Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum



“This is where the anti-magic happens,” Dave Pirner says as he lopes into his longtime studio at City Sound in northeast Minneapolis.

With his stringy, dirty blond hair, the 53-year-old Soul Asylum frontman looks like an aged teen who slept in his clothes and fell into unlaced black high tops with the tongues sticking out. Red boxers bulge out of his ripped-knee jeans. The newest item of apparel on him is probably his T-shirt from the Pinball Bar (est. 2017). His body is still boyishly lanky but his unshaved face is lined and ruddy.

The space is depressing: windowless and crowded with mic stands and snare drums, lit with too few fluorescent bulbs, musty-smelling. One wall is packed with file boxes and a Barack Obama cut-out. A demented rabbit piñata hangs from the ceiling. Covering the other walls are two backdrops painted on canvas, one of the background from the Grave Dancers Union album. The scent of pot and sounds of another band practicing waft in from an adjacent studio.

Pirner has come a long way since his days as a 31-year-old dreadlocked, pissing-in-a-vase, Winona Ryder-dating dude who told Rolling Stone, “I would like to have the coup of just having been in a great rock band that nobody cares about anymore.”

Or maybe he hasn’t. Maybe he’s come full circle. He doesn’t urinate on or in anything during this interview, but he does (unintentionally) moon me when he bends over to search for a pack of Parliament cigarettes in his overcoat pocket, ashes said cigs on the dishwater-colored carpet even though there is an ashtray within reach, and, when asked what he does during his downtime, replies, “Jerk off.” He’s still foul-mouthed and, he says, “fucking pissed as shit about everything.”

And yet, on this snowy Wednesday afternoon, Pirner seems deeply relaxed. Sitting cross-legged on a folding chair, he avoids eye contact. His voice is low, slow, and gravelly as he explains that he’s been spending more time in “fuckin’ Uptown” lately due to his recent divorce from the mother of his 14-year-old son, Eli.

“There was a certain sense of ‘a kid should have a mom and a dad and I guess they should be married,’” Pirner says of his decision to wed. “It didn’t really make any difference to me one way or the other, to be honest with you. I don’t really have any regrets. I tried my hardest and I sucked at it. That’s probably why I didn’t want to get married. I knew I wouldn’t be good at it.”

Pirner is unable to articulate what being “good” or “bad” at marriage looks like. When asked what prompted the divorce, he laughs and says, “You might have to ask my ex about that. I don’t know.”

Pirner lived in New Orleans for the past 16 years, and his ex-wife and son are still there. “The biggest thorn in my side is that I miss my kid,” he says. “It is very difficult to be on the road and have a family. At least, for me. Which I put off, like, forever. It came very late in my life that I had a family. And I don’t anymore.”

Perhaps no marriage could have competed with Pirner’s lifelong love for music. Pirner was raised by a “jazz hound” father with fantasies of becoming Gene Krupa and a mother who gave up her artistic dreams to care for the family. Pirner recalls that she could “play the fuck” out of “The Third Man Theme” on piano and had buckets of 45s in the basement. His parents sang in church and gifted him a toy drum set when he was little. In elementary school, he took up the trumpet, and he started his first punk band, the Shitz, in 1980 while attending West High School.

He formed Loud Fast Rules with guitarist Dan Murphy and bassist Karl Mueller a year later; initially the drummer, Pirner stepped up front once Pat Morley took over behind the kit. Renamed Soul Asylum, the band helped power the Minneapolis rock scene to national acclaim in the ’80s. While scene-mates the Replacements and Hüsker Dü had disbanded before the early-’90s alt-rock boom, Soul Asylum landed on Columbia, where their 1992 album Grave Dancers Union went multi-platinum and its hit single “Runaway Train” became inescapable. The band played at President Bill Clinton’s request twice in 1993: at the Inaugural Ball and later that year on the South Lawn of the White House. Soul Asylum made the late-night show rounds and graced covers of Rolling Stone in 1993 and 1995. They played nearly 300 shows a year.

And yet, looking back, Pirner describes the band’s glory days as a “shit show” and a “calamity of craziness.” He’d get butterflies before performances, then would “scream like a motherfucker” onstage and insult the audience. “Every show was like a fight,” he says. “When you’re coming from punk rock, you’re a fuck-up pretty much. You’re an outsider. I had such a huge defense mechanism when I started out that I just fucking hated everything. That was sort of the rationale for pushing forward. We used to just go, ‘We’re going to make everybody hate us.’ And that’s kind of what you do: piss people off.”

But somehow, Soul Asylum survived. Now, 36 years and 12 albums later, Pirner is the only remaining original member. (The band’s current lineup is rounded out by guitarist Ryan Smith, bassist Winston Roye, and drummer Michael Bland.) “It just seems seasoned and beat up and pushed around and chewed up and spit out and it’s been through a lot of shit,” Pirner says of Soul Asylum’s music today. “That just gives it that much more character and history and wisdom.”

Pirner doesn’t aim to enrage the audience anymore; he’d rather invoke joy—even if that means playing “Runaway Train” for the umpteenth time. “You don’t want people coming to a Soul Asylum show and going, ‘Wow. Those dudes look tired and old,’” Pirner says.

But the life of a touring musician can be hell on relationships. Pirner doesn’t get to see his “beautiful boy” as often as he’d like, though his admiration for Eli is obvious. He describes his son as “pretty fuckin’ evolved.” He’s fluent in French, is a food snob, likes to freestyle on drums, and is a hip-hop fan who introduced Pirner to the music of Kendrick Lamar. Still, Pirner remembers how heartbreaking it was to hear his son say, “I’m used to you being gone.”

In the absence of father-son bonding, there’s music, which Pirner calls his best friend. “It’s the blood that runs through me,” he says. “I kind of can’t live without it. If that’s unhealthy, so be it. I’d fuckin’ die for this shit. I don’t give a fuck.”

Originally published in the December 27, 2017 issue of City Pages.

Erica Rivera Interviews Artists of the Year


Erica Rivera interviewed photographer Bobby Rogers, novelist Emily Fridlund, and poet Bao Phi about their 2017 accomplishments for the Artists of the Year issue of City Pages. Read their profiles here.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Erica Rivera Reports on Treehouse Records Closing


Erica Rivera spoke to Treehouse Records owner Mark Trehus about substance abuse, his new marriage, and the decision to close the fabled Minneapolis record shop. Read the piece in the December 22, 2017 issue of the Star Tribune's Variety section or online here.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Lizzo


Erica Rivera asked hip-hop artist Lizzo about her New Year's Eve traditions for City Pages. Read the Q&A online here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Jenny Zigrino


Erica Rivera asked Minnesota-raised comedian Jenny Zigrino about sexual harassment in comedy, her thoughts on Senator Al Franken's resignation, and how she became a "confident fat girl." Read the piece on City Pages here.

(Photo by Phil Provencio.)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Anton Treuer


Erica Rivera visited Ojibwe professor Anton Treuer at Bemidji State University to discuss his new book The Indian Wars. Read the piece in the January 2018 issue of Cowboys and Indians magazine or online here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Big Cats


Erica Rivera spoke to beat-maker Spencer Wirth-Davis, better known as Big Cats, about his experience teaching music to incarcerated teens and his philosophy that how we spend our time defines who we are. Read the piece in the December 6, 2017 issue of City Pages or online here.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Erica Rivera Profiles Assist the Resistance


Erica Rivera spoke to Zach and Emily Rodvold, founders of Assist the Resistance, a progressive apparel and product line. Read about how they merged Zach's political experience and Emily's graphic design talents to create the company on City Pages here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Erica Rivera Dines with Good Diction


Erica Rivera was invited to a home-cooked dinner by Minneapolis-based band Good Diction. Read about how this sextet is establishing unique musical traditions like pre-rehearsal meals in the November 29, 2017 issue of City Pages or online here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Erica Rivera Reviews Louise Erdrich Novel


Erica Rivera reviewed Louise Erdrich's latest novel, Future Home of the Living God. Is it a must-read or a watered-down version of The Handmaid's Tale? Find out on City Pages here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Rep. Peggy Flanagan


Erica Rivera interviewed Ojibwe Rep. Peggy Flanagan about her advocacy efforts for people of color and indigenous people, her role at the Minnesota House of Representatives, and her run for lieutenant governor. Read the profile on The Riveter here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Erica Rivera Profiles Sean Sherman of The Sioux Chef for City Pages Cover Story


Erica Rivera followed Chef Sean Sherman, founder of The Sioux Chef, to the food desert of White Earth Reservation to learn about how he's revitalizing indigenous diets. Read the cover story in the November 15, 2017 issue of City Pages or online here.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Erica Rivera Reviews Dead Man Winter Concert


Erica Rivera reviewed Dead Man Winter's latest sold-out show at the Turf Club. Did Dave Simonett's Americana side project inspire or disappoint? Find out on City Pages here.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Sarah Morris


Erica Rivera interviewed country artist Sarah Morris about the secrets to an enduring marriage, letting yourself be chased, and her new album, Hearts in a Need of Repair. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Lady Midnight


Erica Rivera interviewed Picked 2 Click finalist Lady Midnight (a.k.a. Adriana Rimpel) about her musical pedigree and the unexpected path to her current solo project. Read the piece on City Pages here.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews DJ Jason Nagel


Erica Rivera spoke to DJ Jason Nagel about his recent cancer diagnosis and a fundraising concert at the Turf Club that will help pay for his medical expenses. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Angela Two Stars


Erica Rivera spoke to Angela Two Stars, an artist and enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, about her sidewalk stamping at Lake Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun). Read how and why she incorporates the Dakota language into her art on City Pages here.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Erica Rivera Reviews Tegan and Sara


Erica Rivera attended Tegan and Sara's November 3rd show at the State Theater. The twin sisters played The Con in its entirety and called out a misogynistic fan. Read the review on City Pages here.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Erica Rivera Previews Sift Gluten Free


Erica Rivera stopped by Sift Gluten Free, a new bakery opening in south Minneapolis this month. Read more about its owner, Molly Miller, on City Pages here.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Film Director Dave Ash


Erica Rivera met up with screenwriter and film director Dave Ash to talk about the real-life experiences that informed the mental health and relationship narratives in his new film Twin Cities. Read the piece in the October 22, 2017 edition of the Star Tribune's Variety section or online here.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Jon Wipfli


Erica Rivera spoke to author and chef Jon Wipfli about hunting, processing, and preparing deer. Read the Q&A about his new cookbook Venison on City Pages here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Erica Rivera Previews New Sisters' Sludge Location


Erica Rivera visited the new Sisters' Sludge location in Minneapolis and spoke to the triplets/owners about their cafe's evolution. Read the piece on City Pages here.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Daniel Handler


Erica Rivera spoke to author Daniel Handler (also known by pen name Lemony Snicket) about sexually aggressive women, predatory men, and his new book All the Dirty Parts. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Alex Lemon


Erica Rivera asked author Alex Lemon about the ongoing battle with his body and his intense new memoir Feverland. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews The Blacksmith's Daughters


Erica Rivera met with sisters Julida Alter and Annella Platta to learn about the harrowing family history behind their band The Blacksmith's Daughters. Read the piece in the October 6, 2017 issue of the Star Tribune or online here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Christine Clayburg


Erica Rivera spoke to meteorologist-turned-combat airlift loadmaster Christine Clayburg about her latest career transition -- from the Air National Guard to screenwriting -- and about how filmmaking helps her manage PTSD. Read the piece on City Pages here.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Jen Kirkman (Again!)


Erica Rivera caught up with comedian Jen Kirkman and asked her about catcalling, self-care, and finding inspiration in Matthew McConaughey. Read the new Q&A on City Pages here. Revisit the 2016 interview here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Erica Rivera Profiles Trivia Mafia


In her debut for The Growler Magazine, Erica Rivera interviewed Trivia Mafia founders Sean McPherson and Chuck Terhark about the game company's winning strategies for growth. Read the piece in the October 2017 issue or online here.

(Photo Credit: Zoe Prinds-Flash.)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Caroline Smith (Again!)


A lot has changed for singer-songwriter Caroline Smith since the last time Erica Rivera interviewed her in 2012. Catch up with the now single and Los Angeles-based empowerment pop artist in a new Q&A for City Pages here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Dan Wilson



Erica Rivera met with Grammy Award-winning songwriter Dan Wilson to discuss his new album Re-Covered and his collaborations with artists like Adele and Taylor Swift. Read the piece in the September 20, 2017 print issue of City Pages or online here.

(Photo Credit: Noah Lamberth.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Alex Schaaf


Erica Rivera spoke to musician Alex Schaaf about disbanding Yellow Ostrich, his new solo project Human Heat, and the breakup that inspired his latest album All Is Too Much. Read more on City Pages here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Author Matt Goldman


Erica Rivera spoke to Seinfeld writer Matt Goldman about his Minnesota-centric crime novel Gone to Dust. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Anne Collier



Erica Rivera spoke to photographer Anne Collier about her new exhibition Women with Cameras and the ways social media changed how we take self-portraits. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

(Photo Credit: Anne Collier, Selected slide from Women with Cameras (Self Portrait), 2017, 35mm slides, 35mm slide projector, pedestal stand, and base, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; Galerie Neu, Berlin; The Modern Institute/ Toby Webster Ltd., Glasgow; Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles © Anne Collier.)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Charlie Parr for City Pages Cover


Erica Rivera met up with roots musician Charlie Parr in Duluth for an in-depth interview about his experience with depression and suicidal thoughts. Read the cover story in the September 6, 2017 issue of City Pages or online here.

(Photo by Nate Ryan.)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Danez Smith


Erica Rivera spoke to acclaimed poet Danez Smith about queer shame, violent love, and the new book Don't Call Us Dead. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

(Photo Credit: Hieu Minh Nguyen.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Corey Palmer


Erica Rivera spoke to musician Corey Palmer about the car accident that brought him back to music, writing from melancholy, and his 24-minute Heartache. Read the piece on City Pages here.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Jonathan Thunder


Erica Rivera spoke to Ojibwe artist Jonathan Thunder about his painting and animation aesthetic that combines comic book-style characters with Native symbolism and human-animal hybrids. Read the piece on City Pages here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Erica Rivera Profiles Aziz Osman


Erica Rivera interviewed refugee and painter Aziz Osman about the first Somali showcase at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Read the piece on City Pages here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Pornonono


Erica Rivera spoke to members of electropop band Pornonono about porn overload, sexual hang-ups, and repressed audiences for City Pages. Read the Q&A here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Chan Poling of the Suburbs


Erica Rivera sat down with Chan Poling, frontman for the Suburbs, to talk about the punk rock band's new album, his wife's death, and his lust for life. Read the feature in the August 2, 2017 issue of City Pages or online here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Claire de Lune of Tiny Deaths


Erica Rivera asked singer-songwriter Claire de Lune of dream-pop duo Tiny Deaths about breakups, misogyny in the music industry, and her sports obsession. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Joe Sinness


Erica Rivera asked artist Joe Sinness about how he incorporated cruising, cinema, and flora into his latest exhibition The Flowers. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews F. Scott Fitzgerald Scholar


Erica Rivera spoke to Dave Page, author of F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota. Read about the great American novelist's favorite haunts and homes in a Q&A for City Pages here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Melodie Bahan


Erica Rivera interviewed MNFilmTV executive director Melodie Bahan about her aspirations for the state's film and TV industry, her favorite Minnesota-made features, and her wish list for future productions. Read the Q&A in the Variety section of the July 16, 2017 edition of the Star Tribune or online here.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Bao Phi


Erica Rivera spoke to Vietnamese refugee and poet Bao Phi about Asian American anger, breakup poetry, and activism as it relates to his new book Thousand Star Hotel. Read the in-depth Q&A on City Pages here.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Erica Rivera Profiles Isabela Cruz


Erica Rivera spoke to Ecuadorian artist Isabela Cruz about her upcoming exhibition Aya. Read more about how her patterned scarves were inspired by the textiles of the indigenous Otavalo culture on City Pages here.

Erica Rivera Interviews Now, Now


Erica Rivera spoke to KC Dalager and Brad Hale of pop duo Now, Now about their extended hiatus, losing a band member, and honing their confident new sound. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Timisarocker


Erica Rivera spoke to Timisarocker frontman Tim Dooley about mental illness, staying sober, and being a black, gay musician in Minnesota. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

(Photo by Ricky Taylor.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Sammi Jones


Erica Rivera spoke to Derby Girl author Sammi Jones about coming out, alcoholism, and skating for the Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls team. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Erica Rivera Interviews Ariel Levy


Erica Rivera spoke to Ariel Levy about adultery, miscarriage, and her New York Times bestselling memoir The Rules Do Not Apply. Read the Q&A on City Pages here.