From flannel and fudge to the new Guy in the band

by Steve Howell
For the last 14 years, Mudhoney has managed to outlast almost every other band from the original Seattle Sound era. The irony is that Mudhoney never reached the same peak of success as its peers, who wound up splitting or falling prey to the fame machine. The band recently did undergo one transformation though. Original bassist Matt Lukin quit the band and was replaced by Guy Maddison, a long time friend of guitarist/vocalist Mark Arm, guitarist Steve Turner and drummer Dan Peters. The following is an interview with Arm conducted this past month. He discusses the band's new album, Since We've Become Translucent, and their appearance at Cleveland's Grog Shop on Sept. 22.

Steve: I never saw the [Russ Meyer] movie Mudhoney. What was the plot of that?

Mark: Ummm.

Steve: I guess was there a particular reason why you chose the name Mudhoney?

Mark: We were really into Russ Meyer’s movies at the time (editor’s note: Mudhoney formed on Jan. 1, 1988), and we’d actually chosen that name before we’d seen that particular movie. It just had kind of a cool sounding name, and we kind of figured it couldn’t be too bad, since everything we’d seen we at least liked on some level. There’s at least something to like about all of his movies. (editor’s note: Russ Meyer was known for placing well-endowed ladies in his films.)

Steve: I think I know what you’re talking about. (laughs)

Mark: And, if I remember correctly, the plot is just sort of like these kind of weird backwoods people who get caught up in sort of adulterous situations, and throughout the whole thing, there’s this preacher who’s doing a sort of fire and brimstone sort of morality thing. So, it’s pretty wild. It’s pretty funny.

Steve: I always look for it, but I can never find it anywhere. I didn’t know if they’d re-released it or anything.

Mark: I know at one point, Russ had kept like the rights to all of his movies, except for the one that he did with the major, which was Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. So, he maintained the rights to all of those, but I can’t remember. I think he released them, but they were all kind of expensive.

Steve: I know your original last name is McLaughlin, but I was wondering where the name Arm came from? I was reading that Michael Azerrad book, Our Band Could Be Your Life, and he mentioned something about an absurdist joke that stemmed from the punks at the time of the early ‘80s, naming yourselves after a body part.

Mark: Well, yeah, I don’t know. A couple of friends that I had from high school that I was hanging around and that I started Mr. Epp with had a really absurd sense of humor. And, also, we loved punk of course, but we saw how absurd it was also. Especially, like the tough-guy stance, and that really didn’t fit any of us very well. And, you know, also like the whole thing about “punk is being an individual and doing everything differently and creating your own path or whatever,” and everybody just kind of looking the same and playing the exact same music and what not. (laughs) It didn’t jive with what the supposed party line of what punk rock was. And, we lived in this weird little fantasy world. [Mr. Epp] existed before the band existed.

Steve: You guys used to put up flyers before you knew how to play, didn’t you?

Mark: Yeah, it wasn’t even like for any real publicity. It was just kind of… Because in our heads, this band existed even though we didn’t. It was just like you’d see flyers for The Fartz (editor’s note: old Seattle punk band from the early ‘80s) or whatever, so we put up a flyer for Mr. Epp. (laughs)

Steve: Did you actually put a venue down?

Mark: Eventually, we went to a pawn shop and got some gear.

Steve: I just wondered if people were showing up places and nobody was there.

Mark: Oh no. We wouldn’t actually put up like venues where we were playing. We would just kind of make these weird flyers with absurd slogans that nobody… It was just all shit that entertained us.

Steve: I was wondering how you developed your interest in music. I read somewhere a long time ago that your mom was an opera singer?

Mark: Right.

Steve: Did she provide a lot of influence? But, then, I guess that I read that you were brought up in a pretty strict Christian family though too.

Mark: Right. Yeah, I guess you’d get that from Michael Azerrad’s book.

Steve: He didn’t have anything about your mom in there though.

Mark: No, no, but like he got a few things wrong. For one thing, it wasn’t Catholic. It was a Lutheran [family], and it wasn’t like…I don’t know, I guess it was sort of strict, but it wasn’t completely clamped down.

Steve: Yeah, because the way he made it sound, it sounded like you were imprisoned.

Mark: It was more like overprotective parenting [rather than] straight-down-the-line “You must follow the word of God.” So, what was the question?

Steve:
How did you develop your interest in music?

Mark:
You’re making me think of things that I don’t like to think about. (laughs)

Steve: Would that be Michael Azerrad or the Lutheran family? (laughs)

Mark:
Yeah, my mom was an opera singer, whose career was interrupted by WWII. She was German and what not. So, she always kind of… Once the war was over, she took it up again, but by this time, she was kind of too old I guess to really make a career of it. So, I think she always kind of harbored these sort of, you know, maybe bitterness at the fact that she wasn’t able to really make that opportunity happen. So, she kind of projected onto me as a youth that I was going to be a piano player and a concert pianist. So, I was taking piano lessons all the time, and I kind of hated it. (laughs) Usually, you hear how mean piano teachers can be. I actually had a really nice piano teacher. I just had like a really insane mom at the time, who… There’s like this German perfectionist who was going through menopause at the time. So, she was just on the edge all of the time, and anytime I would hit a wrong note in practice, I would hear like this scream coming at me from the kitchen. So, I was just like kind of turned off to classical music.

Steve: How long did you take lessons?

Mark: Until I was kind of old enough to assert myself that I wouldn’t take anymore, and that was about eighth grade. The whole time, you know, like there was this real hierarch of the whole thing in the terms of what music is good music, and of course, at the top of the list was classical music. And, anything else was just beneath it and not even music. And, I, of course, just drawn to like… You know, this is kind of late ‘60s, probably like when I was a little kid. Not even really knowing what it was, I was just drawn to the whole rock ‘n’ roll hippie vibe. And, I think part of it was that I knew any time that these people were on the news, it just really disgusted my parents. (laughs) I don’t think I was thinking along those lines at the time, but I think that kind of came across subconsciously.

Steve: Was your dad involved in music at all?

Mark: No, not at all. My dad is actually just a real kind of mild-mannered guy, who happened to meet my mom after the war.

Steve: Are you first generation [in the United States]?

Mark: My dad’s from Kansas. So, you know, the conquering Americans take home the womens. (laughs)

Steve: So, I guess your parents weren’t very supportive of what you wanted to do?

Mark: No, not at all, not at all. And, you know, for the longest time, I didn’t even really know that music was anything that I really, really wanted to do, because in the ‘70s, when I was sort of getting to the point where I was actually buying records and enamored by what rock ‘n’ roll was available to me – mostly kind of your Top 40 radio – and then eventually it started expanding into kind of like album-oriented rock radio that would play, not just Top 40 hits, but album rock.

Steve: Probably more like the FM stations used to be back in the ‘70s. The AM was more the Top 40 stuff.

Mark: Right. But, like everything was just so… Kind of technical and proficient, right? It was almost like unless you knew how to play music, you couldn’t play music. It was kind of this real Catch-22. The way I thought about things at the time was, “There’s no way you should start a band, unless you’re a really good musician already,” which of course, how do you get to be a good musician without playing? But, I guess at the time, I thought like, “ Gee, I should have taken guitar lessons at age 13 and maybe by the time I was 25, I would be able to start a band.” (laughs) “Be as good as Steve Howe or stuff like that.” That wasn’t what I was into, but that was kind of the feeling, because it was there. So, and then the more I kind of got into music, the more me and my group of friends discovered… We started hanging out at this record store in the suburb that we grew up. It was actually pretty cool. It turned us on to the Velvet Underground.

Steve: That wasn’t Bellingham [Wash.], was it?

Mark: No, it was Bellevue. It’s just across the lake from Seattle, but it’s a really straight suburb, and it was especially then. It was kind of like the Orange County [Calif.], without the punk-rock scene. When we started eventually going to punk-rock shows in downtown Seattle, it was just like, (imitates typical Seattle resident reaction) “You’re from Bellevue?” (laughs) We were real outsiders in an outsider scene.

Steve: I don’t want to take too much of your time, since I know you’ve probably got other stuff to do, but I want to get into the new album a little bit.

Mark: OK. Yeah, yeah, I could go on and on about that.

Steve: Unless you want me to write the bio on Mudhoney. (laughs)
It seems like the new album has a mix of like old Black Sabbath… Well, I know you guys are fans of Black Sabbath though, but also kind of surprising to me is like there’s a King Crimson feeling circa 1974 a little bit.

Mark: Really!?

Steve: Yeah, a little bit. Like on that first number… What was the name of it? “Baby Can You Dig the Light?” Yeah. The horns on it kind of remind me of their album Red.

Mark:
Right.

Steve: Then, of course, I heard a little bit of like Blue Cheer to and that sort of thing, but I guess, were you listening to anything out of the ordinary that you usually don’t listen to when you were recording the album?

Mark: You know, not really.

Steve: I didn’t know if Guy brought a different element to it as well, because I know that you guys used quite a bit of horns in Bloodloss and things.

Mark: Guy’s playing is… He’s a little bit more the shit than Matt; a lot more interested than Matt had been for a while. So, when we were writing the previous record, Tomorrow Hit Today, it’s basically me and Steve and Dan kind of writing [that] record and Matt just kind of sitting there and going, “OK” (imitates plunking sounds of bass playing). He was just so uninvolved. It was depressing. Whereas, this time everyone was participating and was, “How about this?” and ideas were flying from every corner, which is the way it should be.

Steve: To me, [the new release] sounds totally fresh from the last couple of albums, just from like My Brother the Cow and Tomorrow Hit Today, this sounds really new again like how it sounded back in the early ‘90s I guess.

Mark: Right. I mean, I think Tomorrow Hit Today is a really good record. It’s got a real downer vibe though. Maybe that’s partly due to the circumstances of the band or whatever. It was kind of intentional. Like, when we were making that record, certain feelings just sort of kept coming up. So, it just kind of leaned toward that way, and I think we picked all of the songs that we’d written at that time that kind of leaned even more extremely that way. But, that’s not the case at all for the new record.

Steve: Yeah. I really like the new one a lot. I have to be honest, within a couple albums, it’s probably one of my favorites.

Mark: Wow, that’s great. That’s awesome. That’s great to here. Usually when someone talks about a band’s favorite record, it’s not like something they’ve done on the 12-year mark of their band, or God, 14 years.

Steve: How did the decision to include Guy come about? Was it basically because you’d known him for over 10 years in his days of Lubricated Goat and because you’d played with him before?

Mark: Right. That was a big part of it. He moved here [from Australia] in ’93, and I played with him in Bloodloss, and I was actually wanting to bring him into the band quite a bit earlier, but there’s just no way to kind of smoothly do that.

Steve: Did you ask him to join, or did he volunteer?

Mark: Uh, well actually when Matt quit, we were all kind of like, “Well, we don’t know exactly what to do right now.” I did. I was like, “Let’s call Guy.” (laughs) But, Dan’s immediate reaction was, “I can’t imagine looking up and not seeing Matt up [onstage].” Matt and Dan were really, really tight.

Steve: It seemed like they were always pretty tight, especially if you’re a rhythm section.

Mark: Right, right. They roomed together when we went on tour, and they’d hang out together and what not. So, we just kind of dealt with it by not dealing with it and doing The Monkeywrench record, and Steve kind of thought, “We could just sort of do this as sort of a studio sort of thing. I could play bass. We could just kind of work like that.” We thought, “That’s not a bad idea.” And, that’s kind of how we were working when we did [the song] “Inside Job,” with Wayne Kramer. We were kind of asked to come up with a song for this Internet company compilation record on Cyberpunk that Wayne put together. Then, we came up with like four or five things.

Steve:
Was that the only one that made it on the record?

Mark: “Straight Life” was written back then, but then it was completely revamped. Like, the verse part is the same, but it wasn’t quite working the first time, so we wrote like a new chorus to it and rearranged it. Then, it worked much better. What was I thinking? Damn, I get so sidetracked (editor’s note: Mark Arm is 40.) (laughs)

Steve: We were talking about the compilation that you did for the Internet company.

Mark: Right, right. OK. So Steve… The idea was just to kind of work like that and go into the studio, and we could cover what we needed to do. I mean, Steve had been playing bass with Monkeywrench. But, you know, that really wasn’t all that practical for doing anything live, and we managed to get Matt out again for like a short West Coast tour in January of 2001, and we got an offer to go down to Brazil, and Matt was like (imitates a really gruff voice), “I’m not going to Brazil.” You know, it’s like February, it’s cold and he doesn’t want to go to Brazil. OK. (laughs) But, Matt has this fear of flying thing and he really likes being at home. Fair enough.

Steve: I have to ask you real quick Mark, is it true that he returned to carpentry, or did he just get sick of touring?

Mark: He’s a carpenter. He was like, (imitates the really gruff voice again) “I can make more money being a carpenter than I can doing this, and I’m not interested in doing this anymore anyway.” (laughs) I don’t know why I’m talking like that.

Steve: That’s alright. (laughs)

Mark: Channeling Matt, or doing a bad impersonation of him.

Steve: Just to be fair, I’ll give him a call, and he can do an impersonation of you. (laughs)

Mark: The last thing you want to do is have someone playing music that doesn’t really want to play. That’s just bad for everyone involved, including the listening public. So, we asked Guy if he could come down to Brazil, but he was in the middle of nursing school, and he couldn’t get away for 10 days. So, we got a friend of ours, Steve Dukitch. And, basically, we kind of thought, “If there’s anyone that we want to get in the band, it would be like either Guy or Steve Dukitch.”

Steve: Where was Steve from?

Mark: He was in Steel Wool. He came down to Brazil with us and had a great fine time, but he didn’t really want to make the commitment to be in the band. So, basically what we did for the spring of 2001 was teach two different people our entire set, which got a little frustrating, because it was like, “OK, we’re going over these songs again.”

Steve: That was another question that I was wondering about. Did Guy learn a lot of the older material for the upcoming shows or if you’d be focusing more on the newer stuff from Since We’ve Become Translucent?

Mark:
Well, before we just jumped into recording and everything, we did a little bit of touring. We did like a three-week tour in the summer. We got out as far as Chicago and then down to Texas and back. We did that because Dan could get away for that time period and we wanted to see if we could do it and how everything felt. And, after that, then we started on new material in earnest.

Steve:
So, that was kind of around the fall of 2001?

Mark: Right. I think we had been working on a few things throughout the summer as we were teaching Guy. It was kind of about this time in July (mid-July). We played the Capitol Hill block party last year and this year. We just played it last weekend. So, by that point, Guy knew the songs that we were going to be playing. So, I think from this point on, we maybe started working on new riffs and shit. Unless you want to start getting into the minutia of it. (laughs)

Steve: Yeah, I didn’t know if I should cut you off or not.
The last time that I saw Mudhoney play was in 1998 when you were in Detroit, and you were still playing that silver sparkle Gretsch. Have you guys retired the old Hagstrom III’s and Harmony Rockets, or do you still use those for recording at all?

Mark: No, my Hagstrom III I use for my open A slide tuning, and I use a Telecaster for my open G slide tuning, and I use the Gretsch for standard. And, Steve uses Mustangs mostly. He also bought a cheap Silvertone reissue. You know how you can get those for like, I don’t know, $150-$200.

Steve: Was it like one of those SG styled ones?

Mark: It’s black and white and I think the top… It’s not really like a Les Paul, but the bottom has a horn and the top kind of looks like an acoustic guitar.

Steve: Do you and Steve still find yourself collecting as many cheap guitars as you once did?

Mark: No, no.

Steve: I know you bought like that three-pickup Glenn Buxton-styled SG back in the early ‘90s.

Mark: Right, right, right. That triple-pickup SG. I actually traded that in. I traded that in for the Telecaster.

Steve: Yeah, I didn’t see it when you guys played live.

Mark: SG’s are weird. They’re so like neck heavy. You put on a normal guitar, and it’s just sort of sitting there on you. You let go of it. It stays there. But, like with an SG, it will tend to slide.

Steve: I’ve got an old guitar like that. It’s like some generic one from the ‘60s called a Deville. It’s like a Fender Mustang copy, and whenever you take your arm off the neck, it does like a full, complete circle. (laughs)

Mark: Right. I’ve still got an Epiphone that does that. It’s actually a really cool guitar that I won’t get rid of, but it’s like an old Crestwood Custom or something like that. Kurt Bloch (editor’s note: guitarist for the band The Fastbacks) for awhile kept trying to get it off me, and it’s like the more he wanted it, the more it made me realize I think I’m going to keep it. (laughs)

Steve: It had better things to do than go to The Fastbacks, huh? (laughs)

Mark: Right, right.

Steve: Are they still around?

Mark: No, The Fastbacks broke up actually. They finally broke up. Kim [Warnick, bassist] quit the band.

Steve: Yeah, I hadn’t heard anything in awhile.

Mark: This just happened maybe six months ago or something. She’s playing in a band called Visqueen.

Steve: Who’s in that?

Mark: Nobody that you would have heard of. The guitar player/singer is a woman named Rachel. I don’t know her last name, and I forgot who the drummer is. And, Kurt’s still doing a million things. We played with Fluff at the EMP about two months ago and O came up like a couple of days early, and the day of the show there was some problem with the airline or something and the rhythm section didn’t make it, and he got Kurt Bloch and Mike Musberger to learn the songs in a day. And, you know that there’s no one else who could do it, but Kurt can definitely do it. Pretty amazing. It wasn’t tight or anything, but it was a close approximation.

Steve: Was he doing assistance work with [Seattle producer] Conrad Uno at his studio?

Mark: Kurt?

Steve: Yeah.

Mark:
He kind of works all over the place. Johnny Sangster kind of works at Egg a lot. We recorded like three songs on the record with him.

Steve: That’s what I was going to ask to, [the press release] mentioned that there were three engineers on the album, but I didn’t see any names.

Mark: You probably got an advance copy with no information.

Steve: Yeah. Chris [Jacobs, Sub Pop press] sent me one of the tye dye flyers and it had like on the back [a write up] by some guy who was a Mogwai DJ.

Mark: Right, Keith Cameron.

Steve: And, [Chris] gave me a press photo, and that was about the extent of it.

Mark: Keith was one of the English journalists the first time. He worked at Sounds magazine like when we went over there the first time, he was like a supporter and fan, but as he says in the [press release] that about the time Piece of Cake came out, he’s like, “Oh, they’ve lived too long” kind of thing. It’s kind of funny.

Steve: Yeah, I was reading that last night, and I was like, “Whoa, that’s pretty harsh.” Was he around during the same time as Everett True (editor’s note: journalist for Melody Maker) then?

Mark: Right.

Steve: Yeah, I’d never heard of him before. I didn’t know who Keith Cameron was.

Mark: He was actually an editor at Mojo for awhile. He’s a good guy.

Steve: Oh yeah. I don’t know. (laughs) I don’t know any different I guess, but that’s cool though.

Mark: Right.

Steve: I don’t know how to respond. (laughs)

Mark: He’s a good guy for a British journalist, even though he just wrote us off for a number of years. You know, he eventually came around. (laughs)

Steve: Did you ask him to do this press release?

Mark: Yeah. Well, I think Jonathan [Poneman, co-founder of Sub Pop Records] asked him. Jonathan was sort of in touch with him, and he got him a copy of the record, and he really liked it.

Steve:
Who were the three engineers then?

Mark: It was Johnny Sangster at Egg. He’s the brother of Jim Sangster, who’s in the Young Fresh Fellows and a musician in his own right. This is digressing again, but in like 1983/’84 he was in this band called Sharing Patrol, and it was like a little trio; kind of a pop-punk trio. And, they decided to go to Europe for a summer. You know, just kind of travel around and if they could get gigs they would, and it was just supposed to be a couple of months. Him and the bass player wound up staying in Denmark for 10 years. (laughs) And, they became like a band that released a bunch of records, and they were really popular in Denmark and stuff. He married a Danish woman. They have a couple of kids. Now, they moved back here, and he’s engineering.

Steve: So that was just recently that he moved back, or that was probably the mid-‘90s?

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: So, who were the other [recording engineers] then?

Mark: We recorded all the songs with the horns… Those were done at Jupiter Studios with Martin Fevie. He did like the last [Mark] Lanegan record.

Steve: Is Mark Lanegan still releasing any records? Screaming Trees broke up didn’t they?

Mark: Right. He was kind of working with Queens of the Stone Age.

Steve: Was the move back to Sub Pop something that you had to think about for awhile?

Mark: No, actually, it was pretty simple, because the last thing we did was that best of record…

Steve: March to Fuzz?

Mark: Yeah. We were working with them on that, so it was a pretty easy transition. We didn’t even talk to anyone else about… You know, we didn’t go looking for deals or anything like that.

Steve:
I figured that you guys would probably go back to them, because you’d been with them for a long time.

Mark: Right. Oh, I should tell you about the third engineer. That is Scott Colburn, and his studio’s Gravel Voice.

Steve: Is that in Seattle?

Mark: Yeah. They’re all in Seattle. And, he works… He’s in the Climax Golden Twins. They’re kind of more on the avant-garde spectrum of things. And, he’s also worked closely with the Sunn City Girls for like the last 15 years. Each guy has a totally unique thing and is a totally cool person to work with. We never really worked with someone like Scott before. He doesn’t do a whole lot of rock stuff, but he started out… He had a hardcore record label in Bloomington, Ind. in like 1982 or something like that. He was in this band called Killing Children. That was on the Master Tape compilation. Die Kreuzen was on that. It was like 1981 or 1982.

Steve: You hadn’t worked with any of the engineers before then, had you?

Mark: Well, we’d worked with Martin. We did like a Kinks cover with him and a Circle Jerks cover that hasn’t seen the light of day yet. Well, there’s some Circle Jerks tribute record that is being put together, and Keith Morris…

Steve: I know you guys usually don’t do a lot of tributes. I remember you did the one… Not Moby Grape…

Mark: Oh, Skip Spence [the guitarist of Moby Grape]. [Tribute albums] are kind of lame usually. You know, if Keith Morris [lead singer of the Circle Jerks] calls you up and asks you to be on the tribute record to his band, that’s something. He was a big supporter of Mudhoney in the early days to and throughout the whole time. We couldn’t say no to that.

Steve:
What label is that going to be on?

Mark: I’m not sure. Some guys out of Florida I think are putting it together.

Steve: You guys have recorded on quite a bit of analog equipment, haven’t you?

Mark: Usually, yeah.

Steve: I know some groups are pretty adamant about the virtues of analog. Has is been more of a choice or a necessity for Mudhoney over the years?

Mark: ADAT studios seem kind of cheap to me. But, like some of these studios range from… Like Egg is I think a half-inch 16-track, which is a pretty low-budget machine, but Jupiter is a two-inch 24-track machine, and Scott’s Gravel Voice is a one-inch 16-track, and so is the studio where we did the song with Jack Endino, which was “Inside Job.”

Steve: So, Jack actually recorded that one?

Mark: And, I dare you to like actually listen to the songs and say, “Boy, this song sounds like a much bigger studio than the others.”

Steve: I can’t tell. (laughs) I’ve listened to [the new album] like 10 times and I can’t tell the difference.

Mark: You know, it doesn’t really matter. It depends on how good the engineer is. Equipment doesn’t make a record sound good.

Steve: Yeah, I just read all of this stuff, like with Steve Albini usually spouting off about 180 grams of vinyl. (laughs) I wondered if you guys were kind of the same way like, “We’ve got to have this on vinyl right away.”

Mark: Nowhere near to that extent, but it sounds good on vinyl though. But, you know, it’s impossible to keep it in a completely analog domain. It’s just impossible. At some point it goes digital and then gets back to analog when it goes on vinyl.

Steve: Are you guys still using the Super Fuzz and the Big Muff pedals?

Mark: The Big Muff pedal’s there. The Super Fuzz farted out a long time ago. We haven’t really been using that.

Steve: I just looked on E-Bay the other day, and I always wanted one, and it was like $130 bucks.

Mark: Right.

Steve: I rarely see those pedals anywhere. I think I asked some guy (editor’s note: Gregg Leonard) at this [music] store over here, and he told me that he blew up his speakers on his stereo back in the ‘70s with one. (laughs)

Mark: Yeah, they’re a great sounding thing, but they’re really hard to find, and when you do, they’re way too expensive. It’s not worth it.

Steve: Now, I think I was reading how Steve was using a Memphis distortion pedal?

Mark: He had one. I don’t know if he does anymore. At this point, he just uses an MXR Distortion Plus, as do I for just the strict distortion sound.

Steve: Steve said that he’s most proud of Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge in the liner notes of March to Fuzz, and I was wondering if you had a favorite [album], where you felt that everything went right, and in the end, you sat down and listened to the record, and said, “ I recorded a pretty nice piece of work here?” Is there a particular one that stands out in your mind?

Mark: Not one. There are like ones that I prefer over other ones. If you want me to list that off, I will.

Steve: Sure, if you want to.

Mark: Well, I guess in chronological order, it would be Superfuzz [Bigmuff], Every Good Boy Deserves FudgeMy Brother the Cow I think we were pretty proud of when it came out, but I think that got eclipsed by Tomorrow Hit Today, and of course, the new one.

Steve: Yeah, I like that new one. (laughs) I like Five Dollar Bob’s Mock Cooter Stew actually.

Mark: You like that one?

Steve: Yeah, I did like that one.

Mark: You know, actually there’s some good songs on there. It just didn’t really work.

Steve: They didn’t really promote it though, did they? Reprise didn’t?

Mark: No. It didn’t really work on the level… It was just a collection of songs. It seemed like a random collection. It was like a full… Those first four songs are so completely different, and the rest of it, there’s a couple of B-Sides from Piece of Cake. So, if there would have been like a full album, there would have been more songs that were along the lines of those first four that would have like made more sense than just like, “Well, here’s one random kind of song and here’s another random kind of song.” (laughs)

Steve: What was the original intention behind that release?

Mark: The original intention was like we kind of knew that we weren’t going to be doing a record any time soon, and we just had those four songs. And, our A & R guy suggested that we quickly go in and record those four songs for an EP, just to let people know that we were still around, which ended up just kind of delaying the inevitable process of putting together another record.

Steve: As far as live performance goes, which do prefer more: Do you prefer playing guitar and singing in Mudhoney, or solely being a frontman in The Monkeywrench, because I know when I saw you with The Monkeywrench, you were pretty acrobatic I guess?

Mark: Right.

Steve: More so, because a guitar you can’t really roll around with too much. Well, you guys did back in the ‘80s though, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Mark: You know, each has its own merits. At this point, in my advanced years, I really dig The Monkeywrench thing if I get like four days of nothing between shows. It’s like what I need to recover. (laughs) But, you know even in Monkeywrench, there’s times when the instruments just sort of go for awhile. There’s nothing for me to do, except hop around, and I’d rather, at that point, really be playing an instrument.

Steve: I noticed that there are a number of sailor references in Mudhoney songs. I noticed that David Thomas of Pere Ubu seems to have a sailor fixation in his older lyrics. Is there a tie in there somewhere between the two?

Mark: Maybe a little bit, but we live in a port town. I don’t know if Cleveland is really a port town. Are there boats there?

Steve: Sometimes.

Mark: It’s not like there’s a naval base, is there?

Steve: I don’t think they have any places in Cleveland.

Mark: We have sailors here. David Thomas is fakin’. (laughs)

Steve:
When Cameron Crowe was developing the idea for Singles, did he come to you and say, “Hey, I want to use your song ‘Touch Me I’m Sick,’ but I want to change the title to ‘Touch Me, I’m Dick?’”

Mark: We actually got involved in that kind of later. I remember we caught wind the thing was being filmed and it was like about the Seattle scene and there was not one Sub Pop band represented. I think his liaison to the Seattle music scene was Kelly Curtis Management, which at that time was doing all the major label bands, like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. I think Susan Silver [legendary Seattle promoter and wife of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell] was working with them at that time.

Steve: Yeah, because I couldn’t figure out how Smashing Pumpkins wound up on there (editor’s note: Smashing Pumpkins are from Chicago.)

Mark: Right. I think that was just sort of a way to expand… Paul Westerberg, you know. I remember like me and Steve and Bruce Pavitt found out where Cameron Crowe’s offices were, called him up, asked for a meeting and went up there and just tried to state our case. (laughs) We were like, (surprised tone) “Hey, wait a minute. There’s no one from Sub Pop,” except I guess Soundgarden, who was no longer on Sub Pop. And, I think from that point on, like Tad got involved in the film. Bruce was in the film to. It was kind of funny.

Steve: Did you actually talk to Cameron Crowe then?

Mark: Oh, yeah. I kept telling him that he should put Fred McDowell on the soundtrack. I just remember that I was really, really into this particular “Shake’em on Down.” I’d found like this really great version with like Fred playing and his sister was playing like that thing with the paper and the comb; kind of a kazoo sound along with Fred’s guitar, and that version of it was just blowing my mind. And, I was like, “This song has to be heard by everyone!” (laughs)

Steve: What was Cameron Crowe’s reaction to that?

Mark:
I think he was like, “Oh, that’s a great idea.” He had like among other things, like a John Coltrane poster up on his office wall, so I was kind of like, “Oh, yeah, this will probably happen.” Of course, I don’t think he’s ever really put a John Coltrane song in any of his movies. (laughs)

Steve: So, he didn’t have to get any rights for “Touch Me, I’m Sick” because he changed the words?

Mark: I don’t remember exactly how that went. I think that someone mentioned, “They’re going to do this. Is that OK with you?” And, I was like, “Yeah.”

Steve: I just thought it was weird that he wouldn’t contact you guys before he did something like that.

Mark: It was just another little stupid inside joke.

Steve:
I was watching some movie the other night, and I think it was about a motorcycle gang, and there was a part that sounded like the sample from “In ‘N’ Out of Grace,” and I was trying to figure out what movie that was from. Was that a Russ Meyer film?

Mark: No, no, no, no, no., no, no, no, no, no, no. It’s a Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern movie. What was the name of that? Wild Angels. That’s a great movie.

Steve: I just happened to be watching TV late one night, and I was doing something else, and I just heard that little thing.

Mark: When I was working on the Singles soundtrack, I gave Bridget Fonda a copy of Superfuzz [Bigmuff] to give to her dad, because we sampled her dad.

Steve: Oh, that’s him on the sample. (laughs)

Mark: That’s Peter Fonda.

Steve: Did she know about it before that?

Mark: I don’t think she did.

Steve: Did she ever get back to you after she listened to it?

Mark: No. (laughs) She’s probably just like, “Who’s this loser?” “Who’s this scummy guy that’s hanging around on the set?”

Steve: Now, the scenes that you were in: Were you in the background when they were moving Cliff out of the apartment?

Mark: Right.

Steve: And, were you in the coffeeshop part [at the end] to?

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Do you help Steve Turner with his ventures at his label Super Electro?

Mark: No, that’s totally Steve’s thing. And, that’s not really going right now.

Steve: I check out the Web site every so often, and it doesn’t look like there’s too many updates.

Mark: No, there’s no updates. I mean, it’s there, so you can order stuff, but he’s not putting anything new out. He just recorded a bunch of stuff for an upcoming solo record though; kind of like more folky stuff. It’s cool!

Steve: Does he have a lot of other people on it?

Mark: Uh, yeah, Johnny Sangster is involved and Stone Gossard and Dan’s drumming on it on the tracks that actually have drums.

Steve: He’s probably kept that pretty quiet hasn’t he?

Mark: Well, he’s going to do his first show in August, and I think he’s a little freaked. You’re sitting up there by yourself with your acoustic guitar in your brown leather vest. (laughs)

Steve:
What albums are you currently listening to?

Mark: It’s mostly older stuff. I’m 40 now, and over the years, I’ve collected a lot of really good records and CDs and things that I love and keep going back to. And, then, there’s also like that will lead you to other people that are involved with the people you’re familiar with; kind of off-shoots of things. Newer stuff that I really like… Have you heard the John Wahl record?

Steve:
No, but I’ve heard of John Wahl before?

Mark: He was the singer in Clawhammer.

Steve: OK.

Mark: His singing doesn’t sound at all like that. If there’s anything that I can compare it to, it’s maybe Here Come the Warm Jets by Brian Eno. It’s quite a different feel than Clawhammer, but it’s a really great record.

Steve: Is that on a label?

Mark: It’s on Birdman.

Steve: I think I remember reading an interview with you a long time ago, and the discussion was of how Steve looked like some scientist in Seattle.

Mark: Oh, Bill Nye. Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Steve: Is that who it was? I always thought that it might be, but I was never sure if it was or not. I saw you guys on his show like two weeks after [reading] that.

Mark: Right.

Steve: I was like, “ What the hell is going on?,” because I’d never really seen any bands on his show.

Mark: Our manager at the time, his girlfriend was working in the production department of that show, and she kind of got us on there. That was pretty awesome.

Steve: I was going to ask you if he called you himself.

Mark: No. They had some weird things, like you know how they would have a group of people kind of doing a version of some pop song with a science theme. And, you know that band Sleep Capsule, they went on as Nyevana and they all played different instruments and they did some like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” parody about science. But, they actually had real bands on there.

You can see Mudhoney at the 10th anniversary party for the Grog Shop, 1765 Coventry Road at Mayfield in Cleveland, on Sept. 22. Call (216) 321-5588 for more information.



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