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Fame: Dave Pirner

Soul Asylum went from being an underground band to mainstream rock stars. How did you cope with it?

You’re a deer caught in the headlights. And you can’t make too much fun of it because you’re also a part of it. But you see how shallow it can be, and you’re hanging on to your integrity by your fuckin’ pants.

Playing at Bill Clinton’s Presidential Inauguration must’ve been surreal.

The whole thing was such a kick. But we were still just a self-deprecating punk rock band. I tend to shy away when it gets a little more professional.

Is that why you didn’t show up to collect your Grammy Award for Runaway Train?

I don’t look at it as anything more than flattery. I gave that Grammy to my mother.

That kind of exposure must have brought you into contact with certain people.

I ran into Elton John at the Oscars. We looked at each other and it was this acknowledgement that we were both out of our element. The second time I ran into him was backstage at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He and Eric Clapton had a song called Runaway Train. I said: “Hey, you guys have a song with the same title as mine.” Elton said: “Aw, yours is better.” I can’t tell you how good that made me feel.

Any other brushes with rock star celebs?

Soul Asylum got to be the back-up band for Iggy Pop and Lou Reed at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. In the evening they were both sitting across from me for dinner. I’d ordered a beer and a glass of red wine and Iggy and Lou scolded me: “You shouldn’t mix beer and wine!” These two guys were lecturing me! I didn’t say anything, but it was pretty fucking funny.