Chicago Innerview 2004
- story by Mike Scales
One would think that after 20 years in the music business, any band would begin to show signs of wear and/or loss of momentum. Even legendary, long-lasting groups like Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones have seen their way through countless setbacks, break-ups and tragedies within their careers. One band that has stood the hard test of time and continues to press on, showing no signs of strain, is grunge gods The Melvins. Aside from a bit of a revolving door in terms of bass duties, the dynamic musical duo of drummer Dale Crover and guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne have been unloading the slow and sludgy together since their debut on C/Z Records in 1986.
Playing the part of mentor in the mid-'80s and through the '90s, The Melvins inspired countless bands in the Sub Pop/Seattle scene - namely the likes of Mudhoney, Tad and Nirvana. They famously turned down Kurt Cobain, who tried out for the band around 1985, but made up for it by letting him contribute guitar to their 1993 record, Houdini. The Melvins experienced a certain degree of mainstream success, like many of the Seattle bands during the height of grunge (i.e. Nirvana, Soundgarden), putting out three full-length albums for Atlantic Records before reverting back to the underground with releases on Amphetamine Reptile Records, the now-defunct Man's Ruin and their current label, Ipecac Recordings. Their catalog totals about 20 main albums for the past 18 years. Needless to say, The Melvins have been mighty busy at this rock 'n' roll thing.
In a recent phone interview, Chicago Innerview picked the brain of frontman Buzz Osborne about ex-bandmates, The Melvins' current album and tour, and the state of heavy music today. When asked about former bassist Joe Preston joining the ranks of stoner metal masters High On Fire, Buzz had this to say: "I dunno - what do you think about it?" To the suggestion that he and the band may have stayed in contact with Preston, he simply responded, "Absolutely not." Having clearly struck and old nerve, the conversation shifted to much more useful subject matter, though Buzz's boiling blood would not relent.
Discussion led to the consideration of some kind of pending heavy music revolution in the mainstream due to the great success of underground labels like Ipecac, Relapse and Victory Records and a well-respected engineer like Steve Albini (Nirvana, Bush, The Breeders) setting his sights on recording heavy indie bands like Neurosis and High On Fire. "You know… there are very few independent labels I'm willing to even consider dealing with," says Osborne. "They're great in the beginning, but then labels like Relapse Records tend to monopolize on a certain sound and begin to pump out a bunch of bands that sound the same and the groups start making less and less money. These labels just keep getting bigger and stupider, start following trends, and what started out as something really good for underground music finds its way back to just being about money. Let's face it - if the contract an indie band is signing suggests that they get a lawyer to make sure the record company doesn't rip them off, they probably shouldn't be signing with that company anyway."
It became pretty obvious that The Melvins would have no part in any mainstream revolution. They have their own upheaval to tend to. According to Buzz, "We've always survived and existed separately from those trendy scenes. We make the kinds of records we want to make and we always have. If people don't like it, they can hurry up and buy the new Limp Bizkit record or go to Lollapalooza - which got fucking cancelled anyway. I rest my case."
If their latest work of art, Pigs of the Roman Empire, is any indication, The Melvins will never be accepted by those content with listening to pop radio's sport metal and Disney punk - and they couldn't care less. Pigs is a collaborative effort with noise pioneer Lustmord. "We are huge fans of his band SPK. They're simply indescribable," says Osborne. The band was introduced to Lustmord through mutual friends and loved the fact that the music he makes is so completely different from what The Melvins tend to put out. "That's why we wanted to work with him. We let him do what he does and it just sounded great with the music we had in mind for the record. People will surely have their opinions about it, as they always do. Melvins records are never universally accepted, but we're cool with that."
The Melvins' next effort is slated for an October release and is yet another collaborative piece. This time Dale, Buzz and bassist Kevin Rutmanis will be teaming up with Dead Kennedys founder and punk legend Jello Biafra. Mostly recently, Biafra has been dealing with the incredible amount of legal suits brought on him by his ex-bandmates. "We don't understand it at all," says Buzz. "It's just a bunch of cockamamie bullshit. And the press will never talk about the huge amounts of money Jello offered to simply settle all of this. He just wants to be done with it and get on with making music." Mr. Biafra has apparently taken a step in the right direction with The Melvins. "Jello's written a few songs, we've written a few, and it's sounding really great," Osborne says, with an obvious excitement in his voice. "I'm really anxious for this one to come out."
The Melvins camp will be bringing out the grungy sludginess come September and they'll be supported by none other than Trevor Dunn's Trio Convulsant. "As you [should] know, Dunn and I held down the strings in Fantomas, our band with Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo," boasts Buzz. "He is a musical ally and a really great guy. When we heard he had his own band and was doing something completely different from our sound, we just had to have him with us."
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