Your Friend, Karl Mueller 1963-2005
2005-06-23 @ 9:41 a.m.
You might forget that I'm older than most of you. To you, Soul Asylum was a band that played for the president and made a video about missing children. Which is sort of neither here nor there, but I can't really think of Soul Asylum as anything other than my band of choice in Minneapolis for years, the best show you could see, going to see Soul Asylum in 1988 was in a word, paradise. It was a great rock show frosted with a reunion of Mpls cats you never saw out enough.
Dave Ayers pushed Made to Be Broken into my hands in 1986 promising that if I didn't like it after I listened to it 10 times (which was my estimation on how many listenings brought Zen Arcade from scary to being my favorite) he would give me my money back AND buy me a milkshake. Then he paused and decided that I'd better write him a review after the first and tenth listening.
It only took maybe 3 listens before I was sold on the record. I dropped off my "review" (handwritten on notebook paper, no copies saved) at the record store and wasn't sure Dave had even read it until the day my friend Mike told me that Danny Murphy (Soul Asylum's guitarist) was carrying it around in his back pocket.
Thus began my career as a published rock fan. Because really- years of fanzine writing don't really make you a writer as much as a taste-maker/loud fan. I never wrote about stuff to criticize it usually- I was all about being a fan. My enthusiasm was contagious because it was usually funny and smart. Funny and smart are irresistible, right?
Soul Asylum was my favorite band from 1986 until about 1992, when seeing them live started to be less fun because you had to worry more about being crushed. So much of that was Karl Mueller their bass player. When we interviewed Danny Murphy and Karl for Hunk o' Junk lifting questions from Madonna's interview with Rolling Stone, it couldn't have been funnier- Karl especially would make up a hilarious response to questions as if they were valid, and he never missed a beat. I wish I still had a copy of that, more than any other issue of Hunk o' Junk.
Soul Asylum to me is being 17. Having nothing but promise before me. They embodied the late day sun that was shining at the Twin/Tone softball games Moll and I went to the spring of 1986. Maggie MacPhereson (booking agent at the Uptown bar for its glory years) had to take off all her jewelry to bat, and no one even thought of asking Karl to. And then when Karl hit the ball it was insanely funny to see if he could make first base without his really baggy jeans falling down.
He died so fast. It was like air leaving a balloon, all gone before you even know it and certainly before you can even think of how to stop it. It probably didn't feel that way to people closer to him than I am, and I keep thinking about them. Today though, the day before I'm turning 37, I feel like Karl was my youth. Luckily, I have a million memories to take me back.
Listen to Soul Asylum's best stuff right now for me- Hang Time ("Sometime to Return" and "Cartoon" are my faves), Made to Be Broken ("Never Really Been" and "Can't Go Back") or While You Were Out ("Closer to the Stars")