Mark Arm’s scene is as tranquil as his guitar playing is frantic. The guitarist, singer-songwriter states that his “scene at the moment is surfing in the cold North West” so he is excited to maybe catch some sun with his surf when The Monkeywrench tour Australia in November.
The Monkeywrench is the supergroup of the alternative 90s scene. Formed in 1991 after Mark Arm and Steve Turner of the Seattle band Mudhoney met Tim Kerr, the guitarist for Big Boys, Poison 13, Lord High Fixers. They were then joined by Tom Price of Seattle band The U-Men, and Martin Bland, an Australian drummer known for his work with groups like Lubricated Goat, the Primevils, and Bloodloss. For Arm, everything fell into place with The Monkeywrench, and it didn’t detract from his commitments with Mudhoney. He states: “It wasn’t difficult. We were lucky enough at that point to not have to work jobs so we had plenty of time to do both things. I think if I remember correctly Tim sent up a couple of tapes with songs – a couple of which were fully formed, a couple which were just riffs and we had to come up with words and stuff like that. We practised for probably a couple of weeks and then went to the studio really quickly and recorded an album. I don’t know for sure but that’s how quickly it felt like it went – but that’s kinda like my compressed memory.”
“The recording process was similar to the Mudhoney’s recordings,” Arm continues. “We recorded the first Monkeywench record in the same studio that we recorded ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge’ so we were familiar with Conrad [Uno] and the way he works and stuff. I think he was sort of used to how laissez-faire Steve and I were. None of us were perfectionists. We liked a little looseness and slop in our music, in our rock and roll.”
Mudhoney’s style epitomised what grunge stood for, though Arm doubts the band’s legendary status. He states that he doesn’t know that he has “influenced other bands”. He states: “Kids will discover the same kind of things that I discovered – especially things that are a little a lot easier to hear now than they were maybe in the early 80’s or late 70’s but a lot of that stuff is just constant. It’s still just MC5 and Alice Cooper. It will be for mature people, for the next couple of generations. It will impact the people who hear it for the first time and they will just go like: ‘What the fuck is this?’ You know it’s always going to sound out of time. Most of that stuff was not big when it happened. It wasn’t in at the time when it came out and it kind of predates punk rock and then if you’re listening to the radio it’s just so much more vibrant.”
Arm’s enthusiasm for a novice’s discovery of punk rock classics is heartening. For Arm, his influences weren’t as accessible when he was growing up. He states: “Music, like rock n roll, was kind banned from the household, not because of like religious reasons, although my parents made me go to church and they went to church too. It was more that my mum was an opera singer and thought classical music was the only kind of music that was worth listening to. So about junior high I was just old enough to kind of flex my muscles a little bit and I was finally allowed to buy records. I pretty much had to play it when they were gone though. You know we had like one stereo in the house and it wasn’t in my room – it was just in the living room. So it was like, ‘Oh good, they’re doing something tonight. This is great!’”
Arm’s unassuming manner does not detract from the fact that many artists have, [pullquote]But Martin was like: ‘You know I would really love to play Australia again before I die!” And it’s kinda hard to say no to that.”[/pullquote]in fact, quoted Mudhoney as one of their main influences. In contrast the supergroup The Monkeywrench was more underground. Arm is keen to bring the band to Australia, as were the other band members. Arm states: “Tim was like ‘I’ve never been to Australia’ and I was kind of surprised that he’d never been to Australia. ‘So I really, really, want to go to Australia’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, yeah!’ Then Martin who is from Adelaide, and has been in several bands back in the 80’s in Australia and left Australia in the early 90’s. But Martin was like: ‘You know I would really love to play Australia again before I die!” And it’s kinda hard to say no to that.”
As for Arm’s impressions of Australia, he states: “I’ve always just had a really great time in Australia – starting with the first time that [Mudhoney] were there. When I was in Green River, I was really into a bunch of bands from Australia and so going to Australia, more than going to Europe, was like the Holy Grail. The music scene there was so much was really exciting and vibrant.; and It was something that I wanted to experience first hand and the fact that we could just go there and play was an added bonus.”
Arm continues: “People in Australia have always been like super great and fun. We always just had really, really, good times there. There isn’t anything that really stands out except I guess maybe doing like the very first Big Day Out that we did, and being there amongst Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Beasts of Bourbon, Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop and Hard Ons with Jerry A from Poison Idea; and just like being this sort of like travelling circus that was kind of amazing and you know the whole time pretty much we were just like: ‘What are we doing here? How did we get here? This is amazing’.”
With the first ever Monkeywrench tour, audiences “can just expect to have a great time and enjoy.” Arm concludes: “I’m not sure how familiar people are with with Monkeywench. I don’t know how well all three of our records made it in Australia but, you know, I’ve always felt you’ll find the best nuggets underground.”
Catch the treasure that is The Monkeywrench on their first ever Australian Tour this November.