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Baker's Dozen

These Gifts: Mark Arm Of Mudhoney's Favourite Albums
Nick Hutchings , May 26th, 2015 15:35

As they embark upon a run of UK dates tonight, the Seattle fuzz merchants' frontman takes Nick Hutchings on a tour of his top 13 LPs

Photograph courtesy of Emily Reiman

Mark Arm, owner of the unmistakable guttural growl behind Mudhoney and man of flailing arms, hair and guitar immortalised by Charles Peterson on the cover of epochal album Superfuzz Bigmuff was there at the beginning of Seattle's Sub Pop Records story. He was the first person to give label co-founder Bruce Pavitt a tape of Raw Power by Iggy & The Stooges. Given the Iggy-influenced rawness of the nascent local scene, of which Mudhoney became key players and later on major (label) players, it was a definitive moment.

Arm is still very much at Sub Pop now. He is in charge of dealing with the label's distribution network. While I spoke to him on the phone at their offices, he had to break off to deal with the day job a couple of times, no doubt to arrange the shipping of the latest batch of METZ or THEESatisfaction records.

Mark Arm is a great survivor from that explosive early 90s Seattle scene and that could be down to his sardonic wit. In 'The Lucky Ones' on Mudhoney's album of the same name he drawls "the lucky ones have already gone down, the lucky ones are lucky they're not around". With self-deprecating album titles also including Since We've Become Translucent and Vanishing Point; it's Sarafian film reference aside, perhaps the fact they've always been unfashionable has been their saviour. You can't really fall "In 'N' Out Of Grace" if you've never really been in it. And yet they ploughed the furrow that many followed.

Taking cues from Seattle bands like The Sonics and U-Men and The Kingsmen from nearby Portland, Arm went from first band Mr. Epp And The Calculations into forming the cult and killer outfit Green River. Being at the heart of one raucous bunch of trailblazers might have been enough for many, but the bands it spawned went stellar: half went onto Mother Love Bone and ultimately Pearl Jam and the half containing Arm became Mudhoney. The local heroes went global.

When the Sub Pop bands exploded onto the inky pages of the British music press, Mudhoney were initially and conveniently categorised as cartoonish working class boys done good - a heady whirl of plaid and chainsaws. The truth was far more nuanced. The sounds they emitted were eviscerated and primal, 'Louie Louie' meets 'Paranoid' at its basest, but beyond that was a man with an insatiable appetite for music and an encyclopaedic knowledge of it, backed up with an erudite turn of phrase and a (whisper it) collegiate education. When it came to the history of rock, Arm knew his ass from his elbow. Before it had all kicked off he'd co-published a fanzine called Attack, of which cerebral peers Sonic Youth and the Butthole Surfers were reputedly avid readers.

While he's always been happy to goof around, ranging from songs like 'Eat My Dump' with Green River-era side-project The Thrown Ups through to the lament about cheap wine of choice 'Chardonnay' on the most recent album, there's always been more to Mudhoney. The testy psychedelic workouts of their mid-00s albums were a world apart from the fuzz pedal freak-outs of 'Touch Me I'm Sick' or 'You Got It' and have been re-mastered ahead of a re-release which has forced Arm into listening to some of his now extensive back catalogue.

"I don't spend a whole lot of time listening to or reassessing our records. Sub Pop is going to re-release Since We've Become Translucent and Under A Billion Suns on vinyl later on, so I listened to test pressings for both of those and I was very pleased with most of those records."

Due to tour Europe soon, but with no new album since 2013, ahead of talking through his favourite albums by others, I asked what fans could expect from the Mudhoney live experience this time around: "I don't know yet. The last bit of touring, of the newer stuff it was mostly Vanishing Point for obvious reasons because it was the brand new record. I'm not quite sure what we'll do. Hopefully we'll mix it up so people aren't like, 'Hey man this is the same set they played last time they came through!'"

I kind of knew what to expect from Mark's Bakers' Dozen choices: a dash of Iggy; some Funhouse-style sax wig-outs; a sprinkling of dark but humorous lyricism; plenty of shredding guitar heroes - but there are surprises. I didn't know that the Mudhoney song 'Tales Of Terror' were named after one of Arm's favourite bands. And there were some surprising omissions, one of which came to light when I enquired what Arm was up to after clocking off at Sub Pop that shift… "We have a show with The Sonics coming up. It's their record release party [for This Is The Sonics]. Oh man! I didn't get The Sonics on the list!"

Mudhoney play Concorde in Brighton tonight, before touring; head to their website for full details and tickets. Click on his image below to begin scrolling through Mark's choices

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