BUZZ OSBORNE: MELVINS
Can it really be almost thirty years since the formation of Melvins? Who could have imagined that the band that Buzz “King Buzzo” Osborne formed deep in the backwoods of Washington State in 1983, would be on the verge of celebrating its thirtieth anniversary? Well believe it, because it is almost upon us. So, how did we get here?
The Melvins were born out of the towns of Montesano and Aberdeen, when Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, then in their late teens, began what would become one of the greatest partnerships in the history of alternative rock. Sure, bass players have come and gone through the years, and these days they even play with an additional drummer, but the one constant has been the Osborne / Crover union. Together, they are responsible for helping to create, and in turn, inspire what would later become the Seattle music scene. The most obvious example of their influence lies in the fact that Buzz was an early mentor and inspiration for a young Aberdeen resident to start his own band; his name was Kurt Cobain. Osborne was also the matchmaker that put Dave Grohl together with Nirvana when they were in need of a drummer.
Through their eighteen albums they have pushed the boundaries of what hard rock can be described as. Their music is a psychotic, experimental blend of hard rock, metal and punk. Originally inspired by the Blacks (Sabbath and Flag), Melvins have taken that DNA and created a genre all of their own.
During the early 90s boom years of alternative rock, Melvins found themselves on the legendary Atlantic Records, but as with so many bands, the relationship soon soured and have since found a more receptive home on Ipecac Recordings.
Osborne’s guitar prowess has also been put to good use in the super-group Fantomas, featuring Faith No More’s Mike Patton, Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, and fellow Melvin Trevor Dunn. A band much like Melvins, Fantomas have no desire to be constrained by a narrow-minded rock audience.
This year sees the release of FREAK PUKE, the first album and tour with the band going under the moniker Melvins Lite. The reason behind the name change was to signify a return to a three piece line-up playing a slightly different brand of their typical heavy sludge. Though the name of the band includes Lite, the touring schedule certainly can’t be called that. Starting on September 5th, Melvins Lite are embarking on a possibly record-setting U.S. tour, where they will play all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) in 51 days.
The band has been together for almost thirty years, released eighteen albums, and toured relentlessly: what keeps you motivated and inspired? Have you ever felt like you were just "going through the motions" on stage? Having seen your live show, it sure doesn't look like it.
Buzz Osborne: Some nights are better than others... 30 years is a long time to do anything, I guess. I have a few friends who are still in college after 30 years. Actually that isn't true. It’s taken them 30 years to pay off their student loans. As far as inspiration goes, no idea!
You have collaborated with many different people, played in altered line-ups, and experimented with musical styles: is there something left to try that you haven't, or couldn't, accomplish?
BO: Nah, once you reach the pinnacle of success like we have, there just isn't anything left to do. Is there?
You recently toured with Unsane. Both bands are survivors of the fickle nature of the record industry and have done so on your own creative terms. Does it give you some sort of satisfaction to share a stage with a band that has been through the same wars that you guys have?
BO: Yeah, it was cool. We’ve known them for nearly two decades. Now we know how they sleep. Yuck!
After experiencing life on a major label, as you have, if one expressed an interest in signing you again, would you do it? Or, would you say "been there, done that".
BO: I would look at any offers that came our way. Why not? I'm not afraid of majors. I'm afraid of minors. Ha!
You have been in a band with Dale much longer than the great majority of couples remain married. I am guessing the two of you have found the secret to that success. What is it? Are the two of you best of friends, or does it just work as a musical relationship?
BO: The key is a relationship based on trust and understanding. I don't trust him and he doesn't understand me.
Speaking of collaborating musically, how much of a control freak are you in the studio? Do you find yourself telling the guys what to play, or is it more a case of everyone finding their own way?
BO: I like people finding their own way usually. I've been on the other end of that on more than one occasion and it ain't fun.
Having been around music and musicians as long as you have, is there an artist that you were intimidated, or would be intimidated, to meet?
BO: I try to avoid that sort of situation. Even with people I REALLY like, like Bowie. If you told me Bowie was across the hall and, would I like to meet him? I would say no... And by Bowie, I mean JIM Bowie!
Your now-legendary tour van with Kurt Cobain’s drawing of KISS on the side of it was recently up for bids on Ebay. When was the last time it was in your possession? Do you have one great story relating to that van?
BO: Well, it never sold. There you have it... that may be the funniest story of all. Who knows, I hated that fucking stinking tub and abandoned it in 1985 or 86. All I would have had to do was keep it somewhere for over 20 years and then I could have it, not sell, on Ebay as well.
Finally, your touring for Freak Puke will take up most of the year, but what else is in the future for Melvins? Are there any plans for a thirtieth anniversary extravaganza?
BO: No big plans for the Thirtieth anniversary... maybe we should NOT tour. That would be new.