Mudhoney Play Down Role In Grunge Movement

21 December 2013 | 1:04 pm | Mark Hebblewhite

Steve Turner gets frank about the '90s phenomenon

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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.”