Seattle Weekly: It's 10 a.m. I didn't know rockers got up so early these days.

Mark Arm (vocalist and guitarist): This isn't early at all! I was up at 6:30 today. You know how old people go to bed early and get up early, like my dad gets up at 5 for no apparent reason? Then he falls asleep at 8. That happens when you get up there in age.

It was just your 44th birthday. How did you celebrate?

I celebrated by doing a bunch of phone interviews to Italy and the U.K. It wasn't really the greatest birthday, but it was OK.

Your new album, Under a Billion Suns, makes great use of a horn section, which you also featured on Since We've Become Translucent.

That's Craig Flory; he's a genius. He's had this ongoing thing called Combo Craig. It's a three-piece, with a Hammond organ, drums, and him on saxophone. He plays with jazz bands of all sorts—traditional stuff to more far-out. Although he's known in local jazzy circles, with his talent and music, he should be much more well-known than he is.

Suns was recorded with three different producers—Phil Ek, Johnny Sangster, and Tucker Martine— over three weekends. Which session did you like the results of best?

Each had its own charms. Each guy had their own mikes, and their own approach to getting drum and guitar sounds and whatnot. It adds a subtle sonic variety, but we're confident enough in ourselves that we're not gonna get swayed one way or another by a producer.

Lyrically, there's a lot of satire in how you express dissatisfaction with current politics. "Hard-on for War" reminded me of the bomb shelter scene in Grease 2—you know, "Let's do it for our country."

I've never seen it! I've never seen Grease 1. For me, it's more therapeutic to poke fun at things instead of going on a rant of "I hate it." Like all the hardcore bands that had songs about "fuck Reagan"—it's not like Reagan was listening.

If Bush was listening, what would you say?

If Bush was listening! He doesn't listen to anything, except for the small group of people in the bubble he's in. It'd probably be, "Kill yourself, but take out Cheney first. Go quail hunting."

What do you make of the irony of that incident?

It's kind of sad and pathetic, and I guess that's what makes it funny. The most amazing thing, which was pointed out on The Daily Show, is that the guy who got shot in the face was apologizing to Cheney after he got out of the hospital. What kind of power must you wield to have people apologize to you after you shoot them in the face?

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