Soul Asylum is Back in Our Face

A Conversation with Dave Pirner

July 27, 2021 by Traci Turner

The band behind “Runaway Train” and “Somebody to Shove” will be “back in our faces” next month. Soul Asylum will take to the road with Local H and Juliana Hatfield for the Back in Your Face Tour, and front-man Dave Pirner was kind enough to chat with us about the tour, new music, and how he kept busy in quarantine.
Pirner is wonderful to listen to. He tells great stories, has a dry sense of humor, and would be an awesome person to just sit around and shoot the shit with all night. But enough about me sounding like a creeper…
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Soul Asylum and Pirner is living where it all began: Minneapolis. Born out of a band named Loud Fast Rules, Soul Asylum began with Pirner, Dan Murphy, Karl Mueller, and Pat Morley.
They toured relentlessly and released multiple albums with A&M Records, but after signing with Columbia, they released their legendary album “Grave Dancers Union” in 1992. The first two singles – “Somebody to Shove” and “Black Gold” – were indeed good, but the third song took off.
“Runaway Train” became the song you heard EVERYWHERE and it won them the Grammy for  Best Rock Song in 1994.
So many people still remember the video; in between scenes of abuse and violence, the video included images of missing children and has been credited with the safe return of 26 children.
“Grave Dancers Union” would go on to be triple platinum and Soul Asylum became a part of music history. They followed the album up with “Let Your Dim Light Shine” which became platinum and produced the single “Misery.”
Soul Asylum has continued to release albums and tour, and last year, Pirner and crew gave us “Hurry Up and Wait.” Unfortunately, 2020 being what it was, they could not tour to promote the album.
“Hurry Up and Wait” has been called introspective and personal, and in similar sentiment, Pirner released the book, “Loud Fast Words.” With lyrics to all his songs, drawings, and commentary on albums (including the latest), it gives a very intimate look at the past 40 years of Pirner and Soul Asylum. Pirner does not hold back and addresses his depression, the stresses of success with Soul Asylum, parenthood, divorce, and so much more. Highly recommend!
The band is also celebrating the 15th anniversary of “The Silver Lining” by releasing an EP with four previously unreleased live tracks and a new song, “Stand Up and Be Strong.” The new EP is available now.



Traci: I hear a rumor that you’re going out on the road, sir.
Dave: Yes, we are indeed.
Traci: You released “Hurry Up and Wait” in 2020, but then the world shut down. What did you do last year while you were stuck?
Dave: Well, a lot of cleaning of the house. A lot of wearing of the sweatpants. Me and Ryan did a hundred original songs that we streamed out live. We did a thing at the studio where we recorded the record, where we played a whole set and streamed it live. We did a thing at First Avenue with no audience and streamed that live. We are pretty well into the making of the next record.
Traci: You also had the book come out at the same time last year, which from a personal standpoint, I absolutely love when songwriters share what inspired them.
Dave: Thank you. I don’t know how much I missed as I’ve never been on a book tour, but I should have done that.
Traci: Right before the pandemic, you were touring with Local H. Is this tour a continuation of that?
Dave: Well, we are going back out with Local H, and we got Juliana Hatfield, which is exciting. We know the guys in Local H; we wouldn’t have gone out with them again if they were jerkoffs. And they are jerkoffs, but they’re really high-quality jerkoffs. (laughing) I’m kidding. I love those guys. We got on really great and they’re pretty low maintenance. They’ve got a good sense of humor, so that’s a win-win. And oddly enough, people seem to like them. (laughing)
Traci: Your tour kicks off in Indiana on August 1st, and I’ll be seeing you about a month into the tour in the Nashville area.
Dave: I love Nashville and love the surrounding area. I have friends “in the biz,” so to speak, that moved to some place with a gazillion acres. They are 25 minutes away from their studio job in Nashville. It’s beautiful.
Traci: You are playing outdoors, at a fairly new brewery, in the dead center of Tennessee. It’s a really pretty area and you will have a good show there.
Dave: I hope so. I hope so. There’s so many musicians in Nashville. It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s a good place to visit. It’s just, there’s a lot of players. I feel like I’m never good enough when I play in Nashville for some reason. I mean, I know the reason!
Traci: Nah, I think you’re good enough!
Dave: I moved to New Orleans and that was 18 years of I’m either going to get better at making music or I’m going to fucking quit. I’m going to move to New Orleans and see if I can just learn things. And, you know, it’s Jazz Town. I grew up a trumpet player and my trumpet playing did get a little bit better, but it’s still terrible. (laughing) And there’s not a lot of loud rock bands. So I love going to Broadway (downtown Nashville’s popular music strip) and just watching the guitar slingers. It’s really something else. Just amazing, amazing players.
Traci: I think you can hold your own!
Dave: Well, thanks. I appreciate it.
Traci: I was pleasantly surprised to see that you will do the VIP packages because I know there is COVID, but fans want to have that personal experience with you.  
Dave: Yeah. I could never quite figure it out. I learned a lot from Dolly Parton. I read her autobiography, and it really changed my paradigm of how you’re supposed to treat people that come to your shows, because I was I was kind of shy around, quote unquote, fans and stuff. I don’t know, something about reading that book made me go, “God damn it, Dave, show some fucking appreciation!” Not a lot of kissing and hugging on this one, but because there is no kissing and hugging, I like to really press the flesh, so I don’t know what we’re going to do. Elbow each other. We’ll see.  
Traci: Hopefully, since it’s outdoors, it could just be a roped off tent or something.
Dave: Yeah, it’s confusing for everyone, but my tour manager says to me, “Well, there’s going to be a barrier in front of the stage.” I hate that! I like it when people can come up front, and I didn’t understand it. She said, “It’s the spittle, Dave. You can’t spit all over people. It’s just not cool.” That had not crossed my mind!
Traci: So we are being protected from you!
Dave: Yea, no spittle-ing on each other!
Traci: Well, there goes my plans! Who will be with you on tour?
Dave: It’s Ryan, Michael, and Jeremy Tappero. It’s a good band and I’m sometimes pretty impressed at practice. So like, we don’t suck!
Traci: You guys have been able to get together there a few times?
Dave: Yeah, we kind of started practicing on a regular basis; I guess we’re going to call it “pre-vaccination.” Everybody got vaccinated and then, “Oh wow, let’s practice.” So that was cool. That’s how I spent my birthday – at practice – because we had not been practicing for so long, and it was like, “What do you want to do for your birthday?” I want to get together with the band. I don’t even see those guys anymore and this not being around them at all, and then suddenly in very tight quarters with them… I don’t think so, you kind of can ease into it.
Traci: But hey, now you guys are vaxxed and ready to tour! Did you drive your roommate crazy by being home all year?
Dave: I certainly did. I’m sure he counted on me not being here at all. That’s usually the benefit of living with me. He’s in a band too, called Run Westy Run. A couple of weird old dudes, walking around the house in slippers.
Traci: What kind of slippers? The kind with fluffy dogs on them?

Dave: I actually got some leather slippers, uhhh, yup, they are UGGs. They’re very durable leather slippers. You could definitely wear them to the grocery store and no one would notice.
Traci: When did you last go out?
Dave: They (Run Westy Run) played last Sunday and it was just great to see everybody out again. They played outside and it was perfect day. I saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen for a long time. It’s cool to see people just seeing each other and getting caught up.
Traci: And sometimes there’s hugs.
Dave: There was even hugs. I know, it’s amazing. I still don’t know what to do because it’s even weirder than ever, because some men just don’t hug. So, you kind of go in for the hug and then they stick their hand out for the handshake. Now it’s like you get a fist or an elbow or something.
Traci: We are all socially awkward now and it’s ok!
Dave: Yes and it’s interesting, right? Just a little more. But it’s not like we’ve not always been sort of… just to qualify it. (laughing)
Traci: I have certainly been awkward for years! Are you guys are going to have more tour dates added?
Dave: We’re going to keep playing shows until everyone’s sick of us because that’s what we do. We’re going to finish this record we’re working on. I suppose that’s a little part of it. We really got ahead of steam going on making this record. And I even sent a song out to L.A. to get it mixed and blah, blah, blah, things were rolling. We were recording in my basement and at our practice space and doing everything ourselves. And then it’s like, “Oh, God, we’ve got a tour,” and there’s a part of me that’s like, “Shit, that’s going stop progress on the record.” (laughing)
Dave Pirmer (L) | Dan Murphy (R) of Soul Asylum 1992 | Photo by Catherine McGann/Getty Images
Traci: Well, then you just get it done real quick, and then, you’re on the road forever.
Dave: That’s the game, and does not get any easier. It’s a little more sanitary, I suppose. I was explaining this to somebody, and it’s pretty gross, but I’m wearing my whatever, my bus shorts, and then I gotta change into my gig pants, and there’s no place to go but an outhouse. And this experience for me has been just profound, especially because I wrote a song about going to an outhouse – I had just thought of that just now. But anyway, there I am and it’s 100 degrees out in this plastic thing. You know that portable outhouse is just so fucking hot, and the floor is covered with… stuff. I’m standing on top of my shoes, trying to put my pants on, and I’m sweating and I haven’t even gone on stage yet. So that’s a little bit of bitching for no particular reason.
Traci: That’s the glamour of touring! I have several friends who have said they can’t wait to see you, and then reading comments on your social media. You have quite a few excited people ready for a show!
Dave: All right. That’s what I like to hear!
Traci: There’s the new album, “Hurry Up and Wait,” your new book, “Loud Fast Words,” the EP, new album material, and the tour. What else?
Dave: And we haven’t worked for a year, so be nice to us! (laughing)
Traci: Music fans have missed you and I think everyone will be nice and excited to see you!
Dave: I am looking forward to it!
Once again, many thanks to Dave for our entertaining call and I look forward to celebrating Team Pirner/Turner in person!
Joining Pirner on the road  is Ryan Smith (guitar), Jeremy Tappero (bass), and Michael Bland (drums). If you do not see a date near you, do not panic… more dates are coming soon!






ocmn 2021


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