INTERVIEW: Joey Mudd talks about Louisville Punk, working with Steve Albini, and Bret Hart vs. Chris Jericho!

Growing up in Louisville’s punk community in the late 90’s/early 00’s, it was quickly and often hammered home that the era before me was incredibly important. Older friends quickly turned me on to bands from back in the day with mixtapes featuring songs from Slint, Falling Forward, Endpoint, Sunspring etc. I chased that stick off the porch like a beagle, aggressively thumbing through the indie rock section at ear X-tacy buying recommended CDs from Louisville bands from the past.

As time goes on, the legendary tales from bands of yesteryear continue to surface. As much as I’ve learned over the years from the folks that made this scene the extraordinary mecca of indie rock that it has been for more than 3 decades, there’s always more. The only way to get thoese tasty morsels of information and backstory from my favorite records is to pull a seat up to the table and ask someone who was there, someone who lived and breathed it from a young age.

Joey Mudd and I haven’t been friends for a long time, but I’ve known about him and his extensive contribution to Louisville punk since I was a kid, most notably his involvement in legendary post-rock band Crain. We recently met as coworkers, and after hitting it off over our love of wrestling and the Minnesota Vikings, I figured now was as good a time as ever to ask him a few questions about his involvement in some of my favorite music to come from this city.

It’s not often you get to pick the brain of someone as respected as Joey, so I tried to narrow down my questions the best I could. Read on as we discuss a few bands that he played in,

Never Nervous: What got you into music? In specific, what got you into punk?

Joey Mudd: I’ve always been fascinated with music. I was obsessed with Kiss when I was a kid and got to see them live in concert 3 times before I was 10 years old. I got into punk when I was in middle school because I discovered the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Motorhead and the Sex Pistols.

NN: You were in Spot, right? Was that your first band? How old were you then, and what was that like?

JM: I was in Spot and yes it was the first real band I was in. I formed the band with my two best friends at the time, Breck Pipes and Chris Scott. We practiced for almost a year before we found a drummer. We were very young (about 16!) and went to a lot of all ages shows at the time. One of our goals was to play at Tewligan’s Tavern and Charlie’s Pizzeria both on Bardstown Road. Charlie’s was a cool hangout where many local punks spent their weekends nights.

Quite a few local and regional punk bands played at Charlie’s like Solution Unknown, Violents Of The Sun, Happy Death (Lexington), and Peace Monger. Our first show was there with Duncan Barlow’s first band called Crisis. We eventually played Tewligan’s too with Solution Unknown and Crisis. This was around 1987.

NN: How did your first band(s) influence your subsequent efforts? What did you learn about the interpersonal communications, the relationship that you need in a band to make it work?

JM: Spot came from the suburbs. We were middle class kids without much experience in the music world. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could make our own music and entertain our friends. I think we succeeded in accomplishing this. So, I think Spot taught us that we can accomplish goals in music, and it gave us confidence in moving forward with bigger ideas. I think Spot was much more successful than we had ever imagined.

“We were middle class kids without much experience in the music world.”

NN: How did you get involved in Cerebellum? What was that experience like and how did that inform your work with Crain?

JM: Cerebellum started when Jon Cook, Tim Furnish, Will Chatham, Breck Pipes and I decided to start a new group that was not so much punk, but more of a Washington DC style rock band. We had written a few tunes and started jamming at Will’s dad’s church around the time Breck and I graduated from high school. It was half of the band Lead Pennies/ Substance (Jon and Will) and half of Spot (Breck and I) with a new guy who had never been in a band before (Tim!)

We really wanted to be different than the younger bands that were playing around town at the time. We tried to be more emo! We attempted to write longer songs, we even tried to do some industrial stuff by banging on sheet metal on stage. Jon introduced Drew Daniel (now with Matmos) to the lineup. We did a handful of shows and recorded an EP before we broke up. All in all Cerebellum lasted about 10 months. Once it was over Breck and I decided to do our own thing again and started a band called Crawdad with Kevin Coultas and David Ernst. This was more of a straight-ahead rock band that was pre-grunge and would have been very big deal had we stuck around in to the grunge era.

The rest of Cerebellum continued on and changed their name to Crain. Crawdad did a few shows and recorded a live tape. Around this time Breck decided to move to Florida to open his own skateboard shop which left me without my rock and roll partner in crime. It was when Breck moved away that Jon asked me to join Crain. I was thrilled because I saw them play as a three-piece and was blown away at the great new songs Jon and Tim were writing.

NN: Tell us about Speed. What was your role in the band? What were the high points in that project for you?

JM: Speed was a culmination of almost two years of practicing, writing and playing out. Most of the album was our live set at the time and was done after we had already recorded and released two singles as Crain. I played guitar and sang in the group. I had written a lot of the stuff on the album with Jon and Tim. It was a good collaboration between all of the members of the band.

We switched off on vocals sometimes, but I would say I was the lead voice for the band. It was originally released on our own Automatic Wreckords label which was super cool! We even had Bill Widener (Laughing Hyenas “Life of Crime” artist) offer to do the cover art after seeing us play a show in Lexington. Everything seemed to fall into place, including getting Steve Albini to record it!

NN: Speaking of, how was it to record with Albini? That dude seems pretty interesting. Was he into it? Did it matter?

JM: Working with Steve was very cool. He was friends with the Slint guys and I guess that’s how we made the connection. But, he seemed to be into our stuff. I don’t think he would have agreed to record it if he wasn’t into it. We spent 3 days recording the album in his home studio. I think he ended up charging us $800 for the whole session. We all agreed that we wouldn’t put PRODUCED BY STEVE ALBINI anywhere on the original record. I don’t know why, that probably would have helped sell more records!!

“We all agreed that we wouldn’t put PRODUCED BY STEVE ALBINI anywhere on the original record. I don’t know why, that probably would have helped sell more records!!”

NN: How did you become involved tangentially with the Slamdek scene?

JM: I first became involved with Slamdek when Scott Ritcher and Jeff Hinton from the label asked Spot to do a cassette  which they eventually released in April 1988. We had recorded with Mike Bucayu for a Self Destruct release, but that never saw light of day. (Except one track ended up on the first Louisville Sluggers comp.) We were considered by Scott the first big “Get” for his new label. We released “Proud” in 1988 on the label. Slamdek would go on to release the Cerebellum tape and the second Crain 7”, plus a whole bunch of my side bands and projects.

NN: Was Slambang Vanilla next, or did it happen at the same time as Crain? Don’t think we’ve forgotten!

JM: Slambang Vanilla was one of those side projects I did with Slamdek. It was pretty much just me and Scott Ritcher goofing around. We used alter egos (Jesus Rosebud and Goober the Baptist) and basically just did joke tunes. We released a tape and a video tape on Slamdek. I was doing this during the early Crain days. I think SBV played 2 shows, one was a birthday party for one of the two SBV fans in the world, Will Chatham. (The other fan was Jason Noble, who could recite every word from the SBV tape!) We worked on a second release called “Sideburnin’, the world’s first 98 song album” but only made it to about 70 songs.

NN: What came next? Were you in The Pale Blue Star? I read about that, but I don’t think I ever had the opportunity to hear it. Tell us what we missed.

JM: The Pale Blue Star was what I called my solo recording project. Once I left Crain, I tried to develop it into a full-blown band. Some of the people that played in that project were Jason Noble, Breck Pipes, Jaleel Bunton, Cassie Merrett, Will Hancock, Kevin Coultas, and Mark Ernst. Unfortunately, I was never able to release anything other than a single song called “I Fell” on a Slamdek Christmas compilation.

NN: Do you still play music? 

JM: Yes, I am always writing and playing at home. I’m not playing in a band currently though. I hope to do some stuff with the surviving members of Crain later this year, including finishing the last Crain record which I originally wasn’t a part of.

NN: Tell us about your radio show on ARTxFM. How’d it start, and what is the general synopsis?

JM: My show is called The Deep End and it’s on every Wednesday night at 8 PM on WXOX 97.1 FM in Louisville. I have been doing it since August of 2013. I feature all Kentucky related music from Punk, Rock, Soul, Country, and more. I mostly play old records, because that’s what I spend a lot of my spare time doing: collecting old records. I started doing it because I wanted to celebrate the great music that’s been made in Kentucky. I really didn’t think I could do 10 shows with the collection I had, but through friends and obsessive collecting I’ve somehow managed to do close to 250 shows!

“I mostly play old records, because that’s what I spend a lot of my spare time doing: collecting old records.”

NN: Is there a guest that you had on the show that you found to be particularly interesting?

JM: I don’t have guests on every show, but the ones who have hung out have all been great. My man Leonard Yates is always a good one. He used to host radio in Louisville on WHAS and WRKA where he did local-centric shows, kind of like mine. He’s an encyclopedia of Kentucky music knowledge, especially from 1955- 1980.

NN: Bret Hart or Chris Jericho? Defend your answer!

JM: I love Jericho, he’s the same age as me and is still putting on great matches (check out the Wrestle Kingdom 12 match with Kenny Omega). I think that’s amazing at his age! Jericho even has Louisville roots with Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion from the early 90’s. But, I’ve got to go with Bret Hart, he was absolutely one of the best! I loved the Hart foundation when I was a kid!

NN: Lastly, as of this writing, what are your top three favorite records from Louisville that were released in the last five years?

JM: Tropical Trash – UFO Rot
Parlour – Parlour
American – Lesions 7″
New Bravado – Sun and Moon
Jaye Jayle – House Cricks and Other Excuses To Get Out