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New Mudhoney Sound Said To Include 'Hawkwind Vibe'

When Mudhoney's first new album in four years is released this fall on the pioneering grunge label Sub Pop, it'll sound, well, like the Mudhoney you know and love — only different. "How do you describe it?" frontman Mark Arm asked. "Well, sort of Hawkwind vibe for this part of the song, then a Wipers thing going on here.

"But it's all meaningless," he quickly added during a recent interview. "Because it may not sound like that to anyone else."

The Seattle-based band — Arm, who plays guitar and sings, along with original guitarist Steve Turner and drummer Dan Peters and new bassist Guy Madison (replacing Matt Lukin) — began recording the not-yet-titled album, their eighth, last November. They worked with three producers at three studios: Scott Colburn at Gravelvoice, Johnny Sangster at Egg and Martin Feveyear at Jupiter. One song, "Inside Job," was remixed by Jack Endino, who's known for his work with many early Sub Pop artists, most notably Nirvana; he produced Bleach.

"What happens with most bands is they write a whole bunch of songs and then record them all at once," said Arm. "So, your mind is scattered over all the songs at once — you don't really focus on one at a time. Our goal was to go in with two or three songs and record them. And we always had three every time we went in and we went to three different places — it worked really well."

In addition to taking a fresh approach to recording, the group experimented for the first time with horn arrangements. "There's a couple songs we just recorded that have horn sections," said Arm. "And that would be 'Take It Like a Man' and 'Where the Flavor Is' — sort of rockin' uptempo numbers."

Mudhoney also stretched out a bit. "The two longest songs we've ever recorded for any record will be on this one," Arm said. "[On] "Can You Dig the Light," words probably don't happen until about minute six. It opens with an organ and the guitar doing this kind of float-y thing and then the drums come in [and] the bass. We kind of latch on more to that than the guitar. And the organ is more coloring. So I guess we're playing drum 'n' bass."

Mudhoney kick-started the grunge movement that shook the world in the early '90s. The future bandmembers members all jammed together for the first time on New Year's Day 1988, liked the experience, and decided to form a band. They recorded their first single, "Touch Me I'm Sick," in 1988; it was released that summer by Sub Pop. "We were in a privileged position where we had ringside seats," Arm said of the band's position in the early-'90s grunge scene. "Because we were really close to some of the people who were involved, we were close enough to see what happened.

"But we weren't the center of attention, so it didn't fuck with our heads ... too much anyway," said Arm, starting to laugh. "It was funny, it was weird, it was bizarre — I think it caught pretty much everyone off guard. I never thought for a second that the kind of music that I was doing or what I was interested in would even remotely attach to some sort of fashion trend."

Suddenly switching to an appalled tone of voice, he exclaimed, "And what a hideous fashion trend it was! For the record: I never wore long johns with shorts over them."

Mudhoney recorded singles, an EP and two albums for Sub Pop between '88 and '91, then moved to the majors, recording a handful of albums for Time Warner's Reprise label; their final Reprise album, Tomorrow Hit Today, was released in 1998. Their sound was fully realized with the first single: loud, distorted, often droning and sometimes experimental punk rock. "I don't think we're caught in a constant cycle of trying to repeat ourselves," Arm, 40, said. "But I don't think we're trying on different styles to match whatever fashion is happening at the moment either. At best, we're entertaining ourselves, which has been the goal all along.

"I like it best when rock 'n' roll has a fucked-up twist to it," he added, "and it's not just like, 'We're playing three chords for beer, man!' I'm tired of that, it's an old trick."

The departure of Lukin, who played with Mudhoney from day one (and was the former bass player for the Melvins) had been a long time coming. "He lost interest in playing music. In a way, it was a relief for everyone," Arm explained. "I think Matt stuck with it as long as he did because he didn't want to let us down, because initially we said Mudhoney is these four people and any other way it's not Mudhoney. But Matt made it clear that once he left we could still call it Mudhoney; he actually encouraged it."

Bringing Madison in has brought new energy to Mudhoney's new album. "One of the main differences that I think you'll find [on the new record] is in the bass playing. Guy's bass playing is quite different than Matt's — it's more fluid," Arm said.

Because Madison is a student and Peters a father, Mudhoney don't plan to tour more than one or two weeks at a time, if even that. "Dan, at this point, is a stay-at-home dad and Guy's getting his nursing degree — a lot of schooling and a lot of diaper changing," Arm said. "There might be times here and there where we can actually get away for maybe a week without going on an actual tour — we'll have to be crafty."

And will there be a ninth Mudhoney album? "I think so," Arm said. "It's not very difficult for us to do it. No one is mad at anyone else."

He laughed again. "I don't think we'll call it quits and keep doing reunion tours." — Jenny Tatone [Friday, March 15, 2002]

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