It was Muhammad Ali meets George Frazier . . . Axl Rose against Bob Guccione Jr. . . . Attila the Hun vs. a bunch of non-Huns . . . oh hell, it was really just the Partridge Family unites with the Brady Bunch.
Crocodile, Saturday, September 26
Murder City Devils
Breakroom, Friday, October 2
That's what happens when you tape a dinner conversation between a bunch of former punk rockers—in this case, Mudhoney's Mark Arm and Steve Turner and Murder City Devils' Spencer Moody and Derek Fudesco: The youngsters get all quiet and start forking down their extra order of bean dip while the more experienced ones make a game effort to say quotable things. But they can't wait to get away from the frowning reporter picking up the tab so that they can really talk.
The logic behind this little staged encounter was: Gee, the Murder City Devils and Mudhoney have a lot in common. Not that their music sounds alike, but y'know, they're right next to each other in the record-store bins and all. Plus they're both from Seattle, and they both have amazing new rock records that came out September 22: Mudhoney's Tomorrow Hit Today, recorded in Memphis with anti-industry legend Jim Dickinson, and Murder City Devils' Empty Bottles Broken Hearts, recorded in Seattle with anti-industry legend Jack Endino. The Mudhoney guys are roughly 10 years older than the MCD guys, so there's a kind of generational connection going on too.
It'd be nice to be able to report that the band members are in the midst of some old-school vs. new-school rivalry and that the evening ended in a drunken brawl. Actually, Arm, Moody, Turner, and Fudesco know each other, and they seem to like each other. So be it.
Connection no. 1: Both Mudhoney and the Murder City Devils have worked with legendary Seattle producer Jack Endino:
Arm: Endino is like the [Jim] Dickinson of Seattle. He made sort of a small effort to go commercial, but I don't think it really sat well with him.
Turner: And he's a fairly encyclopedic source of knowledge about a few different types of music.
Moody: He said you guys were assholes. We weren't allowed to mention your name in the studio.
Fudesco: But he liked a lot of the other bands he recorded.
Arm: Did he break out Hawkwind and Brainticket records while you guys were recording?
Fudesco: He had some of the weirdest shit—all these stacks of CDs . . .
Arm: Did he play you the Groundhogs? The Groundhogs rule.
Turner: I'd never heard the Groundhogs until we did the last record with him, and now they're one of my all-time faves. . . . They're an English blues band that went heavy after Cream, basically, but a little bit sloppier guitar—songs about not mowing the grass and things like that.
Connection no. 2: MCD's Empty Bottles Broken Hearts has a song—"Left Hand Right Hand"—inspired by Night of the Hunter, the eerie movie with Robert Mitchum sporting love-and-hate knuckles; Mudhoney's Tomorrow Hit Today has a song called "Night of the Hunted" that opens with the line "Got a handful of love on the left side/A handful of hate on the right":
Fudesco: We just ripped them off. We got the single, then we were like, "Damn, that's a good title. No one's gonna notice."
Arm: It's an amazing movie. . . . But our song doesn't have a whole lot to do with the movie, except the first line. It just flowed that way.
Turner: Whereas it could've been, "I've got Ozzy on one hand . . . "
Arm: ". . . Bush on the other." That has four letters, right?
Connection no. 3: The Murder City Devils are known for lighting their keyboards on fire in the middle of shows, and the Mudhoney guys have experience with flames too:
Arm: One time up in Victoria, I was camping with my parents, and I lit a grass fire.
Turner: In high school, one of my friends lit another friend's fart on fire and singed off his eyebrows. It was this massive flame—it was impressive.
Connection no. 4: Arm and Turner's previous band, Green River, made the first single-band record that Sub Pop released. The Murder City Devils' self-titled full-length debut was the first record that the Sub Pop imprint Die Young Stay Pretty released (MCD is now on Sub Pop; Mudhoney is on Reprise):
Sub Pop's head publicist was sitting right across from Spencer Moody during the whole dinner, so just forget about reading any juicy quotes about label-related decadence: doing blow on the desk of the radio promo director, ordering 100 pizzas to be sent to Jonathan Poneman's house, photocopying butts with the office copier, and whatnot. Sorry.
Connection no. 5: Both bands have been held hostage by an audience:
Fudesco: The first time we played in New Orleans. . . . This fight breaks out, everybody started going crazy. Finally it ends. Half the room emptied out, so it was just us and the people we fought. . . . We started packing up our stuff, and people got around the stage saying, "You better keep fucking playing!" They wouldn't let us leave. . . . No one clapped. We would play a song, it would end, and we'd all look at each other. It was this weird, really tense situation.
Turner: In France in '89, we played for like 20 people in some kind of government-funded youth camp. There was no stage; we just played in the corner of the room. After we finished our 12 songs or whatever—they actually locked arms, and said, "You cannot leave the corner." So we had to play some of the songs again.
Arm: Then they made us eat casserole.
Turner: Then they took us across the street to a movie theater, and they made us watch the show we had just played.
Arm: So I think the government should stay out of arts funding—otherwise shit like that happens. You'll be eating rabbit casserole and watching yourself on poor-quality video.
Connection no. 6: Both bands have entertaining Glenn Danzig anecdotes:
Turner: Mudhoney played with Danzig in Seattle in '88, I think. . . . They had their free-weights in the backstage room. The lead guitarist was just practicing his solos, and everybody else would be lifting.
Fudesco: I love Danzig. We listened to a lot of Danzig on tour.
Moody: We went to his house in LA. Apparently, he wasn't home. There's a porch and it's all busted out. There's shutters that are hanging sideways. Broken windows.
Fudesco: He's got two dirty black Porsches, and a huge pile of bricks. We left a bunch of shit on his doorstep, our CD and a T-shirt. We were yelling in the window: "Danzig! Glenn!"
Arm: He's got so many stalkers . . .
Fudesco: Yeah, he probably really lives in a small apartment across the street.
Connection no. 6: Both bands share their song credits and royalties equally.
Sweet, huh? Maybe that explains why Mudhoney is still around making good music, and maybe it means the Murder City Devils will be doing the same thing in the year 2007.