The Melvins have outlasted bands, trends and musical zeitgeists in the ever-tumultuous landscape of the music industry. Just a hair shy of their 25th year of upsetting musical order, their list of accomplishments is beyond reproach. From inspiring the worlds biggest bands (Nirvana) to laying the framework for musical movements (sludge, grunge) to creating one of the most compelling and varied bodies of work, the Melvins have done it all. Exclaim! got ahold of the Melvins singer/guitarist, big hair and bigger mouth main-man Buzz "King Buzzo Osborne to discuss their legacy, their new album and getting fucked over by the producers of Juno.
Are you guys ever coming back to Canada? Why do you hate Canadians?
Wed like to [come back to Canada]. The main problem with going into Canada, which Im sure is the exact same problem that Canadian bands have in coming to America, is the fucking border; its a giant pain in the ass. Its a colossal waste of time and a massive pain in the ass for anyone who wants to play up there. And Im sure its the same thing for Canadians. Thats why Canadian bands never play here. What is the fucking problem with both of our countries? Its fucking crazy. An influx of culture is not a bad thing either way. If we could just relax the fucking border we would be able to add at least ten more shows to every tour we do. Theres nothing wrong with Canada. When were standing on-stage, we play about the same sized clubs everywhere in the whole world. It doesnt matter where Im at, I dont sit there and go, wow, Im here in Canada. Wow, this show here in New Zealand is really crazy. Youre not thinking about that kind of stuff, youre thinking about breakfast.
And not forgetting the lyrics.
Yeah, hopefully the other side of your brain will kick in and you dont have too much brain damage and all that stuff flows out of your mouth. You hope for that to happen. Thats it, thats the sole and only reason why we dont play Canada more. We love Canada; its great. The thing that we have to do, and it might be easier for bands that are bigger than us, who have more money, but to get to the border, when we go on tour we generally bring all or our merchandise, thats the problem. Like when we play in Vancouver, we unload it all in a hotel in the American side, go and play the show and drive back and pick it up. Unless we want to ship all our stuff to the East Coast, you cant drift in and out of Canada at will; its a total nightmare. And for us coming back into the U.S. is also a pain in the ass. You get it both ways. We have nothing against Canada or the Canadian music scene; we love the Canadian music scene. We would play more up there but its always a nightmare, so we avoid it at all costs. And then, I dont know if things have changed in that department, but then the Canadian government started taxing us a third off the top, so that sealed the deal. If youre going to make three grand, now youre making two thousand, plus the border crossing. Fuck that! Its just a problem; its just a big, massive problem. We are planning on doing something maybe next year but what wed have to do is turn it into where we do a solely Canadian jaunt where we cross the border once then cross the border again after playing all the Canadian shows. But to do that is a logistical nightmare for a band like us. It might not be for Ozzy Osbourne; he doesnt give a fuck. But for us, wed have to arrange to have merchandise made in Canada, which is more expensive and blah, blah, blah, you know? Fucking pain in the ass. Its hard enough as it is, let alone having those kinds of problems. I just wish that border didnt exist, wed both be better off.
How difficult is it to maintain the quality level after almost 25 years and countless records?
Were 130 records in, a million! Most people dont even make one good one. I dont know why that is, its very strange. I think most of them are afraid to do something left-of-centre for some unknown reason. I dont know why that is. I tend to think it has something to do with the fact that they have more rules than anyone else that they have to follow for some unknown reason. It doesnt always work in our favour, believe me, plenty of people find plenty of fault in what were doing.
Bucking trends and doing whatever you wanted have always been keys to the Melvins success.
Im always affected by bad reviews, we get plenty of them, but Ive never let them have anything to do with what I was doing because I have always had total faith in what I was doing even when no one else did, which has been for the vast majority of our career. Me and Dale [Crover, drums] were talking about that: we get about 20 percent hideously bad reviews for every record we do.
Didnt Terrorizer just slam you guys for no reason?
No, Terrorizer likes us, you got to look it up, but the guy who did the interview, it was one of the worst interviews Ive ever done. It was actually an email interview, which is one of my favourite interviews to do, but the guy who was doing it, I think he was trying to be cute but I wasnt having it. Its so stupid; a lot of people think it was a set-up. And Im here to tell you its not a set-up, [hes] just a fucking jackass. And Im not going to play those games with anyone. Whatever, if thats what they want to do. And he pretty much refused to talk about our new record, which I thought was weird.
About the new record, where do you see Nude With Boots fitting into your musical canon?
Its more a canyon, a vast canyon of music. A separation of records, thats what it is. I think its a really good addition to what were doing. Ive been telling people I couldnt pick out one album of ours for anybody to really give them a good idea of what were about cause I think weve done more than that. I can pick out five and Id certainly put it on that five. If I had to pick out five to give someone to listen to so that they can understand what it is were doing I would give them the Eggnog record, the Stoner Witch record, the Colossus of Destiny record, Pigs of the Roman Empire and the new one, that would cover it, I think. Maybe six; Id give them The Bootlicker as well, then theyd kind of have an idea about what were doing, but I think it would really take that many records. Plus, the fact that most journalists like to pigeonhole us into one genre, which I cant ever figure out considering how much shit weve done. Youd think they being people who supposedly write about music would have more of a concept of what it is theyre writing about. Ive been calling it Captain Beefheart heavy metal. Thats a good description, I think, about as good as it gets for describing us, attitude-wise and everything.
I just describe it as "the Melvins!
Thats the point: we try to make records that we would like as fans. As a fan, I would appreciate all that stuff, everything from Colossus to Pigs to Bootlicker, you know? Im interested in all those kinds of things and I figure people with good taste should be interested in all those kinds of things as well. Why not? Theres room for everything. [People say, theres no good music] but you should be able to go through every year of rock music and pick out at least a couple of things and that would you give you a pretty solid collection of music. Theres never been a golden era where everything was great but theres always some little tiny jewel that pokes through that gives you hope.
This is your second release with Big Business in the band. What do they bring to the Melvins and what have you been able to do with them that you werent on your first record with them, (A) Senile Animal?
Hopefully its not the last [record with BB]. As much as I liked (A) Senile Animal, and I still think its one of our best records, I think this ones a little better. Its a little weirder, I like it a little more but I liked (A) Senile Animal a lot. These guys are really good players, thats one thing, and I think weve only really scratched the surface of what were capable of doing with this line-up of the band. Essentially there are two lead singers, plus Dale, whos like a junior lead singer, Coady [Willis, drums], whos learning how to sing, and two drummers that, I would say, are as good as anyone in the business. And with me and Jared [Warren, bass and vocals], I dont think theres very much we couldnt do essentially.
Well, they do have a bassist in the group and we all know your track record with bassists
Thats not because of me; it could be. Maybe it is. People lose their minds; I cant help it. Its not about playing because I liked playing with all those people. It wasnt about the way they played music. It was the extracurricular stuff that made it difficult for it to work out, and that stuff doesnt happen just to musicians, it happens to everyone.
Have Big Business revitalised the Melvins?
Theyve certainly opened up a new chapter but the records we made right before that were the [Jello] Biafra records and the Pigs record; I think Pigs is a really underrated record. Personally its one of my favourites weve ever done. We did a whole lot of stuff on there weve never done before and I think its a really fucked-up record from top to bottom. The funny thing about that is weve been taken to task a little bit for doing collaborations and some people have had a hard time with the LustMord record because they think LustMord ruined us but if you make them get specific, almost inevitably, or unbearably, theyve picked out stuff thats us and not LustMord that they think LustMord ruined. Im like, "well, sorry, thats actually just us; he didnt have anything to do with that song. And the reason I did that is I didnt want people to know which was which because they would subconsciously or consciously give that stuff a hard time one way or the other. I saw no profit in doing that; I thought it would cheapen the whole thing. Also, its not really a collaboration; it is to some degree but I could have had it easily say the Melvins and not put the LustMord thing on there and no one would have been the wiser. I could have done the same thing with these records. I could have put "Melvins with Big Business. Instead we just put "Melvins so everyone kind of legitimises it more. I dont know why, it makes no sense to me. You can hire people to work on your records; its not unheard of. So thats all very strange. The LustMord record is no more of a collaboration than anything weve ever done. The Biafra records, those are collaborations though. The LustMord thing, its a little bit of writing along with a lot of production, essentially. Those guys [Big Business], theyre good musicians, theyre easy to play with, they can pretty much do whatever we want them to do, theyre a pleasure to be around. They add their thumb print to the whole thing but 99 percent of it still comes from me.
With all the other members coming and going, how have you and Dale managed to stay together for so long?
Well, I think Dale appreciates my musical vision and wants to be a part of it is essentially what that amounts to. So he doesnt get real strange about any of that stuff. He also understands and likes what Im doing, and kind of just lets me do what I want. And then, when I come up with these things, sometimes its hard to get across exactly what I want to do but usually in the end he sees what Im talking about and it turns into something even bigger; its great. Im not a drummer but I have a lot of good ideas, then we take that and then it mutates into something else; its awesome. One thing hes never told me is I cant do that, or why what ideas I have wont work. Never. Theres always a way to make it work. More is more. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Anything worth building is worth overbuilding. One is good, three is better. Overdo it. Its music. Were not a bunch of old women. Rock music. What it is, essentially.
Whats left for the Melvins to accomplish at this point? What inspires you? Obviously not selling 20 million records but artistically, what are your goals at this point?
Selling 20 million records is actually a big Melvins thing; its not a big public thing. Im absolutely not setting out to not sell records, people are just not buying the records in that volume. But thats not my fault. People are stupid, theres not much else to it. Most people are really dumb and have no taste in all in anything good. What can you do about that? Nothing. Goals? I just want to continue to write music that I think is good. Keep crafting my songwriting ability; Ive written way more songs than most people in music have. I have very few contemporaries in the songwriting department, very few. In terms of how much material Ive written and how long Ive done it, I dont have a lot of brother songwriters out there, as far as thats concerned. I understand that and I dont take it lightly; Im really happy that Ive been able to utilise so freely and fruitfully my ability to write songs. I play guitar so I can be in a band, I play in a band so I can write songs, thats what it is, thats all it is. Essentially thats what people should do. If theyre going to be a musician, you should always be thinking in terms of songwriting and you should always want to be the guy who is the main person, always. Dont be a sideman, be the front-man. Its possible to be all those kinds of things and its possible to have that happen, I just dont think people utilise their creative muscle enough, whatever it may be.
Do you feel youve gotten an underserved reputation for being difficult?
Dale was just telling me that someone said were really mean to our fans because of the records we put out. Thats one of the most absurd things Ive ever heard. But thats not unfounded people say that shit all the time. Weird stuff. Its like, okay, I dont even know what youre talking about. We tour every year. Oh well, you cant win. I suppose [people have misinterpreted the Melvins] but who have I offended? Who would those people be? Ozzy Osbourne? Those are easy targets. Does anyone care? Am I wrong? Why on Earth? People take me to task for that kind of shit too; I never really understood that either. I always just assumed that people thought the way I did, know what I mean? I dont think anything Ive ever said is that outlandish, certainly none of it has been untrue. I dont need to make stuff up because the truth is weird enough as it is. I dont know. Especially with music, this is what we do and we take it very seriously. Even stuff we dont take seriously still, its our deal. People want to put out half-assed crap, uninteresting, boring garbage, thats their problem not mine. Dont expect me to like it. Its the same when people come up to you and go, "youre our biggest influence, and you hear their stuff and you go, "dont blame me for your shitty music! Im sorry, Ive never done anything that was that fucking horrible. And what part of our stuff did you listen to and think sounded like this? I dont know. But thats how it works. You make music, the best thing you can do is inspire someone to make their own stuff. Thats the best thing that can happen because thats what happens to me: my favourite music inspires me to make my own music. Mission accomplished. Our other favourite thing is "all of the accolades, none of the cash. Classic example of that, and this is how it works, is the Juno movie. Academy Award-winning, 100-million-dollar-making movie, mentioning us in very high standards in the movie two times, not on the soundtrack, which sells a million copies. There it is, thats the classic example: talk about the Melvins in the movie, dont put them on the soundtrack. There you go, done. The soundtrack sells a million copies. Thats happened time and time again, not that weve gotten fucked over but thats really, really how it works for us. Its really a classic example of how its all fallen together. Get massive accolades from a band like Nirvana, band breaks-up, finished after Cobain is dead, never talk to those guys again, hardly, barely, why? Do shows with them that are strictly a money-losing proposition on every corner. Massive accolades, totally treated like shit by all the management people. Thats just how it works, thats just life in the big city. So then you just go, "okay, this is just great, I love this, this is really cool, now how do I turn this into something I can have? How do I turn all this shit into something thats going to be worth anything? Take accolades and turn them into something you can trade for food down at Safeways? Good luck. Thats the trick right there and its not as easy as it sounds. You try to capitalise on it as best you can by alienating your fan base; its not an easy thing to do. But, once again, we make all the right moves whether anyone understands it at the time or not. Like the Prick record, for instance. That was the classic, perfect, exact move we should have made for our second album on a major. Nobody ever does that and it worked on every level; it was perfect. It brings us back down to square one, it humanises us in a way that people dont really realise. Youre kissing the goat on a major label but you also put out a record like Prick at the same time just a few months before your next full-length on a major label. Nobody ever does that shit, why? It doesnt make any sense to me. What can it hurt? Its just a record. Nobody goes that far; its not like youre spending 100,000 dollars on it. People spend 12 to 14 bucks max. People spend more than that on beer every weekend; I think our records are worth more than someones beer money no matter what we put out. And its not even that weird of a record. Is it weirder than Throbbing Gristles first record? No. And our record came out 20 years after that one. In hindsight, Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed isnt that weird either. And neither is Yoko Ono that shit isnt weird at all. Its not really weird; it is but not really, not overly. I dont know what youd have to do to be weird now: videos of you throwing full-sized pigs into a deep fryer alive? That would be pretty weird. Thats the trouble: you watch too much television. What you have to do is not watch any TV and then youre not aware of whats going on. Its kind of nice. I lost track of TV when I left home well over two decades ago. I dont spend a lot of time watching normal television. I dont think thats a bad thing.
With your 25th anniversary approaching, do you guys have anything special planned?
Well, were going to do a tour for it and were going to utilise our very first drummer, Mike Dillard, before Crover was in the band, from 1983, opening for the Melvins with Dale playing bass. We did that at Jello Biafras birthday party with that line-up, it was great, all songs from 1983 and were not going to jazz them up. Were going to play them the way we played them then. Were going to do that, maybe some kind of recording with him, a time traveller recording. I love that, when you see those Mohican punk rockers walking around, you just want to go, "welcome to the future, time traveller, this is called a cell phone. Everything must be weird for you coming 28 years ahead. Or a rockabilly guy. "This is called a jet airplane. Its pretty funny. Anyway. "Now what grade sandpaper do you want to get those tattoos off your arm? Good luck. But these things happen. I dont understand why youd want to base your whole existence on something thats already happened. Doesnt make a whole lot of sense to me but what do I know?
Looking back, what have you accomplished that youre most proud of and would you do anything differently?
I stand behind everything weve ever done; I dont apologise for anything, as far as thats concerned. I cant think of anything I would have done different maybe shoot Courtney Love in the head. That would be pretty good. Theres a classic example: does anyone really care about her? Would anyone actually defend her? My new song about her is the only reason shes mad is because someone dropped a house on her sister. You know, these things happen. I wouldnt change anything, everythings fine. My biggest accomplishment is surviving this long without turning into a novelty act. I think were a contemporary band; its futuristic what were doing. I think so [that were timeless]. Were not like Sha Na Na was at Woodstock: heres what was happening in the 50s. But whatever. I bet those guys were a fun bunch of guys to party with. Bowzer, I bet he was great. They looked like they were having a blast. Nobody ever realises theyre on the soundtrack. They are, theyre in the movie! Everybody forgets that stuff, isnt that funny? Nobody ever believes me about shit anyway. I could tell you the truth about everything, 90 percent of it nobody would believe. Not a fucking word, nothing. They dont want to, theyve already decided. And I dont have massive success so I dont have the respect of the people that do. What would I know? I was only there and I survived it. So who wins? People say that to me about Cobain too. Its like, does it bug you that he made all the money? No it doesnt because hes fucking dead. No, I win; hes fucking dead. That seems clearly obvious. You dont think? No, no, I wouldnt trade places with him, hes dead. No, no, no, Im still making records, hes dead. How fucked up is that? Thats really weird. But people are weird. You cant win. People are weird and nobody will believe the truth, so what do you do? I just keep moving my feet. I cant be concerned with that. At this point and time you have to envision things that you cant download, like live music. Youll never be able to substitute that on the internet, fortunately. Human involvement, communication; its a role of the dice every single time you go out there. Thats the beauty of it. Thats why it works so well.
What are your thoughts on the internet and downloading?
The only things Ive ever downloaded are things you couldnt get, like live shows from some band that werent available that I really wanted to hear. Other than that, I really dont understand the mentality of it. The genie is out of the bottle, theres not much we can do about it. Im not against internet downloading by any means, as far as thats concerned, because theres nothing you can do about it. I would like to think Ive never done anything as stupid as Metallica. That movie, thats must viewing and the best part about that is those guys are not in on the joke. It was great, they sold 100 million records, how depressed can they be? Theyre just a bunch of redneck geeks and theyve been surrounded by sycophants and yes men for their entire career, ever since they made a ton of money. Theyve lost focus and a complete grip on reality, thats it. That usually happens to people who arent prepared for fame. The reason thats never happened to me is because Ive never been famous; Ive been famous but not had massive success. Ill take the money. The thing that I dont understand, and this is what gets me, whenever your records are leaked to the internet, theyre leaked by people who got the record for free, people who we sent the record to who then take it upon themselves to put it on the internet. Thats not a positive thing for them to do. I dont understand. To me its akin to the geeks that write computer viruses. Why would you write a virus and go, "wow, that must have really screwed up a lot of people. What type of fucking weirdo does that? Thats just sociopath behaviour that I cant understand; I dont get it. I mean, you take a brick, you throw it through a window, cause and effect, youre there to witness it. You put our record on the internet, what possible reason do you have to do that other than fucking with us? I dont understand that mentality. Theyre not trying to share it; theyre doing something thats fucked-up and laughing about it. Theres nothing we can do about it. All it means is in the future were not going to send out promos. Promos went out on Monday, record was on the internet on Wednesday, so there you go, couldnt have been anyone else. So then you look at the whole thing and go, "yeah, thats a weird thing to do. I personally wouldnt do it. Its not about theft. I dont understand it but what do I know? Its one thing if you paid for it, I suppose, but if you didnt pay for it and youre doing it its just kind of weird. But if thats the weirdest thing I have to deal with I got it pretty fucking good. So what? Ultimately who cares? If what you want is a music collection that consists of bad-sounding MP3s, more power to you. Thats not good enough for me. Im a collector. I collect all kinds of crap, thats why we do such weird stuff. We call it the "baseball card collector mentality and people like that kind of stuff. Its not like you can curl up with a laptop. Books are something that are very important to me, along with a lot of other things along those lines. People who want to replace their entire collections with MP3s are people who arent that interested in music in the first place. MP3s are the cassette tape from the 70s/80s. Would I replace my entire collection on cassette because I could do it for free off of someone elses? No. I wouldnt do it. I like the Ipod, but I dont like the way they sound, because I can take my whole collection with me. But would I replace my collection? No fucking way. Now did I replace my record collection with CDs? Oh yeah. I got rid of those boat anchors a long time ago. What soured me was a long time ago I moved and the boxes with my records I hadnt opened for nine years. I dont need these fucking things. Records are crap. I traded up. If you talk to anyone who knows anything, other than the Steve Albini-types, who probably dont know much, about audio recording, theyll tell you records are the worst medium there is. Theres stuff you cant get on vinyl that you can get on digital. You cant get as much low or high end on record as on digital, and I got that straight from the masters people who know their shit. But vinyl has its own beauty and appeal, and you get the whole package. I fault no one for collecting stuff; Id never fault someone for collecting records, thats a cool thing to do. Or Disney stuff, or movie posters. I passionately approve.
Do you ever see a time where there wouldnt be the Melvins?
I guess if I wasnt physically able to do it, or if I couldnt afford it anymore. Im not going to lose money. Going out on the road and lose a bunch of clams? I can do that doing nothing. I make more than nothing doing nothing; I dont have to go out on the road to do it. If dollars and sense disabled me to the point where I cant drive to San Francisco to play a show, I wouldnt do it. But as long as those ducks are aligned, I dont see any reason why not. Maybe Ill change my mind but so far I havent done that and I dont have a lot of alternatives. I got no complaints, not along those lines. Everything is great. I think were in the best shape weve ever been in. We make better music, are better songwriters. Its great.
Whats up with Fantômas?
Nothing on the horizon that I know of. Definitely Mikes [Patton] baby. We havent recorded anything since 2003; I dont know when we will, or if we will. We are going to play All Tomorrows Parties, which the Melvins and Mike Patton are curating in December in England. Were going to be playing The Directors Cut live, and I think were going to do a few more shows after that. Other than that, thats all we have planned, but Ill be down for whatever.
How have the Melvins been able to outlast basically all the bands that started around the same time and survive all musical trends?
Were the last band standing. Ive always thought I was a stronger person than all those people, you know? Only the strong survive, and they dont have a gut.
Or the Afro.
Time can take all that away really quickly. Ive never cared about that. I just wanted to look weird. I dont give a shit. I dont have to have a normal job and I want to look like a freak. Mission accomplished.