In the Melvins we trust
Grunge pioneers stomp back into the Beta Bar
- by Paul de Revere
- September 23, 2004
Rumbling. Gargantuan. Tumultuous. Catastrophic. Heavy.
These are just some of the words people have used to describe the music of the Melvins. With two decades under its belt, yet even more truly meaningful words can be added: Perennial. Classic. Mainstay.
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Originating from the same Pacific Northwest underground scene that spawned so many iconic early '90s grunge bands, the Melvins first made music in the small logging town of Aberdeen, Wash. (about 100 miles away from Seattle's grunge mecca and also the hometown of Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and the late Kurt Cobain). The band, made up of guitarist/lead vocalist King Buzzo, drummer Dale Crover and a series of bassists, currently Kevin Rutmanis, were and still are considered the grandfathers of those bands.
Even though there is irony in the fact that the Melvins moved to San Francisco before the Seattle scene exploded, Nirvana's punch-in-the-face guitar sound, Pearl Jam's metal-tinged guitar solos and drum work, and Alice in Chains' unquestionable heaviness were all directly influenced by the duality of grunge music that the Melvins pioneered: either slow and sludgy or fast and loud.
"We have no plans of giving this up," Crover said, commenting on the band's 20th anniversary. "At least not until someone dies."
A morbid statement, but befitting of a band that, as dark, mean and demented as they may seem, actually have a great sense of humor on the whole -- one that hasn't been seen in rock music since the likes of Frank Zappa. The Melvins, to say the least, can throw people for a loop about the influences on its music. Crover might cite John Waters as opposed to Frank Zappa as an influence, for example.
"I'd vote John Waters for president," Crover said. "I'm a bigger fan of Black Flag than Black Sabbath. People who say we're influenced by them ... it's a little too easy. I'm bigger on Queen and KISS. We definitely always saw ourselves as a KISS-type band."
Crover went on talking about the band's peers and what's being listened to on the road at the moment.
"I'd say Sonic Youth is a contemporary of ours," he said. "They did a lot for the Seattle scene, in spreading the word and everything. They took a lot of bands under their wing. As far as what I'm listening to on tour ... I got some Dead Kennedys, of course. Gun Club, the Buzzcocks singles collection and even Los Lobos. Los Lobos are the best band in Los Angeles."
Diverse tastes abound in the Melvins' warped oeurve and it sets the stage for its latest release (the second of three for this year), Pigs of the Roman Empire, out now on Ipecac Records. Pigs is a collaboration with Welsh, film-score composer Lustmord.
We were working together on music for a film called 'Cranky Claus,'" Crover said. "We put down a lot of the music, (Lustmord) put down the electronic stuff over it. (Tool guitarist) Adam Jones added a little guitar here and there."
It's an eerie, atmospheric, and even downright disturbing collaboration, but even more so, it's a testament to how much the Melvins' sound has evolved since 1984. In addition to Pigs, the Melvins have another much-hyped collaboration to be proud of, only this time with former Dead Kennedys lead singer Jello Biafra. Never Breathe What You Can't See is due out Oct. 15 on Ipecac Records.
The Melvins are currently road-testing songs from this brand new album on tour. Near the beginning of the year, Ipecac Records released "Neither Here Nor There," a career-spanning hardback book of designs, old concert bills, illustrations and live photos, all with a CD included. It's a veritable scrapbook of a band that has truly remained relevant over such a long time, even if it was jokingly passed off by Crover as "a sneaky way of putting out a lame greatest hits record."
Even with Crover's sense of humor about the band's longevity, he makes no joke about his thoughts on other bands making it as far as they have.
"Good luck, man," he said. "It'll be really hard if you make it this far. If you get a break like we have, go for it. You'll be the luckiest people in the world."
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