Alternative-rock pioneers and former MTV darlings Soul Asylum break eight years of silence this month with the release of their 10th studio album, The Silver Lining. It’s a welcome milestone for a band with a turbulent recent history. In June 2005, founding bassist Karl Mueller died of throat cancer. Three months later, singer, guitarist and primary songwriter Dave Pirner fled his adopted New Orleans home following Hurricane Katrina.
But the group found new direction with veteran drummer Michael Bland and former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, and the hardships have contributed to maturity for founding members Pirner and guitarist Dan Murphy. The duo talked with Paste about things they’ve learned—after 23 years in music—aren’t worth worrying about.
Comparisons to Earlier Hits:
“It’s fair to be judged by your best works,” explains Murphy. “If someone says, ‘Well, I like this record, but there’s nothing I like as much as ‘Somebody to Shove’ or ‘Black Gold,’ then that’s a fair criticism.”
Industry Pressure:“Soul Asylum never worked well with A&R guys,” Murphy says. “They’d say, ‘We’ll get Glen Ballard in to write a hit for you,’ but if you’re selling your face or your voice, and you’re not writing or composing—I’d rather get a real job, you know?”
“Everybody has different thresholds for perseverance,” says Pirner. “How much of this can I put up with? What sacrifices am I willing to make? I know I can’t do it forever, but it has everything to do with getting back up on the horse knowing that you know now how to ride.”
One’s Place in History:“When we broke, we were like the predecessors to Poison and Winger,” Murphy laughs. “It’s weird to think of that whole scene that was originally maybe Dinosaur Jr., Mudhoney, Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum getting remembered as a predecessor to hair bands, but that seems to be its little blip in music history.”
How It All Ends:
“I’m very much entrenched in not worrying about the outcome and just trying to follow an idea through until it’s finished,” says Pirner. Murphy holds a similar conviction: “The future—if you could predict it, you’d f— it up.”