Their flannel may be faded and the scene long dead but Seattle's grunge godheads are still enjoying the mudride.
"We split everything equally and treat each other like human beings," declares Mark Arm, squawky-voiced singer and guitarist with veteran Seattle outfit Mudhoney in offering survival tips to today's ever-growing army of young rock n' roll bands. "I think the smartest thing we ever did was split publishing and whatever money we made evenly. If you want to last then try to keep your ego out of it."
It's a modus operandi that's certainly worked for Mudhoney, who, after almost two decades together, celebrate the release this year of album number nine, the gloriously loud Under A Billion Suns, their first since 2002's Since We're Become Translucent. And unlike their hometown grunge peers Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, none of whom outlived the 90s due to drugs and commercial expectation, Mudhoney has managed to weather the hype, recording and performing at their own leisure and on their own terms.
"You know, that popular wave (of grunge) wasn't such a bad thing for us necessarily," says Arm of the band's longevity. "But the spotlight was never on us so we didn't feel like the pressure weirdness like the guys in Pearl Jam or Nirvana might have felt. Now we have no stress at all. It's not like we need to strike while the iron's hot or anything like that, ha!."
In contrast to their early days, Mudhoney recorded .. Billion Suns over three separate weekend sessions using as many engineers before mixing and adding final overdubs.
"Back then we were all free to be some place for a couple of weeks in a row but at this point everyone either has either jobs or are taking care of their kids," explains Arm, a full-time Sub Pop label employee.
A typically egalitarian Mudhoney effort, the new album has equal contributions from Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, drummer Dan Peters and bassist Guy Madison (who replaced original member Matt Lukin in 1999).
"The way we work, no-one writes a complete song and presents it to the band, we all work together on stuff," says Arm. "So to me, the vocals and the lyrics are no more important than the drums of the bass or the guitar. If you don't have a good beat then what's the point."
That the band retains its scuzzy-guitar approach also says much for their simplistic DIY approach, a formula used with much sonic success on the quartet's benchmark mini-album Superfuzz Bigmuff.
"That's all I played back then, a Hagstrom (guitar) with a Superfuzz (pedal) through the Ampeg (amplifier)," recalls Arm. "Actually my second Hagstrom I bought for $80 and on one of our first tours down to San Francisco I got so excited during In & Out Of Grace that I smashed it immediately regretted it. I've never intentionally broken a guitar since then."