The Lucky Ones

21 December 2013 | 12:55 pm | Mark Hebblewhite

"Australia may not have been our first ever overseas tour, but we’ve always had a really strong connection with you guys."

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"Australia may not have been our first ever overseas tour, but we've always had a really strong connection with you guys,” reveals Turner. “For one, we loved a lot of the underground Australian bands of the '80s like The Scientists – they were really influential for what we were doing. And of course record labels like Au Go Go and Waterfront there in Sydney licensed our albums from Sub Pop pretty early on so people were able to get the records easily. That led to us coming over to Australia for the first time in 1990 – and the shows were great because of the presence and support we already had in Australia.”

Although they had early positive connections to places like Australia, Mudhoney's patented punk rock wall of fuzz has always been something of an 'outside sound'. Despite their obvious roots in classic metal, the black-shirt-and-jeans metal fraternity were always indifferent to Mudhoney. Fucked-up skaters and punk rock kids on the other hand couldn't get enough, despite Mudhoney's more traditional musical roots.

“We're as much Black Flag as we are Black Sabbath,” Turner admits as he seeks to explain things. “When we started out we classified ourselves as a punk rock band – and we thought of ourselves as punk rock kids. Sure we liked heavier stuff like Blue Cheer – but we basically played punk rock. We didn't play blazing solos or wear all black – so it's not surprising that the metal kids didn't know what to make of us. I mean I still think of myself as a punk rocker – and a skateboarder for that matter (laughs). And as for people not willing to give us a try because of the way we look – well that's never going to change and really we don't care because there's nothing we can do about it.”

These days the so-called 'grunge' phenomenon of the late '80s and early '90s has been mythologised beyond all recognition. The accepted wisdom states that an invasion of no-nonsense guitar bands from Seattle singlehandedly changed the face of music – in the process killing off hair metal once and for all. Turner, however, is more circumspect.

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“Look, I think there's a glimmer of truth to all that but I'd never lay any claim to Mudhoney having anything to do with that. It is true that when Nirvana hit big and topped the charts it was a really big deal. After that you had Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains who also did really well. And when you look at the albums the hair metal bands put out in 1992, they all tried to look more down and dirty – so there's no doubt that Seattle bands did change the industry.

“It's funny though. The success of all these bands didn't really change what we in Mudhoney thought was possible for our own band. We knew we were never going to be number one in the charts. Sure we signed to a major label but we always had really modest expectations – and that attitude has stayed with us right up until today.”

So no record label executive took you to the top of the mountain and promised you all that you surveyed if you'd just write a hit single and clean up your image? “Look, we got some suggestions like that but that was before we signed to Warner Brothers,” laughs Turner. “We had offers from labels who said we'd have to tour nine months of the year and clean up our guitar sounds – and that wasn't going to happen, so that was it.

“We have no regrets about any of the choices we've made. We've gone a lot further than we ever thought we would – we get to make music and play shows to thousands of people – that's all we ever wanted to do.”

Having played around the traps for decades, who does Mudhoney now see at their shows? “Our crowds are all over the map. There are plenty of older dudes with beer bellies – you know our people. But then again there's plenty of kids as well – for a while there I could swing my guitar without hitting a kid that looked like Cobain – which was pretty funny. We do a lot of all ages show and I think that's been important in introducing new fans to Mudhoney.”

As for the upcoming Australian tour, you can expect them to do a bunch of songs off their last record, Vanishing Point. “But of course we're going to do as many of the older expected songss. We've got a lot of material to choose from – and it's hard to cover everything, especially when we do festivals with tight running times. But I wouldn't worry, I'm sure there will be something for everyone when we come back to Australia.”