It may be 25 years since Mudhoney emerged from the ashes of Green River to become one of the pioneering forces of the Seattle grunge scene, but standing on ceremony is not what they’re about, so their forthcoming Prague bash is merely “business as usual.”
“It’s just another tour,” vocalist/rhythm guitarist Mark Arm tells The Prague Post on the phone from Seattle. “We pretty much go to Europe once a year, so it’s not like a special tour because it’s a 25th anniversary. It’s kind of funny to me how certain years get more play than others. Like 20 is a big year, and then 25 seems to be another big year. … It always seems to be in 5s and 10s, nobody really gives a shit about 24 or 26.”
The real buzz, he says, is the 25th anniversary of Sub Pop, the Seattle-based record label that became the nerve center of all things grunge and a whole lot more.
Widely credited for coining the grunge phrase, Arm and lead guitarist Steve Turner formed Mudhoney in 1988. And although they never quite achieved the same commercial success as Nirvana, Soundgarden or Pearl Jam, they’ve still managed to do some quite remarkable things by refusing to be defined by grunge, particularly after it became such an overhyped commercial marketing machine. This was reflected in the song “Overblown,” in which Arm complains, “Everybody loves us/Everybody loves our town/That’s why I’m thinking lately/Time for leavin’ is now.”
Moreover, stoking the flames of rock in their own unhinged, inimitable way has ensured they become one of the longest-surviving bands of that era.
“When we started this band, I just felt we were in the tradition of underground rock as it was happening in the mid-1980s,” Arm says. “I feel that we’re part of a lineage of the Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, Sonic Youth and Spacemen 3, and bands from Australia like Feedtime and The Scientists. The idea that there was a grunge movement to me seems kind of goofy. If you think about it, it’s basically only about five bands that came from Seattle, and then afterward there were imitation bands like Bush and Silverchair and Stone Temple Pilots, and, God forbid, Creed and Nickelback, [and] even worse shit came along.”
Asked what keeps the Mudhoney engine running these days, Arm says, “The key is being able to rock. We love what we do, and we all get along very well.”
He adds, with a laugh: “In fact, I’ll just go out on a limb now and say we all love each other. It’s not like the most important thing in our lives at this point. It’s not like how we make our living. There’s no pressure on the band to write hits or sell a certain amount of records. This is something we continue to do for kicks. And it’s amazing to me that people still give a shit about us.”
Arm also works as a Sub Pop employee in their warehouse, which is quite handy as the label continues to be responsible for all Mudhoney output.
Limbering up to road-test their latest slab of aural delight, Vanishing Point, Arm’s acerbic wit appears to be sharper than ever as he tackles some of the issues that annoy him most. For example, “I Don’t Remember You” is a tongue-in-cheek attack on overzealous fans who stop him from going about his daily business. “Excuse me while I fill the shopping cart” is one of the song’s put-down lines.
Another track, “Chardonnay,” questions the reasoning behind why the popular white wine of the title always appears on their backstage rider despite them really hating it. And “I Like It Small” is just baffling.
“It’s just a homage to handcrafted small releases,” he says. “Something that’s done with a bit of workmanship and care, instead of a mass-produced thing.”
Vanishing Point can easily stand with the group’s early hit releases, such as Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (1991) and My Brother the Cow (1995), and if played loud enough it should have quite an impact on the Lucerna Music Bar.