Normally, I’d tell you to check out the band or artist I am interviewing, but in the case of Mudhoney, it’s more of a reminder to go back and listen to them again! Or better yet, check out one of their last couple albums, for those of you who haven’t – for as illustrious as their careers are, and as permanently anchored to “grunge” their legacy may be, they’re a killer rock band that continues to put out memorable, catchy, irreverent rock music, staying true to their fuzzed-out origins while maturing gracefully. “Next Time” off The Lucky Ones is one of the best post-Iggy Pop rock songs, if you need a new point of entry. Anyway, if you’ve read any of the dozen Nirvana biographies or that grunge oral-history, you know that Mark Arm is the coolest, punkest, least idiotic rock-star to come out of that era, and he was kind enough to speak with me in-between wine tastings, surf vacations and the occasional rock n’ roll show.

Mudhoney has been a band for decades, and achieved a pretty high level of success. Why do you think the band has stayed active for so long?
We never had music biz ambitions​; we just never cared about any of that crap. Any “success” we have had is a bonus. We all really like each other and get a kick out what we do. By chance, we decided to split the publishing equally when we first started. After watching what some of our peers went through when a little bit of publishing money started to trickle in, I’m convinced this minimized a certain amount of conflict. Mainly though, we’re too dumb to quit.

At what point in the band’s existence do you feel like you reached the peak of what you intended for the band, and the rest has just been gravy? Was this a band you just wanted to do a 7″ single with, or did you have world tour aspirations from the start?
​Steve and I had been in at least four bands together before Mudhoney. This was just the next band. We figured it would be great to document its existence with a 7″ single. Things just started happening really fast for us after that. We had our first practice with all four members on New Year’s Eve 1988. We recorded some songs, two of which became the first single, in April. We released a 12″ EP, went to Berlin and went on a tour to the East Coast and back ​in October. Then toured the West Coast and Texas with Sonic Youth in November. In March of 1989 we did a nine-week European tour. I know that Jonathan and Bruce (of Sub Pop Records) had a big hand in making all of that happen, but at the time the recording and tour opportunities just seemed to present themselves. We weren’t about to say no. This band had way more lucky breaks than any of our previous bands. I’m not sure what we intended for the band other than to write and play the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that we write and play.

Have your priorities in a live performance changed over the years? As an outsider who didn’t experience it all first-hand, it seems like Mudhoney may have been more of a wild spectacle earlier on, and slowly transitioned to a tight live group.
​I don’t know if our priorities in a live performance have changed​, but what we can do physically has. I’m not as limber as I was in my youth and injury recovery time has increased. Before Mudhoney started I hadn’t really played guitar for about three years and my skills were shaky at best. One of the key components of our live set was to divert attention from our clams by hitting the dirt and rolling around. We did that a lot.
As you know, we cut our teeth at hardcore shows in the early ’80s and of course stage-diving was a part of that. Seattle punk audiences at that time were primed, loose and generally friendly. I used to love going into the crowd with a guitar during Mudhoney shows because it was kind of unexpected at the time. European audiences were completely unfamiliar with stage-diving when we first went over there and it was pretty easy to freak them out. When we came through Nottingham for the second time the venue had set up a little platform in front of the stage and there was a polite queue of punters patiently waiting for their turn to give stage diving a go. Stage diving quickly became de riguer and by the early ’90s had become a lame ritual. It’s the last thing I want to do when we play. I can’t stand the thought of all of those greasy fingers on my precious body.

I figure a lot of Mudhoney fans just want to hear your earliest hits, and talk about the ‘grunge’ days… when this happens, are you bothered that people want to talk to you about a time in your life that happened many years ago, or are you just grateful they want to talk to you at all?
​It doesn’t bother me when younger fans want to talk about what they perceive as the glory days. It’s pretty clear that they romanticize a time they were too young for. I’ve done the same to people who were in Detroit and Ann Arbor in late ’60s / early ’70s. What drives me nuts is when people my age wax on about events 20-30 years ago as if that was the highlight of their lives. For me, life has just gotten better over time, so I can’t relate to that at all. Also, getting the same questions in interviews can be incredibly mind-numbing, but that’s a minor quibble. I am very happy that some people still give a shit about us.

Do you even listen to modern radio rock and think to yourself, “Hmm, maybe the days of Stone Temple Pilots wasn’t that bad after all…”?
I​ ​do not listen to modern rock radio. There’s a lot of dreck out there. There always has been and there always will be.​

Has there ever been a time at a show, performing or otherwise, that you truly feared for your own life?
​Yeah, but not since Green River. Jeff got dragged in​​to a hostile crowd when we opened for Samhain on Hell Night in Detroit. I jumped in after him, because he did the same for me at a Black Flag show we opened in Seattle, but that Detroit crowd was way scarier than any Seattle crowd. We were saved by the off-duty uniformed cop who was hired to provide security.
Skinheads fucked with us pretty heavily one​ time in Portland. I got clocked in the forehead by a bass tuning peg at the end of our set and went to the toilet to wash away the blood. A skinhead followed me in there, saw the blood on my face and said, “Oh good, they got you” and left. My guess is that he was a new recruit and his assignment was to beat up a hippie. Luckily for me he didn’t have the stomach for it.

Are there any Mudhoney songs that you’ve always personally really loved, that don’t often get brought up by fans? Like, some random b-side or comp track that you are really proud of?
​I don’t know, I’ve always dug “Broken Hands”. We tried to whip that back into shape, but it just didn’t quite sound right. We recently revived “1995”. I don’t think we’ve played that since ’96​ ​and it sounds great. ​I really like our version of Void’s “Dehumanized”, but I’d rather just listen to Void.

Do you feel like Mudhoney is in a unique position as a band – a group that is internationally famous and has existed for decades, but never truly broke up or came back as a re-packaged shell of its former self? Are there any other bands you can look at today as being a peer, in that their integrity is still intact decades later?
​Melvins, Girl Trouble ​and Pearl Jam are all peers of ours who are still around, never broke up and kept their integrity. All of them are great and work on very different levels. Our position isn’t entirely unique, but it is pretty damn rare.

Smashing a guitar on stage – yay or nay?
​Nay! I intentionally broke one guitar, a baby​-​blue Hagstrom III I got for eighty dollars, and regretted it within seconds of watching it splinter apart. I never understood why Nirvana almost always ended their shows by destroying gear. It was such a waste. If you don’t want that guitar, give it to someone who does. That shit got really goofy during the grunge years. L7’s roadie used to remove the mics from the drum kit at the end of their set so they could smash it up without getting fined by the venue for destroying their mics. How fucking spontaneous, right?

At this point, pretty much every aspect of hardcore-punk (and to an extent, “grunge”) has been analyzed ​ ​and rehashed to death, but is there anything you remember from the ’80s or early ’90s at shows that you wish would come back? Any short-lived scene trends or band styles that are due for a renaissance?
​Oh, I don’t know. I guess the one thing I miss is how easy it was to offend people. Just cutting your hair short in 1980 was enough to make people in the general population want to beat you ​up. Then growing your hair out in 1983 was enough to make punkers want to beat you up. I suppose I’m a masochist at heart.​

Which Mudhoney moment was more surreal – performing a cameo in the Chris Farley movie Black Sheep or performing on top of the Space Needle? Or perhaps Mudhoney has performed even stranger feats I’m unaware of…
​Both of those were surreal, but the craziest moments for me are those that are rooted in my nerdy fanboy fantasies, like opening for The Stooges the first time they played Seattle and hanging out with them afterwards.​ I loved that band for so long and never imagined that they would reform, and then to get to play and hang out with them, especially with Ron Asheton.​ That was a mind-fuck, as was touring with and getting to know the remaining members of the MC5 in 2004. Also, getting to play with Feedtime, The Scientists and the A Minute To Pray A Second To Die line-up of The Flesh Eaters. All of these bands had been dead for a long time and were absolutely amazing.

At this point, where does the musical inspiration come from for a new Mudhoney song? Are you digging up old records and randomly getting inspired, or are you just so acutely aware of what should go into a Mudhoney song and just kind of working from that standpoint? It’s only natural for most guitar-rock bands to completely run out of ideas by album number three, let alone what you guys have put out there already.
​We are thieves; we lift riffs, rip-off song structures and steal drum patterns.​ Sometimes we do it intentionally, sometimes we realize a song we’ve put together has parts that are nearly identical to someone else’s song. The key is to have impeccable taste, like we do, and steal from best. We are also limited by our abilities and our sonic personalities. Mudhoney is like a blender or filter. No matter how hard we try to copy something, it mutates into Mudhoney. That is the blessing and the curse of what happens when the four of us get together and make noise.

Do you think the name “Mudhoney” has contributed to the longevity of the band at all? It’s a pretty great band name. Do you think the band would still be going today if you decided to go with “Malfunkshun” or “Cat Butt” when you started? How much do band names matter?
​Why? Are you thinking of changing the name of your band?
There are a lot of bands with retarded names: Guns N’ ​Roses​, Alice In Chains, Dandy Warhols, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Beatles, names that are really bad puns. What amazes me is that names which sound so awkward and clunky at first, eventually just roll off your tongue as as if they make perfect sense. The Grateful Dead is one of the best names out there, too bad the band never lived up to the heavy darkness the name implies.
I have no idea if the name Mudhoney contributed to our longevity, but I’ve never been ashamed of it. I’ve also never been ashamed of The Thrown Ups or Limp Richerds and both of those are crappy puns. I’ve never liked the name Mr. Epp & the Calculations, however.

You’ve been playing music with these guys for years… do you all hang out when you’re not actively doing band stuff? Or is a level of personal distance part of the reason Mudhoney has thrived as a band for so long? Do you know the other guys’ birthdays off the top of your head?
​We hang out ​and see each other fairly regularly. We’re all a part of the same group of friends who have hung out together for decades. It’s a little tougher to hang out with Steve since he moved to Portland. Steve and Guy have birthdays in March. Dan and Matt have birthdays in August. I don’t know the exact days off the top of my head though. Matt’s birthday is the same day that Elvis died.

Do you think Mudhoney’s musical and lyrical wells will ever run dry? Are you working on new material now?
​Coming up with music is usually pretty easy. I get stuck on lyrics pretty often though. I try to write stuff that I won’t be embarrassed ​to sing. That doesn’t always happen.

What’s your lyric writing style like? Are you one of those guys that’s always jotting down ideas, or are you scribbling stuff down last-minute in the studio?
​Neither. I usually start writing lyrics when we’re working on songs​ and they’re almost always finished before we start recording. Back in Green River I would write down a bunch of words and try to cram them into the music the band came up with. I think it works better to write to, with and around the music.

Besides the obvious stuff, like “practice hard” and “be genuinely yourself”, do you have any advice for young folks looking to start a rock band? Anything you’ve picked up from your years of experience that you think is often overlooked?
​I think the most important thing is to start a band with your friends. That way, when nothing happens with your band, you will at least have had the joy of playing with people you like. If you think your ability to play an instrument or sing will get you rich, allow you to screw a bunch of people and take tons of drugs, please do the rest of us a favor and go into finance.