Jon Wurster is like the indie-punk version of Max Fischer’s eccentric character from the movie Rushmore. He has many bands and projects but, unlike Max, his ventures actually are good and work out well. When Bill Murray’s character asked Max Fischer what his secret was, Max replied, “The secret? I don’t know. I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s going to Rushmore.” For Jon Wurster, it’s playing the drums. Bob Mould, Superchunk, Mountain Goats, and all the fans are better off for it.
Jon will be living it up playing drums with Bob Mould this Saturday at the Current’s Minnesota Music-on-a-Stick concert at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand. I asked him about playing the Great Minnesota Get-Together and all of his various musical and comedic activities.
You are playing with Bob Mould at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Have you played the State Fairgrounds before?
Jon Wurster: Never played there but have been there once, with my former girlfriend, Angie. She grew up in Hibbing and took me to the state fair once. It’s a real hoot.
Are you excited to be playing Minnesota’s Red Rocks?
Very. Just hope they have room for our white flags.
Will the band be engaging in the local culture of eating everything on a stick?
We can only hope so!
One of Bob’s high watermarks is his classic album with Sugar, Copper Blue. The new album, Beauty and Ruin, is on par with Copper Blue and Hüsker Dü’s Flip Your Wig in terms of the band’s energy and songwriting. How did these songs and the recording of the new album evolve?
Bob had rough demos of the songs, most without vocals. We had a few days to listen to them, but not fully learn them. And that was great because we didn’t overthink them when we recorded them. There’s a nice excitement to the playing that might have gotten squashed had we known exactly what we were doing!
Bob Mould is undoubtedly one of the originators of punk and indie rock. It must have been like getting the call from the Beatles or Led Zepplin to play for the big boys. Do you still sometimes wake up and pinch yourself?
Absolutely. But I always say it’s like playing with John Lennon. Those Hüsker Dü records were and remain such a huge part of my musical education and to get to play those songs live is a real thrill. To say nothing of the rest of his songs in his canon.
Bob praised you in his book for bringing new energy to the band and the last two albums with this lineup are some of his best work. Can you guys keep making excellent records and playing fun concerts for a while?
That is certainly the plan.
Are there any secret to the great band chemistry?
I think you really need to understand that you will be essentially living with your bandmates 24/7 while you are on the road. And thusly, you need to allow each other a lot of space and respect. And, most essentially, you have to get along. There is nothing worse than hating your bandmates. I’m very lucky to play with such nice people.
The See A Little Light tribute that’s been playing on TV is wonderful. You rocked the heck out of the guitar on “New Day Rising” with Dave Grohl on drums and had many special guests. How was that night?
That was the most I have played the drums in a 24 hour period. We rehearsed a lot the day before and then ran through the whole show at least once the day of the show. By the time we played I was so exhausted, just running on adrenalin, I was incapable of being nervous. It was definitely a life highlight.
Do you prefer playing outside at a festival or a smaller indoors venues?
I like the big outdoor and indoor ones, honestly. The small clubs are fun in terms of energy, but it’s so loud in those small rooms that my hearing really suffers after the fact. I feel like I have a steam engine between my ears.
The new video for “I Don’t Know You Anymore” and the last few Bob Mould and Superchunk videos have been hilarious. In Superchunk’s “Crossed Wires,” you get mugged by a cat. Are you planning a fallback career in acting?
Oh, you’ll see.
You and Bob Mould bassist Jason Narducy worked with Bob Pollard. How was that playing with a golden god?
We played with Bob after GBV broke up, on the tours for his first two Merge solo albums. It was a blast. What can you say about him. He’s an incredibly funny guy. He’s one of the greatest songwriters of my generation. His songs are, besides being brilliant pop songs, often complex prog songs. His and the New Pornographers’ songs were the hardest I ever had to learn I played with them in the fall of 2007. It was a thrill to get to play with Robert Pollard.
You are part of a comedy duo with Tom Scharpling and had a longtime radio show together. Are you guys still working together?
Lots of stuff coming down the pike from Scharpling & Wurster, for sure.
You also play drums for the Mountain Goats. Are there any plans for another album and/or tour with them?
New Mountain Goats album will be out in early spring of 2015.
I know you’re a fan of rock n roll autobiographies. I read the unintentionally hilarious Peter Criss one after you posted about it. Thanks for that. What’s the last one you read?
I do think Bob Mould’s book is on the very top shelf of rock autobiographies. I’m not just saying that because I make a couple appearances in it. It has so many layers to it and you don’t want to put it down. The Peter Criss one is pure insanity. I just read Dennis McDougal’s Dylan book and I liked it. Looking forward to Kim Gordon’s next year.
Everyone has a autobiography these days. Is there any chance for a Jon Wurster book?
I will definitely do one at some point. I feel I have more living to do.
See Jon Wurster drumming with Bob Mould this Saturday, August 30 at Minnesota Music-on-a-Stick in the State Fair Grandstand; full lineup and set times here.