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Seattle Sounds

'Godfathers of Grunge': Seattle's Mudhoney roars again

When it comes to the icons of the Seattle "Grunge" scene, many people point to Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. But those in the know would say Mudhoney can rightly lay claim to the title "godfathers of grunge." So you'd figure front man Mark Arm is at least a little bitter the band didn't attain the worldwide fame and fortune of his contemporaries. You'd be wrong.

"Not at all. These are all old good friends of mine and I've always been nothing but happy for their success," he says of fellow musicians like Kim Thayil of Soundgarden and Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, his former bandmates in Green River.

"There's a reason that Green River split up. They're making their own way doing their own their music and we're totally content in our little world making our own music."

That music hasn't changed a whole lot since Mudhoney formed back in 1988. It's a swirling, fuzzed out concoction of punk influenced rock with a decidedly unique twist. Arm says it was always a reflection of the group's decidedly eclectic musical interests that spanned all styles and eras.

"I like jazz a lot but I wouldn't be comfortable faking my way through that," he laughs.

But it's rooted in hardcore punk and bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat. Still, as those bands gained in popularity, an increasing number of copy cats started showing up in Seattle. And Mudhoney vowed to do something different.

"It kind of made it seem like hardcore was kind of a dead end, and that's when we started out trying to figure out where this stuff came from."

That led them to all sorts of influences, from the early garage rock of legendary Tacoma rockers the Sonics to early punk pioneers like The Stooges and The MC5.

Arm says he'd actually never heard of the Sonics until he read about them in the old rock fanzine Trouser Press in an article by a British writer.

"It always kind of amused me that I learned about this band in my backyard from a British guy," he says.

Decades later, the two bands are sharing the stage in a highly anticipated, sold-out show Saturday night at Showbox at the Market. It's a gig Arm says the pair have been trying to put together for years.

The Mudhoney set should feature plenty of the classics like "Touch Me I'm Sick," but it'll also be the first chance for fans to hear tunes from the band's upcoming album "Vanishing Point", due out April 2 on Sub Pop. It's Mudhoney's ninth studio album, the first since 2008's "The Lucky Ones."

Arm says while there'll be little doubt it's a Mudhoney record chalk full of the band's signature sound, it's also surprisingly diverse.

"It's got a couple of slower things and one song you might even think is a ballad," he says. But then he quickly qualifies it. "It's not like a romantic ballad or anything," he laughs.

While he's happy with it, he doesn't have any delusions of grandeur the band will suddenly become a chart topper. It's why he'll be back at his day job next week at Sub Pop, where he's run the warehouse for the last few years.

"It can be pretty humbling [...] because I know how much our records sell compared to other records," he laughs.

Listen to "The Only Son of the Widow From Nain" from Mudhoney's upcoming "Vanishing Point" out April 2 on Sub Pop:

Mudhoney and The Sonics play Saturday night Feb. 2 at the Showbox at the Market.

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com Reporter
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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