Soul Asylum's bassist, Karl Mueller, dies at 41

Jon Bream, Star Tribune
June 18, 2005

Soul Asylum bassist Karl Mueller, a founding member of one of the Twin Cities' most popular and successful rock bands, died early Friday morning at his home in south Minneapolis. He was 41.

Mueller had been in and out of the hospital recently. His throat cancer was diagnosed in May 2004.

"Everyone was surprised it happened [Friday] morning," said Maggie Macpherson, a friend of Mueller's since 1980 and a longtime worker in the Twin Cities music scene. "We had all hoped he'd come through the worst. We knew his time would be shorter than hoped ... but he was due for surgery on Monday."

Macpherson was among the members of the local music community who gathered at Mueller's home Friday. Also there were Soul Asylum guitarist Dan Murphy, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of the Jayhawks, Lori Barbero of Babes in Toyland and singer-guitarist Kraig Jarrett Johnson, who along with bassist Jim Boquist had painted Mueller's house after he became ill.

Another longtime friend and local music maven, LeeAnn Weimar, said: "Karl was an intelligent guy and had a dry, sarcastic, sardonic wit. And he was a damn good cook. He and [his wife] Mary Beth liked to entertain. He was a really good friend."

Mueller was so well-liked in the local music community that an all-star benefit was held for him at the Quest nightclub in October last year, featuring an unprecedented lineup of 1980s and '90s Twin Cities rock luminaries including Paul Westerberg of the Replacements, Bob Mould and Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü, the reunited Gear Daddies and, of course, Soul Asylum, with Mueller participating in a full set of music.

"Even if I didn't know me, I wouldn't have missed this show for the world," Mueller said backstage that night.

It was his last gig, though he continued to work in the recording studio.

Soul Asylum completed a new album this year, with Mueller and new drummer Michael Bland. The band has been in negotiations to release it on a major label early next year.

The band's lead singer, Dave Pirner, who lives mostly in New Orleans, was en route to Minneapolis Friday night after learning of Mueller's death. Soul Asylum is expected to release a statement today.

"Karl was the person most likely to not be confused as a rock star," said Hart, a St. Paul singer-songwriter who played at last fall's benefit. "That word didn't ever work for Karl."

Said Minneapolis singer-songwriter Paul Metsa: "Karl was blue-collar and a barroom buddy in the best sense of the word. He had a tremendous work ethic. I will never forget seeing him on a Friday night on David Letterman and the following Monday working the kitchen at the Loon Bar and Café downtown."

As for Mueller's bass playing, Metsa called it "both deceptively effortless and incredibly powerful."

Said Hart: "It was never a flashy thing, but that was the core of his humility."

Pat Montague, owner of J.D. Hoyt's restaurant and bar, where Mueller's wife used to work, knew him "as a guy who did crossword puzzles at the bar every day. You'd never know he was in the music business. He was a down-to-Earth guy."

Mueller could often be seen walking his two Scottie dogs -- one black, one white -- around his south Minneapolis neighborhood. But he was famous for what he did with Soul Asylum for more than two decades.

From punk to prom

The Twin Cities quartet was a mainstay on the local scene since the mid-1980s, rising to national prominence in the early '90s with the hits "Black Gold" and "Runaway Train."

Mueller, Pirner and Murphy started together in 1981 as Loud Fast Rules before evolving into Soul Asylum in 1984 with the album, "Say What You Will Clarence ... Karl Sold the Truck" for Twin/Tone Records of Minneapolis.

At first, Soul Asylum played second banana on the local scene to the Replacements and Hüsker Dü. But after making three albums for Twin/Tone, it graduated to a major label, A&M, recording two more albums before moving to Columbia in '92 for "Grave Dancers Union," the quartet's biggest seller.

The band has released three more CDs for Columbia, the most recent being last year's live recording "After the Flood: Live from the Grand Forks Prom June 28, 1998."

In addition to his wife, Mary Beth, survivors include his mother, Mary. Funeral arrangements are pending.


Popular Posts