Formed nearly 25 years ago from the ashes of the fondly remembered Green River, Mudhoney are among the last true survivors of the alternative rock explosion that left Seattle and many of it's beloved sons buried in the rubble. While there have been comebacks for the likes of Soundgarden and a version of Alice In Chains, Mudhoney never really went away - simply performing high-energy live shows and issuing album after album of storming garage punk - much like a more aggressive, furious cousin to their close friends and fellow veterans Pearl Jam. Q emailed a few questions over to Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm on the occasion of the recent release of a live DVD, Mudhoney: Live In Berlin 1988, recorded at the band's very first European show in 1988. The video itself is a raw but compelling document of the seeds being sewn for what would eventually blossom into the sound of the 1990s. Here's Arm's thoughts on it now...
How does it feel looking back on the release of a live performance from 24 years ago?
"Since the release of that performance only happened a couple of weeks ago, I haven't really had a chance to process it. Watching the show was kind of a trip though."
Does it surprise you that you've continued as a band for this length of time?
"Due to the phenomenon of creeping normalcy, where I'm at doesn't surprise me now, but if you told me 20 years ago, I would have been shocked to learn that we would still be a band in the twenty teens."
What's changed within the band over those years?
"The biggest change is family and work commitments. It's been a long time since we've been young unencumbered bucks."
You famously wrote Overblown about the Seattle sound feeding frenzy - do you think anything positive came out of it?
"Definitely! They gave us $20,000 and we spent less than $200 recording the song."
Do you still speak to people you played with in earlier days like Matt Lukin, founder member of Mudhoney, or bands you shared stages with like Tad? Have you followed their careers?
"Matt's career as a carpenter is doing well, he did take a hit when the housing bubble popped in 2008. He works fairly regularly with our Tour Manager / Tech Danny Baird who is a contractor when he is in town. I see Tad every once in a while as well, he plays in Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and has a thriving studio."
You went out on tour with Pearl Jam for their 20 year shows how did you find the shows?
"GPS, things are so much easier these days. When we first toured Europe, our driver would first go to the train station of whatever city we were playing to check out the map and orient himself before searching for the venue. Once while asking directions in Nottingham, a woman pointed to a roundabout and said, Go straight round 'till you come on yourself. PJ20 and the subsequent Canadian tour with Pearl Jam was a ton of fun."
Very droll. You covered Kick Out The Jams with Pearl Jam live - any plans for more collaborations?
"I recorded a couple of Scientists songs with the Melvins last Summer. I don't think there are any collaborations coming up though."
Do you feel you should have/could have sold more records or are you happy with Mudhoney's cult status?
"No and yes."
Tell us a little bit about working with Jim Dickinson, producer of albums for the likes of Big Star and The Replacements?
"He was great. He had a great ear and great stories. I'm very glad that we had the opportunity to work with him. That wouldn't have happened if we weren't on Reprise at the time."
Under A Billion Suns was a big critical success for you, what worked for you that time around?
"I'm not sure. We just tried to make a good record."
You've played the whole of debut album Superfuzz Bigmuff live, though are you worried that too much retroism could be damaging for the music industry even though it's cool for fans?
"I'm all for anything that is damaging to the music industry and cool for the fans."
What are your memories of going over to Berlin and playing the Independent Days festival, where the new DVD was filmed?
"We stayed on Seattle time so we were up all night drinking and slept all day. Luckily, Berlin was a 24 hour city."
The show took place before your first record had even come out, was that a surreal experience considering it was an overseas audience?
"It was very surreal, but we did have a single out so it made complete sense."
You're wore the famous LOSER t-shirt onstage that night - do you think that self effacing lo-fi aesthetic has kind of been hijacked over the years?
"There was nothing lo-fi about it. It's never been our goal to record something with shitty sound."
Is it true that Bruce Pavitt and John Poneman, co-owners of Sub Pop, really told you to 'learn five chords but only use three in each song'?
"You're quoting that joke in [Seattle scene documentary] Hype, right?"
What was it like in those early Sub Pop days? Exciting times or exaggerated by the mythologising that followed?
"It was all very exciting, everything was new. I'm blissfully unaware of any mythologising. I should be very clear that I enjoy my life much more now than I did then."
Your live intensity doesn't seem to have waned - at ATP in London earlier this year you seemed as energetic and furious as ever - does performing live still excite you?
"Yes, I love it. I really really like recording, but there's nothing like playing live."
Where and what next for Mudhoney?
"We've completed a new album and we're going to do some touring once the record is released in the Spring. We're also playing with The Sonics in February."
Michael James Hall @michaeljamesh
Mudhoney: Live In Berlin 1988 is out now, head to http://www.subpop.com/channel/megamart_features/mudhoney_live_in_berlin_1988_dvd for more.
10:25 AM | 14/12/2012
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