The Melvins are an amazing band that really defies words sometimes. They’ve had an extensive history of playing music, being an influence on countless bands, and yet are some of the most honest and straightforward folks in the music business. Buzz Osbourne and Dale Crover have seen it all, and always make great interviewees. They’re funny, they’re quirky, and they write some of the best music out there, especially with their brilliant new album, The Bride Screamed Murder. Seth and I had an opportunity to interview them right after our interview with Aaron Turner from Isis, so were were a little starstruck. As we ascended the stairwell to where we’d be doing the interview, I told Buzz, “You know, it takes a time like this that makes me think of that Phil Collins song, and I quote, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for all of my life, oh lord.” And in true honest-to-goodness straight-shooter fashion, King Buzzo replied, “I definitely would’ve picked a better song.”
These guys have been making music for just about as long as I’ve been alive. I think a true testament to a band’s longevity and staying power is being around for a quarter century and still selling out venues. They don’t bullshit you, and if they don’t like something, they’ll tell you about it. They’re brutally honest, and that kind of quality is rare in the music industry. But so are bands like the Melvins.
Blow the Scene (Adam Rauf & Seth Ballentine): So first thing’s first. Your new record The Bride Screamed Murder just came out. What was it like recording that in comparison to your other albums?
Dale Crover (Melvins): Easy! We’ve done so many records now…compared to how it was when we first started making records, being in the studio is so much different than playing live. You’re not always in the same room, it’s a weird sterile environment, et cetera. Beginning with Houdini, we started getting more comfortable with the process.
For our early records, we were putting them together in a matter of a few days, including tracking, mixing, everything. That was always stressful, because the clock was ticking. Now, even though we can record for a while, we have a plan and it’s just easier. And you do it a billion times, and it’s just more relaxed now.
This record was done in about 2 weeks time, so it’s a lot more comfortable now as you can tell.
Rauf: As far as when you guys added Jared (Warren) and Coady (Willis), what was the reasoning behind it, besides the fact that you guys enjoy Big Business/Karp/etc.?
Buzz Osbourne (Melvins): We had to start over.
Crover: Pretty much. We had to get rid of another bass player, which as you know, can be a drag. It’s not something we wanted to do, but everybody that’s been in the band with us has had their own personal problems…
Osbourne: Making it impossible for them to stay in the band…
Rauf: Yeah, I remember Lorax [former Melvins bassist Lori Black], who did Bullhead and Ozma with you guys and was Shirley Temple’s daughter. She’s not even making music anymore!
Crover: Yeah, I don’t think she is. We saw her recently and that appeared to be the case.
Osbourne: She’s got a host of mental problems. We’ll leave it at that.
Crover: But we had to fire Kevin [Rutmanis], and had to start over, and teach another person all the songs. We thought of Jared and Coady, and we often talked about having another drummer in the band so it kind of fell in our lap.
Rauf: Plus you guys now have that mirror-image thing going…
Crover: Yeah, that was just an added bonus, since Coady’s left-handed and all. We thought about the double-drummer thing a while ago with Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters). After Kurt (Cobain) died, he was planning on joining us but changed his mind I guess.
We did it with the Fantomas-Melvins Big Band. Also, when we toured for the trilogy of albums on Ipecac [The Maggot, The Bootlicker, and The Crybaby], we’d play that slow song from The Maggot, “Manky,” and we’d leave our drum set out there and whoever we were playing with, we’d have them play it with us that night.
Rauf: What do you think is the best album as a primer for new fans?
Osbourne: Just one? I’d recommend like five!
Crover: Well, what do you think would be the best one?
Rauf: Personally, I know how seminal Houdini is, but I think when you guys released A Live History of Gluttony & Lust (Houdini Live), it was perfect start-to-finish. You guys changed up the track order and gave the songs an edgier vibe.
Crover: Yeah, we liked it better too.
Osbourne: Maybe even better than the original. But I would do the new record [The Bride Screamed Murder], Colossus of Destiny, Pigs of the Roman Empire, Stoner Witch, and Eggnog.
Crover: I really like Stag a lot, but I’d probably just go “Oh here’s our new record.” It’s one of our best ones. It’s got everything we do in the one record, really.
Rauf: Album-to-album, you guys have moved in new directions. Starting with (A) Senile Animal [playing with Jared and Coady], you guys started writing faster and catchier songs. Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing “Joan of Arc” or “Boris” like the next guy, but you guys have started writing some really great pop hooks. Take “Civilized Worm” for example.
Osbourne: I love that song [“Civilized Worm”]. “Joan of Arc” is really simple, but there’s room for everything.
Crover: Yeah, and the fact that Jared’s a lead vocalist too really helps.
Osbourne: Fortunately, we’re able to pull it off. I mean, we’re weird and our band name is the Melvins!
Rauf: What was it like working with Lustmord (Brian Williams, who Buzzo worked with on a few albums, as well as the Melvins collaboration album Pigs of the Roman Empire)?
Osbourne: Great. It was really cool. We actually never sat in the same room working on material. We never told people which song was which, so the songs that people think are Lustmord’s are actually us (laughs). And vice-versa (laughs again). People are 100% wrong on a lot of it.
People will say “You ruined that Lustmord song!” and we’ll say “We’re not on that one!” And then they’ll say that he was on one of our tracks and we’ll say that “He wasn’t on that one at all!”
That was kind of the beginning of the end for the bass player we had at the time because a lot of that stuff on that record, as well as the one before it that he didn’t do.
Rauf: What was your favorite collaboration? You guys have done stuff with Mike Patton, Lustmord, Tool, etc. but I’m sure you guys have one you really liked.
Crover: They’re all good, really, in different ways. I think the one we did the longest was with Jello (Biafra, of the Dead Kennedys).
Osbourne: We talked him into doing some Dead Kennedys stuff, which was good. He didn’t want to, at first. It’s still a sore point for him.
Crover: He loves those songs.
Osbourne: If they wrote all of those songs, where are the new Dead Kennedys records? They didn’t put out a new record? Who puts out new stuff? Biafra! Who goes on tour? Biafra! He says that he didn’t write ALL of the material, like “Oh I didn’t write some of this part,” but it’s his stuff. It’s not that he’s modest about it, but the Dead Kennedys guys turned it around to act as if Jello had nothing to do with their songs. If that’s the case, they should be the ones making records, but they’re not!
Since the Dead Kennedys broke up, he’s done DOA, Nomeansno, Lard…he’s the only one! He’s a weirdo, he’s eccentric, but he does NOT deserve this. We like him, but he’s a freak! (smiles)
Rauf: I know you don’t really side with him politically…
Osbourne: Who does? I rarely talk about my political views in public.
Rauf: The other thing I really appreciate is that you guys aren’t afraid to say what’s on your mind and tiptoeing. You guys tell it like it is. I remember reading an interview with you guys on MetalSucks about Dave Mustaine. He apparently came up to you guys while on tour together saying “My manager thinks I should listen to you guys, do you have any albums out?” and you guys responding with how you already had like 13 records out at the time…
Osbourne: Dave’s an easy target. I mean, what do you say to a question like that? He’s a dope. It’s clearly obvious that he’s a dumbass. He’s struggled with drugs and all kinds of things and I’m sure that’s a problem for him and he’s doing the best he can.
Rauf: I wonder if he’s the type that only listens to his own music?
Osbourne: That’s terrible. You’d have to be a total idiot to do that. It’s like reading your own book. Or staring into the mirror while you’re jerking off. [everyone laughs]
Rauf: Wait, that’s not normal?
Osbourne: What is normal, anyway?
Rauf: Since you guys have been in the game so long, I have to ask, is there any animosity towards the fact that you guys aren’t more of a household name? Do you wish you were doing worldwide huge arena tours and selling a shit-ton of CD’s?
Osbourne: I’ll take it in cash.
Crover: Yeah, we’ll take the cash. I mean we learned when we opened for bands like Tool that the sound in those places is pretty crappy.
Osbourne: But we don’t have to worry about that. We’re not going to sell a million records and go play places like that. It’s not like we could make that happen. We’re weirdos, we look like weirdos, it’s not going to happen.
Rauf: But I feel like you guys write great pop hooks. If you had someone really pushing your stuff out there, I think you could do it.
Osbourne: But you don’t think like the general public. You like this weird stuff. That’s not like the rest of the country.
Look at us, though. We don’t look like people who’d be on MTV. If Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audio Slave) and Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) looked like Fat Albert…if they were 400 lb black guys, they wouldn’t buy their records.
My point being, if Kurt Cobain looked like Wesley Willis, it never would have happened. MTV and women like the “wounded junkie” look. I never understood it…how many of us know what goes through a woman’s mind? [everyone laughs] Or why MTV does what they do?
Rauf: Speaking of women, are you guys married or have any kids? How do they deal with you guys being rockstars?
(Buzz and Dale flash their hardware)
Crover: They don’t know yet, but my daughter wants to come on tour. She knows that daddy works very hard so that she can have nice things.
Osbourne: Lots of people have jobs that take them away from their homes. It’s nothing new. Bus drivers, army guys…
My wife knew the job was dangerous when she took it. But women that are willing to put up with my lifestyle and the way I am don’t grow on trees. I realize this and I’m not going to ruin it.
Rauf: You guys did a live album for Houdini…do you have any plans on doing more live albums?
Osbourne: I would. I’d like to do a live record, that’d be great. We never did have a proper live album.
We don’t care about people recording our shows. Our philosophy is that if anyone can do it, then why would they want one that we release? We can record it, and Johnny can record it tomorrow night, and you’d have the same thing he does. And the thing is, how do you decide what’s best? My idea of a great recording might not be the best quality, or the errors made might sound really good. You have to let your artistic and creative side decide, and it’s not the easiest thing to do.
Rauf: Do you guys have any plans on doing anything outside of this realm, such as scoring films or something in that vein?
Osbourne: I don’t really have much interest in making music for a movie. I think that would be horrible. I would love for our music to be in movies, but I would hate to work with anyone specifically on one, telling me what I need to record. That’s bullshit.
Crover: I’ve talked to people who’ve done movies scores, and it’s never “Do what you want!” from the directors. It’s not “Whatever you’re going to do is going to be the right thing and what I want [for the film].” They want to dictate what kind of song they want and vibe, and whatnot.
Osbourne: Yeah, I can’t imagine sitting in a room, even in a high-level movie studio, with someone like Quentin Tarantino tellin’ you, “What I’d really like for you to do is…” No, fuck you, dude! I don’t even like your movies! There’s plenty of people out there that want to do it. No interest, AT ALL. And if those dumbass fucking directors can go through our massive collection of albums and find anything they can use, I don’t want to work with them anyway! They obviously are total idiots. Our music is tailor-made, album after album, after album, to use in soundtracks. And no interest in anybody using it. That means these guys are even dumber than you think.
Rauf: Hey man, they could use something off of Prick [an album of short b-sides and outtakes].
Osbourne: That’s what I mean! A million things they can use! If they can’t find anything, fuck them, I’m not going to help ‘em. It sounds like the worst job in the world [scoring for film].
Crover: They should write and film their movie around our music!
Rauf: Like a Melvins documentary! That’d be cool!
Osbourne: Who would watch it? I met guys like Danny Elfman…he’s a miserable bastard. He sits in a fucking room and makes music for shitty movies. That pisses me off. I’d rather blow my fuckin’ brains out.
Unless they go, “Here’s my movie, do anything you want to it,” I’m not interested. When I make my albums, I don’t listen to some outside source telling me something like “Hey, maybe you should make it sound like the soundtrack to Bullet,” or horseshit like that. Fuck you!
How about if I said, “Here’s what I don’t like about your movie…your actress is shit, your choice in this scene was fucking horrible,” etc. There’s no director that ever knows anything about music. They should be coming to me to ask me about music, and they’ll never do that, so fuck ‘em.
Rauf: Speaking of scoring, if you guys had to have your music be a theme song and endorse a product, what product would it be and what song would you choose?
Osbourne: No idea. I’d sell anything. What’s the biggest company right now?
Crover: I don’t know, maybe Apple? Wal-Mart? Tampons?
Rauf: You could use “Spread Eagle Beagle” for that.
Osbourne: I’d probably want something with more singing in it. We could use “The Water Glass,” the first track from our new album. It ends with the military cadence. Wal-Mart could sell with that!
Crover: What about Spam?
Rauf: I bet “Electric Flower” would do really well for that. It’s a fucking awesome song.
Crover: Yeah, I bet we could move some product with that. It’s my favorite off the new album, too.
Osbourne: Spam. “Electric Flower.” Why not?
Rauf: You guys have really helped out bands like Flipper become big names again, talking about them in interviews and doing great things for them. People ended up buying more Flipper records because you guys gave them props. Is there anyone out there that you’d like to see get some more love?
Osbourne: Well for Flipper, I did their liner notes. Flipper’s got their own problems. They are their own worst enemy. But I’m glad people are buying more of their records.
Rauf: I mean that’s kind of their schtick though, right? Kind of like the anti-band…you never know if they’re gonna show up and then just walk off stage without playing any songs. It’s maybe part of their appeal.
Osbourne: By and large, I’m a Flipper fan. And when Flipper is playing, the idea is that it could end in a complete catastrophe. It’s not really their appeal, though.
Crover: We’re covering one of their songs tonight, actually: “Sacrifice.” We’re opening the show with it.
Osbourne: As far as other bands, people should be more interested in The Fugs. They’re one of the best bands. Their second album, it’s called The Fugs Second Album, which came out in ’67 or ’68, it’ll explain a lot of what we’re doing.
And I guess also Clear Spot and The Spotlight Kid, two records by Captain Beefheart are really great. I didn’t care much for Trout Mask Replica; I like more of their rock stuff.
Crover: More recently, we like a band called Tweakbird.
Rauf: Well, I kind of want to close this interview by covering future plans. You guys have been making music for such a long time. Is there a definite end planned, or are you going to keep going as long as people keep buying records and coming to shows?
Osbourne: We’re gonna make that soundtrack for Wal-Mart and wrap dynamite around our heads and kill ourselves.
Crover: We’re gonna hang on to the band and keep going until the wheels fall off.
Rauf: Well obviously you guys still have it, I’m excited for your performance tonight, and I hope you keep putting out fucking awesome music. Thanks again for sitting down with us.
Osbourne and Crover: No problem, thanks for doing it. See you guys in a bit.
More Info at Melvin’s Official Website
View all of Melvin’s June 16, 2010 Washington DC Performance with Isis at Blow The Scene Staff Photographer, Seth Ballentine’s Flickr Site.
Check out Adam and Seth’s Interview with Isis for Blow The Scene that occurred at the same performance!
Interview with Buzz Osbourne & Dale Crover of The Melvins
Adam Rauf, Staff Writer
All images by Seth Ballentine, Blow The Scene Staff Photographer