‘Runaway Train’ stops at Mohegan Sun

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First Posted: 8/18/2014

Alternative rockers Soul Asylum, best known for 1992’s No. 5 hit “Runaway Train” and that same year’s three-times platinum “Grave Dancers Union” album, actually got its start in Minneapolis as a band called Loud Fast Rules in 1981. Back then, Dave Pirner was a drummer.

After “Grave Dancers” came 1995’s “Let Your Dim Light Shine” and 1998’s “Candy from a Stranger,” before Pirner (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Dan Murphy (lead guitar), Karl Mueller (bass) and drummer Sterling Campbell (who had replaced Grant Young in 1995) took a hiatus.

In May 2004, Mueller was diagnosed with throat cancer and the band came back together to play a benefit and record the album “The Silver Lining.” Mueller died in June 2005, and the album came out in 2006.

In late 2005, Tommy Stinson (formerly of The Replacements) came on board on bass, as did former Prince drummer Michael Bland. The lineup of Pirner, Murphy, Stinson and Bland released one album together, 2012’s “Delayed Reaction.”

In November 2012, Winston Roye took over on bass and Justin Sharbono replaced lead guitarist Murphy, and the band released the EP “No Fun Intended” in 2013.

The band, which just finished up the “Summerland” tour with Everclear, Eve 6 and Spacehog, is taking time out from recording a new album to play at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on Saturday, Aug. 23.

After a few failed attempts to connect with Pirner to discuss the current goings-on with Soul Asylum, we settled for a short e-mail exchange.

Weekender: How many dates do you play in a year these days? Are they more full tours like the Summerland one you just finished, or are you doing more one-offs like the show at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs?

Pirner: These days we’re touring more. We just finished Summerland and before that we toured with Evan Dando and Fountains Of Wayne. Now that the new record is finished, the band is good to go and we expect to be doing a lot more touring in the next few years.

Weekender: Tell us about your new album and when we can expect it. Will we hear any of the new material at the show?

Pirner: We won’t be doing any songs from the upcoming record at the Mohegan Sun show, but you can expect the new record to come out early in the new year.

Weekender: How did you get involved with “Songs For Slim” (an album benefiting former Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap, who recently suffered a stroke).

Pirner: Well, Slim was my guitar hero when I was coming up. Slim’s wife gave Soul Asylum our first show at the 7th Street Entry. As soon as I heard about Slim’s condition I wanted to help in any way I could. I ended up cutting two songs, one in Los Angeles and one in Minneapolis with my brother.

Weekender: Tell us about the song you did as The Happy Roosters. Was that the first time you have recorded with your brother? (Pirner did a one-off single of “Cooler Then,” which also benefits Dunlap, with his brother Paul on vocals and bass.)

Pirner: It was the first time I recorded with my brother. It was a cool experience because we have a mutual admiration for Slim.

Weekender: Michael has been with Soul Asylum for a while, but Winston and Justin are pretty new, do you feel the new guys have brought a new energy to Soul Asylum?

Pirner: Absolutely. There’s positive energy and it’s fresh, and loaded with potential. I feel like we’ve assimilated now and we’re good to go. Michael reinforced the backbone of the band like we’ve never had before. I love this band.

Weekender: What is a Soul Asylum show like these days? What can we expect at the MSPD show?

Pirner: It’s a lot more consistent these days, we don’t fuck up as much. For the MSPD show, you can expect the band to pull out some songs we haven’t done in a while because of the shorter set we did on the Summerland Tour.

Weekender: What do you have planned for the near future?

Pirner: More of the same old shit, making records and playing gigs. Also, I’m doing a folk music festival in Halifax later this month, where I’ll be doing a workshop for songwriters.