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A conversation with Mudhoney's Steve Turner

"I don't think we're necessarily a one-trick pony, but we're not a super-diverse band."

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Mudhoney (Steve Turner, right) - PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY REIMAN
  • Photo courtesy of Emily Reiman
  • Mudhoney (Steve Turner, right)

In 1988, Mudhoney released its debut EP, Superfuzz Bigmuff. It's hard to overstate the influence of that release on grunge music, and beyond: More than a quarter-century later, new bands still rip it off. (Kurt Cobain was a fan, which helped expand the reach.) This week, the band visits Pittsburgh for the first time in years. And though Mudhoney hasn't put out a record since 2013's Vanishing Point, guitarist Steve Turner says he and his bandmates will likely have a few new songs to share by the time we see them. Turner — who, when he's not touring or making music, makes a living dealing records on eBay — spoke to CP from his home in Portland, Ore.

No matter what you guys do, you always sound like Mudhoney. From an inside perspective, how have you matured and changed over time without losing that?

As people, I think we've matured and changed plenty … three of us are in our 50s [laughs]. Maybe our little secret trick is that we don't do it all the time. It's not our [full-time] job, [which] kind of frees us up a little bit to do exactly what we want to do, and we're fairly limited, I think, in what we want to do with Mudhoney. 

Limited how?

I think there's a limited amount in what we can do because of the way we play together. I don't think we're necessarily a one-trick pony, but we're not a super-diverse band. Some of it is the gear that we've chosen, and our technical limitations and abilities [laughs]. 

Do you have anything in the works, recording-wise?

We're working on new songs right now. We've got hours worth of riffs and stuff that we record at practice and we're just kind of jamming. We have plans to record within a year. We move slow on the recording front … there's not huge pressure to put out records, really. I'd rather put out a bunch of singles, myself. The other guys always want to put out a long-player.

At this point, what motivates songwriting? How do you maintain momentum?

[Listening to] music hits me the same way it did when I was younger. I still feel the same kind of instant connection. Same with coming up with something. If it instantly connects with me, I figure it's a good one to try to remember. So that hasn't changed at all. [Singer] Mark [Arm]'s big hurdle these days is trying to come up with something he hasn't already said, lyrically. Sometimes that's the slow part of the process, coming up with words that he doesn't think suck.

You're playing in Pittsburgh with the Nox Boys, who you met when they were recording in Detroit awhile back. Most of the members were in high school, and later asked me, "Have you heard this band Mudhoney? They're so cool!" What's it like to inspire that excitement in younger listeners?

It's great. I have a 15-year-old son who has been discovering a lot of music in the last two years, too, so I watch that process up close. I understand why a lot of people are going to find us if they get into the Seattle thing — Nirvana and stuff like that — they're gonna see us mentioned. I think it's great; that's how I discovered things, too. 

As someone who was there, what do you make of what seems to be an ever-increasing cultural obsession with Nirvana?  

Well, when you think back to when Nevermind came out, the absolute chaos it did to the charts … that was huge. That was a real moment in pop history. 

When I was in high school, The Doors had just been rediscovered … something must have been reissued at that time. It was nothing but the Doors all the time for a certain group of people, for a large group. And it's because it was [the same] kind of tragic tale, and just brilliant music. 

Also the fact that there was a lot of controversy with Kurt's death, I think that feeds that kind of fire. But I just know this from reading different people's Facebook posts and crap like that. I didn't see that new movie or anything

You mentioned your teenage son. Is he impressed with you?

I'm dad, so no [laughs]. Secretly maybe, I hope. But he's getting into a lot of the same music that I got into when I was a kid. I filled up his iPod, and he's kind of systematic so he's going sort of alphabetically, it seems. So he was, like, in the Bs for a long time, and there's a lot of music that starts with B. I took great … not pride, but I was really excited [when] he came up to me, and the two things he decided he really liked were Beat Happening and Black Sabbath. I was thinking, "Man, that's a good combo right there."

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