tonight”.

    We all got into the venue and secured our front row spots. During the opening bands, Dave was hanging out talking to people beside the stage. Skyler’s dad kept urging her to go talk to him again, see if he was serious about letting her play. She was pretty shy about it but she finally agreed to go talk to him again. When she got over there, another long time SA fan/Collector was chatting with Dave and also recognized her and put in a good word for her. And when it came time for Never Really Been, Dave pulled her on stage (really, reached down and pulled her on stage) and helped his roadie get her comfortable with his guitar, find her a chair, adjust the mic…joking that she was “pretty high maintence so far”. Then…he introduced her and went to the side of the stage.

    People were a bit confused about who she was but she did so great! Dave was so impressed that he asked if she wanted to do another song. She asked if it was ok to do Closer to the Stars because he had already played it earlier. He said she could do whatever she wanted and told the crowd “this is Closer to the Stars…the way it’s supposed to sound”. When she finished that one, he asked if she just wanted to finish the set saying “why would people want to listen to me when they could listen to you”? It was seriously one of the coolest things I have ever seen happen at a show. There’s not too many musicians that would give a young girl they had just met a chance like that. I don’t know him but I get the idea that he’s a pretty good guy.

    I hear that last month, Dave spotted her in the audience of a Soul Asylum show at a art and music festival in MI and pulled her up on stage again for Closer to the Stars.

    Here’s the video of her doing Never Really Been at that solo show:


    And Closer to the Stars:


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  • frogger19x said:

    Soul Asylum’s charm is Dave brattiness. I really don’t think thats a word but y’all know what I mean. Underneath it all he was cool when I met him about 8 years ago.

    I didnt find anything inherently wrong with the Dim Light Shine CD. I don’t know why they burnt out way so fast.

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  • Laura in NJ said:

    If preaching to their choir they’re good. I saw them a few months ago at Bowery Ballroom and they were just pretty bland. I was expecting a lot more. There’s prob purists out there that will lay into me for those comments but I really wanted to like the show. It felt just maybe a little empty for my liking. I wouldnt see them again.

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  • xxx said:

    Nikki P,

    That’s some story. Thanx for sharing. I didn’t know they were still around till now. Does the interview link not work?

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  • Nikki P said:



    It was really awesome!

    They’ve been touring like crazy this year, released an album last year (that is really good, I know people get suspicious about older groups new albums but this is a classic Soul Asylum album) and word has it they’re working on another album now. They never really went away but they did have some periods of inactivity which seems to have changed with the newest line up.

    The link hasn’t worked since I first replied to this post but I’ve patiently waiting for it 🙂

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  • Greg said:

    I know Andrew likes to talk about those old school CD clubs like BMG and Columbia House. Back in the day, they had And The Horse They Rode In On. I was a kid and this was before the internet so I didn’t have a concept of when it was released. All I knew was Grave Dancers Union. I received that CD and in a pack with Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knoiwledge and hated it. And The Horse They Rode In On (or whatever it was called) was awful.

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  • 1942 said:

    Dave’s an oddball but I met him quite a few times and he was alwayus super cool and free with his time. Can’t complain. As for the career who knows, but atleast there around making music.

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  • 867-5309 said:

    I’m not the type that will compare a to b all day for the sake of an argument. Yeah the dropoff was uniquie and strange but on the merits of their music maybe they should never have gotten where they got any way

    I don’t think the replacements were an arena act ever. maybe perhaps they’d get the same treatment as soul asylum if that was the case.

    Dave seems to be a cool guy and that’s all that matters. Most of the guys from that generation are.

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  • wes said:

    I don’t know what was wrong with LYDLS. I thought it was a great album when I bought it as a kid and still do to this day. That was not the reason for the drop. There had to be record label crap involved as well.

    Are we on a 90’s kick? Sponge? Soul Asylum? Eve 6?

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