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"Can we, as a country, all agree

xmag.com : April 2004: Mudhoney


Last time I saw Mudhoney was six years ago. I penned a column for this mag about how lackluster their show was, and how I was better entertained by a heartbroken drunk pregnant chick putting cigarettes out on my boyfriend's arm in the bar. They were old and tired and all but DOA.

But we've all come a long way since 1998. I've experienced four or more rebirths, so I figured I'd give Mudhoney another try and OH-MY-GOD they fixed my wagon. I haven't been so healed by a rock'n'roll experience ever. When these revered punks played "In and Out of Grace" I had an epiphany. An Angel of the Lord came down and said "Goddamn it Las Vegas you were put on this earth to ROCK and just to pound it into your head the girl next to you will pound it into your head." It was that great! Then the girl next to me pounded me in the head and I had to call the cops and go to the hospital and--worst of all--missed the Melvins.

You'd think this band would need no introduction, but for all you brand spankin' new 18-year old strippers reading this mag in the dressing rooms, Mudhoney was absolutely seminal in the Northwest Scene that exploded with Nirvana, prompting big labels to take risks on wacky emo, punk and hardcore bands for a year or two before they settled back into their Backstreet Britney bullshit. Mudhoney's first release,1988's single Touch Me I'm Sick, encapsulated what would become "grunge"--mostly heavy plodding distorted guitars, a prickly marriage of heavy metal and punk, peppered with partly ironic self-destructive, self-effacing sentiment.

Now, in 2004, when Nirvana and Soundgarden and whatnot are dead in the water, Mudhoney sounds better than ever. Founding members Mark Arm and Steve Turner celebrated twenty years of playing together in 2000, and drummer Dan Peters has been on board since Mudhoney's inception in the late eighties. Relative newcomer (2001) Guy Maddison plays bass. These guys are here to stay.

 

VIVA: Is Mudhoney paying the rent?

Mudhoney: No!

VIVA: What do you guys do for day jobs? Mr. Mom? You were with your kid in the minivan when I called, right?

Steve Turner: It's not my kid; it's my girlfriend's kid. But that doesn't pay the bills either. I'm a gardener, a musician and a writer--a tripod of non-money-making stuff. I'm supposed to write a book about skateboarding in the next few months.

VIVA: Oooo. Don't neglect Paying In Pain! It's very philosophical. The skateboarders' Book of Five Rings.

Turner: I know Paying in Pain. It's from Visalia. I skated that skate park down there.

VIVA: Yeah? Is it good?

Turner: It's alright. For California it's pretty good. I went on tour with a guy--Nik Freitas--who's from Visalia. He used to be a photographer for Thrasher and now he plays folk music. There's actually a new movement called Skate Folk.

VIVA: You involved?

Turner: Yeah I do skate folk.

Mark Arm: He put out a record. He's working on his second one.

VIVA: Love it! So, are you aware that "Touch Me I'm Sick" is on the jukebox at Mary's Club? [blank stares] You know Mary's Club, right? Have you never been in there?

Turner: No.

VIVA: What?! It's like the best strip club in the world! It's Portland in a nutshell. When "Touch Me I'm Sick" comes on all the drunks snap out of it for half a second and go, "Yeaaaaaghhh!" It's a touchstone, a rallying cry, for that whole grunge era. Is there a grunge timeline that you visualize in your head? Jimi-Neil, etc.?

Arm: You could include Howlin' Wolf.

Turner: Well you've got the Johnny Burnett Trio and Link Wray in the late fifties; you can jump to the Sonics in the mid-sixties. Lightnin' Hopkins has one of the gnarliest guitar sounds on a few of his songs.

VIVA: Is that grunge? The gnarly guitar sound?

Turner: Yeah. To me it's about guitar sound, that's the base of it.

VIVA: Superfuzz. Big Muff.

Turner: The oldest place I've seen the term grunge was describing a guitar tone in the 1979 liner notes to a Johnny Burnette Rock'n'Roll Trio record. To me that's the timeline. A song recorded in 1955, written about in 1979.

VIVA: And that's it? What about the eighties?

Turner: The eighties were about hardcore. We were hardcore kids.

Arm: But there are hardcore records that are grungey, like the Mentally Ill single Soldier, Black Flag, the Melvins...

VIVA: Los Olvidados?

Turner: Fuck I love Los Olvidados. Ray Stevens! Buddy of mine. Basically Ray Stevens took a rad skater and told him "Ok now you have be my guitar player." And he really took to the guitar. Became a really cool, really weird guitar player.

VIVA: So Neil Young is the granddaddy of grunge because of his fuzzy guitar tones?

Turner: I don't know why that started coming on. I mean, he's had some really gnarly tones... Rust Never Sleeps--that stuff is amazing. Cortez the Killer.

VIVA: I don't like Neil Young. I hate his voice. I hate his lyrics. But I wanna like Neil Young. What should I do?

Turner: The Meat Puppets got me into Neil Young. In Meat Puppets 2 they kept referencing Neil Young's Zuma. So I'd say go get the 1975 album Zuma.

VIVA: Blue jeans. What kind do you wear? I'm assuming there's some sorta standard that Mudhoney has to follow, like they can't be too fashiony or too clean.

Turner: Well, generally 501's. Right now I'm wearing a nice pair of seventies stretchy Levi's.

VIVA: And Arm's rockin' the cords. What do you do for money?

Arm: I work at Fantagraphics.

VIVA: Design?

Arm (laughing): No, shipping.

Turner: We're totally unemployable.

VIVA: I know! When I have to stop stripping it'll be a sad day.

Arm: I might have to start. But I don't think anyone wants to see my saggy old ass. [Arm's got a bit of a lisp. Yum. --ed.]

VIVA: Are you kidding me? There's a huge Mark Arm cult out there.

Turner: Isn't there a gay bar in this town called Mark Arm's Saggy Old Ass?

VIVA: Actually there is! I hadn't made the connection! So, that was your girlfriend's kid.

Turner: Yeah, but it was my minivan.

VIVA: Did you get the minivan to accommodate the kid?

Turner: I got a minivan to accommodate the skate folk.

Arm: Dan got a minivan just recently, to accommodate his second kid who just popped out.

Turner: He got a minivan mainly because of my great love for my minivan.

VIVA: What kind is it?

Turner: I've got a Chrysler Town and Country.

VIVA: What's Dan do for work?

Turner: Mr. Mom.

VIVA: Do the kids come along on tour?

Arm: Not yet, but we're teaching them hardcore math. They're gonna sell merch, do tour managing...

Turner: If you have a ten year old tour manager you really psych out the old people at the door, counting the money.

VIVA: I've talked to Jon Spencer and Cristina Martinez a couple of times, and they said other tours they knew where all the strip clubs were. Now with Charlie along, they know where the zoos are, the children's museums...

Turner: So they're a couple of squares is what you're saying. We've still got a rock'n'roll heart.

Arm: Yeah, we're not afraid to take our drummer's kids to the strip clubs.

VIVA: Best strip bars in the country? [Loooong Silence]

Turner: Uh, Canada? I think Montreal had the gnarliest ones I've ever seen.

Arm: The gnarliest was that one in Anchorage. That place sucked!

Turner: Oh yeah! The end of the universe--I think we discovered it--is a strip bar in Anchorage. All the strip clubs there have cover charges. One doesn't. It is the end of the line. It is where dying strippers go. It was gnarly.

VIVA: Most grunge song of all time?

Turner: "Gacy's Place" by the Mentally Ill from the upperclass Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. 1979. Pure retardation punk rock. Think the Spits if the Spits were really dumb and not just pretending. The Spits are my favorite Seattle band.

VIVA: Sexiest song of all time?

Turner: "Are You on the Inside or the Outside of You Pants" by the Makers.

Arm: "Peppermint Twist."

VIVA: Sexiest singer of all time?

Turner: Joan Baez.

VIVA: Ewww!

Arm: Michael Stipe. [laughing]

VIVA: Sexiest record of last year?

Turner: David Dondero. The Transient. It's the only record I bought last year.

Arm: I can't think of anything that isn't a reissue.

VIVA: What do you listen to at home on Sunday mornings?

Arm: CSPAN.

Turner: The Staple Singers, generally.

VIVA: Favorite Stones record?

Turner: That's so hard... I love Between the Buttons. The first album! Just "King Bee" alone is one of my all-time favorite Stones songs. "Go on, Buzz a lot."

Arm: I can't believe your making me make these decisions... Maybe Beggars Banquet or Let It Bleed.

Turner: Goat's Head Soup... Flowers...

VIVA: Favorite Dylan record?

Turner: The Bootleg Series.

VIVA: Favorite Pretenders' song?

Arm: "Space Invader."

Turner: That whole first album. I love that record.

VIVA: Sexiest thing you've ever seen onstage?

Turner: Bow Wow Wow when I was sixteen. I was in the front row when they played Seattle. I was about 5'2, and looking up all I could see was white panties on that sixteen year old girl. That was something. That was really really really great.

Arm: I was going to school down in McMinnville, Oregon, and I wasn't twenty-one yet. A bunch of friends and I got in the car and drove up here and when they asked us for ID we whipped out our lunch room cards. And they're like "Oh they're from Linfield, let 'em in! They came all the way from McMinnville, Oregon." Bow Wow Wow were great.

VIVA: Sexiest thing you saw on stage, too?

Arm: Pretty close. Especially at that age. Oh, you know, my favorite record from last year was the Country Teasers record. Full Moon Empty Sports Bag.

VIVA: Sexiest city you've ever been to?

Arm: Newport, Kentucky.

VIVA: What is sexy about Seattle?

Turner: Sweet F'A'.

Arm: The town hates itself. It destroys all the cool buildings and puts up shitty condos and stuff. There's not much sexy there.

VIVA: They even took the hyenas out of the zoo!

Arm: They used to hump all the time.

Turner: Wait wait wait. The hyenas aren't still there at the zoo? We were just there... The hippos were pretty amazing. Those were sexy.

Arm: Emily and Rochene[?] climbed into that hippo tank one night.

VIVA: What?! They're like the most dangerous animals in the world.

Arm (laughing): They didn't know that. Then a week later we saw something on the news about hippos killing more people in Africa than any other animal.

Turner: They're evil. Pure evil.

VIVA: Do you guys have pets?

Arm: Yeah! Two dogs. Dexter and Stella. I had a cat named Scabby but she died about a year and a half ago.

Turner: I had a cat named Vietnam but she left me.

Arm: We had a guinea pig named Mr. Guinea Pig that was actually a woman.

VIVA: Would you rather go bowhunting with Ted Nugent or drink til ya puke with Lemmy Kilmister?

Turner: Duh.

VIVA: I think bowhunting with Ted Nugent would be kinda fun.

Turner: He's way too gay for me.

Karl Annala: You have to fuck the liver. The Nuge likes to fuck the liver.

Turner: Ted Nugent is mentally ill. He's like a really dangerous man.

VIVA: Something about that appeals to me.

Turner: Lemmy is like the voice of reason compared to Ted Nugent.

VIVA: What color panties are you wearing and how long have you been wearing them?

Arm (affecting an accent): Well, they're a tartan pattern...

Turner: ...as are mine...

Arm: ...and I've been wearing them for about...ten hours now.

Turner: What day is it? [laughter] This would be day three.

VIVA: Are they boxers or are they like boxer-briefs?

Arm: Boxers.

Turner: Real boxers. None of that combo thing.

VIVA: Everyone was so into those for a while.

Turner: No, no, no. NOT down with the combo thing. Dan still does it, you know, the combo whatever... I roll with the man hammock myself.

VIVA: Tartan man hammock?

 

 

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