By: Lindsey Borders
Legendary grunge-rock band, Mudhoney, paved the way for and influenced bands such as Nirvana, whose late frontman, Kirk Cobain was an avid fan of Mudhoney and greatly influenced by them. Also influenced were and are Pearl Jam, who had Mudhoney open for them on their 20th anniversary tour. Leaving a lasting mark on such a heavily influenced culture of music has much to do with the sustainability of Mudhoney and their music. We had the opportunity to chat with lead guitarist, Steve Turner, about the band’s longevity, how their music is compared today to back when they introduced it at their highest peak, if they would choose to do it full-time and a few of his favorites. Read on to discover something new about Mudhoney that longtime fans may not have known before:
Are you guys looking forward to coming to The Earl in Atlanta?
Steve: Totally, yeah! We always have a good time in Atlanta.
Having had success for the last few decades, and having such an impact within the Grunge scene, what do you think is the reason for you guys’ success and longevity?
Steve: Well, you know it’s all relevant, right? We’re all pretty low-key, and our success was low-key as well; I think the longevity is that we just like playing music together. It’s no longer our career; we all have kids and jobs and stuff, as well. We’re just lucky that there’s still enough interest, going on these little trips can work, and that we can afford baby-care, and all of the other things that we need to get covered while we’re gone (laughs). We didn’t expect much from the band, as far as success goes, so we’ve never been disappointed by anything that’s happened. It’s all been just a fun, crazy, long-term adventure.
Did you have any idea that it would have lasted this long? Did you guys ever envision that, playing for a little bit, then parting ways, and doing what you’re doing now?
Steve: Well, the original plan, if there was a plan, we know a couple of people that run small record labels, and I know we could probably put out a couple of singles, and I had promised my parent’s I would go back to college. So, I didn’t see much life to it really, you know. We knew it was going to be cool, and we wanted to leave a little document of record collector, punk-rock nerd, so that was kind of the original idea. Certainly no expectations. You know, you’re young, we weren’t thinking 25 years ahead or anything like that, we just kept going (laughs). That’s the best way to describe life, I think. It just keeps going (laughs).
Do you think that music is harder to pursue today for you guys’, or is it relevant to each their own?
Steve: Yeah, I think it’s more to each of their own. We can’t really compare, because we had, like, a bit of notoriety and that kind of thing. So, you know, we had namechecked here and there. Younger people still come out and check us out, because they know some of the history. Which is funny, because we were probably at our biggest in ’91, ’92-ish era, when things were really exploding. Journalists would ask us, “Do you expect massive success?” “How are you going to be remembered?” Our line was always like, “You know what, we’re going to be a footnote in the history.” That’s how we saw it; a footnote for stories in a certain way, which we kind of are. And that’s fine, you know, we’re realists, we knew what we were, and we’ve always kind of known that, so when people ask us “Did you expect to be as big as you are?,” we’re always like, “No, listen to our records.” (laughs). It’s just not going to get played; everyone’s not going to love what we do (laughs). It’s not going to connect on that big of a level and we knew that. I don’t know the young scenes; it’s weird when I see something that blows up on YouTube and that kind of stuff from some band I’ve never heard of, and I question how it works exactly. They’ll figure it out; I’ve got a 13 year-old kid, and he’ll figure that stuff out (laughs).
Now, if you guys were able to do this full-time, would you or would you rather do what you’re doing now?
Steve: That’s hard to say, because a lot of the reason we don’t do it full-time is because three of us have kids, so you know, no (laughs). That’s the quick answer for that one. We’re not there in our life anymore. I think we’d do it a little bit more, and like it to be a little less difficult to arrange for all of our schedules, because we have so many things we try to juggle and take care of. I can say, I wish it was easier, but I wouldn’t want to do it as much as we did back 24 years ago.
Steve: Yeah, that’s very true, you know. Like, we joke, our bass player is a nurse, and that’s coming in more and more handy.
Speaking of performances and gigs, what has been your best gig with the band, in your humble opinion?
Steve: I don’t know, you know. There’s a lot that are always really fun. Most are really great. The ones that usually stick out are the ones that surprise you; there’s some unexpected, strange element to them. Someone’s always like, “What, why’s this so odd?” So, usually it’s ones like that, where’s something is a little bit off about it. Like, “Oh, the show’s been moved to a club that’s been closed for 28 years and there’s no running water in the club, the lights don’t work…,” but it turns out to be a really fun time, because people are going nuts. It’s usually those surprising ones. There’s huge ones, like the first time we played Reading Festival, where there’s like 30,000 people, and it’s like “Man, that’s crazy!” So, there’s things like that, that just make you go, “Wow, never thought I’d see that!”
Have you ever had a fan to do anything outrageous that shocked you, or are most of your fans pretty tame?
Steve: Well, they’re not tame. Some of them are getting older now. We see balding guys in the crowd now more than we used to. I mean, yeah, there would be all sorts of gross things happening sometimes, like people having sex right at the edge of the stage or something, and you’re playing, watching, thinking that’s off-putting.
What are your top five albums or artists you wouldn’t want to live without?
Steve: That’s really hard too. We’re all still pretty obsessive in our searching for music, and you know, mine are pretty standard. I don’t think I would want to live without Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, or The Stooges. When you say singer, what it would have to be would be pretty standard stuff, like The Rolling Stones. How are you going to live without that? If there’s a fifth one, I’d want an anonymous, 60s garage-punk, psychedelic band, from all the rare compilation stuff I have. Give me an hours worth of the best 60s punk or something.
Who was your first concert, and do you have a favorite?
Steve: That’s easy. My first concert was Devo!, Freedom Of Choice tour, summer of 1980. The next night was Black Flag. I jumped in with both feet. That weekend was pretty life-changing for me.
Favorite concert? I don’t know, man…There’s so many. That’s an impossible one. I’ve seen so many great bands. There are a lot that stick out. Just seeing Devo! and Black Flag that weekend really stood out to me. The Malfunctions shows were pretty amazing; the first time I saw Townes Van Zandt was amazing…the list would continue for a long time.
Are there any surprises for long-time fans on this tour, or is it what we can expect from Mudhoney?
Steve: Well we, um, we have a lot of songs that we try to cram into our set; a lot of history there, so we try to play a lot of the new record, because that’s why we’re out here, and it’s a lot of fun for us too, you know. Hoping it’s fun for people that haven’t seen us in a long time. We also try to throw in as much as what people might expect to hear from us live. With that said, we also learned about five songs that we haven’t played in years and years, to throw in and sprinkle in. Not necessarily obscure songs, but songs we haven’t played in a really long time. That’s exciting.
Mudhoney plays tonight at The Earl! Doors open at 8:30. Tickets are $20 at the door.