MUDHONEY: THIS THING CALLED CREEPING NORMALCY
Mudhoney will turn twenty next year and once appeared in a movie with Chris Farley. Their most recent album is Sub Pop’s Under A Billion Suns. Singer Mark Arm speaks now after explaining his amazement at once sharing a recording studio with Ron Asheton. This interview by Nikki Darling.
How do you feel now that the music and style you were doing in Mudhoney is making a comeback?
How does it feel to be an old man band? There’s this thing called creeping normalcy—your reality sort of shifts, so I didn’t just go from being 25 to 45. I got there slowly. Hey, remember a couple years ago when flares were hip? That was my high school trouser innovation! Skinny pants, the flare and peg-leg pants—they all have their day. What’s big now? What’s next then? The huge pants—like rave pants? Yeah, and that’s just a waste of fabric, and in these times, we should be conserving our natural resources.
You guys kept messing with people’s heads—you were in a position other bands were desperate for and you’d deliberately fuck with it.
Like go back to school when labels were interested? Or cut our hair when long hair was popular? Or wear suits when everyone was wearing flannel? Basically what we have with Mudhoney is a series of shooting ourselves in the foot—we can barely walk at this point.
You should have waited til 1996 to cut your hair. That’s when Chris Cornell cut his.
I think by then it was long again.
Have you ever been disappointed by someone you really admired? Like you went to go see them play and then went backstage and they sucked?
Totally. It’s kind of unfortunate. That’s why sometimes I’m scared to meet certain people that I admire.
Who’s the biggest diva in Mudhoney?
We all have our little quirks. No one’s ever thrown a hissy fit over the deli tray.
If Devo never existed, what would happen to Mudhoney?
That’s a good question. Devo was a huge influence in getting me into punk rock. It was my first non-arena show in 1980.
You saw Devo play in 1980 in a non-arena show?
They played the Showbox and at the time it was this kind of gutted 1930s showroom, and the floor there was kind of springy, and all the kids were pogoing and just bouncing up and down, and it was one of the funnest rock shows I’ve ever been to.
After all this time, what do you think has kept you guys sane?
One thing that’s helped us is that we never got into it thinking we were going to be rock stars or for fame or fortune or fashion—we just wanted to play scuzzy punk rock and we just wanted to play music we weren’t hearing. In Seattle in the early ‘80s people were into a lot of English bands, like they’d worship at the altar of the Mighty Lemon Drops or the Smiths or any English band with a haircut—even like the Cult. I remember going to see them and being amazed at how weak they were, even though they were a rock band, you know? So we were fans of scuzzy kind of gnarly sounding punk stuff—not straight-line really punk rock but like the Wipers and the Scientists and even like the Stooges and the MC5 and even the Flesheaters—hey, they’re from L.A.! And also we’re kind of limited by our abilities. I don’t have the kind of voice that Chris Cornell has, so I’m lucky in that regard. He’s got a great, great voice and can sing a couple different octaves, but that’s not me.
Does it annoy you when you see musicians appear on the cover of Vanity Fair and talk about Africa?
Oh, Bono. You know, I think his heart is in the right place but he does it in a self-serving way. Like just take off your fucking sunglasses. Why is he walking up to the United Nations dressed head-to-toe in leather? It just seems kind of stupid.
Perfect Sunday afternoon with Mudhoney?
I dunno—that’s a really odd question. I have a friend who was in this band called the Fall-Outs, and they still are together, and they used to all live in the same house together and worked at the same burger joint together and one day he said how they all went to the zoo together. And I was like, ‘What?’ They were kind of like the Monkees. Mudhoney’s not like that. Maybe if we’re all on tour together in Europe or something, we might go get some good food to eat and something good to drink. I’m sorry—that’s a really boring answer.
No, it’s fine.
Steve and I still skateboard together.
You still skateboard together? Aw, that’s so …
Yes, but I didn’t mean it like that.
It’s okay. Yeah, we’ve skateboarded since high school.
Are you guys going to be like the Rolling Stones and play together forever?
I think our chance to be like the Rolling Stones passed a long time ago.
MUDHONEY PLAY SUPERFUZZ BIGMUFF SAT., SEPT. 15, WITH THE MELVINS (PLAYING HOUDINI) AND FLIPPER PLUS A SCREENING OF DALEK’S A PURGE OF DISSIDENTS AS PART OF ATP’S DON’T LOOK BACK SERIES AT THE HENRY FONDA THEATER, 6126 HOLLYWOOD BLVD., LOS ANGELES. 7 PM / $23 / ALL AGES. WWW.GOLDENVOICE.COM.