words: John Simandiras
Singer Mark Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, drummer Dan Peters and semi-new bassist Matt Lukin are among the first ones to …blame for the fathering of the much-talked about grunge movement, which became nearly as big as a cultural phenomenon. The Seattle foursome are back with their seventh studio album, ‘Under A Billion Suns’.
During their European tour on ‘Under A Billion Suns’, ’Honey are hitting Athens, Greece in May. This is Mudhoney's second tour of duty with Sub Pop. After helping launch the label, the band signed with Reprise / Warner Brothers in 1991. Arm’s primitive and raw delivery over fuzz-drenched guitars and pounding drums never translated into major record sales, and the big label dropped Mudhoney in 1999. Back to the Seattle label. At the time, that might have seemed like a wounded animal crawling home to die, but Arm’s men still had the guts to continue. 2002’s ‘Since We've Become Translucent’ was nothing but a pure prove that these guys can surely rock, and 2006’s ‘Under a Billion Suns’ is probably even better, already collecting rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.
Their metal-punk-garage sound hasn’t changed much, although ‘Under a Billion Suns’ features the occasional horn section (as did ‘Translucent’), and has some of Arm's most sardonic vitriol and political satire: “The little boys are dying / to preserve our way of life / It’s our patriotic duty / to make sweet love tonight.”
Having turned 44 last month, Mark Arm -who shares a West Seattle home with his wife- remains one of rock’s iconic figures. Please welcome him.
Hi, there! This is John from Greece. How’s things?
Things are great!
I've been a Mudhoney follower, playing your records on my radio show constantly, since the very early days, so it’s hard for me to hide my enthusiasm for getting to interview you.
That’s greatly appreciated.
Congrats on this new record of your, it sure rox! Great stuff and greatly performed!
Aw shucks, thanks.
Your previous studio effort, ‘Since We’ve Become Translucent’ appeared in 2002, and -before that- there was ‘Tomorrow Hit Today’ back in 1998. So, is this the way it’s gonna be from now on? I mean, are you guys gonna hit with a new studio album every four or five years or what?
I don’t know what the future will bring.
What’s your opinion in the whole Iraq thing?
It’s a big poopy mess.
I asked you about President W, because ‘Under A Billion Suns’ stands as your most direct political step. Of course, there were -slight- political references in your records here and there, but this time you’ve done it straight!
Well, as straight as I can do it, which is through a filter of black humor.
Do certain political climates cultivate certain types of music trends, and if so, how does the political climate of today shape the music that is emerging?
I don’t know it that’s true or not. That’s a question better suited to a cultural critic or pop philosopher.
How come ‘Under A Billion Suns’ is produced by three persons? Why’s Conrad Uno absent?
We recorded it over three weekends, so we figured we might as well do it in different places with different people. Conrad doesn’t record bands very often anymore.
What does this -sometimes mindblowing!- horn section bring to the sound of ‘Under A Billion Suns’?
It brings “mindblowingness”.
OK, Mudhoney is an all-male band, but ever thought of collaborating with a woman? Would a female artist fit Mudhoney?
The background vocals on ‘I Saw the Light’ and ‘Let’s Drop In’ are by Christy McWilson and Amy Allison, both of whom are ladies.
You’re playing Athens in a couple of months, how do you feel about touring Europe?
We’ve never been to Athens, so we’re super psyched that we finally get to play there. Europe is cool. Every country is a little different. We’re going to some places that we haven’t been to in over 10 years.
Is there really any difference between the European and the American audience?
Every audience is a little different. Some are very different.
What will make your shows so special that gig-goers should be sorry they missed it?
Our shows are special because we’re special.
How long will ‘A Brief Celebration of Indifference’ (‘Under A Billion Suns’ ’ shortest track) last on stage?
About the same length as on the album.
Of the four, who’s the most difficult to get up in the morning?
Usually Guy or Dan.
Who’s the worst drunk?
The drinking members of Mudhoney are well-practiced and very good at being drunk.
What attracts you most to touring?
We love to play.
Aside from the essentials, what can’t you go on touring without?
Worst live performance-related injury?
I got my forehead split open by Jeff’s bass in Green River.
What’s on your average rider?
Water, beer, booze and snacks.
What’s on your average rider that it used not to be on your average rider when you were starting?
Our first booking agent was straight edge and she didn’t think her bands should drink either. After one tour of us buying our own drinks, we made her put beer on the rider.
Any funny / memorable stories from your Reprise / Warners era?
Funny? Danny Goldberg, whose company Gold Mountain, managed Nirvana, was briefly the president at Warners. He refused to meet with us after hearing ‘Into Your Shtik’. I guess that’s funny.
Have you ever thought of forming and running down your own label? A hell lot of artists do it these days…
Nope. Steve did it for a little while. It seems like an awful lot of work.
How many flannel shirts do you have?
Flannel shirts? None.
What pleases you the most: listening to music or playing music?
I like both.
Is there a record you don’t like to admit to owning?
Nope, I’ll fess up to owning any record in my collection.
What’s the best piece of advice to ignore?
Never ride a pony with your finger in a light socket.
Did you ever thing you’d be going strong for so long?
Not in the beginning, that’s for sure!
Peace and love and best of luck to all of you guys, thanks very much!
Thank you, and see you at the Acropolis!
A great deal of 'efkaristo' to Kyriakos Skordas of www.atraktos.net, and many-many cheers for him!
This interview was done exclusively for www.atraktos.net and for diamonds.explode.to.