Slippery When Wet: The Mudhoney Interview
By Eddie Vedder
Mudhoney are a band from Seattle. In the band is Mark Arm, who plays guitar and sings; Steve Turner, who plays lead guitar; Matt Lukin, who plays bass and Dan Peters on the drums. They have a new album out that is called My Brother the Cow. They also have a lot of friends. One of their friends is named Eddie.
Eddie: I was wondering who has the biggest record collection.
Steve: That would be me.
Dan: I think Mark's a close second there.
Mark: I think Steve would have more.
Steve: I've got a lot of junk store records, though.
Matt: I've got the quality stuff. Hatchet, Montrose, the Nuge!
Eddie: I was impressed the other night when we were talking about that 'Leaving Here' song, this old High Numbers song I came across, and busts out, 'Yeah, I got Motorhead doing it.
Matt: There's that Iggy Pop song, it's totally a different song, but basically the first verse is almost the same verse as that song, word for word.
Steve: Lukin would probably have the biggest Motorhead collection.
Mark: Of possibly anybody. (laughter)
Dan: I've probably got the biggest Carpenters collection.
Mark: Hands down!
Dan: On all formats: CD, 8-track, vinyl. I guess it's hip to like The Carpenters these days, so you can't put that in there.
Eddie: Make a note to the transcriber.
Steve: Yeah, you've got the biggest Bon Jovi collection!
Dan: I know, he's coming back. When he comes back, man...
Mark: Slippery When Wet!
Matt: When I saw him on Tom Snyder's show the other night, he was saying that they no longer had his bass player. Did he die?
Dan: No, he quit.
Matt: It sounded like he died.
Steve: He's no longer with us.
Dan: He was a good man.
Matt: They kept saying that they would never permanently replace him, they were just going to hire somebody.
Eddie: I'm gonna get you back on the vinyl check, 'cause I'm interested if you'd express your love for vinyl over any other format. Is that true?
Steve: I'm there.
Mark: I think both CDs and vinyl have their advantages. The biggest disadvantage for CDs is the exorbitant price. On a lot of stuff, I don't notice the difference in terms of the sound.
Steve: I don't think any of us have ears that can hear the difference between vinyl and CD.
Mark: My ears are pretty much shot.
Steve: All he hears is like a muffled rumbling.
Mark: That damn Super Fuzz. I wish you never discovered that thing.
Steve: Every record just sounds like this: 'Sheeeeeeezzzh!'
Matt: Unless it's folk.
Dan: Everybody's using those damn fuzz pedals these days.
Mark: Even that new Bon Jovi record's got distorted vocals all the way through it. Is he singing through an amp?
Matt: But the vinyl has got the bigger pictures.
Eddie: I think that it's a shame that they're not going to know they're missing. With vinyl you get to read the cereal box while eating your cereal.
Matt: Sometimes they get the booklets. It's a hell of a lot easier to roll joints on the gatefold of an album than on a CD, though. You need one those fuckin' big Aerosmith Pump fold-out posters to be able to roll a joint with a CD.
Mark: Like (Rush's) All The World's A Stage is a classic pot record just because it folded out three times and you had two creases to catch the seeds in.
Dan: There's a naked dude on it.
Mark: Oh, that's the part I didn't like. What are these Canadian's trying to do to me as a young impressionable junior high school student?
Dan: Loaded full of pot and making you look at naked men.
Mark: Temples of sphincter. (Mild laughter) Oh, I hope that's part of the thing that goes running off the page.
Steve: Yeah, you do realize that no one is going to be able to read this interview because it's in Ray Gun.
Dan: Which font shall we use?
Mark: But it sure is pretty.
Matt: I was going to suggest that whoever transcribes this leave out all of the ands and ifs and ors.
Mark: Just take out all of the adverbs.
Matt: I hardly ever use the word adverb anyway. (Laughter)
Mark: We've used the word adverb now more than we ever have.
Steve: The more grammatically correct Mudhoney. If the kids don't have vinyl, at least they've gotta get proper grammar from Mudhoney, God damn it.
Eddie: Look what they did with vinyl. You talk about the cost and how much they're charging for CDs, there's a guy in Germany who's selling classical music CDs for like a $1.50. Now they're charging $16.99 here, and you're getting a little plastic thing with a little fucked up sleeve on it. They're also putting a little sticker on it. Sony, Warner and someone else makes 'em, they make you guys put 'em on it and they charge you three cents. A costs them a penny, and they don't...
Matt: Who's they?
Eddie: Sony. Warner or whatever. They're making a huge amourrt of money on it, charging disproportional to the cost. Now, doesn't it seem funny that they aren't willing to offer anything more to the consumer? You know. with Grand Funk you got 3-D glasses, with other people you got pull-outs.
Mark: You got girls underwear with (Alice Cooper's) School's Out.
Steve: I got those! I've got the undies,
Mark: I've seen you wear them.
Matt: They should design a CD jewel box that folds out into a bong.
Dan: The Devo Duty Now For The Future record you could punch it out.
Steve: Mine doesn't have that part anymore. I got it in a garbage can.
Dan: Who would throw that fine record in the garbage can.
Steve: I don't know. There was a stack of weird records in the garbage can one day and that was one of them. That's when I was a janitor, folks.
Matt: I thought you sold licorice. I did but sometimes I was a janitor.
Dan: And you parked cars. "Yeah, go ahead, park over there."
Steve: So what you've been saying is The Man is ripping everyone off.
Mark: The Man's been ripping everyone off since The Man grew up.
Eddie: And I'm sure he ripped people off with vinyl too, just not so much.
Mark: It is cheaper to manufacture the CD itself than it is to press a vinyl record.
Matt: I see that they don't know how to make records anymore because the vinyl copy of Pearl Jam's new record is all fucked up. The inner sleeve is just all glued on the edges instead of folded over it's like you can't get the thing in there.
Steve: They're almost like a custom order now because the main people that used to make them got put out of business. They've all become dog food factories or something. Do you see them coming back at all? You know, with the release of your (vinyl-only Vitalogy pre-release) record and others.
Dan: How many copies did it sell in those two weeks?
Eddie: It made the charts or something. I don't know.
Steve: It must be pretty significant, like over 10,000 or 20,000 or something.
Eddie: It was a lot, like 150,000. That might have been like a little hiccup in the mainstream industry, but to me it's labels like Kill Rock Stars and K Records that are the last will of vinyl.
Matt: The weirdest thing to me is that the biggest-selling format is cassette. Store bought cassettes have built-in obsolescence, they just break; they don't last. Home taping sounds better than store bought cassettes.
(Conversation regenerates into several voices talking at once, debating vinyl, CDs, cassettes, whatever, then 15 second of silence...)
Eddie: So any videos for this next record? Maybe some ideas?
Mark: The ideas are few and far between. They're not really fun to make, they're not really fun to watch, but it's kind of something you gotta do unless you're, say, Pearl Jam!
Dan: I think they can be fun to make if you just have the right attitude and just have a good time.
Matt: We've had fun at it before.
Dan: I've pretty much enjoyed every one in one form or another.
Eddie: I think we'd feel better about doing videos if they played our friends. That's one thing that's annoying about the whole thing
Steve: Oh, you mean the MTV Mafia?
Mark: There's all of these weird little local shows.
Dan: Yeah. but those don't add up to a hill of beans compared to MTV.
Matt: MTV's about as cutting edge as AM radio.
Mark: FM radio's about as cutting edge as MTV.
Eddie: You guys have done about two or three videos for each of your records. As far as going back to the main channel that plays videos, they've maybe played...
Dan: We got on 120 Minutes and stuff.
Steve: Yeah, we got on the New Wave Ghetto.
Mark: Especially early on, when we were hot property.
Steve: We were in the New Wave Ghetto several times in like '90 or so.
Mark: Songs off of the self-titled Mudhoney record and songs off of Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge were played frequently in the New Wave Ghetto. I think even "Suck You Dry" was played in The Wave Ghetto.
Steve: Yes, it was.
Dan: But never Alternative Nation. We've been shut out of that.
Steve: Is that the one that Kennedy does? She's gross.
Eddie: What was your video with Ed Fotheringham, the guy who does all the art work? There was a scene where Ed was tied up or something.
Dan: That was a video we did for 'No Song #3," which was on our last EP. That wasn't a very good video. That's my least favorite video we've ever done.
Matt: But the excuse for them not playing it was that there was too much S&M bondage going on in it. If you look at any Nine Inch Nails-type of video it's like, 'What are you thinking?" It was just this guy hanging upside down from a rope.
Dan: I think it's just when they tell you they're not going to play your video they have to come up with an excuse.
Steve: Didn't they say Tad was too fat?
Dan: The last TAD video they submitted to MTV was one where Tad was standing on top of a car going down Highway 99. It was great 'cause I went there and watched the whole thing.
Eddie: They were worried that kids were going to do it?
Dan: Yeah. The video was awesome 'cause it was just Tad on this weird modified car that had these weird orbs lit up on it, and they welded a chair to the top. it was a station wagon. and they're cruising down with Tad. everybody's running interference with the cops and stuff, and here's fuckin' Tad. he's standing up and the car's going like 55. I mean, if the car hit the brakes, he would have gone forward and impaled himself on all of these sharp objects on the hood of the car. It was pretty wild.
Mark: That's a man sacrificing himself for his art.
Dan: They submitted the video, and they had to cut that bit out of him on top of the car.
Steve: So it's lost footage now. The lost danger footage.
Dan: That's like the L7 video they wouldn't play because they had a car exploding or something.
Steve: And then they'll have Aerosmith with people jumping off bridges or whatever.
Dan: Giving the fuck-you symbol.
Mark: Oh. You mean the finger! The fuck-you symbol? (Oohs and ahhs abound.)
Eddie: So this is great to hear. You tell me now this video with Ed wasn't that good and I was telling everybody at MTV, "Well, fuck you! If you don't play their video, we're never doing anything with you again. How can you not play that video?" Maybe I should have seen it.
Steve: But what's a good video? They all kind of suck in my mind.
Mark: To us, our favorite videos are ones that show our sense of humor and whatever kind of weird character we might have. This video showed none of that. It's kind of generic looking.
Steve: It's like an Offspring video.
Dan: I think it's better to be the Monkees than, say, Nine Inch Nails.
Eddie: So I was going to bring up that New Year's show in Portland two years ago. with Dead Moon, Gift
Dan: That was a good time.
Eddie: Yeah, I felt that night was bathed in magic. It was really good.
Dan: You were loaded, though. We had just done a show in Seattle a couple of days before at the OK Hotel that was just horrendous.
Mark: That was one of the dullest shows we've ever done.
Steve: It was invitation-only, which means that just the dull people get to come in.
Dan: So basically. all of our friends are dull. Too hip to enjoy themselves.
Steve: They've seen us like 400 times, so one more time doesn't really matter.
Eddie: That place was normally all-ages. Is it still all-ages?
Steve: No, it's over-21 only.
Eddie: So what's left in Seattle that's all-ages now?
Dan: King Theater, Velvet Elvis is alt-ages sometimes.
Mark: So what else is all-ages? The Paramount, the Moore Theater. the Arena, the CoIiseum, the Tacoma Dome and the Kingdome.
Dan: Good point, Mark Arm.
Eddie: So he's saying that the only all-ages venues are places that are over 1,000 capacity. Basically, a young kid can't experience intimate music.
Mark: They can experience all kinds of intimate feelings.
Steve: And if the major labels had their way, they wouldn't experience any small bands either, because of the lack of availability of vinyl and do-it-yourself CDs in the chain stores. It's worked great so far.
Eddie: Speaking of getting the kids involved, I always wished that in interviews they would put the chords to one of the songs, even Musician in the old days would throw in some chords. So I thought I'd ask the chords to...
Matt: What are you talking about? I've never seen anything like that before ever.
Eddie: That's what I'm saying, there should be. So ten years ago you could have picked it up and played that song.
Mark: That would have been impossible because ten years ago I didn't know what a chord was.
Matt: They do that in Hit Parader.
Eddie: But that's just the lyrics, I think. Besides that, I would like to know the break chord where everything kind of opens up on "Generation Spokesmodel." That's a beautiful part.
Mark: Would that be an F sharp?
Steve: The first fret would be just F, open F major, I think, depending on where your finger is.
Mark: Do you know what F stands for?
Steve: Where do I start? I go B, and then the next one up, I don't know.
Mark: We've never been very good at
Eddie: So you kind of just watch each other's fingers?
Steve: We find riffs and watch each other on them.
Dan: That's something that happens often at a Mudhoney practice...
Steve: We try to figure out what note is what.
Eddie: That's basically what it's all about with any group anywhere. It's like communicating, right?
Steve: Some people communicate more with feeling and have a telepathic thing. We just have blind drowning people waving.
Eddie: Do you want to get into any of the lyrics?
Mark: Oh, not really.
Eddie: I think they're better just heard.
Mark: And misinterpreted.
Steve: That's one thing that's kind of changed with the MTV nation, it's supposed to be more literal or something. Maybe it's not so much that way anymore, but it seems like the first ten years of MTV was just like bad videos with a story.
Mark: Take that A-ha song, for instance, you have a beautiful thing, and if you had never seen the video you could have thought a million different things about it.
Steve: A million beautiful things!
Mark: Instead you think about Swedish guys in pencil drawings. (Vocal stylings of A-ha's "Take on Me" ensue...)
Matt: That depresses me because it reminds me of being at work and hearing it on the radio.
Mark: A-ha is a pretty depressing phenomenon.
Dan: Do you think they are still hot and happening in Sweden?
Steve: When were they hot?
Matt: That was like '84.
Eddie: They had a longer career than I thought. Then you had Roxette filling in that same gap, and Ace of Base.
Mark: But none of them have really been filling the shoes of ABBA.
Steve: Isn't Ace of Base the group where one of them was in some racist skinhead organization? Now he's got enough money and doesn't have to worry about class wars anymore.
Eddie: So do you guys ever know the lyrics while you're learning and playing a new song or just sort of figure it out later?
Dan: Not really. I hear them once the record's being recorded or the demo tape maybe.
Steve: I hear bits and pieces.
Matt: Mark's always coming through my monitor and I cue off of him singing a lot. I'm not really listening to what he's saying.
Mark: All I'm really doing is getting a kind of vocal melody going, because usually I don't have any idea of what I'm singing until the day it gets recorded. Sometimes it works and most of the time it doesn't. That's why we don't include lyric sheets, 'cause if you had it, you'd realize it was stupid.
Eddie: I always wondered it the band knew what the song was about maybe they'd -
Steve: Say, "Don't do it!"
Mark: Let's just drop this one now.
Steve: This song suddenly really sounds bad to me.
Mark: You're thinking to yourself, "God damn. I wish he didn't sing that to this riff. I love this riff. Now I can't enjoy this riff ever again."
Mark: I used to love "Louie, Louie."
Eddie: So maybe the positives out weigh the negatives as far as not knowing what the words are.
Steve: I think so. Ignorance is bliss.
Matt: We wouldn't be as happy as we are if we weren't ignorant.
Eddie: Do you guys ever tape live shows and listen back to them?
Mark: We don't usually have the means or the patience.
Dan: I don't like to listen to live shows. You also might think a show was really fun send then listen to the tape and go, "Oh, that sounds like shit." I'd prefer not to know that.
Eddie: Didn't you guys have some sort of live release after Piece Of Cake?
Steve: That was a promo-only thing.
Eddie: Have you ever thought of doing -
Mark: It would have to be under really controlled circumstances, like say, no audience, and we'd get to do several takes. Hey, we did that already. The last record.
Eddie: I'm told the live radio show we did sounded really, really good, and that listening to you guys play live from like car radios was dynamite.
Mark: I think part of the joy of our shitty guitar sound is that it's really good on a bad stereo. It's the natural sound to fit tiny speakers.