“Different band than any other band” – An interview with Melvins-frontman, Buzz Osborne

Author Mikko Nissinen - 3.11.2022

Melvins, the pioneer band of noisy alternative rock and sludge surely hasn’t stood still even during the times when the world ‘stopped’ a couple of years ago. Since then this unique, Montesano (WT) -based power-trio has written, recorded and released several hours of new music for us to listen to. In addition, the band has been touring for some months now in their homeland. One of the darkening autumn evenings of October, we got a chance to interview the legendary frontman, vocalist-guitarist of the band, Buzz Osborne aka King Buzzo.

Hello Buzz and be warmly welcome to Chaoszine interview.

Buzz: Thank you very much

I noticed on social media, that at the moment you are on tour in the southern U.S.A., right?

Buzz: Yes. I’m on Tour in the U.S. That’s correct.

How has the tour been so far for you?

Buzz: Oh, it’s been good. We’ve been touring solid thru… since early March. It was a lot of fun. We had that tour (with Corrosion of Conformity and Ministry) in the U.S. and then we had another tour (‘The Electric Roach Tour’ with Helms Alee and Harsh Mellow) and then this one (‘The Five Legged Tour’ with We Are The Asteroid). To wrap this one up, we have six shows left. The last date of the tour will be the 29:th of October in Los Angeles. So far so good.

You, Melvins have seemingly produced quite amount of music during the Covid isolation. First of all album “Working With God”, and acoustic multi album “Five Legged Dog” in 2021 and your newest one “Bad Mood Rising” this spring. How would you describe the weird period of your time in the band these albums were born in? Were you just more creative than usually?

Buzz: Actually, “Five Legged Dog” was a 5 or 4 -LP album. Not just an ordinary double album. During the pandemic I (King Buzzo) also put out an acoustic solo album “Gift of Sacrifice”. We also had whole bunch of plans for touring back then, but all of that was cancelled. While the pandemic was happening, we were not touring, obviously. So we did a lot of recording. Finished the “Working With God” -record and then we got to work on acoustic record (“Five Legged Dog”). Once we come into that, it is hard to stop. So we ended up doing two and half hours of music. Two full albums, acoustic rendition to Melvins -stuff.

Then we got to work on with the new record (“Bad Mood Rising”). We recorded that about a year ago, and two weeks ago that came out. Um… So far so good. Then we’re down on this tour of 108 shows, so that’s the last leg of this tour. I guess that’ll be good for us for this year. We’ll be back on the road the next year which will be our fourtieth anniversary year.

Yes, indeed. Seems like you have been working extremely hard lately. How did the production processes of these albums differ from the ones you had done before?

Buzz: A lot of those things we recorded was acoustic, so that was different. Dale recorded drums with brushes with regular drum set. That was cool. I would go home and take three or four songs per time to figure it out, how to record those as acoustic. Then I’d come back the next day and show (the arrangements of the songs) to the guys. By the time we left the rehearsal studio, we had three or four songs done in a day. That’s how we did it. So it was much different than how we would normally do. We didn’t write any new stuff then. Just reimagined the old stuff on acoustic. I think it came out great.

Did you try some new approach to those old songs as you did those as acoustic? What was the basic idea when you started figuring out the acoustic album for Melvins?

Buzz: Well, I just tried to figure and think, how to make those songs work acoustic. Not all our songs would work that great (acoustic) , so… All we could do was something but… All I wanted was that the songs would be good. And we ended up doing some covers as well, which was fun. As whole the thing is acoustic, so there’s no guitar amps used or anything like that, so… only my acoustic guitar, which is cool. So that’s all different compared how we have made our albums in the past.

Your new album “Bad Mood Rising” is now out. It sounds very sludgy album, slover than “Working With God” for example. How did the album come out the way it came, in your own opinion?

Buzz: Um… well, I had a bunch of ideas for the songs. And those ones would fit together the best as an album. You know, we aren’t afraid of doing songs that are pretty slow. The first song that came out for the record was “Mr. Dog Is Totally Right“, which I think is a great one to open the record. We’ve been playing the song live and we’ve also been playing “Never Say You’re Sorry” live too. These songs we’ve been playing live on tour (Even before the release of the album), so that’s cool. That’s something we haven’t done in the past. At least for some time, recently. Between those three or four albums. Especially between “Bad Mood Rising” and “Five Legged Dog” there’s a lot of stuff… I mean a lot of area. I think it all came out good.

You included only six songs on the album. Were there any songs that got left out of the album sessions which you did not use on the album?

Buzz: Oh, no, that was it. It was a matter of (recording) time and (vinyl length) we wanted to do. Planned it to be like that.

And it was quite an idea to open the album with a 14-minute track. How did “Mr. Dog Is Totally Right” end up being the opening track of the album?

Buzz: Well, I think it was a good way to set a tone to that whole thing. You don’t want to put that as the last song, because no one would take that seriously.

Are there some themes you write about on these recent albums, lyric-wise?

Buzz: Um… I don’t know if there’s any specific themes. I think it’s better to let people make their own judgement on that.

Your latest album, “Bad Mood Rising” has been a kind of ‘surprise album’. I guess you didn’t quite put that much effort on advertising it’s release in music medias nor releasing singles for beforehand to promote it. Why’s that kind of decision?

Buzz: Because lot of people put out records right now. Almost every band have their new record out. We were just trying to see if it really works (without advertising it). We just figured to put that out and see what happens.

What has been the most challenging album production or recording process for Melvins so far (even if the band was prepared to do the thing)?

Buzz: Um… Yeah, I don’t know. I am quite surprised how well have we have been able to produce them, actually. That’s good. Got to be hoping to a certain degree. I don’t know a lot to say (how difficult it is to produce a record), generally in the world. But generally it seems like it has been okay (for us).

I don’t think we’ve ever done anything we’ve started working for that didn’t work out, as far as I’m concerned. There has been some situations when a member quit the band or got kicked out of the band during the sessions for quite variety of reasons. That was always a bummer, obviously. But over all that has been pretty good.

You have had plenty of other band projects and spin off-projects to Melvins like Fantômas, Venomous Concept, recording projects with Jello Biafra and Tool. Redd Kross was probably the latest one. What are the most valuable things your side projects have given to you?

Buzz: Well, all collaborations I have involved I’ve done with people I already like. So, I know that I have been highly influenced by them from the beginning, but it is difficult to know, exactly. I worked with Redd Kross, as I have been their fan since the early 1980’s. So, that was great having seen them in the band (back then). And it has been great to play and to tour with them (later) and do all kinds of stuff. We’ve also been playing with Jeff Pinkus of Butthole Surfers, which has been really great. So all this is more than I could ever imagine happening when I started the band (Melvins), so that’s has been really great.

Would you be able to define the musical co-operation between you and your long-time drummer Dale Crover? What has been the magic or speciality of your team work during the decades you ‘ve been running the band and writing music together?

Buzz: Well, it all imploys with my musical vision, and that has always been good (with Dale). Beyond that, we get along pretty well. We rarely argue about the stuff. Um… We’re both two players of dice. We both kinda see the worth of things we are doing. We still want to do it and believe in it. So, it’s been good.

How have Melvins changed as a band from the very early days and what things have just stayed the same with your band ’til this day?

Buzz: Well, everything is good with my life right now, and god lizard has altered my association with music. I have been married for almost thirty years now, which is great. I would never have married my wife if I didn’t play music. So that’s good. Dale would never have met his wife (without being in a band). They have got two kids. Those are the most important things. Now counting… (We have been) accessible to a big difference, which is that we can now make our own living by playing our own music, which we could never have dreamed of when we were starting the band. That’s kinda nice… Those are the biggest things.

How about musically? Has there been some kind of development in the band from your own perspective?

Buzz: Yeah, I mean, we’re capable now…. to play a lot more stuff than we never, ever could back then… We’re better musicians now. If you look back at the coureer of our past, something what we have done, is that we’ve cut quite a variety of things. So it has been a good thing to do. And since everybody in the band is a good musician, we have had the ability to play the kind of music we all want. So that’s great.

Do you still find interesting artists, bands, music groups or arts you get influenced or inspired by?

Buzz: Recently we’ve been playing on tour with a band called We Are The Asteroid. We really like them a lot. Helms Alee is also a really good band. And I like this band called Taipei Houston, with which we’re playing with on this tour. Mr. Phylzzz is also a great band. These four bands are really, really good.

What are the most difficult or challenging songs for you, Melvins to make work live, or are there any?

Buzz: No, we can play of them. It’s just we need to re-learn some, for sure. Well I don’t know all of ’em, but I know I could do it. Some of them are really difficult. We’re doing one now called, “Mr. Dog Is Totally Right“, which is hard to play, but I can do it. We have a few difficult ones. One we have used to play in the past, “Suicide In Progress” is also hard to play… A really hard, actually.

What makes it especially hard to play?

Buzz: (It is) difficult to play on a guitar, difficult riffs. Really, really complicated and fast.

You are considered as pioneers of grunge rock and alternative rock. Even some sludge core bands mention you as their huge inspiration. Do you feel like you exactly never fit into any specific musical cathegory or genre? Has it been a concious decision for you, to be difficult to be cathegorized?

Buzz: Yes, we’ve never fit in anywhere. Um… like I said we would never fit to anywhere, anyway… From the beginning, so… Nothing new… I don’t care too much about that… Um… But yeah. You know, we wanna be different band than any other band, so that’s not hard to do. Make sure that predicates: Touch by design.

Back in the day, I saw you guys play in Helsinki at a local open air festival “Pitkä Kuuma Kesä” in 2009, which was a real kick-ass gig. Do you have any plans to get back on tour to Europe and Scandinavia in the near future?

Buzz: Yes, we’re planning to get there to play the next summer. I’m not sure about the (becoming) tour dates yet, but this is our plan for sure.

This year, American bands like Anthrax and Ministry had to cancel their European tours because of high touring expenses caused by financial inflation due to covid situation and war in Ukraine. Do you think that Melvins would face any financial challenges in touring Europe in the future?

Buzz: “Oh, yes. Sure it can be challenging. Though we don’t know yet what will the situation be next year, but so far we are ok with it (planning of the touring budget for next year).

If you want to relax, what kind of music do you listen to on your free time?

Buzz: Tom Waits, The Rolling Stones, Bad Brains, The Dicks, Bobby Jones, Buddy Holly and The Supremes.

Excellent choises. How about your greetings to Finnish Melvins fans?

Buzz: Hello and best wishes for the Finnish Melvins-fans. Cannot wait to come over there again. We’re looking forward to do it. See you soon!

Thank you Buzz for your time and for the interview!

Buzz: Thank you! Take it easy! Be good!