Interviewing Mudhoney’s Mark Arm

Posted: November 18, 2011 in Other Key Interviews

Mark Arm was, what one might call, a difficult “get.”  It took three years in fact, but I had to talk to him.  Mark played a significant role in three bands I wrote about in my book: Mudhoney, the Thrown Ups, and Mr. Epp and the Calculations.  In addition,  he was all over the music scene throughout the ’80s, as you can see in the book’s photos.  And despite being a suburban kid, Mark, along with Steve Turner and Bruce Pavitt, became a tastemaker within the urban grunge scene.  Due to many interview requests over the years, however, he had become less accessible than he once was.

I had tried various methods to contact him for an interview, all without success.  In November of 2007, I ventured up to Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ with a friend to check out a Mudhoney show.  We showed up early, and I noticed band members milling about the bar.  I chatted with the affable Dan Peters outside, but Mark proved elusive.

Two years later, I messaged Dan on Facebook about Mark, and he forwarded along my request.  Finally, Mark and I would chat by phone in December of 2009 and fortunately, the wait was worth it.

Mark is incredibly bright, well-spoken, and scathingly witty.  We talked a lot about his early influences, about Mr. Epp (the fake band that became real), the improvisational and out-of-control Thrown Ups, and the beginnings of Mudhoney.  I also got his take as a fan of the U-Men, the band I wrote most about.

I conducted most of the interview on Skype, using freeware to record the conversation on mp3.  Sounds great, except sometimes Skype cuts out mid-interview, and in this case it did so–twice.  Fortunately, Mark was more than patient, even during the last part when I gave up on Skype and took about ten minutes to hook up my old tape recorder to the phone.

A lot of great quotes came of this interview, of course, but one of my favorites relates to the legendary “Lexicon of Grunge” hoax foisted upon the New York Times by Megan Jasper.  Jasper made up grunge words such as “lamestain” for loser, and “swingin’ on the flippity flop” for hanging out.  Mark’s band Mudhoney took the joke a step further.  “When we heard about that,” Mark told me, “[for] our next round of interviews we threw out as many of those terms as often as possible.”

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