He was well into his thirties and living in New York before he decided to embrace his sexuality. Once he did, he pursued it with his customary systematic and analytical focus: hanging out at the Factory Café on Christopher Street (where he met Brodbeck); joining the nearby Crunch, where he became friendly with porn star Michael Lucas; and using the gay-listings magazines as a kind of map to his new identity—including what he frequently refers to in the book as the city’s “fabulous” gay nightlife. He became attracted to the sophisticated production of electronica music and released the album Modulate. The record’s poor reception irked Mould, who saw it as a document of the personal changes he was going through. (To let the reader know how far he’s come with that, the book opens with him and Brodbeck being kicked out of a clothing-optional gay resort in Palm Springs; there’s also a section on his appreciation for “military porn.” Provocation is still one of Mould’s carefully curated traits.) And though he’s released solo albums and continued to play festivals, he seems to have found a new following from D.J.-ing. He now takes his periodic party, Blowoff (a sort of itinerant bear Woodstock), from city to city, and it seems to be a new flock for him to minister to musically. “It’s a dance party for sane adults,” says Andrew Sullivan, the political writer (and bear) who says he “kinda worships” Mould for being “relentlessly normal, low-key, kind, and self-effacing.”
Others have found Mould less easy. In the book, his relationships—both in music and in his romantic life—tend to end bluntly. At some point, Mould just has enough and walks away. That happened with Hüsker Dü. He and drummer Grant Hart, who is also gay, split songwriting duties. As time went on, they became increasingly competitive. As Mould willed himself sober and became intensely focused on the band’s business, he found Hart less dependable; it somehow didn’t register with Mould that Hart had become a heroin addict. The two have never gotten over the breakup, and Hart has occasionally complained about him in the press, to which Mould responds: “If someone’s going to call me a prick, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If that’s the person you want, that’s the person you’re going to get.” In other words, a reunion is unlikely. “There’s too much volatility with it,” he says. “There are people who always want bloodletting. It’s easier for me to just not deal with it.”
Mould can be a black-and-white guy, and he struggles in the book to understand those whose morality is muddier, whose needs are different from his own. Then again, he’s always been obsessed with professional wrestling. And for a while, after Sugar, he even worked for World Championship Wrestling, where he helped concoct the pumped-up allegories of good versus evil that played out in the ring. If his combative, and somewhat bloodless, judgmentalism can occasionally seem shocking, it’s clear that it hasn’t been easy on Mould either. Yet he’s also not nostalgic for the past. When this guy moves on, he really moves on. “I had, and still have, no interest in the name Hüsker Dü or in creating or revisiting that part of my life,” he writes.
“It’s funny because I have a reputation for being a dour guy and a depressive,” Mould says shortly before we part. “My work has that dark, cathartic side. But I can’t be that person anymore. You gotta believe that I finally found a little bit of happiness, that I’m happy in my own skin. And I trust people will be happy for me.”