Best known as the singer and frontman for top-selling alternative rockers Soul Asylum, Dave Pirner has also displayed a more soulful and contemplative side in his burgeoning solo career. Pirner was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin on April 16, 1964. In 1981, Pirner was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and had been bitten by the punk rock bug; he'd learned to play the drums, and started a band with friends Dan Murphy (on guitar) and Karl Mueller (on drums) called Loud Fast Rules. By 1984, Pirner had moved from drums to rhythm guitar and lead vocals (Grant Young took over behind the traps), and the band had moved far enough away from their strict hardcore aesthetic to prompt a name change to Soul Asylum. Noted for their sloppy but powerful sound and upfront sense of humor (including "punishing" unresponsive audiences with sets of oddball covers), Soul Asylum were regarded as second-stringers on the Minneapolis rock scene in their early years, but in time they got a bit more serious and won greater acclaim, and after releasing three albums, an EP, and a odds-and-ends cassette compilation on the independent Twin/Tone label, they were signed by A&M Records in 1988. Soul Asylum opted out of their deal with A&M after two acclaimed but poor-selling albums, but they hit pay dirt with their second major-label deal -- 1992's Grave Dancer's Union, released by Columbia, spawned a pair of hit singles, "Runaway Train" and "Black Gold," and the album went on to sell two million copies.
As Soul Asylum became more and more popular, Pirner began popping up as a guest artist on records by artists he admired, using his new fame to put the spotlight on performers he felt deserved greater attention. After Soul Asylum recorded a tune with Victoria Williams for the benefit album Sweet Relief, Pirner sang backup on several tracks of her album Loose, and helped her record a track for a Harry Nilsson tribute album; Pirner also lent his talents to albums by Mike Watt, Paul Westerberg, and the Autumn Defense, as well as producing sessions for Coup de Grace and Michal. He made a guest appearance on the first EP by Dan Murphy's side project Golden Smog, and returned to the drums to take part in his own secondary band, the O'Jeez, featuring Jessy Greene of the Geraldine Fibbers and the Jayhawks, and Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run (Johnson was also a fellow Golden Smog conspirator). In 1999, Pirner moved to New Orleans, Louisiana; Soul Asylum went on hiatus after they parted ways with Columbia Records following disappointing sales for the album Candy from A Stranger, and Pirner casually began work on a solo album, working with a group of musical friends (including Chris Whitley) during periodic sessions at Kingsway Studios. In 2002, Pirner's first solo album, a contemplative R&B influenced effort called Faces & Names, was released; that same year, Soul Asylum resumed touring, and the group blocked out plans for a new album in 2003. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi