MONDAY DECEMBER 11, 2017
 
Blog INTERVIEWS
MUDHONEY
MudhoneyLead.jpg

Any post-'90s write-up of Mudhoney will designate them as lone survivors of the Seattle grunge scene but after 25 years, nine albums and a single lineup change (founding bassist Matt Lukin left for good in 2001) they’ve become one of the most durable rock groups, period. Their place in the grunge sub-genre’s canon stopped being a concern even before the turn of the century.

Album No. 9, Vanishing Point, is out this week via Sub Pop. To mark the occasion we spoke with frontman Mark Arm about the band’s recording history, Bible stories and sobriety.

As of this past January, Mudhoney has been a band for 25 years.

Yeah, January 1. That’s when we first practiced together as a four-piece.

On New Year’s Day?

I have no recollection of that day. At this point, “We first practiced that day” is an apocryphal story we just keep repeating.

Do you hold birthday celebrations for the band?

[Laughs] Not really. One year we got a cake. That might have been the 10-year anniversary.

Which Mudhoney record was the most enjoyable to make?

In terms of ease, Vanishing Point and The Lucky Ones (2008) came together really quickly. [Long pause] When it gets too far back, I don’t have a clear recollection for each album, but I know Piece of Cake (1992) was very belaboured. I was really fucked up at that point.

I didn’t play guitar on The Lucky Ones, so that made things go a lot quicker. The tracking for Vanishing Point took place over two long weekends — we went in on Thursdays and were done by Sunday. I think we just don’t over-analyze anything; if something isn’t working in the studio we scrap it very quickly. We’re never married to ideas.



You’ve managed to preserve your youthful energy and indignation. Several tracks on Vanishing Point — “Douchebags On Parade” and “Chardonnay” — sound like the work of a younger, angrier songwriter.

We always want the songs to feel as alive as possible. The thought of recording one piece at a time, which is done a lot more than you’d think ... like going into the studio and recording a snare hit 180 times ...

That sounds hellish.

And it would all have to be done to a click track. So the meter would be perfect but there would be no life in the song. I would rather play with a drummer who speeds up and slows down within the song — and I do. There’s a living, breathing person there all the time.

“The Only Son of the Widow from Nain” is sung from the perspective of the other guy, aside from Lazarus, that Christ brought back from the dead. Are you a student of religion?

The specifics of the song came in from the back, you know. I originally was just working with the idea of someone being reanimated. That was the beginning of it. I knew about Lazarus, that’s a pretty famous Biblical story, and I had a vague recollection from my Sunday school days of this other person Christ brought back from the dead. I did some light research and found that other story, about the unnamed Son of the Widow from Nain. So the song is about his jealousy toward Lazarus, he being well-known. “He’s not the only one! I came back from the dead, too!”

Given your most recent promo photos and a song called “Chardonnay,” would you call yourself a wine lover?

I am indeed.

Are you a collector?

Wine is to drink. It’s not like a record, you can’t just keep it around forever. I have many bottles in my house but I do plan to drink them all.

At this point in your career do you perform stone-cold sober?

For many years there was no way we could do that. On the UCLA campus at noon once, around ’93, we were about to play a show and realized it was the first time we were going on completely sober. There wasn’t a drink to be had, anywhere.

In the late ‘90s, I had a scare with my liver and I stopped for a couple of years. I thought, “How am I going to do this?” but it turned out just fine.

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