It's more than mere coincidence that both the Sub Pop label and Mudhoney are celebrating their 20th anniversary: the garage punk crew helped define the Seattle grunge sound on which Sub Pop built its empire. While Sub Pop has since found that there's more money in sensitively strummy pop twaddle, Mudhoney remain among the label's few acts capable of kicking out the jams, as you'll discover when they hit the Horseshoe (370 Queen West) Friday (September 19). Frontman Mark Arm takes time out from his day job at the Sub Pop warehouse to discuss the new album and the group's longevity.
The latest Mudhoney disc, The Lucky Ones, seems like a raucously raw return to form. What happened?
We had 11 songs written, so we set aside two long weekends to record, thinking that we could maybe get down the basic parts for half of the songs at the first session and then come back a month later and put down the beds for the rest. But everything came together so incredibly quickly, after a day and a half we had the basics for all 11 songs. Then we did the vocals and a couple of percussion and guitar overdubs and the whole thing was done that first weekend. It was one of the strangest recording experiences I've ever had.
Do you think the relative speediness of the recording had anything to do with the fact that you weren't playing any guitar on it?
Heh heh, yeah. That definitely cut down on the time needed for retakes and overdubs. When we're putting down the basic tracks, I'm often singing and playing guitar at the same time. So I usually need to do both over again because I'm not concentrating fully on either.
Does this mean that you'll be performing the new material sans guitar, Iggy Pop-style?
Er... not quite. I'll be performing the songs without a guitar, but Mark Arm-style - the shirt stays on, which is good for everyone.
How have you managed to stay together for so long, still releasing music that doesn't suck, with essentially the same lineup?
Keeping a band together isn't too difficult if you have a certain amount of respect for everyone else in the group and you have absolutely no expectations. If you're writing and recording songs for the sheer enjoyment of making music, it's no problem.
Have you ever quit the group?
You mean like, "That's it, I'm outta here! (slam)"? No, never. I mean, what else would I do? My life is a good example of what can happen if you don't have a career plan. You stumble into something and wind up doing it for the rest of your life. But playing in this group is still exciting for me. I don't feel like we're treading water. We do a lot of older stuff at our gigs, sure, but it's not a nostalgia trip.