photo of Buzz Osbourne by Pawl Schwartz
by Pawl Schwartz
The Melvins. If you listen to metal, they are a staple like bread and rice. They are perfect at what they do, being a goofy lumbering mammoth riding the most perfect wave of sound yet mined. They realize that slow and accurate fits their gooey riffs more than fast and technical. But more than that, every single chord sounds like 100 guitars playing at once, and every drum hit slams its way home like a boulder dropped from a cliff. They made grunge happen. Nirvana never would have gotten together if Kurt Cobain hadn't tried and failed so many times to join The Melvins, and Nirvana never would have had the sound they had without Melvins' drummer Dale Crover (a god) demoing all of their songs (yeah, that's where Dave Grohl got his “hard hitting” sound). Somehow, despite half of their output being rabidly experimental, The Melvins have always had a solid following, and thirty years on, it has only grown. UR Chicago went backstage with lead singer and guitarist Buzz Osbourne at their 30th anniversary show at the Double Door.
UR Chicago: So, thirty fuckin' years.
Buzz Osbourne: Has it really only been thirty years?
UR: Hah! How do you make a band last for thirty years?
Buzzo: Kick a lot of members out that you don't like. That's about it.
UR: So, it wasn't on purpose that you lasted this long?
Buzzo: No, I mean, I don't have plans like that.
UR: Can you remember what it was like to not be in a band?
Buzzo: Well, I didn't start playing guitar 'till relatively late in life, like late teens, so, yes.
UR: What pushed you to stick with music?
Buzzo: It seemed like the easiest way to be my own boss.
UR: Do you think format matters — CD/MP3/Vinyl?
Buzzo: I don't care. I collect music, but I don't collect formats. I personally wouldn't want my entire music collection stored on computer only, but I also don't particularly care about vinyl as far as collecting goes. I appreciate the art form, but I don't buy into that digital versus analog nonsense, that's just a bunch of crap. I don't know why people buy into that at all.
UR: Do you name your guitars?
Buzzo: No. (serious face) Guitars are simply tools.
UR: What do you think you would be doing now if you weren't in a band?
Buzzo: I dunno. Managing some company? We'll see what happens when I stop being in a band.
UR: That'll be interesting...
Buzzo: Yeah, or maybe it won't be. (laughs)
UR: Do you think The Melvins represent a singular kind of sound, or do you think the sound of the band has changed over the years?
Buzzo: I'd like to think it's changed a lot over the years. I'm not interested in doing the same things over and over.
UR: I've noticed a change in the sound of the riffs, especially on the last two albums, where they are a lot more playful and almost Led Zeppelin-esque.
Buzzo: Some people like our new record. Some people don't. Some people don't like our old records.
UR: Is it more difficult to orchestrate songs with two drummers instead of one?
Buzzo: Well, you have more to work with, so that's always exciting. I don't know if it is really more difficult though. You have more options, certainly. Drummers are capable of doing whatever we can dream up.
UR: What was the best thing that happened to you over the past thirty years?
Buzzo: My wife. If I wasn't involved in the music business, I never would have met her. She wasn't a fan of our band; that's why it works.
UR: Is she still not a fan?
Buzzo: I mean, she likes us now. I think it was more that we were off her radar; she liked us after she finally heard us. She wasn't schooled in what we were doing by any means.
UR: Are you surprised by how large your influence on music has been?
Buzzo: (confused) Surprised?
UR: As in, did you ever expect to tour with bands named after your own songs like Boris, or that whole weird “grunge” thing that happened?
Buzzo: I'm glad, you know. I've always assumed that everyone should like our band, so any influence is just to be expected. Honestly, if you don't like my band, then I just have no interest in what your opinions are.
UR: Any plans for a book on the band?
Buzzo: We have one art book that we did, but as far as a kind of “history of me” book, I'm just not interested in doing that. We are doing a book about our 51-day tour that we also filmed a documentary of.
UR: When are those coming out?
Buzzo: Whenever we get them done.
UR: Do you believe in aliens?
Buzzo: I believe in illegal aliens. As far as aliens from outer space... I would say no. I don't believe that crap. Anyone who does is suspect. I mean, UFOs are just unidentified flying objects, and I've seen plenty of shit that I can't identify in the sky, so sure, I believe in those. I mean, maybe there are alien craft, like with Roswell, but people just don't want to talk about it, some kind of military secret. They tried to say Roswell was a weather balloon. Do you know what a weather balloon looks like? I mean, the guy should have been fired from his job if he thought that was what a weather balloon looked like. I don't buy it. Now whether it's from another planet or it's aliens, I just can't believe it. It's like that saying “the only way to keep a secret between three people is to make sure two of them are dead.” That's why I can't get behind most conspiracy theories. No organization can keep its shit together that well. Like how George Bush was the dumbest president ever, but somehow there are people that think he is some kind of Machiavellian genius that orchestrated 9/11. How can he be both? Actually, this is the last thing I want to say on this, because I have already started doing something I hate. I am an entertainer and I am talking about politics. No one should ever listen to entertainers talk about politics. Entertainers should stick to what they know and stop trying to have public opinions as if it matters.
UR: What does the future hold for The Melvins?
Buzzo: I don't really think about it that way. I guess that best way to put it is, I just wanna work. That's about it. To be as creative and interesting as we can while avoiding what we have already done.
UR: Is that like a band motto?
Buzzo: It's my motto.
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