Grunge rock pioneers Mudhoney return to Australia for a highly anticipated tour this April and May. It’s been nearly a decade since their last time here in 2014.
Long-time staples of Seattle’s beloved Sub Pop Records roster, Mark Arm, Steve Turner, (sole Australian member) Guy Maddison and Dan Peters will headline shows across six states, including several festival slots.
“The first time we came to Australia we played everywhere,” Arm tells Rolling Stone AU/NZ. “Not Perth, but a lot of places on the east coast. This time around, there was six shows initially and I was like, ‘I know we can do more than that!’ If we’re going to make the effort to come all the way to Australia, we need to maximise our time there.”
The 14-date tour kicks off in Queensland on April 14th, then winds through NSW, ACT, Victoria, SA and WA, ending on May 5th, including places that most international acts skip right past: Coolangatta, Wollongong, Margaret River, Castlemaine and Torquay.
For fans who have stored their 90s-era flannel shirts and ripped jeans in anticipation of Mudhoney’s visit, there’s undoubtedly going to be a dig into the treasury chest of gnarly, decades-old favourites – including unforgettable classics like “Touch Me I’m Sick” and “Hate the Police”.
Despite the band having over 30 years of material to draw on, this won’t be a mere nostalgia party. In a win for Australian audiences, the band’s eleventh studio album, Plastic Eternity, drops on Friday, April 7th (pre-save/pre-order here), giving fans the full, thrilling experience of their new material. April 7th is a sacred date – in the musical world, at least – marking 35 years of both Mudhoney and Sub Pop.
“We’ve just toured Europe, playing the new songs and checking out the reaction for these brand-new tunes, and we did several shows where we would play “Touch Me I’m Sick” and then do a guitar change to go into “Tom Herman’s Hermits”, which is totally different, like a slow, moody number. After “Touch Me I’m Sick” you need to go in a different direction,” Arm says.
The band last toured Australia for Big Day Out in 2014 (though it was Mudhoney’s first Big Day Out in 1993 that Arm recalls as “super fucking fun”). Nine years later, audiences crave super, cathartic, sweaty fun. Plastic Eternity is just that: a raging, distorted adventure that slams in the studio, but is – at heart – made for the live arena, Mudhoney’s natural habitat.
Arm is aiming to deliver nearly all of the new album live, with provisos. “We’re gonna try to work on almost everything, but unfortunately there won’t be any bongos or synthesiser on stage,” he laments. “Guy isn’t like [Rush mastermind] Geddy Lee where he can play the bass and manipulate a synth at the same time.”
Perth-born, Melbourne-based Guy Maddison joined Mudhoney on bass in 2001, though he’d been in a swampy punk-blues band Bloodloss alongside Arm from 1993 to 1997. He explains, “We wrote and recorded the songs with the intent that they’d be played live, even though some of them were constructed as studio pieces and they’re too difficult for hacks like us to recreate as a live thing! Something like “Flush the Fascists” was all built around a synthesiser line and I just don’t think we can emulate that live.”
Still, there’s no doubt that fan favourites – and band favourites – will make it to the stage including classics from the albums Piece of Cake, Hype!, Superfuzz Bigmuff and Digital Garbage.
“We work up a group of songs that cover that hour and a half we play, plus we have extras to swap in and out,” Maddison explains. “Typically, we have four or five songs that we alternate in and out so that it’s not the same every night. We choose from new songs, a smattering from most of the records running back, and of course the fan favourites that are also favourites of the band.
“I mean, it would be strange to go and see Mudhoney and not see “Touch Me, I’m Sick” or “Suck You Dry”. Those core heritage songs are always in the setlist along with a healthy dollop of our most recent stuff.”
This will be Maddison’s fourth Australian tour with the band, and the first since he returned to Australia in mid-2022. He was a member of Lubricated Goat when he first met Mudhoney: it was a meeting of like-minded artists who shared a passion for Australian punk rock like The Scientists, The Celibate Rifles, Razar and the Cosmic Psychos.
“It was perfectly natural for me to be in Mudhoney… When we met for the first time, we were fans of the same scene and they have an in-depth knowledge of Australian bands so in terms of musical tastes, we’ve had a shared language,” he says.
Now that Maddison is in Melbourne, Turner in Portland, and only Arm and Peters remain in Seattle, the dynamic of the band has changed but Maddison and Arm are confident that the glue of friendship and their shared musical legacy won’t be squandered due to geographical distance.
“As long as we’re able to see that the tours are going fine and we can sustain it, then we’ll continue. What will happen in the future is that I’ll go to Seattle and we’ll hang out, write songs for a couple of weeks and perhaps plan to record,” states Maddison.
The peak grunge period might have passed, along with hormonal pimples and crowd-surfing, but Arm doesn’t romanticise the past. “None of us are in our 20s and 30s anymore, obviously,” he accedes. “I spent those younger years sleep-deprived and drunk.”
Now, it’s about delivering new music to audiences who are fans or will be soon. And rather than the soggy, beer-soaked carpets and drunken early mornings, Arm is dreaming of Margaret River’s not-very-rock’n’roll charms.
“I wish we had a little more time there, because I would have loved to circle the wineries.”
Tickets for Mudhoney’s Australian tour can be found here.