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"We went into a nice studio in suburban Atlanta," Mould says. "We spent three weeks there and got absolutely nothing we wanted out of it. There were a lot of technical problems, a lot of spiritual problems. I think as a producer I was being a little too particular about what I perceived the end result of the music should be."
Mould and Barbe wound up at serious odds over the way the sessions were sounding. The recording effort was further affected when word came of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Mould says he wasn't especially close to Cobain. But he says Cobain's death brought back memories of the 1987 suicide of Hsker D's office manager, an incident that greatly accelerated the demise of D. Of Cobain's death, Mould says, "It was a bummer that that shit happened when we were struggling in the studio. But I don't think we can attribute this record to just that. I just think it was one of several bad things that happened in Atlanta."
Mould decided to erase the Atlanta tapes. He and the band started all over again at a studio closer to Mould's new home in Texas. The change in atmosphere, along with what Mould calls an "attitude shift," saved the life of the CD and the band.
"As opposed to making a dry, clean, correct and clinical studio record, we took more of a live approach," Mould says. "And we got better performances. Maybe technically they're not better. But I think the end result is more fluid."
Mould says life itself has been more fluid since he moved to Austin last year. Mould had bolted from Minneapolis after Hsker D died. He spent the next four years in New York City, which he says helped revitalize him. But he says the Big Apple never felt like home. He remembers returning from long touring schedules and still feeling like he was on the road.
"New York has a way of pressuring you all the time," Mould says. "You're always waiting in lines. A lot of time's just eaten up waiting for the train, waiting on the freeway, waiting at the post office, whatever. I don't really have that here. I have a lot more time to get work done."
Work for Mould revolves around writing songs, something he says he does by "exploring a notion as unconsciously as possible." Mould also keeps busy producing CDs for other bands, like Magnapop, the opening act on Sugar's current tour.
"I've got to really, really believe in what the band is trying to say musically if I'm going to work with them," Mould says. "There's got to be some kind of spiritual connection. The process is like directing traffic. It's like being a therapist, too. It's like a lot of things."
Mould keeps an equally analytical eye on Sugar's development. He says the past two and a half years have seen a steady rise in pressure for the band to hit big. That pressure's compounded, Mould says, because Sugar was initially intended to simply be a vehicle for "three people to get together and enjoy playing music."
That's all changed now.
"If you have a successful record," Mould says, "the temptation is always there to try and emulate that success. As a band, we're feeling that now. We're wondering how much of a life all this has. Because it's all emulation. We've set a standard and we just continue to run it.