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The Melvins

The Melvins

Friday 11th February, 2011 11:04AM

The Melvins will have seen everything in their career. The rise of alternative music in the mainstream press; grunge (they hung out in Aberdeen, Washington – Kurt Cobain once auditioned for the band too, but failed to make it in when he forgot all the songs from nerves – though the Melvins' Dale Crover played the drums on Nirvana's Bleach); the major labels buying into counterculture for a while (the Melvins released some of their most well-known stuff on Atlantic – Houdini, Stoner Witch and Stag) but then being dumped; releasing dozens of albums in a variety of ways; and having the type of influence on a multitude of influential bands around the world that most musicians can only dream of. I talk to Dale Crover before a five-date tour with High on Fire around the country.

What got you into music in the first place?

I guess the Beatles probably. Like most people my age and beyond. I guess the band which got me into wanting to be in a band was Kiss. I'd seen those guys on TV and I was 'that's who I want to be in a band'.

You've obviously been playing music for a really long time – did you imagine you'd be playing music this long and making a living out of it?

No, I never really thought too far ahead. I'm really happy we've been able to do this for so long.

What's it like playing to fans who probably weren't even alive when you started?

It's pretty funny. Sometimes I look at and I look at the crowd and think 'holy sh it, that person has got to be like fifteen.' It's pretty great though. It's just the guy in Dazed and Confused, the Matthew McCoughnahy character, 'I keep getting older and they stay the same age'. It was also weird the first time I noticed that girls kinda liked us too – that took a long time. That was when we were well past our prime.

What do you think the key is to the Melvins' longevity, and to the fact the Melvins keep releasing work?

Because we have nothing else to do. We have nothing else to fall back on. Do this or get some – actually I don't know what we can get a job at. I don't think we can be a night clerk at a 7/11 at this point. That's great. It's this or nothing.

Does it annoy you guys that everyone talks about your past, but ignore your contemporary work?

I think the new records we put out are good, are good records. People don't seem to complain when we play a lot of new stuff when we play live. We also play a lot of old stuff too. Actually our new record, we've got our new rhythm section, it's all done really well. It's nice they don't want to just hear old stuff. Right now we're doing a residency at a club here in Los Angeles called Spacelands. We're playing every Friday night this month. Each weekend we've been doing a different record.

And you've been having different line-ups?

Sort of, it's been the Big Business guys [Jared Warren and Coady Willis] for sure. But then we've had some special guests. We had the original Melvins drummer come and play, and I played bass, as the original bass player in the band. That was kind of fun. Last weekend we did a set with me and Buzz opening up the show, with Jared and Coady coming out and playing a bunch of new material, and then playing the [1990 record] Bullhead, gosh which is over twenty years old I think. Some of those songs we haven't played for that long.

With this residency, does this mean you're now well practised for your back catalogue?

I think we'll be able to come up with a pretty good setlist when we play down there. Some of the songs we haven't played in twenty years are really fun to play. Hopefully, I'm sure some of them will make their way into the set.

Did this also give you a chance to re-evaluate your music?

Sort of, but we've been saying pretty much 'the records are just a suggestion, we might not be necessarily playing exactly like that but certainly they're better, better than they were'. There are songs on all of those records that we've been playing, and have been for a really long time, they've evolved over time. It's only natural when you've played a song fifty times, a hundred times, it's going to change a bit. We're really looking forward to heading down there.

How did you guys approach the new album, the Bride Screamed Murder?

Buzz always has a tonne of material. He's got enough material for four records. He's always writing new stuff too. He probably just figured 'what kind of songs does this record need'. There's this soundtrack vibe to this whole record. One of the songs, which is the Who song [My Generation] which we've been playing live, we just figured out what kind of songs we needed for the record. That was that. With the help of the military vibe on the record. That was definitely a big thing we wanted to do. We wanted to do a lot of marching bands, military type of drumming, cadences. That's what we came up with. I had this little version of a high school drum-kit.

I imagine for you the new album would have been a lot of fun..

Oh yeah [laughs]. We've got two drummers so we better put good use to it.

You cracked the top 200 in the charts for the first time, was that a pretty strange thing for the band?

Yeah, that would have made a big difference if it happened ten years ago, because it would have meant we sold a sh itload of records. But really what that means, is that that's the end of anybody selling records if we are in the top 200. I think we sold less than 3000 records. If we're getting in that way…[laughs] That's fine. Nothing wrong with that at all, but nobody's selling records now.

You guys have been around to watch the shifts in alternative music and hype etc – has it been interesting watching the fickle nature of music consumption?

It's definitely a new musical revolution you know. It's definitely changed so much and it's going to continue to do so. Pretty much our view is that music is going to be free, any kind of recording you're going to be able to get on the internet no problem free. What you can't download is the stuff we're going to be selling at our shows. Besides the show itself, we've been doing a lot of limited edition projects, we've done a box set – 13 CDs, all hand letter-pressed by our guitar player's wife. We're really into art work, and we are definitely selling the art work kind of stuff. All hand-made, home-made, good stuff.

You guys have been able to adapt, while the majors labels haven't been able to figure it out?

Pretty much. We haven't been on a major for some time, but somehow we've been able to survive all of that. I guess just by realising from the beginning that it wasn't going to last. Before we were actually on a major label, we were making a living off our band.

You guys don't seem to take music too seriously – which seems to be a problem with a lot of musicians…

We've always had to be able to laugh at ourselves. Hell, our band-name is the Melvins. Of course we do.

How was [2009] Chickenswitch to make as an album – was it scary letting control of your music and getting other musicians [e.g. the Boredoms, Merzbow, Matmos] to work on your music?

No, not at all, not at all. We have done a tonne of records up to that point. We've never been afraid to let somebody else have whatever kind of input. Especially something like that, if you're going to let a re-mix guy re-mix your music, let him do his job. Do whatever you want with it. Even I don't like it, I don't care. I'm not going to interfere with somebody else's artwork. It's art. You shouldn't tell an artist what to do. Unless you're painting the Sistine Chapel, then you can tell them exactly what: 'try again. No no try again'.

How has it been for the band being on Mike Patton's label [Ipecac]. Has there been more freedom?

Yeah, those guys come from the same background we do. We've been able to do everything we've wanted to. They're not going to tell us what to do at all. They've been great at helping us do what we do want to do.

Is that something you've had issues with in your career?

Oh yeah, absolutely.

What have you guys got coming up?

We're coming to New Zealand obviously. We haven't been to Wellington for a while. We're playing with High on Fire, I've known those guys for a long time. It's going to be crazy. They're crazy. They're absolutely nuts. I think it's going to be a pretty good time.

Do you see you guys going and going?

Yeah until the wheels fall off.

One final question, do you ever use Lysol to clean your house?

No, no [laugh]. Wait, wait, I might check. I'm in the kitchen right now. Let's see. Here we go, I do have some Lysol products. They are disinfecting wipes. Oh here's some other stuff. Lysol mildew remover with bleach.

Brannavan Gnanalingam


Melvin NZ Tour Dates with High On Fire

Saturday February 19th - The Kings Arms, Auckland
Sunday February 20th - ReFuel, Dunedin
Monday February 21st - Al's Bar, Christchurch
Tuesday February 22nd - Bodega, Wellington
Wednesday February 23rd - Whammy Bar, Auckland

Tickets for all shows available from UTR - click HERE to get yours.