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Soul Asylum Biography

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Birth Place: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Years Active: 1983-present
Genres: Alternative Rock

Soul Asylum is an American alternative rock band that formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1983. The group was an outgrowth of a previous band, Loud Fast Rules, formed in 1981 by drummer Dave Pirner, guitarist and backing vocalist Dan Murphy, and bassist Karl Mueller. Pirner was quickly moved to lead vocalist and guitarist and Pat Morley took his place.

As Loud Fast Rules, two of their songs were released on the 1992 Reflex Records cassette compilation “Barefoot and Pregnant.” On the following Reflex compilation, “Kitten” they were billed as Proud Crass Fools. Soul Asylum began performing around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and quickly developed a core following, and became known for their powerful, dynamic stage shows.

Their 1984 debut album, “Say What You Will... Everything Can Happen” was originally released on LP and cassette by local record label Twin/Tone as a nine song EP. This is since out-of-print, but was re-released on CD as “Say What You Will, Clarence...Karl Sold the Truck,” which included five additional tracks that were cut from the original album. Between the release of “Say What You Will” and their second album, Grant Young joined the group, taking over the drums from Morley. In 1986, Soul Asylum released three albums, “Made To Be Broken” followed by the cassette only release of “Time's Incinerator” and “While You Were Out.”

The group signed with A&M Records in 1988. Their first offering there was “Clam Dip & Other Delights” in 1989, a parody of A&M Records co-founder Herb Alpert's “Whipped Cream & Other Delights.” “Hang Time” was released in 1988, followed by “And the Horse They Rode in On” in 1990 (produced by X-pensive Winos drummer Steve Jordan). Due to poor sales and Pirner's hearing problems, the group considered disbanding.

After playing a series of acoustic shows in the early 1990s they were picked up by Columbia Records. In 1992 they released “Grave Dancers Union,” which became their most popular album. The album spent 76 weeks on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, peaking at #11 and was certified triple-platinum in 1993. Its single, “Runaway Train” reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.

On January 20, 1993, the group performed at the first inauguration of United States President Bill Clinton. The band added keyboard player Joey Huffman in the summer of 1993. Huffman toured with the band until joining Matchbox Twenty in 1998.

In 1994, Soul Asylum received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song for “Runaway Train.” The music video for "Runaway Train" featured photographs and names of missing children in a public service video style. At the end of the video, Pirner appeared and said “If you've seen one of these kids, or you are one of them, please call this number” before a missing children telephone helpline number appeared. For use outside the U.S., the video was edited to include photos and names of missing children from the area the video would be used. The video was instrumental in reuniting several children with their families.

Before their next studio album, Young was fired, and was replaced by Sterling Campbell. Their next release, “Let Your Dim Light Shine” saw the track “Misery” reach the Top 20, but the album was not as successful as the band's previous one. The group released “Candy from a Stranger” the following year. The album was unsuccessful and the band was dropped from Columbia Records' roster.

Pirner became friends with the film director Kevin Smith, a longtime Soul Asylum fan. Soul Asylum has contributed music to three Kevin Smith films, “Clerks,” “Clerks II” and 1997's “Chasing Amy” (in which Pirner provided the score).

In May 2004, bassist Mueller was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent treatment. In October 2004, a benefit concert was held for him in Minneapolis at The Quest nightclub, and featured many popular local groups and musicians, including Soul Asylum, the Gear Daddies, Paul Westerberg, and former Hüsker Dü bandmates Bob Mould and Grant Hart, who reunited for their first performance together in sixteen years. At the time, Mueller's cancer was in remission, and he played with his bandmates during the show.

Mueller recorded his last Soul Asylum album that year, 2006's “The Silver Lining.” However, the cancer later returned, and he died at his home on June 17, 2005. Soul Asylum released “The Silver Lining” in July 2006, their first album of new material in eight years since “Candy from a Stranger.”

In late 2005, ex-Replacements bassist (and current Guns N' Roses bassist) Tommy Stinson and former Prince drummer Michael Bland joined Soul Asylum. They completed their American tour in support of “The Silver Lining” in late 2006. Although Tommy Stinson is a permanent member, in 2006 and 2007 while on tour with Guns N' Roses his place was temporarily filled by George Scot McKelvy. During the 2010 Guns N' Roses world tour, his fill-in was Pete Donnelly.