Soul man 

Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner on The Clintons, touring with Meat Puppets and where he keeps his Grammy

by Josher Lumpkin

Photo: Soul Asylum will perform with Meat Puppets at Oddbody’s Music Room on Nov. 7; photo: Michael L. Smith

If you came of age during the 1990s, and like me, you spent much of your misguided youth watching MTV, you couldn’t have missed it. A power ballad on the heaviest rotation, “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum probably defined the summer of ’93 in my living room.

And Soul Asylum is still at it. After the inevitable line-up changes and other, more tragic events, such as bassist Karl Mueller’s unfortunate death from cancer in 2005, sole remaining founding member, Dave Pirner, has taken the current incarnation of Soul Asylum out on the road. The string of shows in clubs and bars is being co-headlined with Meat Puppets.

It’s been a busy year for Pirner. He’s been recording a new album, Change of Fortune, and promoting preorders on Pirner took some time out of his busy schedule to talk on the phone from his home in New Orleans.

Are you old friends with the Meat Puppets?

Dave Pirner: Yeah, we go way back. It was funny, I was talking to Cris [Kirkwood, Meat Puppets bassist] for his radio blog, whatever those things are called… podcast, and he’s been reminding me of stuff that happened so long ago that I’d forgotten, or let it go or something. They’ve always been one of my favorite bands of all time, and frankly it’s humbling having them open for us. And yeah, they’re buddies. They’re all kind of mad geniuses to me, in a way.

Soul Asylum played at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. That made me wonder if you are a Hillary supporter.

DP: That’s a really good question because when Obama was running I fuckin’ really dug him, but for some reason, before they picked the candidates, I felt like I had to sort of support the Clintons because the Clintons supported me. [laughs] So I felt this very weird feeling like, “Oh man, they invited me over to the White House, they let me play at some events,” so, I don’t think you can really lose too much because I think you know what you’re dealing with. I mean, you can see how she’s trying to get out of this scandal thing and it’s like the Kennedys or something. It’s like watching Bill try to get out of a scandal, it’s just like, “Wow! These guys, they fuckin’…” I don’t know. [laughs] But, yeah. I mean, I probably lean towards Bernie Sanders if that’s kind of the answer you’re looking for.

If she’s elected, do you expect to be invited to play her inauguration as well?

DP: Well the only thing that’s gonna make that happen is Chelsea, because I think Chelsea got me the first gig, but she might go, “Well, why don’t you just stay with tradition.” Uh, seems kind of unlikely, but you never know, man. I’d certainly do it.

I was wondering, do you display your Grammy at home?

DP: [laughs] That’s really funny because I gave it to my mom, and it sat at my mom’s house for quite some time, and she displayed it fairly proudly. Hopefully she bragged about me at tea parties or whatever, and she passed it off to my son, and now it’s in my son’s room, and the other day we were in the car and somebody goes, “Well the next door neighbor who’s moving in used to be a professional baseball player” and Eli goes, “Oh yeah, well my dad won a Grammy.” It was funny. And I remember he brought it to show-and-tell at school, and his mother was handing it to him out the window of the car and it just seemed like she was going to toss it out the window. It’s a funny little bobble to have around, I guess.

Sure. So Dayton, Ohio, where I’m talking to you from, is the last stop on your tour, so how might a show at the end of your tour be different from a show at the beginning?

DP: Well, we’ve done two legs on this tour, east coast and west coast, and at the end of the east coast, in Poughkeepsie [New York], I wanted to switch up the show, and just do something crazy or do something special or do something different. The other guys in the band were like, “Dave, let’s not throw the script out now that it’s working,” and I like kept trying to go into a silly cover or something and they were just like “Meh. Nah.” So I’m trying to get a song together with the Meat Puppets, and hopefully we’ll have that going on by the time we get to Dayton. And yeah, I mean, I like it to be a little bit different but we get kind of locked in this going-from-one-song-to-another-really-quickly, and we get dug into the set list in a way that I always want to break that tension, but at the same time it really works. But if I started goofing off in the middle of the set, yeah they might follow me or I might just be off on an island goofing off, and they’ll be looking at me going, “What have you done?”

Soul Asylum will perform Saturday, Nov. 7 at Oddbody’s Music Room, 5418 Burkhardt Road, in Dayton. Meat Puppets, A Shade of Red and Able Danger are also on the bill. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door for patrons 18 and older. Doors at 7 p.m. For more information, please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Josher Lumpkin at

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Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at

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