Mudhoney: The show of the year

Tom Smith

tom smith | make green bay weird | may 2019

I offer no apologies to fans of Wings but the musical event of the year happens Friday, May 24 at the Green Bay Distillery when Mudhoney makes their triumphant return to Green Bay. A show so cool Frankly Green Bay is a sponsor. A show 18 years in the making. The last time Mudhoney played GB was August 21, 2001 at the late, great Rock N Roll High School. Call Mudhoney grunge, call them alternative rock, I just call them one of the greatest bands in the history of rock 'n' roll – period.

I consider myself very lucky to live in the age that has allowed me to see them repeatedly over the last 30 years. The first time I saw them was in Milwaukee in 1989 at another long gone venue, the Unicorn (one of my favorite venues ever in the history of Milwaukee). This show is supercharged by the fact that Green Bay's very own Boris the Sprinkler is reuniting to play this show; their first show in GB since they reunited to play my Birthday show in 2017. What makes Boris the Sprinkler playing even more outstanding is they recently, on the down low, recorded their first new album of material since 2000. I had the privilege to see them play this new material March 9 in Ephraim, Wis., at a musical festival called Ephraim City Limits. They played under the name the Ephraim Green-Shoe Cowboys and those in attendance were treated to rip roaring, non-stop barrage of new material. One new song in particular sounded like if the TV show “Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp” had lasted long enough to have had a "Punk" episode and this was a song they performed at a "Punk" Battle of the Bands (hosted by A.P.E. of course).

The Hussy from Madison is opening this show and that means this is a killer show top to bottom. If you haven't seen The Hussy yet, you are in for a treat. They have been called Wisconsin's best band for good reason.

Recently, I conducted this phone interview with Mark Arm, singer and guitar player for Mudhoney.

Mudhoney has been together since 1988. What is the secret or reason for such amazing longevity?

I guess the main thing is we've not really had goals. We never strived to be a success of any sort so we've never been disappointed. I think the key thing is that we're all friends and we all get along very well. Obviously, we lost Matt in the late-'90s but we're still pressing with him but he didn't want to tour anymore. And I've been playing with Guy in the band since the '90s as well so we've known each other for a long time.

The latest Mudhoney album 'Digital Garbage' released on Sub Pop last September was critically acclaimed by long-time Mudhoney fans and music journalists. How does the band achieve a tough feat like that?

I don't know, I think our fans are the kind of people who, you know, want the band to enjoy themselves and keep going. I don't know, I think they have low expectations, too.

'Digital Garbage' has been described lyrically as chock-full of piss and vinegar, frustration, anger and Mudhoney's protest album. What influenced the writing process for this album?

We started writing in like 2017 … To be honest, we were hoping there would be a different outcome and I would not have to deal with the political stuff so I guess in a way it was kind of written under duress.

The recording process for 'Digital Garbage,' was it all done non-stop or in a series of recording periods?

We recorded the tracks over three weekends and then mixed over a couple of weekends later. We did two weekends in September and then the band was like, 'We need to just have more songs,' so we have songs to choose from to have the strongest album as is possible. So we started writing and recording more songs in December. It's a good thing we did 'cause like four of those songs ended up on the album.

The cover art for 'Digital Garbage,' and take no offense to this please, but I always felt it reminds me of the movie poster for 'The Endless Summer.' The rock formation also looks like a surfboard to me and then what really sealed the deal in my mind was at a Young Fresh Fellows/The Smugglers show in Seattle I met Matt from Olympia who surfs with you.

No, no, there's actually kind of a big connection. The whole concept, I guess, was … like a '60s or '70s sci-fi font, kinda like the 'Rollerball' font, but something not that iconic. So I was on the computer looking at fonts and stuff and 'The Endless Summer' poster popped up. And my wife had taken the picture that's on the front cover of Gobi Desert in Mongolia a couple of years ago and I was like, why don't I just paint that sun on there and it's like 'The Endless Summer.' And then Dusty (Summers), the art director, came up a bunch of ideas and he suggested bringing in Ed Fotheringham … So we had Ed do the drawings on top of Emily's photograph. There are drawings of like garbage and stuff on there. You might not be able to really see it on the CD but on the full album you'll see there's like bicycle parts and surfboards as well as broken down computers and stuff like that … and skateboards.

If I may ask, what careers occupy the non-band time for members of Mudhoney?

Sure, Steve works at Cascade Records Pressing plant outside of Portland. I work at the warehouse at Sub Pop. Guy is a nurse at Harborview, which is like a major trauma center in Seattle and Dan drives Lyft and Uber.

Do you think the outside careers and activities of Mudhoney's band members have helped to keep the band around and fresh?

Well, I mean the fact that we're not counting on Mudhoney to provide our sole income I think frees us up to do whatever we want. It does kind of limit our ability to tour, but I think if we were just fucking road dogs all the time members would be dropping off like flies at this point.

What bands that Mudhoney has shared the stage with are you most proud of?

Topping off that list would be the Stooges, the Scientists, Feedtime and the Flesh Eaters. I think they're all bands that at one point we never thought we'd see. You can throw Devo on there also because we played for them at that festival (Burger Boogaloo 2018).

I never thought I would see the Scientists so when I saw they were playing the first date of their first US tour in Portland with Mudhoney I took the plunge and booked a flight. I was playing the Scientists and Mudhoney on WGBW in college and then I was finally seeing the Scientists with Mudhoney 30 years later. Kinda surreal for me.

I did the same thing in college except for Mudhoney; I didn't play Mudhoney but I played the Scientists.

Since we touched upon the Burger Boogaloo. Was the guy who introduced you the worst introduction you have ever received? I also like how you poked fun at him before you played 'Touch Me I'm Sick.'

It was just sort of funny because like everybody else got John Waters and we got someone's dad. I was like, 'What? We don't rate, John Waters? I mean how is that possible? We're named after a fucking Russ Meyer movie.'

My last question was going to be is there any goals that Mudhoney hasn't achieved but you answered that in my first question.

Well there is one thing. It's kind of fun but believe us there's just way too many things that can't happen; it's just not a thing anymore. You remember in the '80s when Letterman was on NBC and when a band played on Letterman they'd only allow like one or two members of the band on and the backing band was like Paul Shaffer? That was the one thing we wanted to do and never got to do was play with half the band and the Paul Shaffer orchestra.

Thank you, Mark on behalf of Frankly Green Bay. In the aftermath of the interview I started talking about my love of Randy Newman (because I just had watched Randy on Letterman performing with Paul Shaffer the night before on Youtube) and I was also was able to interest Mark in the Hot Chicken I make in a Crock- Pot. I then promised to make hot and non-hot chicken Tacos for Mudhoney (and of course also Boris the Sprinkler and The Hussy). First time I have cooked for band and I'm very happy that my tacos will be powering the show of the year in Green Bay. Live Long and March to Fuzz.

Advance tickets are available free of service charge at the Green Bay Exclusive Company. Cash only, please.

--banner image by Emily Rieman.

Since 1984, when he first began selling records at Galaxy of Sound inside the Port Plaza Mall, Tom Smith has been part of the Green Bay music scene. Promoting his first show in 1986 and hitting his stride with the Concert Café (1995-2001), Smith continues to promote shows in Green Bay. He first honed his journalistic chops while serving as a student DJ at WGBW, interviewing such icons as Motörhead and the Ramones. Today you can find him championing live music and managing The Exclusive Company in Green Bay.

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