Alta MayGraceland, 381-3094, Sat Jan 20.
THERE ARE CERTAIN bands inalienably linked to certain emotions.
U2 = alienation. I have never felt as alone in my life as when I saw the band play a Philadelphia stadium in the early '90s, and Bono sent his manager across with a hatchet inscribed, "It's your duty, do it."
Beck = disillusionment. How can someone so talented and witty be so unwilling to give himself to the public? Maybe that's what keeps him sane, but the second time I was due to interview the Beckster was the night Kurt Cobain died. People later suggested the laurels had passed on. I couldn't see the connection.
Hole = sadness. All that promise, gone. Oh yeah, that's just what we need--another faceless Hollywood thirty- something starlet. I heard a song called "Northern Star" from Hole's third album, Celebrity Skin, yesterday. When it was first brought to my attention, it rumbled with gothic intensity and had a drum beat like thunder across the skies of Seattle. Man, my imagination must have been vivid once.
The last time I encountered Mudhoney, it was May 2000. Singer Mark Arm and I grabbed a beer and strolled out onto Charing Cross Road in London's West End, simply because we could. In a corner of a darkly lit bar, we talked about humorless yet nice Seattle musicians (hello, Goodness) and the problem with loving rock music. Mark had his wicked smile back, his lean and mischievous face, and when I saw him play onstage later that night with the ever-agile Steve Turner (in their other psych-blues band, the Monkeywrench), I could feel minutes... literally, minutes... dropping away from my life. A smile as wide as his manager's old, battered limousine spread across my chops. I may even have tapped a foot.
The abiding emotion I associate with Mudhoney is feeling alive: scarily and crazily rampant. Perhaps it's all those shots of tequila and vodka, or the stage collapsing on my head. I don't know. But the first chap who ever played me one of Mudhoney's records (in the summer of 1988) later married one of Britain's 10 Most Beautiful Fatties (©The Sun) and turned into a transvestite. This does, undoubtedly, show excellent form.
I had the pleasure of asking Mark some questions about his career. I'd like to share a few of them with you now.
What motivates you?
To play music. It's the one thing I really, really, really enjoy. It's obviously not fame and fortune.
Did you ever think you would have fame and fortune?
Maybe for a split second there, but that was never a motivating factor. Looking back, I realize that I've been vaguely doing the same thing since 1980. It's been like this rock and roll, punk rock thing--trashy, loose, usually loud--in one form or another. It's been very rare that any of the bands I've admired were popular on any level, the exceptions being Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, and Creedence Clearwater. So I knew from the get-go....
What's the secret to your longevity?
Most musicians don't have a sense of humor about themselves at all. It's sorely lacking. You've got to if you're going to do this for any length of time. It's a totally funny, ridiculous thing. It's meaningless in the big state of things. Maybe you connect with a few people, but for the most part it's an exercise in futility. I wish to God that people thought rock and roll could change the world like they once did, but it doesn't. People dress like certain stars and buy their records, but that's it. There's no real change.
What inspires you to write lyrics? Is it still anger?
I think I'm a little tempered at this point. It's not the only emotion out there. I don't really like talking about where my lyrics come from. Half the time I'm not even sure. Some of the time I'm all too sure.
Wasn't grunge™ your fault?
Did you ever read that book by Clark Humphrey, Loser, about the Seattle music scene? In it, the writer has dug up some letter I wrote to a local fanzine, and in the litany of words I use to describe my band, one of the words is "grungy." Obviously, I didn't make that up. I got it from someone else. The term was already being thrown around in Australia in the mid-'80s to describe bands like King Snake Roost, the Scientists, Salamander Jim, and Beasts of Bourbon. In fact, Tex Perkins was crowned the High Priest of Grunge in some local magazine. If anybody said that to him then, he would beat the shit out of them. I guess the only difference was that in Seattle we kind of took to it.