“It causes Alzheimer’s,” Mudhoney bassist Matt Lukin announces cheerfully as he proffers a do-it-yourself bong made out of a strategically punctured and dented Heineken can. Inhaling the aluminum, apparently, is what gets you.
“You gonna write that you got stoned with us?” asks drummer Dan Peters.
To Mudhoney, that would be the honest thing to do. Because Lukin, Peters, guitarist Steve Turner and vocalist Mark Arm subscribe to the old-school ethics of punk rock: Make music; have fun; don’t be a square; get your clothes at the Salvation Army; spend most of your money on obscure import records, pot and beer. And they define the enemy as anyone who is phony, glossy, self-important or career obsessed.
Which doesn’t mean they’re averse to enjoying a good payday. At the moment, the members of Mudhoney are hanging out at the Roosevelt Hotel, in the heart of Hollywood, having just taped an appearance on Daisy and Chess, a pilot for a Fox sitcom set in a CBGB-type bar—kind of a Cheers for the flannel-and-baggy-shorts set.
“We’re the steppingstone for other bands to make their mark,” deadpans Arm.”We’re probably the most important band to be on sitcom TV.” Besides, the band notes, Royal Trux turned down the gig.
It’s easy to see why, too, as Lukin reads part of the script aloud: “It’s beginning to get pretty packed. There’s a lot of black clothes, plaid shirts, combat boots, pierced body parts…. This is a bunch who is serious about its music.” The irony of appearing in a TV spoof on the current alternative-rock scene is not lost on Mudhoney.
Arguably the most under-hyped band to have emerged from the Puget Sound grunge wars of the early ’90s, Mudhoney are relatively new to the big-time media game. Back in 1988, their debut single on Sub Pop, the ripsnorting “Touch Me I’m Sick,” was the nascent Seattle scene’s song du jour, and Mudhoney’s good buddies Nirvana were just an underground band. After firing off several other critically beloved garage-punk torpedoes on Sub Pop (including the 1988 EP Superfuzz Bigmuff and the ’91 album Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge), Mudhoney finally signed with a major label, Reprise, and were among the last of the first-generation Seattle bands to make the corporate leap. Mudhoney have just issued the full-length follow-up to 1992’s Piece of Cake, a potent blast of attitude and noise called My Brother the Cow, which was coproduced by the band and local studio guru Jack Endino.
But while Mudhoney sell a respectable number of records by press-darling standards, they’re not in any immediate danger of becoming overnight stars. Which is fine, they claim. Fame, says Arm with a laugh, “is not really a concern. I don’t think we’re in any danger of it happening to us.”
“We’ve gotten that same line of questioning for years: ‘What will you do if you get famous?’ ” says Turner. “And we keep saying it ain’t gonna happen.” “We understand ourselves,” Arm insists, “and the world around us. We’re not delusional.”
Actually, as prospective mega-stars go, Mudhoney are more like accidental tourists. In the early days, says Turner, “we never sent out demos. It would never occur to me to do that.”
Mudhoney didn’t have to. The band initially made its reputation as much on the strength of its pedigree as on its manic, engaging, fuzz-box-laden sound. Turner and Arm were previously in the seminal Seattle group Green River (along with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, later of Mother Love Bone and, of course, Pearl Jam). Lukin was in the protogrunge outfit the Melvins. Peters once drummed with Nirvana. They christened themselves Mudhoney after a Russ Meyer film. Peters says the band members first really felt successful “once we didn’t have to have ‘real’ jobs.”
Having completed their sitcom assignment in L.A., Mudhoney are now back in Seattle, settled into the more familiar, comfy pleasures of Ivar’s Salmon House — American Indian art and microbrewed beer. Outside, sea gulls and Canadian geese hover closely above some cops eating French fries by Lake Union. “I’ve been coming here since childhood,” says Turner. “I was 7 or 8. They give kids paper Indian masks and crayons.” The band members’ personal histories are — considering the twisted intensity of their music and the usual line about broken homes and miserable adolescence in most punk-group interviews — remarkably lacking in trauma. Their parents were Boeing workers, classical-music bugs, business people. Mark Arm’s mother was an opera singer. Peters’ mom sang with a lounge band for a while (“Total” 70s Captain and Tennille,” he says, laughing).
As youngsters, the guys in Mudhoney all discovered punk rock at a formative age and went on to devote their lives to it. Turner, who was into the geek-and-fuckin’-proud-of-it look long before the Offspring popularized it, was an obsessive skateboarder whose parents wouldn’t let him go to what would have been his first big punk concert. Their worst fears were realized when the show, featuring Black Flag and the Subhumans, turned into a violent fracas, complete with a visit from the riot squad. Turner has since gotten over the disappointment. In addition to being in Mudhoney, he runs his own indie punk record label, Super-Electro.
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