To properly define the Melvins, a band that needs about 14 introductions, is a lesson in abject futility, and that’s exactly what founding member Buzz Osbourne (guitars and vocals), and drummer Dale Crover want.
Take, for example, the first track off their most recent release, Pinkus Abortion Technician, “Stop Moving To Florida.” The mashup of the James Gang’s version of “Stop” and the Butthole Surfers’ “Moving To Florida,” which originally appeared on their 1985 EP Cream Corn From The Socket Of Davis, defies almost every rock 'n' roll convention, yet totally works, as many things typically do in the wonderful world of the Melvins. Is it weird? Sure, but it is also pretty damn tasty.
Perhaps they chose to do this because the Surfers’ old bass player, and on-and-off Melvins collaborator, Jeff Pinkus, is involved in this record, hence Pinkus Abortion Technician (which is a nod to what many consider the best Butthole Surfers record, 1987’s Locust Abortion Technician, which Pinkus recorded bass for). Or perhaps, they did it just because they can? Either way, only the Melvins know, and when you try to figure out why the Melvins do things, you will end up with a headache.
"Buzz has been sitting on that since I've been jamming with him (in 2013). What am I going to say, “No?” I’m very flattered to have my name on a Melvins record," says Pinkus over the phone from his home in Texas.
Joining Pinkus on bass duties for this current record is Steve McDonald, who many will recognize from his time working with his main band, Redd Kross, and also from punk rock supergroup, OFF!. Both Pinkus and McDonald have logged many shows (and miles) with Melvins over the years, but for this record and tour, it will be the first time they have both played with the band at the same time.
"We have two totally different styles," Buzz said. "Steve is a great musician, and a really nice guy, and you’re a weirdo,'” shares Pinkus, who is not wrong about the differing styles.
While both bassists, McDonald and Pinkus, are a great fit for a band like Melvins, who seemingly have multiple personalities at times, they are very different in their musical heritage. With Redd Kross, McDonald and his older brother, Jeff, led the way for glittery, sugar-coated poppy punk rockers featuring some of the best rock 'n' roll bass lines put to wax in the '80s and '90s, before starting the hardcore punk band OFF! in 2009 with former Black Flag/Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris. Pinkus cut his teeth with the aforementioned psychedelic weirdo saviors, the Butthole Surfers, in the mid-'80s before leading heavier, weirder bands like Daddy Longhead in the '90s, and Honky, which is still knocking out great Southern-fried stoner rock.
"If we were too much the same, we’d probably be stepping on each other. There is a song on the new record called “Embrace The Rub,” which is about low bass frequencies rubbing against each other. I was like, well, I don’t think we should fight it. We should just embrace it," says McDonald.
McDonald and Pinkus are extremely complimentary, though, of each other in conversation, and have shared the stage many times over the years with their previous bands. Both bassists have spent multiple years in Melvins as well, with Pinkus touring with the band in 2013 to 2015, and playing on multiple recordings, and McDonald joining Melvins in 2016 as their touring and recording bassist for the past three years. Each of the musicians appreciate the leeway they are given by Crover and Osbourne to bring material to the table.
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"They have pressured me, and I’m very lucky, to bring riffs in. It’s been another exercise for me, playing with (Melvins), and it’s been a real boost to my confidence. They push me to sing in their band, and write in their band, and I’m not used to it. As a bass player, you’re usually in a supporting role," says McDonald.
For Pinkus, playing with other musicians, as well as being a contributing member of Melvins, is very important.
"There is something we get from sharing our musical knowledge with someone else. I do believe when you get musicians in the same room that you’re speaking a language, and you share that, and everybody walks away with something from somebody else. I didn’t realize that on this record, Buzz is on the record, and he sings a lot of them, but this is the first Melvins record that it isn’t really his songs," says Pinkus, who also is the first person, on Pinkus Abortion Technician, to ever play banjo on a Melvins record.
Melvins play the Crescent Ballroom at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 31. Tickets are $20 plus any applicable charges. Los Angeles-based band, All Souls, opens. Visit crescentphx.com.