There are few bands in recent underground music history who command - and deserve - as much respect as Mudhoney. Survivors of the late-'80s/early-'90s Seattle explosion, singer Mark Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, drummer Dan Peters, and bassist Matt Lukin (replaced in 2001 by Guy Maddison) have been at it since 1988, when their seminal EP Superfuzz Bigmuff accidentally helped to father grunge with its blend of fuzz-drenched Stooges dynamics and ironically detached punk nihilism. In the years since that debut, they've plowed an even deeper furrow: mining garage, blues and even Hawkwind-esque psychedelia to their rawest extent, sharing the stage with Bo Diddley (and earning it), and in general, rocking well into their forties.
The Modern Pea Pod was lucky enough to speak to Mark Arm for a solid hour, during which we discussed the band, rock history, national politics, and Mudhoney's excellent upcoming record, Under a Billion Suns. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did...just please, don't call them alternative rock's answer to the Rolling Stones.
Modern Pea Pod: So you guys have been around forever - your first record came out in 1988, and you've only really been on hiatus for a couple years around 2000, right?
Mark Arm: We've had two downtimes. The first was in about 1991: Steve said he was going back to college, and we didn't do anything for about six months...but I don't think he ever even returned to school. Then after Matt quit [in late 1999], we didn't do anything for a year. Actually, Steve and I did [side project] Monkeywrench during both of those times, I think.
MPP: What makes you keep coming back to this project?
MA: Well, I wouldn't think it's a project... (laughs) I think it's more how we identify ourselves. I mean Steve's got a solo thing going, so I'd think he identifies himself...as himself. (laughs) But it just feels natural for us to play together. We don't sit around analyzing why we do it or anything like that.
MPP: I'd like to talk about your new album - first of all, it's great. It feels a lot more direct than your last one [2002's Since We've Become Translucent], maybe a little less psychedelic -
MA: That would be the big, sprawling opening, right? [Translucent's "Baby Can You Dig the Light?"]
MPP: Yeah. There's a lot less of that on here. Also, this seems like the most openly political work you've done yet.