For many aggressive musical acts, drawing inspiration from the news of the day can help to bring a new sense of purpose to their songs. But for Mark Arm leader of the long-running and influential Seattle grunge pioneers, Mudhoney, the current political atmosphere is just another drop in the bucket. For him and the rest of the band, being pissed is simply their modus operandi. You see, administrations may change, but Mudhoney is for life.
Last year, the band put out their fantastic album “Digital Garbage”, which took aim at the regression of humans as a species by their own technological advancements. Last month the band released their new 7-song EP “Mourning in America” which not only picks up right where “Garbage” left off, but doubles down on it’s fury. As the band hits the road in support of both that album and this new EP, you might be mistaken in thinking that Arm and the rest of the band are energized to rally against the powers that be. But when I spoke with him over the phone while he had some downtime at his day job as the manager of the Sub Pop records warehouse in Seattle, he assures me that it’s quite the opposite.
“I don’t feel energized by the f–king political situation depressing everything right now. Because it’s just so all-consuming, and every day there’s just something f–king new and horrible that’s in the news,” says Arm. “I could imagine how easy it would be to just shut down. And I think they’re [the Trump administration] counting on maybe making people responding in that way. I long for a time when you get back to something where like you don’t even think about the President for a couple of weeks at a time… We’re energized by the music that we make, and we’re stoked at the prospect of playing some shows in the U.S. But that’s despite what’s going on.”
In fact, save for a Leather Nun cover, most of the originals on the new EP were unfinished songs that could have ended up on “Digital Garbage” but were left off for one reason or another. But as Arm went back, he realized his still had more to say in the conversation they started with their last album.
“All the music was recorded around the time we had ‘Digital Garbage’, I don’t think I had lyrics ready for ‘Creeps Are Everywhere’ in time. So, but yeah, I mean those are, for lack of a better word, leftover songs. It seems like there could have been some songs that could have swapped places,” Arm explains.
Mudhoney still tours today with the same lineup that has been intact since 2000, with Arm on lead vocals and guitar, Steve Turner on lead guitar, Guy Maddison on bass, and Dan Peters on drums. The band is still a force to behold on stage and I comment that their vitality on the road with a new generation of bands that were inspired by Mudhoney is a testament to the band’s roll in the continuation of punk rock’s larger narrative. While they may have been lumped in with the Seattle Grunge movement, the band has always remained gnarlier and their sound has aged much more gracefully than many of their peers.
“That’s the way it’s always seemed to me,” says Arm. “When we were first starting out, I mean, Grunge wasn’t a thing that existed as a thing. I just sort of always thought we were, even though we were coming out in the late eighties, in that kind of tradition of American underground Punk Rock or whatever. Like in the same vein as diverse bands like The Replacements and Butthole Surfers to throw out like, ‘Here are the total weirdos. They’re just this little start-up rock band,’ but it’s all kind of part of the same thing at the time, you know?”
Make sure to catch Mudhoney on tour this Fall.