Melvins' Frontman Sounds Off About Music, the Media, Drugs

The Melvins
The Melvins
Mackie Osborne

It took Melvins frontman Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne five minutes and 12 seconds to begin his usual tirade against the media that cover music. The last time we spoke, almost 10 years ago, he waited nearly seven minutes. Clearly, Osborne has even less time for the media -- his mile-a-minute banter notwithstanding.

"Most people who write reviews for records or talk to our band don't know what they're talking about, by and large," he says from his Los Angeles home. "They think our records are a pointless endeavor, which doesn't surprise me. If you look at what they're reviewing, it quickly becomes clear that they don't like what we're doing. Generally speaking, they don't like anything that's good.

"You've got to remember: People who write reviews are lazy," he says. "They don't know anything about music, by and large, but I can't lead them down the dark path. There's a vast array of wild, weird music. I don't really like stoner rock. I don't like bands that sound like other bands. We take our influences from bands people might not have thought of and turn them into something else.

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"We're not sludgy or slow. Those are lazy ways to describe what we do by people who have never heard us and have no idea what we do. That is more sickening than anything else. There is a tiny little percentage of people out there who understand completely what we are doing. Then there are these other people who will never understand and never get it, and you just can't worry about it. I like it, so let's just leave it at that.

"Let's say we make something on our new album that's considered weird -- weird compared to what?" he asks, continuing his rant. "Our records are not weird in the grand scheme of weird records out there. I just have to go, 'Really, guys? You don't even know what weird is.' It's stupid. I have no idea what kind of rock they live under."

Am I one of those? I don't think so, but with that out of the way, we could move on to more important things, such as Everyone Loves Sausage, a record covering artists as eclectic and diverse as Pop-O-Pies, Kinks, David Bowie, Venom, and Throbbing Gristle. (A series of 12-inch singles with bonus B-sides also was released). The new Melvins record, Hold It In, was also on the agenda.

"Everybody Loves Sausages is a record of covers of bands that are our influences. It's a record so people can see what we're into. We make records we'd appreciate as fans of bands. Would I appreciate every band in the world going out and doing Ramones-ish style, non-changing music for every record? No, I wouldn't appreciate that and don't appreciate it. If I did that, all these people that bitch and complain about anything we've ever done wouldn't care. You can't win.

"When people talk about our first album and how glorious it was, well . . . I'm sorry, people, I was there. Nobody liked that record when it came out in 1986. It was not some golden era or good old days, believe me."

Yet, Melvins frequently have been hailed as the precursor to the grunge movement. Obviously, something made sense?

"Yeah, yeah, that's great, that's great. I can totally see that. But as far as the bad reviews all of our albums have got since then, they are the same reviews as that [first] one got. And they don't like our new record in the way they didn't like that record. [The attitude] is not changing in the least. Unfortunately, most people are sad, pathetic morons. Not much we can do about. I'm often reminded of that when I have to go to Home Depot or some other place like that. I walk around going, 'These are my people.' It's sad."

Osborne, a tireless musician who -- with drummer Dale Crover and assorted other musicians -- creates music with the frequency of rabbits breeding, manages to release at least an album per year. Except for the familiar pudding-thick guitars and mostly distorted vocals (sorry, Buzz, but it's true), not one sounds completely alike (see, I do listen). With Hold It In, Osborne has joined forces with Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary and bassist JD Pinkus. The addition has allowed Osborne to journey in new directions, including the ironic pop of "You Can Make Me Wait," which might sound familiar to Butthole Surfers fans. Written by Leary, the vocoder vocals of the song and almost accessible beat are unmistakable Butthole.  

"I think it's a pretty weird song, really," Osborne confirms. "It's a little different than what we'd normally do. Paul wrote that song, and I let him do it. I think it's accessible, but no more accessible than other stuff we've done in the past, really.

"We keep moving forward, making music that we want to," he adds. "We do things differently -- like this record. We made it with two guys from the Butthole Surfers, but it's a Melvins record, not a project. It's a record by us.

"After [bassist] Kevin [Rutmanis] imploded, me and Dale said we'd never have one person in the band again. It's too difficult to deal with. I'm not relying on anyone else ever again. I'll never fall in that trap again, not ever. It should have happened a long time ago. No matter what we do, we're still the Melvins. I'm going to do whatever the hell I want and that's it."

Revolving bassists hardly slowed Osborne and Crover down from their busy recording schedule. Even with Hold It In just released, Osborne was heading into the studio immediately following our interview.

"None of us are strung out on heroin or struggling with demons, so there is time for us to do a lot of work. You see bands take long hiatuses because their extracurricular activities aren't exactly healthy, you know."

With such frequent output, many might assume the band would need drugs to make this kind of music with such frequency.

"Does it take a lot drugs to make this kind of music? I don't know. I think drugs would probably stand in our way. I can't think of a single instance where people have been bettered in their work as a result of taking drugs. Creativity comes from you and not some outside source. If it does, then we're all being fooled. People who think that . . . there are a lot of psychedelic bands out there who cite drugs as an influence, but most don't last very long. At that point, who cares?"

That's a solid point.

"Hell, yeah. I want our music to be a musical journey . . . not just cut-and-paste bullshit from top to bottom . . . But I can't rely on radio or TV to get the word out. They have nothing to do with us, he adds, the rant surfacing again. "The world's not a right place. If the world were a right place, we'd be billionaires by now. Maybe if we were a chick band, it would work out better."

Maybe the band should wear dresses.

"We do."

Oh, right -- that is something I knew.

Melvins are scheduled to perform Saturday, October 25, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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