From our archives: Mudhoney ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge’
As Mudhoney’s classic LP Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge turns 25, we revisit our 2013 Classic Album conversation with Mark Arm.
Their debut EP Superfuzz Bigmuff might be one of the most influential records of the grunge era, but it’s 1991’s Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge that saw Mudhoney honing their craft, delivering an album that remains one of the finest of the early ‘90s, and quite possibly their best work to date. “That’s crazy,” says frontman Mark Arm when the word ‘classic’ is mentioned…
EGBDF was very different to Superfuzz and the first album. Did you set out to create a bigger-sounding album after the debut?
“We kind of thought like it was time to have some garage rock interests, I guess, as opposed to whatever the first two records are. I don’t know, I think it was more of a conscious effort on Steve’s part to do something different – the riffs that he was coming up with were more streamlined in a way.”
It was recorded by Conrad Uno, according to the album’s credits “on his eight track recorder”…
“He had a board from Stack Studio and at the time when we recorded this record he just had an 8-track recording device, which is what we recorded the first single, Touch Me I’m Sick, on, and then Reciprocal [Studio] got a 16-track. It seemed like there was no room for overdubs or anything on that, we weren’t bouncing tracks down or anything, so it seemed like some songs were, like, if I was gonna put keyboards on it there wasn’t room for a guitar [chuckles].”
He took over from Jack Endino who did Superfuzz and the first album – was there a particular reason that Endino wasn’t back behind the desk for EGBDF?
“I think we just wanted to do something different, you know? Jack was sort of the house guy for Sub Pop for a period, so we felt like there was a sort of similar sound all the records were getting, especially in terms of drums, so we just wanted to try something else. Steve called Conrad at Egg [Studios] and said he was interested in recording there and Conrad actually started laughing and said, ‘Why?’ Which is kinda funny to me… And which also made us want to record with him [laughs].”
What do you think he brought to the Mudhoney sound?
“That’s a hard thing to say, ‘cause we already had the ‘sound’, he just captured it well. We don’t tend to work with producers, you know, someone with a big P, someone who has a sound and tries to fit the band to his idea. We like to work with people who are willing to let us be us… The only time we ever worked with a producer was for Tomorrow Hit Today, and that was Jim Dickinson.”
Overall, what do you remember of the writing and recording sessions for EGBDF?
“You know, that was so long ago… To tell you the truth I was really high a lot of the time [laughs]. I know that before we actually went in to record Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge we had a batch of punk rock covers – mostly punk rock, some new wave songs. We went in and recorded those songs to try out the studio, and a lot of those ended up on B-sides and whatnot. Conrad was a great dude to work with. So was Jack. The studio was in his house, it’s very, very small – there’s barely room to stand once you’ve got four or five people in there, and we would have to stop by 10 because it was a residential neighbourhood. And also his wife could hear us upstairs [chuckles].”
How long were you in the studio for?
“I don’t really know, but it couldn’t have been much more than two weeks. We went back to Conrad’s place for Piece Of Cake, the first major label record.”
“It was more of a conscious effort on Steve’s part to do something different – the riffs that he was coming up with were more streamlined in a way”
The album contains perhaps some of your most sombre songs to date. What was the band’s frame of mind at the time?
“[Laughs] Man, I don’t know… I assume you’re probably thinking of maybe the feel of Generation Genocide and Broken Hands, and Check-Out Time? Because there are other songs on there that are pretty light, like Good Enough, Let It Slide, Into The Drink, Fuzz Gun ’91… It’s hard for me to go back that far in time and get into the brain of a younger, dumber me [laughs]. I’d rather not, actually. I can tell you some pretty obvious things, like Broken Hands, that might have been our best fake Neil Young song. We tried that – there’s a song Come To Mind – on the previous record, but I think we kinda nailed it with Broken Hands, and the guitar solo at the end always reminded me of the guitar solo in Roxy Music’s Out Of The Blue. That wasn’t an intentional thing, that was just something that sort of happened. Steve was completely unfamiliar with Roxy Music at that time. Who You Drivin’ Now?, we actually originally wrote for the record label Estrus, it was a garage label, they don’t exist anymore but they were working on a compilation record and they previously released a Sonics tribute album so we just thought it would be funny to kind of write a song that sounded as much as a Sonics song as we could muster – and so we wrote Who You Drivin’ Now? We ended up liking it too much to give it away to a compilation.”
Is there any unreleased material from those sessions?
“The vaults have been raided. There’s that March To Fuzz compilation and a lot of the punk rock covers that I talked about earlier are on that. There were B-sides, like Ounce Of Deception, but those came out, you know? And actually I’m not quite sure why that song didn’t make the final record, because in retrospect that’s one of my favourite songs from that time.”
And the title, of course, is a mnemonic for the notes E-G-B-D-F. Who came up with that as the title of the album?
“Yeah, we were just trying to remember how the guitar is tuned, and Steve goes, ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge!’ And that’s not actually it [laughter]. Though it would have been awesome if we actually tuned our guitars to those notes, because we would’ve been in Sonic Youth territory. For some reason we latched onto that as a potential song title, not realising that The Moody Blues had already done an album called Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.”
Can you talk a little about Eddy F.’s “bordering on bad art” artwork?
“Ed is an old, old friend of ours, I first met him in my first semester at University Of Washington, which was, like, in ’82, and at that time he was going to art school, and very into Abstract Expressionist paintings. We had other friends who wanted to become graphic designers and whatnot and he thought those people were just complete sell-outs – and now he makes a living doing illustrations for the likes of department stores and magazines [chuckles]. Eddy is very successful at it. He did the woodcut lettering on Superfuzz Bigmuff, and he did this cover, he did the cover for Piece Of Cake, My Brother The Cow… He did the painting on The Lucky Ones, made him go back to his Abstract Expressionist roots for that one. That house on the back cover, that address is the house that Steve and Dan [Peters] and Ed all lived at together, in Seattle.”
You chose to release the album on Sub Pop even though you had some major label offers at the time. What prompted that decision?
“I don’t really have a strong recollection of the sequence of events of that sort of thing. At that time Sub Pop was in a really tough place, they had major cash flow problems and we figured, well this record was already recorded and if we started looking for another label at that point then it would probably take at least another year or something for the record to come out. But it was definitely at the end of our initial relationship with Sub Pop. We had this idea that we didn’t want to be upset with our friends over money issues, so we thought, or at least Steve thought, ‘we should leave and save our friendship.’ Things were strained after that, because we left, you know? They felt like we didn’t trust them, and if we had known at that point – when we had already made the decision to leave – that Sub Pop had a piece of the Nirvana record and that Nirvana was going to be as big as it was and they were able to stay afloat, we wouldn’t have left. But you can’t predict something like that, that anybody we knew would have a record that sold several million copies.”
“I didn’t think anything big was about to happen – or anything special”
Indeed, Every Good Boy… came out just a couple of months before Nevermind…
“This was out, I remember, during our US tour and it seemed like every club that we went into for soundcheck – I guess that Geffen had sent out advance copies of Smells Like Teen Spirit – we just kept hearing that song everywhere [laughs]. It was like, ‘there’s something weird here.’ It was before it was on the radio or anything.”
Did you feel that something big in music was about to happen, or was already happening?
“ No, I didn’t think anything big was about to happen – or anything special.”
Many have called Every Good Boy… your best album. How do you feel about that?
“I’m not gonna argue [laughs]. There are different people who have different records that they prefer – it’s nothing for me to get in the way of.”
Interview: Vuk Valcic
This interview was originally published in Rock-A-Rolla issue 42 – limited copies are available to order from our back issue store: www.rock-a-rolla.com/backissues.htm
Catch Mudhoney at O2 Academy Islington, London on Friday 15th July 2016.