Historically, dark times make for great art. Look at all these awful moments in our nation’s history and there’s usually some great music that come from it. That might seem like a cliché and it certainly doesn’t mask the fact that things are… well, pretty fucked right now. However, it can be at least one thing to make the next few years seems a bit more bearable.
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Mudhoney (one of the last remaining standard bearers of the Seattle “Grunge” sound they helped usher into the world) wrote one of their most charged records to date, Digital Garbage. While the 11 songs that make up this record are clearly inspired by recent events, many of the issues addressed aren’t really that new (gun violence, the increasingly intrusive role of religion in our culture and politics as well as social media). They just feel new because we keep being bombarded with them.
GhettoBlaster: You’ve been a band for 30 years. Is that something that is hard to wrap your head around or is it something you try not to think
Guy Maddison: What’s hard to wrap our heads around is we’ve been here all this time and still no Grammy, what’s up with that! (laughs)
GB: In terms of the overall process of making this new record, did you take a different approach than you have in the past?
GM: We tend to focus on live shows and sometimes this slows our writing. When we do focus on writing and recording we use the same method every time. We all bring our riffs and ideas, make demos of those, and then Mark adds word to the those ideas. Some song never get words, but the ones that do become our new material.
GB: When I saw the album title, one thing that stuck out before I even listened to the record was as a band, you’ve seen so many changes in terms of how music is made and also how it’s consumed, more often than
not in digital form. What have been some of the more significant changes (both good and bad) that you’ve seen over the years?
GM: Vinyl has always been there, however it is refreshing that it has seen such a resurgence in recent years. The format is unbeatable in terms of size, art possibilities and the whole process of playing records on a turntable. Cassettes are back now too.
GB: Parts of this new album addresses a lot of current issues, but also things that have been around for a long time. Do you see what you’re doing as a sort of reaction to current events?
GM: Well, “Hey Mr Gunman” could have been written any time over the last 50 years, and will unfortunately be relevant for years to come. Obviously the current political and philosophical positions of the day are treated with scorn and distaste, this seems entirely appropriate to us.
GB: The album title, Digital Garbage, is referenced in the song “Kill Yourself Live”. We live in an age of social media where anything and everything can be shared and in some instances shared in real time. Talk about how you think that’s affected our culture.
GM: It is unfortunate that social media has been an avenue to increase and amplify some of the human condition’s more base and repugnant characteristics. It’s petty uses for bullying, displays of vanity and sycophancy are examples. However it also allow us to communicate across many boundaries, physical and technological and is helpful in raising money for charity and awareness. So like a lot of technology it has some good and bad.
GB: Religion is referenced a fair amount as well, with songs like “Messiah’s Lament” and “Prosperity Gospel”. Do you see religion as playing a significant role in the shift in our culture?
GM: Religion is used by powerful people as a political tool. Religion provides solace, and meaning to many millions of ordinary people’s lives. Both these axioms have existed as long as religion. It’s not a shift, it is the state of play. Times are particularly intolerant in the US these day, it would seem.
GB: The song “Hey Neanderfuck” seems to be directly aimed at the people who helped usher in this new era in America. There appears to be a total lack of buyer’s remorse despite how things have just gotten worse and
worse. Why do you think that is?
GM: Hopefully it will be a short “era”. There is no buyers remorse as the new owners are getting payed lip service to everything they wanted: a straight, white, male world with plenty of guns and cheap fuel.
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Photo: Emily Reiman