Why Mother Love Bone Frontman Andrew Wood’s Stuff is Up for Sale

by on September 10, 2012

This souvenir Mother Love Bone Apple can be yours for the right price.

When a late celebrity’s personal items are brought to market, you can’t help but wonder what’s motivating the seller. Philanthropy? Greed? Desperation? In the case of Andrew Wood, the heart of pre-grunge-era bands Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone—never truly famous, if only because addiction intervened—it’s even more curious. Over two decades after his passing, a host of his possessions and creations recently appeared on the Malfunkshun site, billed as an estate sale.

The items up for grabs—handwritten lyrics and sketches; a very wacky, very Andy bass guitar; a stage-worn leather jacket; an apple used in MLB album art; basketball jerseys; more—are mostly unpriced. Interested parties are asked to email for more info. (Listed prices range from $200 to $1,200. Speculation has the guitar at around $20K.) Andy’s brother and Malfunkshun guitarist Kevin Wood is behind the sale.

Kevin revived the long-defunct band (as From the North) in 2007, with original drummer Regan Hagar and Brad vocalist Shawn Smith singing Andy’s lyrics. It was a nice live tribute to his late brother. But the act has continued on, churning through vocalists and players—most notably Regan, who’s distanced himself from the band. And an affecting documentary on Andy, Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story, flitted onto festival screens and, with zero fanfare, slipped into CD bins as a movie/soundtrack combo.

It’s all kind of sad, really. So you could see this sale optimistically, as putting Andy in the spotlight again, where he thrived. As an attempt to make his fabled “love rock” concept something even more tangible than tunes. Or as a last-ditch effort to make a buck on his name. No doubt there are already strong opinions in some minds.

Rather than make or encourage any assumptions, I asked the axeman what was up. Our exchange was a reminder that assumptions miss the point altogether.

What made you decide to make Andy’s items available?

[Excerpted from the official statement Kevin quoted] We have boxes and boxes of amazing writings, drawings and other items that represent the life and brilliance of Andy, the early days of MALFUNKSHUN and the Seattle music scene, that are sitting in the garage. It was a difficult, but obvious decision, to give them life again and share them with those who love and understand the creative and personal brilliance of Andy as an individual and as an artist. We are offering select items that have historical significance, and possibly personal meaning, to those who love Andy and his music. Certain items have also been offered up to museums for preservation.

Do you have prices in mind for everything? And how did you price his writing? 

We sought professional consultation and priced accordingly. Some are priced for the serious collectors. Other items are more accessible to fans.

What kind of response have you received so far?

Everyone is really excited to have the opportunity to own these pieces. To some it is personal; to others it’s a piece of music history.

Tell me about the Gene Simmons autograph.

It was a treasured personal photo belonging to Andrew. He had it hanging on the wall in his apartment. Kiss and Mother Love Bone were label mates; Andrew told me it was sent to him through Polygram.

Andrew Wood’s Kramer Duke bass, up for auction.

How about the skinny bass? Any story there?

That’s a Kramer Duke. Andy bought it with money he inherited from his great grandmother. It was a happy day. I managed a Marshall Stack with the same inheritance. Anyway, that bass has an aluminum neck and is very rare in its own right. It was on loan to the Experience Music Project for many years. I have used it many times to track bass lines. If we sell it I’ll need a new bass. [It] really has a lot of memories attached.

Is it hard to part with all this stuff?

Yes, every item has a memory. I can remember when he did this or that … kind of the reason we kept all of it for so long. Over time, they have begun to deteriorate. If they stay in boxes nobody will be able to enjoy the stories they tell.

Are you holding on to items that are too special to sell?

We have many really personal and private items. There is the Andrew that belonged to the public, and the Andrew that was part of our family. There is a distinction, and of course we can’t share everything. A public display at a museum would be an amazing thing, as there is a chronology of his writings and personal effects.

Is there an end date on the sale?

No [end date]. More items will come up as we complete the inventory and archiving.

I suspect the sale, like the band’s continuation, could rub other original Malfunkshun members the wrong way.

The passing of Andrew was difficult for Regan and I. We have handled it in different ways. The idea to continue Malfunkshun without Andrew was too emotionally difficult for Regan. Malfunkshun was something Andrew and I shared as brothers as well as musicians. I know what that was and that vision was larger than just individuals.

Why go with “Malfunkshun” again, after From the North and other names? 

From the North came about because Regan didn’t want to call the band Malfunkshun. I honored that for many years. But I knew in my heart, Malfunkshun needed to live on. I know without question that Andrew wanted this to continue. Even before he died he expected me to continue with the vision, telling me that Malfunkshun was larger than its members. While I was struggling with the name and the direction for the band, I had a vision of Andrew [in which] he gave me his blessing. I shared all of this with Regan, but he could not commit. It was very difficult to consider going on without him.

What’s your response to anyone who says “Malfunkshun” should have ended with Andy?

I understand the grief of the fans. I lost a brother as well as a front man. The music as a whole was a co-creative process between the two of us. That part of Malfunkshun still lives with in me. The current band is amazing. We represent the past and express the future. The vision lives on.

[Referring again to the official statement] Music is a life force that never dies—it lives on beyond the lives of the musicians that express it.

Then what’s next for the band, for you?

I’m going to continue working. This is my life. My playing is better than ever. I am excited about getting out there and sharing the Malfunkshun vision with the old fans and the new ones. Join us for the next 30 years.

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