"Any time you're playing music for yourself instead of the crowd, you're fucked," says a late-day Mark Arm at the offset of I'M NOW: The Story of Mudhoney. Not a promising harbinger. And in the minutes that follow, the new Mudhoney documentary threatens to become one of those quote-a-thon lovefests, the worst kind of band documentary there is. Let's call it Henry Rollinsitus™, mainly because that dude appears in every single one of those things since the Dawn of Those Things.
Thankfully, pretty quickly, we get to some real history and insight—Mark Arm, whose mother was an opera singer and whose family moved to Seattle from an army base in Germany when he was four—on discovering rock: "It was sort of forbidden in my household, so that was another attraction to it. My parents had a Volkswagen Bug, and the great thing about Volkswagen Bugs in those days is that you could just go into them and turn on the radio and it would work. So I would listen to Top 40 radio stations at the time and hope to hear the more rockin' songs."
Or his first band: "Mr. Epp had been kind of an imaginary band in high school, named after a math teacher, the full name of the band was Mr. Epp and the Calculations. At some point it turned into a real band and we actually bought instruments, and we would just get feedback and think we were Jimi Hendrix. You know, like the part in live Jimi Hendrix records, between the songs [laughs].
And what follows is a rich history of the band—and, by proxy, Sub Pop—through both of their early arcs: The hand-to-mouth of the label's early existence, and how Nevermind and the subsequent sales of Bleach saved them, as did Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge in its time; how Arm and Steve Turner linked up with Jeff Ament for Green River: "We didn't really know Jeff Ament that well at the time, but we'd seen him play in Deranged Diction who we thought were cool, and he jumped really high and played through distortion, [which] seemed really important to us at the time," says Arm. "So Steve went on this mission to get to know Jeff by getting a job at the same espresso place." Then how a disagreement over whether or not Jane's Addiction were any good spurned the splitting of ways that created Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone.
This is all within the first 30 minutes. Director/producer Ryan Short commits a deft effort at catching telling quotes and anecdotes, and rightly packs I'M NOW full of them, alongside tons of old footage and a well-rounded cast of interviewees, who, most importantly, all have a well-rounded variety of things to say. Highly recommended.
I'M NOW: The Story of Mudhoney ships December 11 and is available for stream rental now, right here.