An Older and Wiser Mudhoney Return with Vanishing Point
It's 10:30 a.m. in Seattle at Sub Pop Records HQ and Mark Arm—the mercurial, spit-slinging singer for proto-grunge legends and original "Loser" poster boys Mudhoney—is about to hit the work iron as, arguably, the most famous record label warehouse manager ever. But first the usually pissy frontman is in celebration mode. Sub Pop, Mudhoney's longtime label (and Arm's employer) is marking its 25th year in the biz, and his band's massive world tour is set to launch.
Mudhoney are still very much alive. The notion they're not (or won't be soon) is being bandied about by Mudhoney diehards who think the mere title of their new album, Vanishing Point—the band's first album in five years and ninth overall—portends their end; no more grunge carnage and beer-guzzling hijinks. Arm offers reassurance to fans shitting bricks. "We were just thinking of a title that would go good with the artwork," he says over the phone from Seattle, both amused and surprised by the supposed uproar. "I doubt they are panicking. They are probably going 'It's about fucking time.' "
It has been twenty-fucking-five years since Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, drummer Dan Peters, and original bassist Matt Lukin recorded the defining classic "Touch Me, I'm Sick." With it Mudhoney helped pave the way for Sub Pop and Nirvana's global domination. But while the label gears up for its silver jubilee this summer, the members of Mudhoney barely celebrated their own milestone. "We didn't really do anything," says Turner, phoning from Portland. "I think we sent each other text messages [reading] 'Happy Birthday.'"
Not exactly the blitzed post-Stooges debauchery the band was notorious for during its formative years. A wasteoid existence of incessant touring and a breathless stream of records, from 1988's apeshit landmark Superfuzz BigMuff to '98's major-label dud Tomorrow Hit Today, has morphed in recent years, as Mudhoney grew older and wiser—now they're dudes with day jobs, wives, and kids. Arm famously mans the Sub Pop warehouse, Turner is a record dealer, Peters is a stay-at-home dad, and bassist Guy Maddison works as a stat nurse at a local hospital.
But according to Turner, balancing family and rock-band life is not entirely to blame for the five-year gap between albums. Instead, he pins the blame on himself and Arm. "It's equally the fact I moved down [to Portland]," he says. "But I also know Mark had a bit of a dry spell coming up with lyrics that satisfied him. He doesn't want to repeat himself. The running joke after the first couple of years was 'OK, Mark. No more talking about dogs or being sick.'"