“Maybe you went with some other band,” laughs Mark Arm. The singer and guitarist for legendary Seattle band Mudhoney is in the process of poking a giant hole in the middle of one of my favorite anecdotes. The story has a young me, circa 1990, heading off with the Mudhoney boys after a show in Jacksonville Beach. We’d been drinking all night, and after they finished playing a show at the (dearly departed) Einstein a Go-Go, we all headed down the street and happened upon a midget bar. Three-quarter-scale pool tables and all. Except the short people in this bar weren’t cute, reality-TV midgets. This was a midget biker bar, with the patrons decked out in leather and bearing no patience for the intrusion of full-sized gawkers. After some threatening glances from the regulars, we decided the place wasn’t for us.
I’ve told this tale dozens of times, once in these very pages, because the memory of this occurrence is as vivid in my mind as the day I married my wife – and now, thanks to Mark Arm, I’m digging around in my mental safe-deposit box for my marriage certificate.
“I don’t remember the midget bar, but you know, if you drink enough, things can start to look a lot smaller,” consoles Arm. Then, laughing, he says, “Or maybe you just did some dust.”
Probably not. I’m forced to console myself with the supposition that Arm’s memories of that long-ago tour stop may be a little fuzzy. After all, the guy and his band have played hundreds of shows in their 20-year existence. Maybe he just forgot this Florida midget bar?
“No, I doubt it. I’m pretty sure I’d remember a midget bar.”
Regardless, it has been quite a long time – 15 years by Arm’s estimation – since Mudhoney graced the state of Florida, and midget-bar trauma or no, Arm is quick to point out that the band’s decade-plus absence from the state was not intended as a slight.
“I don’t know, exactly `why it’s been so long`,” he says. “Actually, you know, we haven’t played Germany since 1995, so Florida shouldn’t take it personally. Germany hasn’t taken it personally, and I know this because you’ve seen what those people can do `when they get angry`.”
These stretches of time – 13 years since playing in Germany, 15 years since the last Florida show, 18 years since an imaginary sojourn to a midget bar – are especially notable for Mudhoney this time around. The band is celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2008, and they’re doing it in style with both a new album, The Lucky Ones, and a two-disc, deluxe-edition reissue of their infamous Superfuzz Bigmuff record. The latter, a six-song slab of punk slurry, combined with the potent force of the band’s instantly legendary debut 7-inch single (“Touch Me I’m Sick”) to kick-start the grunge movement that would dominate rock throughout the early ’90s. The reissue is fleshed out by the inclusion of the “Touch Me” single along with other 7-inches, compilation appearances, demo tracks and two live concerts. Now that they’ve been given the “deluxe edition” treatment, does that mean Mudhoney is now officially part of the rock & roll canon, a true legacy band worthy of having their music assessed alongside the giants?
“Well, you could just say that anyone who does something like `this reissue` is forcing themselves into the canon,” laughs Arm, fully aware of the silliness and seriousness of Superfuzz’s significance among alt-rock fans. “So I’m not sure how much doing a deluxe edition has to do with actually being in the canon.
“It’s crazy, though. We never thought we’d make it past three `years`, tops. Even in the beginning, the only goal we had was to put out a single, which came pretty quick and easy. At that point, we could have said, ‘Our job is done,’ but instead we kept going.”
But why keep going at all? With a genre-defining EP, a clutch of classic singles, and an exalted position during the Grunge Years, why bother making new albums and expanding the palette of the band’s sonic signature? Why not be legends and move on?
“Because we enjoy it. It’s as simple as that. We’ll stop doing it when it stops being fun. Obviously, `original bassist Matt` Lukin thought it stopped being fun around 1999, so he left.
“But the actual ‘doing it’ – the writing and recording of songs – is still great, and it’s still fun. I love writing songs and recording them and watching them turn into something from just a nugget of an idea.”
As the band simultaneously reflects on their 20 years of history and the excitement of promoting a new record, one has to wonder if Arm worries that with all the nostalgia wrapped up in the reissue, people will forget that Mudhoney just released a brand-new album.
“It’s funny, because I’ve seen people be like, ‘Oh, it’s more of the same,’ and then some people are like, ‘Oh, it’s too different.’ But it doesn’t really matter to me. I’d assume it’s different … and somewhat the same?” he laughs.
“There’s really no grand goal that we’re trying to achieve anymore. It’s just that we really like playing together. We get this opportunity to travel to different places around the world – but not Germany.”firstname.lastname@example.org
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