Mudhoney's Mark Arm The Exclaim! Questionnaire

Mudhoney's Mark Arm The Exclaim! Questionnaire
As fans might expect, Mark Arm isn’t really one for nostalgia. A primary catalyst for the punk, indie rock, and yes, grunge explosion of the ’90s, Seattle’s Mudhoney just reissued their revolutionary debut EP, Superfuzz Bigmuff, in a deluxe edition. Both the band and their long-time label Sub Pop celebrate 20th anniversaries this year but singer/guitarist Arm regards the milestones modestly.

"It made me look at a bunch of old pictures and go, ‘Wow, we were little kids!’” Arm laughs from his day job in Sub Pop’s warehouse. "What’s the accomplishment in being in a rock band? I mean it’s a great and fun thing, I’m pleased to do it for 20-plus years, and it might be life-affirming for somebody but, with all the crap that’s going on, it’s pretty insignificant.”
So Mudhoney are simply being Mudhoney, releasing the excellent new blues-punk record The Lucky Ones to coincide with the reissue. "We’re essentially the same band with a similar attitude and approach, which is based on the music we play,” Arm says. "Our initial goal was to put a single out and, once we did that, we could’ve stopped and been happy. I think that might be why we’re around 20 years later; because we didn’t aim for any kind of brass ring and we weren’t disappointed by what we did not achieve.”

What are you up to?
What am I up to? Oh, current projects, not just what am I up to at this moment, because what I’m up to is talking to you. Just pretty much getting ready to do a US tour, shortly after the release of two records in one day.

What are your current fixations?
I guess what’s been happening with the Democratic primary. Every day I check to see how many super delegates moved to whom. Also, what’s going on in Myanmar, which is a bummer. My wife and I went there just a couple of days after the tsunami and travelled around for about a month. We met some really great people and now I’m just kinda wondering what’s happened to a lot of them. Oh, and I really love South Park! No, I’m just trying to think of something...else. My current pop culture obsessions, I don’t really have a whole lot except for some goofy reality TV shows that I watch with my wife, like Top Chef.

Why do you live in West Seattle?
I grew up on the east side of Seattle, in the suburbs, and I tried to get as far away from there as possible, while remaining in Seattle. The reason I live in Seattle and haven’t moved — I mean I would love to live to someplace else I guess — but my friends and relations are here. And, I’ve luckily had the chance to travel all over the place and see many different things and places.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
You know, the most psychedelic record I know of, or the one that sounds the best on LSD, is Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing by Discharge. It’s just a wall of guitars and it sounds like you’re in this hall of mirrors of this one giant riff. All the songs almost sound the same but, over the course of a whole record, it sounds like one piece of music with these breaks between them, which are the spaces between the songs.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
There are actually two inspirational gigs by this band Tales of Terror that I could talk about. They came to Seattle in about ’84 and they played twice in one week, two weekends in a row. The first show was just amazing. They were one of the wildest bands I’ve ever seen. They were obviously kids who were rooted in punk and hardcore but they were expanding things a little bit, like they did "Spanish Castle Magic” and the drummer had this really nice Mitch Mitchell [of the Jimi Hendrix Experience] kinda feel instead of the hardcore, like ‘1-2, 1-2, 1-2’ kinda thing. The singer would do back flips and, by the end of their set, everyone was wrapped up in each other’s cords and rolling on the ground and I’m like, ‘This is what a rock show should be.’ They played again a week later and it wasn’t quite as good. Apparently they’d financed their tour by bringing up acid to sell and, apparently, had eaten most of their profits that week. So, they seemed not quite there, as you could imagine after a week of taking a bunch of acid. But actually, the other Tales of Terror show I meant to talk about besides that first one, which totally blew me away, was the last time they came through, which was a couple of months later. There was a big party for them in the afternoon so they just got really, really, really drunk and fucked up. I remember waiting for them to play and watching them get onstage and the drummer, kinda like, trying to get to his drums, kinda staggering back and forth. But once he actually got behind the kit, he played really great. But the singer got up onstage and sang maybe half of the first song before falling over onto his face and lying there for the rest of the set. It was like the greatest show I’ve ever seen and the worst show I’ve ever seen. We’ve done the same. I dunno if we’ve played as good as they did but we’ve definitely played as bad as they did.

What have been your career highs and lows?
Geez, you know, I think the highs were when things first really started taking off. Nothing’s taken for granted and you’re just kinda surprised by what’s happening to you. I think the low would be when Matt [Lukin, bassist] quit the band, and not knowing quite how to proceed. I think Dan’s [Peters, drums] inclination was to pack it in, so Steve [Turner] and I just worked on a Monkeywrench record for about a year. I think at the end of that year, Dan realised he was really, really bored and wanted to keep playing!

What’s the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
Oh, I dunno. ‘You suck’ I guess but how mean is that? I can’t really think of anything. Mostly the people who come to our shows are really nice to us. There haven’t been a whole lot of mean things said to us. Unfortunate for you, fortunate for me.

What should everyone shut up about?
I dunno, the gas tax?! I’m all about freedom of speech, even for idiots, so they can just keep talking and blathering on.

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
Well y’know, I guess I’m really astounded by how handsome I am. I’m just amazed at how handsome I am and that someone as handsome as I could be born and walk among you regular people. I’m also a little bit taken aback by how handsome I am and the stares I get all the time, so it’s not always a plus.

What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Having no obligations and nothing to do? Or uh, three hours in church?

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
(Laughs) I think the easy one to say is ‘don’t take drugs’ or something like that but y’know, I like to experience things firsthand and test certain boundaries. So, I don’t think there was any advice I should have taken.

What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
I have never kicked anyone out of my band or bed. I am not that assertive!

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
Well, first of all, Nardwuar! We’ve known him for such a long time. I think of your sandy oil fields and how they’ll make my car go that much farther. We’ve never really toured through Canada. We’ve driven up to Vancouver and popped over the border to Toronto and Montreal but have never gone east to west across the country. I’ve seen that movie about a Vancouver punk rock band? Hard Core Logo, yeah, and there’s a lot of nothing in there. Oh, and we’ve flown up to Calgary and also played some really weird festival near Edmonton once where, apparently we were very lucky to get paid because a lot of the bands who played later didn’t get paid. I think it only happened that one year. When we flew into Calgary, it was shortly after 9/11. We flew into Vancouver and then we got a connecting flight to Calgary but Dan missed his connection that the rest of us made because he had a kick drum pedal with him. The Canadian security guy didn’t know what to make of the kick drum pedal. He took it out of his bag and was like, pushing down on it and holding it and watching the lever. Dan just kept going, ‘It’s a kick drum pedal! It’s for drumming! It’s for a musical instrument!’ And the guy was just looking at it and eventually took it in both hands and was just clapping it together as hard as he could. The pedal would beat forward and he’s like, ‘I know what this is for! It’s for hitting someone over the head!’ Like he just totally thought it was some kind of weapon. He thought we were going to highjack the plane with a kick drum pedal. But Dan missed his flight because of that guy but fortunately there was another one not too far away. That’s your security team.

What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Ah, I know that one: Desolation Boulevard by the Sweet. It was on LP and I was in the eighth grade.

What was your most memorable day job?
You know, I have a day job right now and you’re calling me at it. It’s not like I’ve totally left that world behind. I had ten years where I didn’t have one. That was pretty great. One of my first ones, I got this job in high school at a plastic bucket factory. It started in the spring towards the end of the school year. I went and worked there one day and I was like the only kid there. Everyone else seemed pretty old to me, although they were probably in their mid-20s or something, but like real adults. It was just so hot. The buckets came out of this injector machine and they were super hot and I had to grab and stack ‘em. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna have to do this the whole summer!’ Then I went skateboarding with a friend down at a skatepark in Olympia, WA, that was really kinked out and way over my head and I broke my ankle, and so I lucked out. I didn’t have to work at the bucket factory again. So, a skateboarding injury saved my summer.

How do you spoil yourself?
I dunno, do I spoil myself? I could say I’m already spoiled. I don’t really have indulgences that I need to feed. I’m not the most objective person; maybe someone else might be like, ‘Yeah, I can’t believe he does this all the time.’

If I wasn’t playing music I would be…
(Long pause) Working in a warehouse at Sub Pop. (Laughs)

What do you fear most?
God! No, no, no, not God, I’m just trying to think. There are plenty of things I fear but I don’t really obsess over anything. Maybe some bummer of an injury or disease where you can no longer walk or just live in your body and do things that most of us take for granted.

What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
My old lady. If you’re gonna put it in those terms, you have to answer with a ’70s answer.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
We opened for Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden in ’94, maybe less than a week after Kurt Cobain was found dead. And, after the show, there were all these insane celebrities there, from Lenny Kravitz to Naomi Campbell to Ace Frehley. I was in this conversation with Jim Carroll and Matt Dillon and Jim Carroll was like 6’5” and kinda greenish-grey. And he was just going on about how he could never kill himself because he just couldn’t imagine there being a day where he wouldn’t be able to write poetry. And I was just looking at him like, "What the fuck…is wrong with you?” Matt Dillon seemed equally baffled! But just the idea that I would be in a conversation with those two guys is like, "Huh, that’s really weird.”

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
(Laughs). Y’know, we don’t really throw dinner parties at our house. I guess it would have to be Nostradamus. Or no, no, let me change that to Marie Antoinette and I would serve her cake.

What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
My mom, she’s kinda doddering at this point. She’s 87 and has had a couple of mini-strokes. But yeah, she’s still kicking. The other day, I took her to the store and went shopping with her and she was just like, "Y’know, if you would’ve joined the air force straight out of high school, you’d be retired by now and probably an officer.” So, I think that’s what she wanted me to do. I know when I was a little kid she wanted me to be a concert pianist. But there was a certain amount of pressure for me to join the military after high school and it was just like, "No.” My dad, he grew up in a small town in Kansas during the depression and the military was a good way for him to get out of there and get his schooling paid for and everything like that. I don’t have the temperament for that. She was saying, "You could’ve seen the world!” It’s like, "I’ve already seen the world!” And I did it in on my own terms; it wasn’t like I was showing up every day and having to salute and take orders from somebody else. She did not get that at all!

What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
"Dirt” by the Stooges, as they’re shovelling the dirt onto my casket. Either that or, if I’m getting cremated, "Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. That would be more of a party song. It depends on how I want my funeral to go. Actually, I would prefer a party. Also, I don’t think I’ll probably be buried. It takes up so much space.