“Well, by the time we get to Australia it’ll be 26.”
Speaking about Mudhoney’s 25th anniversary from the Sub Pop warehouse in Seattle, Mark Arm is calm, collected, and a little sarcastic.
Whilst many know Arm for his ‘Mudhoneying’ by night, the 51-year-old handles records and is a stock manager by day – a job that he’s quite content with.
“As much as I love touring, I don’t want to do that all the time,” he says. “If the band were to be all of our lives entirely, we would have to sacrifice our home lives and how we spend time with our families, and that’s not anything me or anyone is willing to give up. We’ve struck a fairly good balance at this point in our ‘advanced age’.”
Born out of the ashes of band Green River and forming as Mudhoney in 1988, the Seattle punk rockers and their Superfuzz Bigmuff EP paved the way for bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. Their gritty, unique sound soon established something that would later be known as grunge.
Now, a quarter of a century later, Mudhoney is one of the many nostalgic acts on the Big Day Out line-up for 2014. When asked to reminisce over the band’s illustrious career, he responds in typical Mark Arm fashion.
“You’re asking me to try and remember 25 years back? You know, it was small. I remember it being fun, I remember being drunk…a lot…yeah,” he laughs.
“But if you had told me we’d still be around, I would have thought you were crazy. Up to that point, the longest band I’d ever been in existed for three years. I came up through the punk rock underground.”
“Most bands didn’t last very long and most seemed to split apart and form new bands, and that happened over and over again. It’s just something that I thought we would do. Our initial goal was to just put out a single to prove that we existed.”“Our initial goal was to just put out a single to prove that we existed”
Would the vocalist and rhythm guitarist have done anything differently?
“Well…life is too short for regrets.”
Some say that Mark is responsible for establishing the term ‘grunge’, a word that didn’t necessarily associate itself with a specific genre as it does today.
“Before it became a noun it was used as an adjective. You know, like, ‘it’s a grungy sounding guitar’,” he says. “If you just sort of apply that to a small group of bands in Seattle, some of who sound slicker than others, that really works for me. But I don’t really care about it.”
“A couple of years ago we were getting questions about the grunge movement and that just sort of seemed strange to me. What most people were talking about was a handful of bands that started in Seattle, and then maybe afterwards there were sort of copycat bands around the world – Bush in the UK, Stone Temple Pilots in California, and Silverchair in Australia.”
“I think what was happening in Seattle was an organic thing because these were a small group of people going to shows and seeing each other play. It wasn’t a movement. It wasn’t like a worldwide thing.”
Early this year Mudhoney unveiled Vanishing Point, their ninth studio album that aims to capture the pure essence of what the band is all about.
“It took a while to get it off the ground,” Arm says. “We didn’t write songs for a couple of years. We’re scattered. Steve [Turner, lead guitarist] lives in Portland which is three hours away so it’s a six hour round trip for him, and we work collaboratively which is a little difficult when we can’t all get in a room together.”
“Once things did start rolling, they went really quickly. When we have a song we have a pretty fair idea of what we want it to sound like. We’re all about finding our sound in the studio and at times it can be a black hole.”
“We’re the kind of band that are generally seeking to capture our live thing, maybe adding a few frills here and there. We’ve had horns before and added a synthesiser for a couple of songs on this record, but generally we’re pretty much a live band and we try to capture that and I think getting more obsessed with what twiddle of what knob does in the process.”
“They [the public] can probably just crawl up their own arsehole if they don’t like it.”
Next year won’t be the first time Mudhoney will be gracing the Big Day Out stage. The band were one of the pulling cards for one hell of a killer line-up in 1993.“They [the public] can probably just crawl up their own arsehole if they don’t like it”
“One of our fondest memories of touring was when we did that Big Day Out in ‘93,” the frontman says. “It was amazing. Iggy Pop, Beasts Of Bourbon, Sonic Youth, The Hard-Ons, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds…the whole time I was like ‘what am I doing here!’”
“The last couple of times we’ve been to Australia we’re in a town for a day, maybe two. This time [Big Day Out ‘14] will be kind of like that first time we went to Australia. The greatest thing was when we would stay in Sydney or Melbourne for almost a week and play shows before moving on to the next city. I know people still do that today, but this will give us a chance to do that again, and hang out in some cities for four or five days.”
What really keeps a band going after all these years? For Mudhoney, it’s all about being passionate about music, keeping the right frame of mind, and not becoming too obsessed with fame.
“We all enjoy each other’s company and we all are really into doing it,” Arm says. “We have lives and jobs and things like that – and at this point, families – and we’re not deluded enough to think this music thing is going to kick off someday.”
“We just feel lucky that we still get to come down to places like Australia to play shows. Apparently people still want to see us.”
So, what should Australian audiences expect from the pioneers when they hit our shores next year?
“From us? That depends on if you think we’re special or not,” Arm laughs.
“I don’t know. If I told you now, would it be a surprise? Man, now I have to think of a goddamn surprise.”
Mudhoney will play at Big Day Out 2014 as well as headline shows in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney.
Mudhoney Big Day Out 2014 Sideshows
Presented by Handsome Tours, supported by Triple R
Brisbane: Saturday 18th January, The Zoo
Support from feedtime and Gravel Samwidge
Melbourne: Wednesday 22nd January, Corner Hotel
Support from Kim & Leanne and The Paul Kidney Experience
Sydney: Wednesday 29th January, Oxford Art Factory
Support from feedtime
Mudhoney will also appear nationally at Big Day Out
Big Day Out 2014 Dates & Venues
Friday 17th January ~ Western Springs, Auckland*
Sunday 19th January ~ Metricon Stadium & Carrara Parklands, Gold Coast
Friday 24th January ~ Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Sunday 26th January ~ Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney
Friday 31st January ~ Bonython Park, Adelaide**
Sunday 2nd February ~ Claremont Showgrounds, Perth**
*For New Zealand Big Day Out 2014 lineup and ticketing details, please refer to www.bigdayout.com and choose AUCKLAND
**Subject to council approval