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The one juncture where the Melvins might've been in a position to please the largest audience came in 1993, when the Melvins were swept up in the major-label Seattle signing frenzy that followed the success of Nirvana's Nevermind. "I didn't think it would work even before it happened," Osbourne says of their deal with Atlantic. "They were offering us a lot of money — well, not a lot when you break it down, but enough for us to keep us on the roads [and] continue making records and do what we were doing. Record companies have always taken big gambles hoping something will sell. Do you know how many bands they sign and lose money on every year? They're entering a business partnership with musicians, the worst kind of insecure, self-obsessed drug addicts. We decided to sign with them, and we just kept making records until they came to their senses. I didn't actually think it would go beyond even one record."
It actually went to three. First, there was Houdini, produced by Kurt Cobain and containing "Honey Bucket," which has worked its way back into the Melvins' set this tour. In between Stoner Witch and Stag came Prick, an experimental album and potential deal breaker that Atlantic refused to issue. Yet the Melvins were contractually able to put it out on Amphetamine Reptile by mirror-reversing the Melvins' name. "Look," Osborne says, "any band signed to a major could do what it wants if they hired a lawyer and actually read their contract."
As for today's recording industry climate, Crover says somewhat ruefully, "Our live show has always been our strong point anyway. There's one thing you can't download and that's a live show. I can see a day coming when bands aren't going to make full-length records anymore. They're just not getting anything out of it. Spend all this time making a CD and all someone has to do is buy one copy, upload it, and now it's free. I can see making special Internet-only releases; possibly release one song at a time. Maybe some people will still make records, but it's gonna be kind of pointless."
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To generate alternate revenue streams, Osborne and Crover have taken after their friend Gene Simmons in the merchandising department. They've sold two-headed dolls, a Melvins fetus, Melvins luncheon meat, even a Melvins 8-track. Crover reveals that the Melvins just finished a limited-edition seven-inch that has "Detroit Rock City" on one side and "The Star Spangled Banner" on the other. The latter continues a chain of Melvins/KISS touchstones that began in 1992, when the band members issued three EPs modeled after the KISS solo albums, and continued when Gene Simmons played "Goin' Blind" with the Melvins onstage.
"KISS had us on that first reunion tour where they put back on the makeup. We played about five or six shows," Crover says. "They were really nice to us. Gene came into our dressing room with full makeup going, 'How are they treating you guys in here?' [It] was weird seeing him talk in his normal voice instead of the Demon. That was really something for us. We really enjoyed it. They were the band that inspired me to put a band together.
"We did an in-store at Amoeba Records at the start of this tour, and some guy had my solo EP signed by Peter Criss," Crover says with a laugh. "He also had Buzz's signed by Gene Simmons. But Gene signed Buzz's name."