By Jake Rossen
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By CP Staff
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Arm: [deadpan] I think the best thing that came out of the grunge movement was Creed and Nickelback. They really captured what we were trying to do but couldn't pull off.
Osborne: At the time, the big bands were like Cinderella and Winger. So, I don't know how you could look at the grunge thing as anything other than better than that. But, you really can't say, "Mudhoney, Melvins, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam." That's just bullshit. There's no comparison, because Melvins and Mudhoney didn't sell any records.
Arm: The thing that sparked both our bands was punk rock. And I felt like when we started our band, we were a punk band, in the mid/late-'80s American tradition. On one hand, you'd have a band like the Butthole Surfers who were doing weird psychedelic stuff, then you'd have a straight-up rock band like the Replacements, but they all seemed like they were punk bands. It felt like we were all in that same underground rock sort of thing.
Mudhoney, the Melvins, Negative Approach, Die Kreuzen, Honky, Hepa/Titus, and Gay Witch Abortion play Bash 13 on Saturday, July 20, at Grumpyâ€™s Downtown; 612.340.9738
Osborne: Absolutely. And both Mudhoney and the Melvins kind of grew a little beyond that, but not compared to the monster bands that came out of that whole era. I mean, I knew that people would like our bands, but it wouldn't be millions of people.
Arm: [laughs] Yeah, millions of people won't come to our music, and we know that.
Even if it would be only thousands of people coming to their music, Mudhoney and the Melvins' popularity extended beyond the Seattle border in part due to support from Hazelmyer and early releases on Amphetamine Reptile. Eventually, a string of releases by a couple of New York acts — blues punks Boss Hog and alt-metal band Helmet — in the early '90s earned AmRep recognition and commercial success. Although the label started to slow down at the end of the '90s, it escaped with its reputation and relationships with many of its core acts intact. Its notorious Bash shows started cropping up, including a 25th anniversary show at Grumpy's in 2010 featuring the Melvins, the Thrown Ups, Boss Hog, Hammerhead, and more.
Osborne: [Tom's] one of the few people who you can actually trust in the music industry, incredibly enough. That doesn't happen very often. Plus, he's really artistic and he understands any of the bullshit things that we might want to come up with, and has no problem with it. And he's one of those guys who, if he's saying something, I'm generally listening to what he's saying because he'll have a take on it that I haven't thought of. We've done a lot of shows at Grumpy's where we come in and do special things there — and that's only because of him. If he lived in Dallas, we'd be doing it in Dallas.
Arm: Oh, come on! [both of them laugh]
Osborne: No, we love Minneapolis. Obviously, it's a great music city and has been for a long time. It's a great place — one of the main stops on any tour, for any band I'm sure.
Earlier this year, Mudhoney and the Melvins came together as part of AmRep's Sugar Daddy Live Split Series, a collector-oriented run of 700 clear-splatter vinyl 12-inches. It is among countless collaborations that Hazelmyer has arranged that puts uniqueness far above mass production. Initially, his drive to create came as he recovered from a month-long coma from meningitis. Now, Hazelmyer's artwork (including this City Pages cover) is one of the central reasons artists keep coming back to AmRep.
Hazelmyer: My oldest daughter was doing a linocut for school and I decided to join her. They had wanted me to go to therapy and sit there and do sudoku puzzles and shit. I latched onto it. I had to work on regaining my drawing skills, which had been dormant for 20 years while I did computer graphics, but what better time to relearn 'em than when your brain is a bit scrambled.
Osborne: We're really focused now on playing small-ball — doing hyper-limited 7-inches of covers and shit like that, stuff that I know we would appreciate, especially with Tom. We're more do-it-yourself now than we've ever been. It's almost like going backwards to go forwards — do the silkscreen covers, stuff all the records yourself, make the extra letter-pressed CD covers and all the extra stuff that you can't get on a download, you know, and just try to focus on that. I never want to listen to criticism where people are telling me how expensive something is, when I know the most important thing is the music itself — which is typically available for free somewhere online. Then I'm like, "Blow me!" What do you want? You want the music for free and you don't want to pay dick for some really cool packaging? Well, great.
For Bash 13, AmRep created a limited-edition 10-inch record with exclusive songs from each of the bands on the bill, with linocuts done for the cover by Hazelmyer. Both Osborne and Arm talked over each other excitedly when talking about how much they are looking forward to the show.