When Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters began talking about the grunge band's
upcoming two-CD retrospective a few months ago, he apparently had no inkling how prophetic his
words might be.
"Dan was saying, 'If you do a best-of compilation, it sort of signals
the end of the band' that you can't do that kind of album until
you have the overview of the whole career," singer Mark Arm recalled
Saturday from his home in Seattle.
That end may now be near.
On June 7, not long after that conversation with Peters, Arm went to bassist Matt Lukin's
house to get some signatures on a contract for a new single. After signing, Lukin told the
singer he was retiring from the group to lead a quiet life in rural Washington state.
Around the same time, Mudhoney had been dropped by their label, Reprise.
Now instead of looking back at their 11-year history, Mudhoney are staring into the future
and wondering whether there will be any more history.
"We have to figure out if we can do it without Matt," Arm, 37, said. "We have to get used to
Named for a film by cult director Russ Meyer, Mudhoney formed in 1988 with what would
turn out to be a who's who of Northwestern rock. Arm and guitarist Steve Turner hailed
from proto-grunge group Green River (which also featured future Pearl Jam members
Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard). Lukin had been booted from sludge-rockers the
Melvins, while Peters would pull a brief stint with Nirvana in the early '90s.
Early Mudhoney songs such as "Touch Me I'm Sick" (RealAudio excerpt of live
version) and "Sweet Young Thing (Ain't Sweet No More)" helped establish the
thick, aggressive sound that came to be known as grunge.
But the band never achieved the commercial success of peers such as Pearl Jam,
Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Nonetheless, as recently as last year the band was
garnering critical acclaim for such songs as "This Is the Life" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Night of the
Hunted" (RealAudio excerpt), both from
Tomorrow Hit Today.
For the time being, Arm said, "We're pretending as if nothing has happened." He said the
group, which has finished touring to promote Tomorrow Hit Today, was planning
on taking the summer off anyway to concentrate on other projects.
Arm and Turner will work on the second album by their side project Monkeywrench,
which debuted in 1992 with the Clean as a Broke-Dick Dog LP. That band also
includes producer/musician Tim Kerr and members of Gas Huffer and Bloodloss.
Meanwhile, Peters has been banging the drums for ex-Dinosaur Jr. bassist Mike
When drummer Bill Berry left R.E.M. in 1997, singer Michael Stipe compared the
remaining bandmembers to a three-legged dog that could still run. Arm echoed that
sentiment, but said Mudhoney are not looking to fill Lukin's space with a temporary
player, as R.E.M. have done in Berry's absence.
"If we actually went on to do something, I would want someone full-time, not some hired
gun," Arm said.
Arm added that Lukin is not talking to reporters about his exit.
Meanwhile, the band is compiling its retrospective, which will include album tracks from
Mudhoney's tenures at both Sub Pop Records and Reprise, as well as a second disc of
B-sides and rarities. Arm said he'd like to see songs such as "Run Shithead Run" (from
the 1994 With Honors soundtrack) and "Bush Pusherman" (from the 1993 EP
Puget Power III) on the collection, but he's enlisting input from fans to help in the
Arm sent an e-mail to Peter Trahms, 19, of the "Mudhoney From Seattle,
WA" webpage (www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~ptn/mudhoney), asking for his thoughts
on the set. Suspecting that his own tastes run counter to that of many
Mudhoney fans, Trahms proposed posting a poll on the site to gather
feedback from other listeners. The survey, slated to go online this week,
will tap fan opinions on songs from the band's seven albums as well as
the dozens of Mudhoney singles and compilation tracks.
"I really hope [Mudhoney] continue, but I fear they may not," Trahms said. "I'm excited
because they'll focus on Monkeywrench, but I really wish Matt was still happy playing in
Arm said he hopes to release the compilation album by the end of the year. Any search
for a new label, he said, is on hold until the band decides whether to continue.
In recent months, the band had received little attention from Reprise, most likely owing to
lackluster sales, Arm said. As of this week, Tomorrow Hit Today released
in September had moved just 11,000 copies, according to SoundScan.
Rick Gershon, former publicist for the band at Reprise's parent company, Warner Bros.,
said he could not talk about the reason for the band's departure.
"When an original member leaves, it's a nice time to step back and regroup," Gershon
said. "The rest of the band will remain involved in music. That's just what they do."