Grant Hart has never been a political songwriter — at least not in an obvious way.
His songs with legendary 1980s Minneapolis punk trio Husker Du and ’90s alternative era group Nova Mob, along with his solo work, have focused more on the personal or the avant garde, marrying introspective lyrics to his quirky pop sensibilities.
Speak with Hart for even just a few minutes, however, and its clear that he’s concerned about politics, even if it’s not reflected in his songs. After all, Husker Du was originally a hardcore punk band, and the ’80s hardcore scene was nothing if not political in its heyday.
Grant Hart, with Cyrus Gengras
When: tonight at 9
Where: Valentine’s, 17 New Scotland Ave., Albany
How Much: $10
More Info: 432-6572, www.valentinesalbany.com
“I just haven’t been disposed to mix the art and politics in such a direct way, or, I would say, obviously,” Hart said during a recent phone interview from his home in St. Paul, Minn. “You know, there’s probably a lot of ex-Harvard business majors that went to Husker Du concerts who had a good deal to do with the screwing up of the country and the economy in the last 10 years. Not everybody keeps their youthful idealism; it’s kind of hard to in a smash-and-grab era like this.”
Recording in Canada
His next solo album, “Hot Wax,” due out sometime in the next couple of months, was recorded at least in part during the deeply divisive George W. Bush presidency, and Hart made no bones about his distaste for the former president — in fact, he left the country to record in Montreal.
“At the time I started the record it was a good time to be investigating options in other countries, because we got a [expletive] for president that ruined the country,” he said. “In late 2003 when I started recording the album, I was really uncertain how we were going to get ourselves out of that.”
Throughout the 10 years that separate “Hot Wax” and his last solo effort, 1999’s “Good News for Modern Man,” Hart continued to tour and work on his visual art (he designed the album art for most of Husker Du’s releases under a pseudonym). He’s out on a short solo Northeast tour that will bring him to Valentine’s tonight.
Keen fans might have caught Hart on a series of singles released on Amphetamine Reptile Records in 2007, titled “A Purge of Dissidents,” but those have been “kind of below the wire,” according to Hart. Difficulties with his last label, Pachyderm, contributed to the long stretch of silence, but he is just as much to blame himself.
“The main reason for the delay is I took my damn sweet time, but how good does that sound?” he said.
The “Hot Wax” album title, a reference to the Greek myth of Daedalus, whose son Icarus flew too close to the sun with wings made of feathers and wax, was inspired by the cover — an image of a Lilienthal glider superimposed over a graphic demonstrating the physics concept of redshift. The Daedalus/Icarus connection isn’t really focused on thematically, however.
“If there’s an ongoing theme or subject addressed [on the record], it would probably be dealing with optical transparency and reflectivity,” Hart said. “There’s a lot of light bouncing around on the record.”
Hart worked with Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mt. Zion at the bands’ homebase, Hotel Z Tango Studios in Montreal, and also recorded at Albatross in Minneapolis. The resulting album is “probably more cohesive” than “Good News.”
“I think it’s a little rougher than ‘Good News for Modern Man,’ ” he said. “There’s a lot more consistent instrumentation, where ‘Good News’ was kind of all over the map. This one sticks to strong guitars and keyboards; it sounds more like the output of a band than ‘Good News’ does.”
Hart has continued his pursuits in the visual realm as well, another reason for the album’s delay. His work was recently exhibited at the Zone Gallery in Kansas City, Mo. In the next few years, as touring progresses behind the new album, Hart is hoping to integrate his musical performances and art exhibitions.
“I think the analogy of one hand washing the other, I think that’s very, very true in this situation, where the one kind of pushes me towards the other,” he said. “It acts like ginger on the palate at a sushi bar; it kind of cleanses your outlook. Or your out-hear.”
For now, Hart will continue to play shows with just his acoustic-electric guitar for backing. And although he recently reunited with Husker Du bassist Greg Norton for an impromptu jam session about two weeks ago, and with Husker Du guitarist and vocalist Bob Mould at a benefit in 2004 for Soul Asylum bassist Karl Mueller, don’t expect a full-blown Husker Du reunion anytime soon.
“I think all three of us have reasons why we don’t want to do it,” Hart said. “Then on the other hand, all three of us look back upon those times as being, well, definitely bearable for quite a while. Something with a group effort would be bigger than the concerns of the individual, but I think it would be a little bit of a foolish move [because] you can never go back there. It would be as much Husker Du as it would be if anyone of the three of us picked two other people and called it Husker Du.”
Categories: Life and Arts