The lineup at this weekend’s Urban Simple Life festival (簡單生活節) is filled with Taiwan’s pop elite and indie rock darlings, but there are a few surprises on the bill, such as Dave Pirner, front man of the American rock band Soul Asylum.
Pirner will be certain to rekindle a few rock radio memories during his solo acoustic set tomorrow afternoon.
Soul Asylum, which started out in Minneapolis in the early 1980s playing a hybrid of punk and grungy hard rock, hit the peak of its popularity in the early 1990s with Grave Dancers Union. The multi-million selling album propelled the band into the pop mainstream with instantly recognizable hits like Without a Trace and Runaway Train.
Fame bothered Pirner at the time. “As big as the band was getting, I stopped playing the hits. And it was just to be difficult. It was just to be punk rock,” he told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview earlier this week.
With self-deprecating humor, sarcasm and plenty of expletives and laughs, Pirner, 46, came across as philosophical about his past. He also raved about his home of the past 12 years, New Orleans, which he describes as “like Mecca” because of its firmly rooted music scene.
He rambled a little about his fascination with “second line,” the traditional street parades led by New Orleans brass bands, but was more plainspoken and blunt about Soul Asylum’s success in the 1990s.
“It’s kind of a shitstorm,” Pirner said when reminiscing about the photo shoots and meetings with record executives that occupied the band’s time when Grave Dancers was released.
“I think back and I think, wow, it was chaos. It was really running ragged just to get from one appointment to the next, so that you didn’t really have time to sit around and pat yourself on the back. So I understand that people think there’s a lot of debauchery and decadence and success in the music industry. It’s just not the way you think it is,” he said. “There’s plenty of Spinal Tap moments, to make a long story short.”
What: Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, live at 2010 Urban Simple Festival (2010簡單生活節)
Where: Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號)
When: Tomorrow at 3:50pm
Admission: NT$1,200 for a single-day pass at the door (NT$900 for single-day pass or NT$1,600 for two-day pass when purchased in advance). Tickets available through 7-Eleven ibon kiosks, at Books (博客來) ticketing outlets or online at www.tickets.books.com.tw
On the NET:simplelife.streetvoice.com
Pirner says Soul Asylum is close to finishing its latest album, due out sometime next year, which is a follow-up to the band’s 2006 release The Silver Lining. That album wasn’t as big of a commercial success and included the last work by the band’s founding bassist Karl Mueller, who died of throat cancer in 2005.
But the recording received a favorable response from fans and critics, and Pirner says the band came away with the “perfect” drummer, former Prince backing musician Michael Bland. Taking over bass duties was fellow Minneapolis legend Tommy Stinson, formerly of the Replacements, who also plays for Guns N’ Roses.
Given his top-notch band and its electric guitar-driven sound, Pirner says that solo shows, such as tomorrow’s, can be daunting.
“It’s a situation where I have to be really good. There’s no props, there’s no wall of noise — [in terms of difficulty] it’s the closest thing to stand-up comedy, besides stand-up comedy,” he said.
“And it’s also really challenging and sort of terrifying in a way that I can’t resist the challenge — sort of a love/hate thing, but I know it’s a necessary thing for me to be able to do. If these songs don’t stand up by themselves without all the noise, they’re shitty songs,” he said.
As for tunes such as Runaway Train, Pirner says he no longer resists playing them.