Writing about The Melvins’ 33-year career in 750 words is like trying to stuff glue back into a tube. It’s difficult, it’s messy, it’ll leave weird substances stuck to your body — basically, it’s borderline impossible. Hell, we could expend 7,500 words writing about what frontman Buzz “King Buzzo” Osborne and his longtime partner-in-crime Dale Crover have been up to in 2016 alone.
There’s the Basses Loaded album, recorded with six different bass players. The long-awaited release of deep cut Three Men and a Baby. The vinyl reissue of Melvins’ classic trio of major-label albums, Houdini, Stoner Witch and Stag. The limited-edition cassette documenting their avant-garde 2003 performance at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. A gut-busting appearance on Cartoon Network’s Uncle Grandpa. A forthcoming Melvins documentary, The Colossus of Destiny. A mind-blowing 39-date U.S. tour with Napalm Death and Melt Banana, followed by an extensive European tour, followed by another domestic spin around the States.
How do these 50-something sludge-metal pioneers do it? An always-on approach to creativity. A willingness to try anything, without regard to people’s perceptions. And the astute ability to hunker down and make experimental drone-core when the feeling hits — and then to get up, get out, and get something whenever the Melvins iron gets hot. Asked about the band’s endless string of 2016 tour dates, King Buzzo tells Folio Weekly Magazine, “I enjoy it more now than I did [when Melvins were younger]. I swore [touring] off early on because it didn’t really work — and when it got to the point where it would work, I said I wouldn’t do it. I didn’t want to bother with it, which is the exact opposite of how most bands operate. We didn’t start touring a lot until there was interest in the band. Which is what I would recommend, but people don’t listen to me.”
Osborne’s sense of self-deprecating but self-assured humor still flourishes, particularly in the concise quips he dropped on us in an early morning phone interview from the road last week.
Folio Weekly Magazine: How’s the set list look these days?
Buzz Osborne: We’re doing two songs off the Basses Loaded record. We have a lot of records, though, so it’s hard to figure out what to play. We can’t do ’em all — thank God!
Do you change the set list each night?
No, no — Lord, no. That would not be a good thing. A lot of bands do that, but that’s not for us.
That’s the whole point of the Melvins’ 33-year existence, right? Doing exactly what you want?
Thank you for noticing.
You were very vocal about the deficiencies of last year’s HBO Kurt Cobain documentary, Montage of Heck. What do you think of the forthcoming Melvins documentary The Colossus of Eternity?
Most rock documentaries are pretty bad. We didn’t make this one, but we thought these guys [Bob Hannam and Ryan Sutherby] did a pretty good job. It’ll surprise people. Hats off to them.
You’ve said before that you like making music that inspires other musicians to make music.
That may have been a bit of an overstatement. It just happens — and that’s not a bad thing. But sometimes people send me things that I’m not particularly impressed with.
At this point, how natural is the songwriting process for you?
Still not natural. It’s like panning for gold. You spend a lot of time going through the process. But in the end it’s worth it.
As a band always associated with the experimental fringe of heavy metal, what was it like to tour with metal icons Napalm Death earlier this year?
We enjoyed the hell out of it. There wasn’t a single bad thing about it. But they’re not really a metal band — more like a performance art band.
Are you excited to get back to Jacksonville?
Jacksonville’s the place in Florida we’ve played the most, other than Gainesville — and we didn’t play Gainesville this year. So lucky you guys!
What will you and Dale and Steve McDonald do once this tour is over?
Sit around with our feet up on the coffee table, saying, “Bring out the dancing girls — and put the champagne on ice!”
And so on and so forth. Equal parts genial boy wonder and snarky genius, Osborne embodies the push and pull of this band’s far-flung career. They’ve spliced every strain of jugular-punching, eardrum-blasting hard rock into their mutated DNA at some point. They’ve skewered every attempt by the mainstream to mold The Melvins into something malleable and digestible. Unlike so many of the bands that flared up and flamed out in the mid-’90s grunge-rock cauldron, they actually stuck to their weird, heavy ways, got better with age, and managed to maintain as much normalcy as a band of sludge-obsessed Seattle misfits could. As Buzz says, “I never consider who is going to listen to my music. I always just assume I have good taste and that, if I write music that I like, other people will like it, too.”