i have been wanting to do this post for the past few months; but like i wrote in the last post, life got in the way. To most people who may know or have heard of them, Mudhoney (who is among the top 5 of my favorite bands) may not seem to be a member of the pantheon of punk, but they have definitely inspired me as an angry punk kid. Similar to how David Lovering and Hugo Burnham (of the Pixies and Gang Of Four respectively) inspired my drumming; Mudhoney were the first band to make me want to pick up a guitar as a teenager. i even got a Big Muff pedal back then, to go with my black Peavey stratocaster with the white pick guard. i never achieved guitar greatness back then (and of course, i still haven’t), but i hoped to achieve the modicum of energy displayed within those grooves, and on their Charles Peterson- photographed record covers.
They say to never meet your heroes, but my experience has tended to contradict this saying on a few occasions.
i remember it fairly well- it was June 15, 1995. i was around 18 years old. The band played at Irving Plaza (in NYC) on tour for their album, My Brother The Cow. i was doing a fanzine at the time called The Dissonant Accost, and Julie Cafritz (who i was friends with at the time) introduced me to Steve Turner and Mark Arm, the lead and rhythm guitarists. i ended up interviewing them for the zine, and taking some photos on the stage. i no longer have a physical copy of the zine, but i hold that moment (and the fact that these people i looked up to took the time out to humor a kid like me) in my heart.
i would end up seeing both Mark and Steve whenever i’d visit Seattle from New York (especially when they’d play a show), and also when i ended up moving to the northwest. i’d hang out with Steve (and his cat friend) at his house occasionally when i rolled through town. i eventually lost contact with them (even though, interestingly, Steve and i lived in the same city for a while, and even knew some of the same folks).
i never thought i would ever see or talk to them again; and even if i did i didn’t think they would recognize me, especially since i am now an amputee.
On October 28. 2023 Abby (who shares a similar love for this band as i do, and who i was in my first ever band with) went with me to see Mudhoney (with Hooveriii opening) at Le Poisson Rouge (in NYC). We went to the section reserved for wheelchairs (which is usually a space also reserved for the soundboard and/or instrument cases); Mark Arm was standing next to me, watching the opening band. i tapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he remembered me, and he did! We shared a hug, and i told him my story of getting hit by a truck and losing a leg. i asked Steve the same, and he said he did remember me (as we gave each other a hug), but i have to chuckle as i don’t think he actually remembered me, which is understandable. He did tell me he saw me dancing during the show.
i didn’t even get to tell him that i enjoyed his book, Mud Ride.
While they were the ones who inspired me to pick up a guitar, the drums are my first love. If i feel like i could never get to the level of Mark or Steve as a player, i can’t even imagine to get near even a quarter of the greatness of Dan Peters. Despite him barely if ever being mentioned on lists of greatest drummers, he is easily on the top 10 for me. The man’s snare rolls are quick and razor sharp. And while they are primarily known for being a guitar-based band, Matt Lukin and Guy Maddison’s bass lay a foundation that would be severely missing if they weren’t there.
Mudhoney are one of those few bands where i currently have all of their albums; that said, there was a time where i owned almost all of their 45s, 12″ non-album cuts, special pressings, etc. as well. While i don’t have most of those records anymore, i did end up buying back the albums years later. Mudhoney get limited to the ‘grunge’ category, but no one band lumped into that category even sounds alike. While i generally enjoy all the bands that tend to be categorized on this level, they and the Melvins are the two bands i did gravitate towards the most. Mudhoney do for all intents and purposes hold a punk ethos creatively (and even in subject matter at times), but they carry on a similar trajectory as Don Van Vliet as much as they do for the Stooges, MC5 and the Sonics, as they are also shaped by the blues in their sound. Their major label period (on Reprise/Warner) seemingly carried on the torch from Captain Beefheart pretty well- as they were picked up in the haze of ‘Nirvana mania’ their music was actively resisting the current. Associated bands like Bloodloss carried this torch even more specifically.
Mudhoney, to me, are one of the last remaining counterculture bands of their generation.
There were a few songs i played when i regularly played guitar many moons ago (such as ‘Need’); Abby and i also, in our second band (called The Second Day) covered Mudhoney. These days, playing guitar is like starting over, and i haven’t retained much. In a very slow manner i am learning how to play in the ‘traditional’ way; as for now, i pretty much play everything by ear and have developed a particular style of my own (as i know the way i play is far from correct).
Even as i was planning to make this post months ago, i hadn’t thought about what songs i actually wanted to do. As i was playing around for last week’s post i started playing some semblance of a Mudhoney song and thus, further inspiration was born.
(And of course, while i’m not a fan of piling on the pedals i will always have a place for the Big Muff.)
It was incredibly difficult to choose a set of songs to pay tribute to, so i kind of went the ‘random selection’ route. For this post, i will begin with a song from their latest album, the wonderful Plastic Eternity. Continuing the satirical and sneering look at human interaction with modern life (plus a song about the love of little dogs), the album contains antifascist and anti-consumerist anthems. ‘Human Stock Capital’ is one of the few songs i’ve heard that addresses labor exploitation under this most recent pandemic.
One of the things i appreciate about the band’s website is their Emergency Room: The Covid Diaries series. Bassist Guy Maddison is also a Registered Nurse (RN) at a trauma center, and the podcast spoke directly with other Registered Nurses and medical workers who told their stories about life under the roughest waves of the pandemic.
As a person who was considered an ‘essential worker’ in the midst of this rough wave, the song is something that is identifiable. As i survived a traumatic accident, then stayed in the trauma wing of the hospital for two months during the pandemic, i think the podcast is enlightening.
(i am just playing bass for this song; there’s also some graphics included, with some statistics/messaging.)
Coming from the Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge era, ‘You’re Gone’ is one of the original 12″s i kept (before selling a bunch of my collection to move to the west coast; Superfuzz Bigmuff was another original i kept), reminding me of how inflation has also effected record prices- whenever i bought that record, it was only $3.99.
‘You’re Gone’ also ended up being released on the 30th anniversary of Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, so now i have both of them. The bassline is incredibly fun to play, proving once again how foundational this instrument is.
When i first heard ‘Judgement, Rage, Retribution And Thyme’ (my favorite Mudhoney song of all time, and is a solid example of how the blues also shapes/influences their sound) i thought the riff was reversed, as opposed to being played with a slide. i did play the song with a slide here, but as a tribute to my original thought i actually did play the intro backwards (with a slide), then reversed it.
This sounds nothing like the original (again, i am not a great musician), but this is my humble tribute to a great song. While there are people far superior to me in terms of playing music; i was thinking about it, and to me, the greatest tribute one can do for a band is actually getting up and playing, and being the best you can be in that moment.
(i am playing drums, bass, guitar and vocals here.)
‘Next Mass Extinction’, from an equally crucial chapter of the Mudhoney catalog, Digital Garbage; is for me, a certified headnodder. Never disappointing us with that sardonic wit, it transitions into a psychedelic instrumental jam, rounding it out with the main theme.
The general feeling one would get when listening to a majority of Mudhoney songs is hopelessness, cynicism and pessimism. Within that surface ultimately is a glimmer of optimism. This doesn’t apply to everyone but for many of us, a critique of systems is rooted in the belief that once what oppresses us is uprooted, life will be better for us all.
The band also finds joy in the small things, like dogs. And skating.
From the band’s first full-length (self-titled) album, ‘Running Loaded’ has one of my all-time favorite riffs. i fell in love with it ever since i first heard it- for all i know, it may have been the thing to inspire me to want to pick up that guitar.
But alas, i’m just playing bass here.
And finally, we have another song from My Brother The Cow… except it was on the 45 that came with the vinyl version of the album- the CD (which i also have) has an unlisted track at the end, which is the album backwards save the first two songs, which actually led me to think all those years ago that the opening song was backwards!
‘West Seattle Hardcore’ is part of a set of short songs about bicycle seats, beer and random banter from altered voices and keyboard pings. It’s the kind of thing that will leave someone scratching their head when they imagine Mudhoney to be associated with ‘grunge,’ but something like this is honestly not surprising if you follow their music. It’s also part of the pattern of the (as mentioned earlier) Reprise period specifically, where they made music as beautifully ‘unlistenable’ as possible as they could make it.
i love this band so much.
Of course, being the punk kid that i am, i had to make my cover of the song a little more literal. Mostly inspired by D.R.I. (with bands like Gorilla Biscuits and Reagan Youth for good measure- i mean, i’m from New York… what can i say), i played all the instruments and did the vocals.
i mean nothing but respect. Also, i’m not a musician, so i do what i can.
(This blog post is dedicated to Abby, the biggest Mudhoney appreciator i know- besides myself)