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Interview: Buzz Osborne (Melvins)

Interview: Buzz Osborne (Melvins)

Wednesday 21st September, 2016 12:03PM

Earlier this year the Melvins unleashed Basses Loaded, a 12-song record that features every member that has been a part of the legendary group for the last decade, with special attention given to its rotating cast of bass players. Despite the band being on a relentless tour schedule, UnderTheRadar contributor Fluffy managed to snag sometime with notorious frontman King Buzzo for a yarn about the record, along with a healthy dose of political talk. Stream Basses Loaded while you read the interview below...

UTR: Basses Loaded is your 25th studio album since you started releasing music back in 1986. That’s almost one every year.

Buzz: I’ll take your word for that.

Where do you find the time to be so prolific at music making?

Well, music is what I do, y’know. So I spend a lot of my waking hours on it. It's not really difficult to spend that much time on it. I mean, yeah, you have to wade through a lot of swampy garbage to get to the stuff that’s good but without that process, none of it’s gonna happen.

For sure. So Basses Loaded has six different bass players on it from what I understand.

Yes, that is true.

Was this a “variety is the spice of life” sort of thing or more working around different people’s schedules?

Kind of a little of both; we didn’t really realise that was the case until we were well into it. “Oh, well look, we got all these bass players”. I started thinking that way in about 2005 when we lost a bass player as a result of his extra curricular activities and we then decided that we were never going to be put in that position again. So I have a lot of options. Lots of ‘em. Trevor Dune, the guys from Big Business, Steve McDonald, we’ve been playing with him now, Jeff Pinkus. We do stuff with Mike Dillard, the original drummer from The Melvins and Dale [Crover, current Melvins drummer] playing bass. I just don’t have any interest in it [being] any other way. It’s a lot different from most bands but that’s kind of attractive to me.

Nice, yeah. It sounds rad. There's a lot of variety on the record. What were some of the things that inspired the song writing?

Well... y'know, with the Melvins 1983 [lineup], I write songs that would work in that capacity, and with Pinkus we kind of jammed that song together, 'Captain Come Down', which is a really great film. We played that live with him a bunch. With Steve McDonald, I knew I wanted to do a Beatles song and then the other three songs. One of them, we had already recorded, the 'Decay of Lying', me and Dale had already recorded the guitar and drums and vocals so we just had him put bass on it. The other two we wrote with him, pretty quickly, they were kind of the last things we did for the record. We wanted something a little more uptempo. With Trevor, he was in town and it was kind of one of those things where we were also gonna be in town so we’ll see if we can do some recording. That’s kinda where all that sort of stuff springs from.

Awesome. So did you get a chance to sort of jam out the tracks and get a feel for each musician? Or was it sort of like “we’ve got a song, do you want to put your own flavour into it"?

Kind of a little of both. We jammed with Jeff and we jammed with Steve, we jammed with Krist. With Dale, I kinda wrote those songs and he just put his bass on em. The Big Business guys, Chacko Plumbing? Me and Dale recorded our parts and then they referred to them to put their parts on to it later. So that was a true collaboration in that they added what they ahh… when they heard what we did, then they were inspired to do what they did. We’d never really done that with them before so that was cool. It came out great, loved it.

For sure, there’s definitely some bangers on there. The hook to 'Shaving Cream' is probably my favourite. Although I cant seem to draw a connection to the refrain of the second half and the title of the song. How are the two related?

Oh, well, with the Melvins 1983 we kinda do things that are more like that. That’s definitely the goofiest we’re gonna get, the most thug like, your gonna get is the Melvins 1983. Hopefully we’ll do a whole ‘nother album with Mike under those conditions but ah, who knows? “I'm all fucked up” was something that me and Mike Dillard had been doing since we were in about high school.

Really? So how come it had materialised on a release beforehand if you’ve had it kicking around for so long?

That kinda happens a lot. Lots of people think that just coz a song’s on a new album that it’s a new song. That’s rarely the case haha. A lot of the time you have stuff sitting there that you haven’t been able to finish, like this. I’ve had people say: “Oh, I really love the stuff that’s on your Stoner Witch record but not so much your new stuff. I go: “well, what the hell are you talking about?”, then I’ll go: “well, honestly, a couple of the songs on this new album, I wrote those around the Stoner Witch time, I just didn’t finish them. Hahahaha! So they’re like: “I don’t like your new stuff”, I go “actually, it’s not really new! It’s new to you.” Man, people are generally wrong about that sort of stuff almost 100% of the time.

And do you think that’s sort of a social thing of like “Oh, the new stuff is passé, the roots is where it’s at”?

I just think that people think that they know everything when they rarely know anything. That’s kinda how it’s always been. But see, I’ve stopped listening to criticism. I really don’t like it.

No? Not at all?

I’m not interested in actually listening to criticism at all. I’ll ask my wife what she thinks and I’ll ask the guys in the band, but beyond that I really don’t wanna hear the end of any of those sentences from people y’know? It’s not helping me. I would never do that. I can’t imagine going up to somebody in a band and going: “here’s what I don’t like about what you do”. That’s absurd. That’s just rude. I never say it, but I always think “your parents must be a real piece of work”.

So, you’ve collaborated with so many people over the course of your career. Are there any moments or co-conspirators that stick out as your favourites?

I pride myself on playing with people who are exceptionally good musicians and that’s been a godsend to me. That’s been one of the best things that we have done, in that we have been blessed with playing with people that are good. That’s half the battle right there. I’ve never had try-outs for the band, I would never do that. I’ve always been a fan of what people had already done when I asked them to join.

Any plans to do anything further with Mr. Jello Biafra at any point?

Well, who knows? He’s got his own band now in San Francisco. We did two albums with him. I would do more stuff with him. I like Jello, Jello’s a good guy.

He seems like it. Like, he’s got some good politics.

Oh, I don’t care about his politics. I don’t know that I agree with his politics but whatever. But that’s part of the package if you’re gonna play with Jello, it’s all part of the same thing. Me and Jello have a friendship that goes well beyond any of the things that are that absurd. Our relationship goes way beyond that. Me and him are buddies and that’s how it’s gonna be. Politics and things like that, basing a relationship on something that absurd is whacky to me.

Out of curiosity, what are your political leanings? What do you think about the current US presidential race?

I don’t like anyone running.

Good answer.

I haven’t liked anyone running in the last…I dunno, since I started voting.

But you do make a point to vote? Or do you think it’s superfluous?

Almost always, yes. But here in California it makes little to no difference. Y'know, what I mean? The political leanings here are one way and that’s about it. I make a point of never believing anything the government tells me. I think people that believe those sorts of things are insane. I also believe that people that think there is a distinct difference between these people, who all went to the same colleges and wear the same suits and do the same drugs and drink the same alcohol, if they think there’s a difference between them, then they are insane. They honestly believe there’s a difference between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump? Really? They were at Donald Trump’s wedding, Hilary and her husband.

It all boils down to the same shit eh? So back to the music, you’ve also worked as a producer for the band Cows. How were they to work with?

Oh yeah, a long time ago.

Were they well obliging?

Oh! I always loved the Cows. They were one of my favourite bands for a long time and it was a real pleasure to be able to do that with those guys. I thought that record came out great, it had great songs, to begin with. I think it’s a really great record but ultimately that has to come from them. I helped them along with some arrangements and how things sounded a little bit but other then that, they were good to begin with. So production on a thing like that is absurdly, absurdly easy.

Do you have much of a leaning toward the producer role? Or do you prefer being the creative songwriter?

Well, I mean, I would - but no one would do what I wanted. People never take my advice. I’ve told people all kinds of things before. They’d come and ask me all kinds of things like “what should we do about this?” and they don’t wanna hear the answer. You tell ‘em, “here’s what I think”, but they don’t wanna hear it, it’s almost like it doesn’t exist. Like we’re some, some weird, special thing that has no basis in reality. It’s like “well that never worked for me, here’s what we did”, but they don’t wanna hear it, they’re just gonna go ahead and do whatever they want anyway. They want you to just agree with them. I rarely think that those kinds of things will work. If you’re doing things exactly the same way as everyone else, I just don’t see how it can work. It might work to some degree but ultimately; I think you’ll be disappointed.

What do you think of noisey bands today? Is there anyone that’s sort of pushing the boundary on creativity?

One band I really like is this band called Le Butcherettes. They’re really cool. They are from El Paso, Texas. We did a bunch of shows with them and I think they’re great. They have a lead singer/guitar player/keyboard player named Terry Gender Bender and I think she’s a tremendous force of nature. They’re really good. I obviously like the Big Business guys, a band called Tweak Bird. We played with a band in France, who’re actually from LA called Wand that were really good. Le Butcherettes are easily my favourite.

Finally, what’s your hair care regime? How do you get your trademark do?

I'm gonna shave it all. I’d shave it all on a $10 bet.


Sure, why not?


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