Catching Up With Seattle’s Favorite Honey, Mark Arm
(CBS Seattle) – Seattle’s Showbox at the Market will house two very loud bands on Saturday.
The Sonics, Tacoma’s legendary five-piece, were ahead of their time in the 1960s with a unique take on rhythm and blues. Frontman Gerry Roslie’s primitive roaring backed by a distorted rhythm section, a squealing saxophone and crunching guitar (sorry for the cliches) planted the seeds to punk rock in our region.
Then there’s Mudhoney. The band is often credited (mostly by national outlets) as being one of the original grunge bands, but there’s really more to it than that — even if you believe in that cute little word.
Since the 1980s, The quartet has been channeling the raunchiness of The Sonics (and other 60s punk bands) as well as hardcore punk to the likes of Black Flag, The Flesh Eaters, Flipper and Rites of Spring.
We sat down to talk with the band’s seemingly ageless frontman, Mark Arm, to talk about sharing a bill with the Sonics, the new Mudhoney album coming out this spring, and his experience listening to KZOK’s countdown of the top 1002 classic rock songs of all-time.
Ironically, the February 2nd show with the Sonics comes just a couple months after your one-off New Original Sonics Sound show for the Norton Records benefit at the Tractor Tavern. I think that set caught a lot of people off guard…
We didn’t have a chance to get together and practice any of the songs…I was just singing along to them in the car…that was the only way to sort of pound the lyrics into my head. So hopefully nobody saw me driving and said, “why’s that guy screaming?”
As a fan in attendance, it looked like you all were having fun.*
Oh yeah, it was a blast. We used to do that kinda regularly for a year or two. The whole purpose of that initially was for the opening of the EMP — they had a bunch of Northwest bands like The Kingsmen and The Wailers, but they couldn’t get The Sonics. So, Scott McCaughey came up with the idea that The Sonics really needed to be represented, so he put together this band.
*”fan in attendance” is the massive dome on the right-hand side of the screen in the video
This is probably a stupid question, but are there future plans for The New Original Sonic Sound?
You know, as long as The Sonics are around it’s not necessary.
Fair enough. How did the February 2nd Sonics gig unfold?
We were asked to play a show with The Sonics last September, and we just couldn’t align a date. The first date where every member of The Sonics and every member of Mudhoney could actually work was February second — so it took a couple of weeks of nailing down a date.
Just by looking at the track titles of the new Mudhoney album, Vanishing Point, I’d say there aren’t any hidden messages. “Douchebags on Parade,” for instance, what could that be about?
You know, it’s about douchebags and how they strut their stuff.
Is this like The Lucky Ones where you’re putting down the guitar or are you playing on this album?
I play guitar on four songs out of the ten. I really like being able to hop around and not play guitar…but I also like playing guitar. Initially Steve [Turner] kinda insisted that I play guitar when I was in a band with him before Green River; We both played guitar in that band [Mr. Epp and The Calculations], and I think he wanted to tether me down a little bit. Still though, in the early days of Mudhoney, we’d go flailing into the crowd with our guitars, but after a while you stop doing that ’cause it hurts.
You guys have a couple other Northwest shows this spring I see, Seattle on March 29th, Portland on March 30th…
They’re kind of the record release shows the weekend before the record actually comes out. The only reason we did it that way was because Guy [Madison] works the following weekend …. We might also be doing an in-store performance at the West Seattle Easy Street.
(Later in the conversation, Arm brings up 102.5 KZOK’s Top 1002 Greatest Classic Rock Songs, a countdown special that aired at the end of 2012)
I actually tuned in to it, cause I was like, “I haven’t really listened to KZOK in a while,” and I was really happy to hear Vander [Scott Vanderpool] a whole bunch, which was great, because he’s always funny. He played a Lynyrd Skynyrd song and he said something [afterwards] like, “well that’s one band you won’t find in an old folks home!” (Laughs) But I was really confused because I thought it was a 24-hour-round-the-clock thing and I went out to go surfing on one Saturday morning during the countdown and heard “Free Bird” at like 5:30 in the morning-
And that probably ruined your day.
No, it didn’t ruin my day, but it just kinda confused me.
Yeah, it was a different schedule each day. Some days it started at 9:00 am, some days it started at noon…I think it was so certain specialty shows wouldn’t have to be rescheduled.
Right. They did play an Angel City song!
That’s right. There were a couple gems on there, the program director did sneak in a few rad songs.
I heard Vanderpool play “Lies” by the Knickerbockers not too long ago too. What has kinda surprised me now is that Talking Heads are now in the “classic rock” cannon.
Each year another band falls into the pit.
It’s weird, because you hear “Life During Wartime” and it wasn’t really that big of a hit at the time, ya know? It wasn’t as big as “Burning Down The House,” or something. And they sound pretty different from most classic rock, but not if you take The Cars and some David Bowie into consideration, you know, it’s all kinda weird. And there’s some really weird, shitty sounding 80s shit that somehow in there too (laughs)! Does anybody really like that later period of Dire Straights? …. You should try and see if Scott can play The Sonics around the time of the show. Do The Sonics get played on KZOK?
Oh yeah, “The Witch” made the Top 1002 Countdown.
Would you ever throw in The Wipers?
That would be interesting. That would catch a lot of people off-guard.
It would work! There would probably be at least a few people that would say, “this is great!”
Yeah, there’s a couple of songs on Is This Real? that are definitely radio-friendly.
Yeah, or “Romeo,” or ya know, for people who like psychedelic jams you could throw in “Youth of America.”
Yes, and rock out for eleven minutes.
While Scott goes to the bathroom.
Saturday’s show is sold out.
-Chris Coyle, CBS Radio
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