The Melvins' Buzz Osborne: "I Could Care Less About Legacy"
Since 1983, the Melvins have influenced countless bands and carved out a path that is all their own. They constantly explore unexpected paths, even relative to their own work -- with every album they wind up even further away from what people have finally pegged as a their "sound."
Over the past three decades, the Melvins have sifted through all sorts of music, including Beefheart-induced sludge, dark ambient noise, moody jazz-rock, avant-garde electro-acoustic, and punk country. And that's just a handful of the band's 25-plus albums in their 25+ catalog. Now in 2013 to mark their 30th anniversary, The Melvins are embarking on an extensive summer tour to celebrate, kicking it off in Phoenix this Friday at Crescent Ballroom.
Up on the Sun talked with frontman Buzz Osborne about the band's biggest accomplishments, his five favorite albums, why he doesn't care about legacy, and the new guitar that is his current obsession.
Their newest album, April's Everybody Loves Sausage, fits them well in that sense. It's an album of covers, pairing acts that founder/frontman/guitarist Buzz Osborne says were chosen because "they are acts that people wouldn't think our band was influenced by." Think David Bowie and Venom, with The Jam and Queen.
On top of that, there's no doubt that the Melvins' sound and direction of frontman/guitarist Buzz Osborne influenced dozens of bands, many of which people couldn't imagine missing from the industry today.
Take Nirvana, for example. The Melvins influenced a lot of Nirvana's slow tempos and sludgy sound, that came to define the '90s. The same goes for Soundgarden -- ironic, since it's these same sounds that are in the midst of an uprising. In fact, when Dave Grohl's first band Scream broke up, he approached Osborne for advice. Osborne introduced him to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, and the classic lineup of Nirvana was formed. In fact, Cobain not only idolized the Melvins; he auditioned for them. But their influence has also branched out to metal as well, like acts such as Tool, Mastodon, and Eyehategod.
Usually the band performs as a trio, but in 2006 brought on Coady Willis from Big Business as a second drummer to provide a drumming "mirror effect." In 2012, The Melvins Lite (a lineup consisting of Osborne, Dale Crover, and Trevor Dunn) completed a record-breaking tour, having performed every night for 51 straight days, once in each of the 50 United States and once in the District of Columbia.
Are you guys coming in early to watch Black Flag on Thursday before you kick off the tour on Friday?
Are they playing there?
Yes, at this venue called Club Red.
I didn't know that! Now that I know that I may come in early . . . I'll take it under your advisement.
What do you feel has been The Melvins' biggest accomplishment in the band's 30-year history, besides the fact that you guys are still touring and bringing great music to the masses?
Well, survival. Still putting out interesting work, like you said -- that's probably the main thing. I never understood the concept of writer's block; I've never had that happen, you know? I have no idea what that would be. Um, and that we're physically able to do what we're doing. And I think one of our biggest accomplishments was the tour we did last year, Melvins 51, when we did 51 shows in 51 days, plus D.C.
At our age, that's a major accomplishment, you know? It was great!
Well, you're also lucky you don't encounter writer's block ever.
I guess so. I mean, I just feel like bands are using that excuse to put out a few good records and then that's the end of it. I don't know what it is -- drugs, alcohol, who knows?
The Melvins catalog is pretty incredible. Can you name me three albums that are either your favorites or just stick out in your mind for some reason?
I could pick five.
Go for it.
There's been a massive amount of material. I guess if I had to give a well-rounded view of what we're doing, I'd say the Colossus of Destiny (2001), Freak Puke (2012), Stoner Witch (1994), that's three. Um, The Bride Screamed Murder (2010). And Nude in Boots (2008).
That does cover the entire span of your style.
I think so, I might have left something out. A ton of records. I certainly can't remember all of them, or the order of the songs. No way.
How did you guys go about choosing the covers that you did on Everybody Loves Sausages?
What we did was, we picked out songs that we thought would be good to cover that were at least slightly an influence on us but that no one would've thought was an influence on us. You know, David Bowie, Venom -- bands that people wouldn't automatically think we were into.
I was interested in the cover of The Jam's "Art School." In Spin magazine earlier this year, you said that they sound "how Green Day thinks they sound like."
That hasn't changed. You know, I don't know what bands like that think. It's on the other side of the world.
Are your main guitars still Les Paul Customs? You've said you think they are the best guitars in the world. What is it about Les Paul that has always drawn you in personally?
You know, I love Les Paul. But I actually stopped playing those about three years ago. I've been playing guitars from this company called the Electrical Guitar Company, and they are made completely out of aluminum and acrylic. They are unbelievable. I still love Les Paul, but haven't played them live in a while, although I still use them in the studio occasionally. As I've gotten older, I've realized the guitar is most important and that the amps have less to do with things.
What is it that drew you to the Electrical Guitar Company after using Les Paul for so long?
Well, the necks are really cool, and I was able to have one built for me that was really cool [the King Buzzo Standard]. They might be more suited to what I'm doing right now. There's a combination of things that make them amazing. I will never find another guy who builds stuff like this, so I feel privileged to use them at all.