August 13, 2009 – 4:06 am

Proclaims Mudhoney’s Mark Arm. Mudhoney never got the kind of recognition Nirvana had but they were there when grunge was in its infancy; saw grunge explode and saw it expire. And even at the height of grunge, these were guys who like to play unpolished, full-throttle rock ‘n’ roll without any pretensions. This interview with Shelley Boettcher and Robert Keelaghan was published in BigO #94 (October 1993).

As meaningless and cliched as the grunge label is, Mudhoney’s brand of rock music represents the term better than most other bands pigeonholed under its banner. How else could one describe the loud, muddy, distorted, sloppy, fuzzy, don’t-give-a-damn, foul-mouthed, intoxicated sound that they have been purveying since the late ’80s?

Meanwhile, frontman/singer/guitarist Mark Arm has this to say about Mudhoney’s influence on the entire grange phenomenon. “The only influence I can see is drunkenness. Really. As far as fashion goes, we had nothing to do with the big baggy pants. In terms of most of the bands I’ve seen, most tend to be more metal than we’re into. Grunge is dead, man. Grunge is dead.”

On the state of the current Seattle scene, he says: “There’s definitely a tight scene there, I mean. I step into it every once in a while. It’s more jampacked now than ever. A few people read about it in other magazines and said, ‘Oh, we should cross out of our suburbs and go see these shows.’

“So every weekend, there’re three clubs that are totally packed every night, no matter what kind of bullshit is happening, but in terms of a core of musicians and their friends that are really into it, there is still a tight scene. But of course, it’s people who are there all the time, who are a lot tighter than the people who leave and do year-long tours like, say, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.”

But does this make it harder for new bands to break into the scene, or are bands just getting signed because they have the look or the sound? Arm replies: “The people who are getting signed these days aren’t the good bands. Mainstream press is saying a bunch of shit like ‘grunge is dead, blah blah blah,’ which is fine. Let it die and let us get on with what we were doing to begin with, before it became a big trend.

“When I started in a band, I never thought anybody would be interested in what we were doing. That wasn’t the intention. I’ve come to grips with it now. For a while, it was a freakish sort of thing.”

This seems to be the original attitude that made the Seattle scene worthwhile: a bunch of musicians making music that they have fun playing, with a disregard for trends or the alternative code of cool. After the rest of the underground came around to their way of thinking, the major labels came knocking and snatched the more popular bands from the scene, to make them stars.

Now, every other kid from here to Dildo, Nova Scotia is sporting long scruffy hair and flannel shirts. Newspapers carry syndicated travel articles on Seattle as the Mecca of grunge. Vogue magazine featured a grunge cover, and it (grunge) hit the screens with movies like Singles. Even in Seattle, the local music scene has had a surge in popularity from city dwellers who used to otherwise ignore it.

Despite Mudhoney’s strong underground attitude, they signed in 1991 with Warner Records and released Piece Of Cake, their most recent album. This was a surprise, considering Sub-Pop was the label that put them on the map with early singles and appearances on compilation albums, as well as their own releases, Superfuzz Bigmuff, Mudhoney and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.

Also on Sub-Pop, the band put out a seven-inch single collaboration with British garage rock guru, Wild Billy Childish; while Steve Turner and Arm released a CD with their side project Monkeywrench called Cleaner Than A Broke Dick Dog.

Mark explains the split with their former label. “We had a certain amount of money when we were on Sub-Pop and Sub-Pop had overextended itself and couldn’t pay us the money they owed us, so we looked for another label.”

Mark isn’t too excited about the current direction of Sub-Pop, a record label that began as a fanzine. Of course, before Sub-Pop’s financial difficulties, many of their more successful acts, such as Nirvana, Soundgarden and, most recently, The Fluid and Tad, went on to sign with major labels. This led many people to see indie labels such as Sub-Pop as farm teams for the majors.

“That’s kind of the way it is these days,” continues Mark. “For the most part, the stuff that Sub-pop’s putting out right now really doesn’t interest me at all. There’s maybe three really good bands on Sub-Pop - Supersuckers, Reverend Horton Heat and Sebadoh. All the rest are stupid college rock bands. I can’t get into the ‘I’m so sensitive and I have a guitar’ kind of thing. Guitars are brutal and they should be brutal. You can play guitar quietly and still be brutal.”

And hey, that brutal guitar sound is what Mudhoney are all about. They have never been ones to write a pretty pop song - just guys who like to play unpolished, full-throttle rock ‘n’ roll without any pretensions which, by and large, categorised the heyday of the Seattle scene.

And what is next on Mudhoney’s plate? “We just recorded five songs - four brand new ones and we redid Make It Now for an EP. We’re going to take on two B-sides that we had out earlier and hopefully sell it as a halfprice kind of thing.”

EPs and seven-inch singles have recently created a renewed interest in vinyl despite an overabundance of high-tech alternatives and Mark has his own plausible theory about why this is. “People put out CDs and they have 120 mins on it. Who the f*** wants to listen to 120 mins of one f***ing band at a time? Unless you’re listening to Space Ritual by Hawkwind, and you’re really stoned. A lot of times, people put out extra songs just to fill up the time there instead of condensing it down.

“I would rather hear a single of two really great songs than an album of two great songs and a bunch of shit in between, which a lot of albums are.” It is pointed out that it often seems that anyone who makes a CD has to attempt to make Exile On Main Street. “And who can make Exile On Main Street?” responds Mark. “The Rolling Stones! Yer shitty little band? No, I don’t think so. Go away. Good bye.”

Mark’s unpretentious attitude towards music is probably due to the fact that he is as much a fan as he is a performer. In the course of the conversation, the John Spencer Blues Explosion is mentioned and Mark perks up as he tells of how he followed them down the West Coast as he had the time and money after being blown away by their live show.

Although he may not be excited about what’s popular in independent music, Mark tells us he had spent the previous three weeks listening to nothing but Hawkwind, Royal Trux and Cypress Hill. Royal Trux (featuring ex-Pussy Galore member Neil Haggerty) seem to be a favourite of Mark because he hears much of Hawkwind in their music.

“Who would have thought to mix that kind of slow country-blueish, f***ed-up stuff with space noises?” he muses. But he responds negatively when it is suggested that perhaps the Grateful Dead of old may have hit upon that same concoction. “The Grateful Dead? No way!”

Considering Mark is such a big fan of the science-fiction meanderings of that acid-tinged-progressive-rock band Hawkwind, what then is his favourite Star Trek line? “This is Tranya,” he says after little deliberation.

And is there too much Satanism in rock ‘n’ roll? “Probably too much Satanism, but not enough Satan, if you know what I mean. I think the religion aspect is probably too prevalent, but the actuality of Satan himself is not really there. I don’t think Satan has really come through in rock ‘n’ roll,” says Mark, playing the devil’s advocate.

“Satan may once have had a physical body,” he continues, in reference to the recent weekly World News article about the discovery of Satan’s skeleton, “but he’ll always live on in stereo hi-fi through Ozzy (Osboume).”

As much as all of Mudhoney love their music, the band is not an all-consuming endeavour. When asked how much Mudhoney tour, Mark replies: “As little as possible… because we have lives.”

The Mudhoney lifestyle nearly caused the band to split up several years ago, as Steve Turner was attending university as an anthropology student and drummer Dan Peters nearly took the opportunity to join Nirvana and did tour with the Screaming Trees. Despite the trends, Mudhoney have always stuck to their guns, which is probably why they are such an underground favourite.

Grunge may come and grunge may go but Mudhoney will probably always remain their unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll Bukowski-esque selves. When asked what Mark Ann thinks the next big thing to succeed grange will be, he says: “That’s your job. You’re the media. You pick what’s next. I’ll just keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing for the last 12 years.”

Note: According to the wikipedia, Mark Arm is now the manager of Sub-Pop warehouse and in May 2008, Mudhoney released their eighth studio album, The Lucky Ones, on the Sub-Pop label.

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