They saved their la­bel Sub Pop from go­ing bust, in­spired the Seat­tle sound, and with fu­ri­ous new al­bum Dig­i­tal Garbage, Mudhoney show that their filthy tones are as sweet as they ever were.

Classic Rock - - Contents - Mudhoney’s Dig­i­tal Garbage is re­leased on Septem­ber 28 via Sub Pop. The band’s U K

They saved Sub Pop from go­ing bust, in­spired the Seat­tle sound, and their filthy tones are as sweet as they ever were.

The heart of grunge. This is what Mudhoney are. This is what Mudhoney al­ways have been. The heart of grunge. Whether the Pa­cific North­west band are spitting liq­ue­fied anger on their lat­est al­bum Dig­i­tal Garbage – a howl of out­rage, a scrim­mage of dis­gust at the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and an out-of-con­trol so­cial net­work sys­tem that en­ables it – or in­spir­ing a gen­er­a­tion of rock fans to grow their hair long and freak out to their an­themic de­but sin­gle, 1988’s Touch Me I’m Sick, Mudhoney have rocked the good rock.

“They’ve been solid since day one,” re­marks Tom Hazelmyer, founder of Min­neapo­lis hard­core la­bel Am­phet­a­mine Rep­tile.

This is true. In a world where racist char­la­tans and blowhard bul­lies are given free rein to rule and ruin peo­ple’s lives, Mudhoney still abide.

In 1988, Mudhoney’s dirty, highly dis­torted rock (dis­torted mainly be­cause the band couldn’t af­ford de­cent am­pli­fiers) cor­rupted and de­ter­mined the fate of count­less mu­si­cians and fans. Nir­vana, Pearl Jam, Mog­wai, Queens Of The Stone Age, any­one who ever at­tended an in­die disco in the early 1990s… they all know what I’m talk­ing about. Equal parts blues, 1960s garage rock and the at­ti­tude of US hard­core bands such as Black Flag. La­conic, spo­radic, blis­ter­ing. Mu­sic fu­elled by a de­monic drive and black hu­mour.

Founder mem­bers Steve Turner (guitar) and Mark Arm (vo­cals/guitar) formed the band

"Fuzz-punk. Not grunge. 'Grunge' is such a broad term. Our roots are in US hard­core punk." Mark Arm

in 1988 out of the ashes of Seat­tle main­stays Green River, the group that also spawned Pearl Jam. Drum­mer Dan Peters once played with Nir­vana; orig­i­nal bassist Matt Lukin, leg­endary for his drink­ing and for his drunken an­tics, came from grunge linch­pins and ma­jor Kurt Cobain in­flu­ence Melvins; ‘new’ bassist Guy Mad­di­son (he’s been with the band 17 years but he’s still the new boy) was part of gritty Aussie rock­ers Lubri­cated Goat; and even ‘man­ager’

Bob Whit­taker tour man­ages R.E.M.

Much as Soundgar­den cast a long shadow over the nascent Seat­tle grunge scene of the late 1980s, Mudhoney cast an even longer one. With­out them, it’s ar­guable that their sem­i­nal la­bel Sub Pop wouldn’t have sur­vived. The two are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked. Arm has even worked his day job in the Sub Pop ware­house, shift­ing boxes, since the early 2000s. When Sub Pop broke in the UK in 1989 and 1990 – thanks in no small part to the cham­pi­oning of Ra­dio 1 DJ John Peel and the mu­sic press – it was on the back of Mudhoney and their in­cen­di­ary live shows. Amer­ica fol­lowed.

Arm’s la­conic, brazen, wise­crack­ing stage pres­ence was a con­stant. “You guys can’t throw,” he taunted the au­di­ence at a mud­splat­tered 1992 Read­ing Festival. “You’re used to play­ing soc­cer and kick­ing balls with your feet. Just then, a size­able lump of Berk­shire hit him straight in the face. “That’ll learn me. Never taunt an armed au­di­ence,” he re­marked af­ter­wards.

“The streets of Seat­tle are paved with grunge,” he said to me on my first visit to the city in Jan­uary 1989 – a re­mark that he later may have had cause to re­gret when MTV and Vogue picked up the de­scrip­tion and ran with it, and count­less hair- and sub­ur­ban me­tal bands with lit­tle or no sym­pa­thy for the hard­core punk and garage that Mudhoney loved claimed it for their own. The term when Arm used it in ’89 was deroga­tory, in line with the band’s self-dep­re­cat­ing sense of hu­mour – it was a burn on the Dick Whit­ting­ton line “The streets are paved with gold”, grunge be­ing the shit­ti­est, dirt­i­est cur­rency

avail­able. No one cared about Seat­tle bands. That is un­til Melody Maker made Mudhoney cover stars. Overnight al­most, it seemed that rock mat­tered once more.

"Fuzz-punk,” Arm re­marks now. “Not grunge. We thought of our­selves from the same tra­di­tion as Scratch Acid, Sonic Youth, The Sci­en­tists – it was just un­der­ground rock. ‘Grunge’ is such a broad term. Our roots are in US hard­core punk. It was a very di­verse bunch of bands, from straight-up rock like The Re­place­ments to a bunch of weirdos like the But­t­hole Surfers.”

Mudhoney were bril­liantly dis­re­gard­ing of the mu­sic in­dus­try. Right at the time when their mates were all get­ting signed up for mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar deals, guitarist Turner went back to col­lege – “It would be a waste not to fin­ish it,” he re­marked. One mem­o­rable sin­gle, Into Yer Shtik (from 1995’s um, raw My Brother The Cow al­bum) fea­tures Arm scream­ing: ‘Why don’t you blow your brains out, too?’ over a ba­sic two-chord thrash that could’ve been recorded by in­spi­ra­tions Billy Child­ish’s pri­mal Thee Head­coats. Many felt the song was about Cobain’s widow, Court­ney Love, which the band de­nied, cit­ing in­stead an in­ci­dent in which record­ing en­gi­neer and Scratch Acid mem­ber Steve Al­bini was ap­proached by the band in Chicago, only for him to point­edly ig­nore them, too cool for his own good.

Much of 1988’s genre-defin­ing EP Su­per­fuzz Big­muff (named af­ter the band’s two favourite guitar dis­tor­tion ped­als) is con­cerned with sick­ness, fes­ter­ing mo­ments of ma­lin­ger­ing fear. “The type of girl you see walk­ing down the street but you know you should not touch,” is how Arm de­scribed the mighty fuck­ing god­head of 1989 sin­gle Here Comes Sick­ness. Su­per­fuzz is listed as one of Kurt Cobain’s 50 favourite al­bums, but in all hon­esty he should have listed two or three, given the in­flu­ence Arm in par­tic­u­lar had on him – Nir­vana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit is pure Mudhoney in its struc­ture.

Dig­i­tal Garbage is a cross be­tween these twin ob­ses­sions of rage and dis­ease, fo­cus­ing on Trump’s Amer­ica and the sick­ness that af­flicts the coun­try in 2018. The band started writ­ing the al­bum in Fe­bru­ary 2017, right af­ter Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, and you can hear the dis­grace of a na­tion on songs such as Hey Ne­an­der­fuck, Please Mr. Gun­man and the sear­ing 21st Cen­tury Pharisees: ‘Evan­gel­i­cal hyp­ocrites, he doesn’t give a fuck about your Je­sus/And it’s clear that you don’t ei­ther,’ sneers a shak­ing Arm, sound­ing like a de­mented cross be­tween Johnny Rot­ten and Jello Bi­afra as guitar lines pluck molten fury.

“One of the best protest al­bums of the Trump era. Spits hot fire,” com­ments Sonic Youth bi­og­ra­pher Stevie Chick, a sen­ti­ment that this writer en­dorses heartily.

“Things looked re­ally, re­ally dark ini­tially,” Arm says. “I mean, they’re still dark and fucked up, but at that point we didn’t know how in­com­pe­tent they’d be. The thought that peo­ple like Steve Ban­non [for­mer White House Chief Strate­gist un­der Trump] were in con­trol and tak­ing over, and the next thing would be these camps for Mus­lims and they’d do all these crazy things to il­le­gal aliens, it made me think of my mother’s up­bring­ing in Ger­many in the 1930s.

“If Don­ald Trump was a more com­pe­tent leader, things would be much, much worse than they are,” Arm sug­gests. “Ter­ri­ble things are hap­pen­ing: the dis­man­tling of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions… the only qual­i­fi­ca­tion to be a mem­ber of the cab­i­net seems to be that you have an­tipa­thy for the depart­ment, and some of these peo­ple are pretty good at tear­ing stuff apart. For­tu­nately, some of them are so

'Withour Mudhoney it is ar­guable that their sem­i­nal la­bel Sub Pop wouldn't have sur­vived. The two are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked.'

fuck­ing cor­rupt and greedy that it can­not be over­looked,” he adds, laugh­ing.

Mudhoney have re­leased only a rel­a­tive hand­ful of al­bums – nine if you don’t in­clude 1993’s ma­jor-la­bel re­lease the Five Dol­lar Bob’s Mock Cooter Stew EP on Reprise: “a dull, dopey mish­mash of sub­ur­ban-boy back­woodsi­ness”, ac­cord­ing to Trouser Press. Tellingly, the band avoid play­ing songs from that al­bum live these days. “That record has al­most been en­tirely scrubbed from our col­lec­tive con­scious,” Arm says in a typ­i­cally self-dep­re­cat­ing man­ner.

Five Dol­lar Bob is an anom­aly. As Hazelmyer sug­gests, ev­ery­thing else the band have re­leased apart from that brief ma­jor-la­bel burnout is solid grunge, if not gold. Those nine al­bums

(Dig­i­tal Garbage will be their tenth stu­dio re­lease) range from de­but Mudhoney to its in­spi­ra­tional fol­low-up of 1991, Ev­ery Good Boy De­serves Fudge

(the al­bum that saved Sub Pop from their debtors un­til Nir­vana broke big) to their bril­liant ma­jor­la­bel de­but Piece Of Cake.

Af­ter sev­eral years on Reprise Records, dur­ing which they never sold as much as they should have (Fudge sold ‘only’ 150,000 copies ini­tially, but it was un­com­pro­mis­ing in a way most of Mudhoney’s col­leagues were not), the band re­turned to Sub

Pop at the start of the 2000s. This happy re­union served a dual pur­pose: it rein­vig­o­rated the la­bel and helped ce­ment its iden­tity as the home of grunge, and re­sulted in a slew of clas­sic Mudhoney re­leases, in par­tic­u­lar the Iraq War-in­flu­enced Un­der A Bil­lion Suns (2006) and the sat­u­rated su­per­fuzz of Van­ish­ing Point (2013).

One rea­son they made rel­a­tively few al­bums

– in com­par­i­son to, say, peers The Melvins, who have re­leased more than 26 al­bums over the same pe­riod – is that a few decades ago Mudhoney re­alised that the band is a re­lease, not a job. So for a month a year the four mem­bers go out on tour and play a few shows, per­haps sup­port­ing mates Pearl Jam at are­nas. In the main, how­ever, for Turner and Arm this is the equiv­a­lent of golf, or a poker night in, “ex­cept we get to travel to re­ally cool places and play punk rock guitar”, guitarist Turner says, laugh­ing.

“It’s a re­lease valve,” con­firms Arm.

“The last three records we’ve made I’ve been re­ally happy with,” Turner says. “We’re on a roll! It’s re­ally fun to travel oc­ca­sion­ally with these guys.”

A"The last three records we've made I've been re­ally happy with. We're on a roll!" Steve Turner

fter 30 years

(the band would hes­i­tate to call it a ‘ca­reer’), Mudhoney are re­fresh­ingly up­beat and hon­est about their sit­u­a­tion.

“Cul­tur­ally, our gen­er­a­tion doesn’t seem to age the same way our par­ents did,” says Turner, who has lived in neigh­bour­ing Port­land for 10 years but gets to­gether to practise with the oth­ers once a week. “I still dress the same way I did when I was six­teen, I still get stoked by the same things I did when I was six­teen – go­ing skate­board­ing, play­ing punk rock guitar. You add things to the mix – you have kids, you get jobs – but if I was my dad right now, I would not be do­ing any of these things.”

Ac­cord­ing to Turner, high­lights of be­ing in Mudhoney in­clude record­ing their de­but sin­gle Touch Me I’m Sick (“I was so happy with the way that sounded”) and go­ing on tour in the UK for the first time, sup­port­ing Sonic Youth (with whom they also re­leased a split 12-inch sin­gle). The mud­splat­tered Read­ing Festival – “the mud one where Kurt was wheeled out” is how Turner re­mem­bers it – also mer­its a men­tion. There’s also “play­ing on top of the Space Nee­dle [in Seat­tle] for the twen­ty­fifth Sub Pop an­niver­sary, be­ing able to go to Aus­tralia for the first time…”

The guitarist also men­tions a night at New­cas­tle River­side as be­ing a par­tic­u­lar stand­out. “It was so funny and weird. Were you there?” he asks.

Yes. I was wear­ing a mod suit and pork pie hat and in­tro­duced the set, af­ter which the idea was that I would stage-dive into the au­di­ence – an au­di­ence so densely packed that there was no chance of do­ing that – but when I tried to run off stage I found my way blocked by Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gor­don. I tried to leap off five times only be to un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously hurled back on to the stage each time be­fore I was able to make my way to the exit.

So, Mudhoney, still go­ing strong af­ter be­ing around for 300 years…

“Roughly,” Turner says with a chuckle. “It works be­cause it works part-time.”

The grunge abides.

Words: Ev­erett True

Mudhoney 2018: (l-r) DanPeters, Guy Mad­di­son, Mark Arm, Steve Turner.

Kurt Cobain joins Mudhoney on stage at Cas­taic Lake Nat­u­ral Am­phithe­ater in Cal­i­for­nia,Septem­ber 26, 1992.Floor­ing it in ’88.

All smiles in 2008: (l-r) Arm,Mad­di­son, Peters, Turner.

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