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Mudhoney recipe: Add wit

By Courtney Devores
Correspondent
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Emily Rieman -
Mudhoney‘s “Vanishing Point” – its first album

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Mark Arm may be forever aligned with ’90s grunge, because his bands Mudhoney and Green River are credited as important influences on what became the Seattle sound.

But eclectic Mudhoney seems to have more in common with the Stooges and MC5 than Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. “Vanishing Point” – its first album in five years – hits on blues, garage rock and messy, quirky punk with Arm’s signature wit and ire.

Arm, 51, spoke to The Observer in advance of Mudhoney’s first Charlotte show, set for Wednesday at Tremont Music Hall.

Q: What took so long between records?

A: Part of that is because (guitarist) Steve (Turner) moved to Portland. It’s six hours round trip. It’s kind of hard to get momentum going if he can only come once every other week. We’d come up with ideas and play them at, for, with each other and record them. We ended up compiling maybe 30 or so different ideas. The band’s always going on some level. We practice as much as we can. We don’t go out on tour for great stretches at a time. Our work schedules and family commitments won’t allow us to.

Q: So you still write and record old school – face-to-face?

A: I think it’s funny you say “old school.”

Q: I’ve interviewed bands who pass files online and rarely get in the same room.

A: Sometimes figuring out what’s going on via email is more convoluted than having a conversation face-to-face. Passing song ideas back and forth … through a series of tubes – it doesn’t seem like you’d have the same sort of spark as the four of you in the room and you’re feeding off each other. That just seems a weird, stilted way to come up with music. I wouldn’t want to do it.

Q: What was that ’90s boom like for you?

A: Friends of ours were right in the center of it. I’d say we had front-row seats. Our record that sold the most was the one that came out in that period, “Piece of Cake.” That was by virtue of the fact that we were from Seattle and we were friends with some of the bands. It didn’t really affect us in the same way it did obviously all the dead people.

Q: I read you make decisions because something is funny or write something you think is funny. So many bands take themselves so seriously.

A: That’s their problem. One of the key things is we don’t take the industry side very seriously. We never felt like, “We’ll do anything to make it.” We didn’t have a plan to get to the top. So there was never any disappointment. We like what we’re doing and we like each other. We managed to remain friends over 25 years. We weren’t trying to achieve anything but play the music that we wanted to play. We’ll occasionally go on tour with Pearl Jam and play huge arenas. I don’t know how they do it. They seem to project all the way to the back. The crowd is in the palm of their hands. When we play, people are getting seated. It’s like: “What’s that weird noise from the stage?”

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