Mark Prindle Buzz Interview
- by Mark Prindle
Buzz Osborne/King Buzzo is the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter/mastermind behind The Melvins, one of the most independent-minded bands you’re going to meet on this fine Highway of Life. They do WHAT they want WHEN they want – if it happens to be heavy guitar metal/punk craziness, their larger fan base is happy. If it DOESN’T, their smaller fan base (including me) is still happy. But one thing has always been clear – they make music for THEMSELVES. If you like it, well that’s a nice bonus.
Buzz also plays in The Fantomas with Mike Patton and Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, but I forgot to ask him about the Fantomas so you can go ahead and forget about that, I suppose.
After much persuading on the part of a third party, I was given the go-ahead to call Mr. Osbourne on the set of his popular reality sitcom and set up a time for an interview.
Some woman, perhaps Buzz’s wife: Hello?
Could I speak to Buzz please?
Hang on. BUUUUUUZZZ!!!!!!!
(indecipherable voices and footsteps in the background for about 15 seconds)
Unidentified male voice: Thank you for holding. Your call is very important to us.
(more voices and footsteps of all volumes)
What are you doing? How big is your house anyway?
Buzz (from here on out): Yeah!
Oh hey, this is uh… I was told to call you about setting up an interview?
Oh! Okay. Who is this?
It was through Ipecac. Ippy-kak. Somebody –
What were you saying?
Rai Sandow. Ray? Rye Sandow?
Oh! Yeah! Yeah. Where are you right now?
I’m in New York.
Oh cool! Okay, so you wanna do an interview?
Yeah! Whenever you’re available.
How about right now?
Ummm… you have time right now?
Right now is really good actually.
Oh! Okay. Sure! I don’t have any questions though.
That’s okay – I don’t have any answers!
Fantastic! Okay, let’s do it then.
Do you go by King Buzzo or –
Uhhm. Sure, I guess?
Okay! Hey, the guy who set this up for me at California Pop wanted me to get some dirt – some juicy stories….
What does he mean by that?
Oh you know, crazy stories about being on the road and -
Oh! You mean like stories about me screwing groupies and stuff like that?
Yeah! Now you’re talking!
But all that’s already been told. Nobody cares about that stuff.
Oh okay. Then can you make something up?
Sure! How about I murdered somebody?
Yeah! That’s great! Keep going!
Yeah, I murdered this guy! It was really funny! But then again, what murder ISN’T funny?
Wow! This is great stuff!
It was a gambling debt thing! I buried his body in the desert. Yeah! I chopped his fucking head off and buried him out in the desert! Somewhere between here and Victorville.
Now we call it “Victimsville”!
Hey! That was good!
Yeah! Thanks! How’s that for dirt? It doesn’t get any dirtier than murder!
Well, it COULD. I mean, if you like anally rape him before you kill him.
Well that’s true. Or if he dies BECAUSE you anally raped him!
Aw NOW you’re talkin’ my language! So let me tell you where I’m coming from in terms of – I’ve been a fan since Bullhead came out.
Oh great! So you’ve been with us for a long time!
Yeah! And I have all your albums –
Are you sure? We’ve made a lot of records.
Well, I actually – the only I don’t have is the Your Choice Live Series one.
Oh, I don’t think you need that one.
But it’s the only one I don’t have.
Okay, you don’t have it but do you really need it? Nah. I mean, we might end up re- releasing it soon anyway. It was done right around the time of – after we had recorded Bullhead but before it came out. It was recorded in Europe under adverse circumstances.
What adverse conditions? Was this when Lori -
We just didn’t want to do the record! I mean, this guy asked us if we’d let him release a live album and we said we wouldn’t do it unless he came up with a certain amount of money. I think it was like two grand, which was an outlandish amount for us at that time. So anyway, we’re in Europe and he shows up at the show. This is dirt! This is good!
I’m all ears!
So he shows up with money and I’m like ‘Oh shit, I forgot about this.’ I didn’t actually think he’d give us 2 grand. I guess I should have said 50,000! Anyway, so we did it and it’s kinda weird. It’s okay.
Oh. Just okay?
Yeah, I mean it’s fine. It’s not gonna make pelvises move or anything.
But I mean, it’s good if you like…. good.
If you’re into good, it’s good.
No really, it’s fine….. IT RULES!
Oh wow! So it’s awesome? Great, I’ll pick it up soon!
Yeah, it’s really uh… it’s really great!
So what I wanted to ask you about I guess was – what’s the deal with these CDs where it just seems like you’re trying to screw me?
Like the hour of noise? (Colossus of Destiny)
I love that record. I think it’s a great record.
Seriously? It was considered to be, I mean – it just sounds like an hour of noise to me.
Was that considered to be…? Absolutely! We put out records that we would like as fans! To me it’s like, if people don’t like that record, then they obviously don’t fully understand what is it that we’re doing. It’s a good CD.
Okay! Well, I just wasn’t sure if -
I’ve never put out a record I thought was screwing somebody over. I mean, what are you listening to in the world of music that is so great and amazing that you’re gonna come back and criticize that record?
Ummm…. all your other records?
Oh. Well, in the grand scheme of things, when you take all the Melvins albums that came out, it’s not like anything we’ve ever done. And it’s very much – it’s not just random noise. When you sit down and listen to the record, tthere’s a meter and flow to it, it very much works out. If people have a problem with it, they’re letting their inability to comprehend what we’re doing impact their feelings for it.
I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t mean to offend you. I just didn’t realize there was more to it than what I heard. I mean, I still own it. I’ll listen to it again keeping in mind that you really like it, and I’ll see -
Yeah, it’s a great record. Give it another listen.
And I’m not like down on all your experimental stuff – I know a lot of people trash Prick, but I like that album!
Yeah, there’s another one. People call that a noise record! And I’m just like I don’t know what you people are listening to, but that is a very planned out record. That is NOT a noise record. There are a lot of different things going on on there –
Yeah, it’s really diverse and funny. That’s why I like it. The only other one I have any trouble with is the singles one (Singles 1-12) just because there’s some live stuff that I can’t hear very well.
Yeah, some of that live stuff is a little rough. But I mean, if you decide to do 12 singles in one year, what’re you gonna do? AmRep made the offer and we were like, “Let’s go!” The singles thing – when they put them all on two CDs like that - that is one of my favorite things that we’ve done.
Oh yeah! It has everything I like about our band on those records.
Well, it has all kinds of different stuff too. The girl yelling, the Germs cover -
Exactly - you don’t know what’s coming next.
That’s actually the reason that I love Honky so much – and that’s an album that NOBODY ever talks about.
Oh yeah, that is definitely our most underrated record.
Why is that? Did nobody know about it because it was on AmRep or something?
I don’t know why! I mean, you make a record, you listen to it at the studio, you listen to it for a few weeks, then you walk away from it.
Sure, I understand that. But it’s a really good album!
I was satisfied! If I listen to it today, would I still be satisfied? I don’t know.
I think you would. There’s a ton of good songs on there. It’s got a really neat atmosphere to it too.
Well, I don’t know! I mean, I listen to things later, and people change over the years. We made that record in 6 days, we said regardless of what we had after six days, we’d put it out as a record, and that’s what we did. But you’re right, people don’t talk about that record. Why? I don’t know. John Huston said it best, when he was asked why people didn’t go see the movie Wiseblood. He said, “I don’t know!” If I start thinking about it and say to myself, “What would the public be able to handle?” -
It probably wouldn’t be much!
I don’t know and I don’t care! I know that they put up with a whole lotta shit that’s played on the radio and MTV, so if people don’t like what we’re doing, that’s not my problem. That’s not my job to worry about that! It’s my job to make it interesting. If people can’t appreciate it, they are morons in my world, you know?
Well, you’re NOT going to have hits doing what you want to do. Because most people who buy CDs aren’t looking for weird new ideas – they just listen to music in their cars or whatever, and they want something they can identify with.
It’s like you think Prick is a good record, and other people don’t. Oh well! So much shit comes out every day that if people have problems with our stuff, there’s something going on that I can’t comprehend.
I agree with you! My favorite is actually – and I hope this doesn’t make me look like I’m living in the past, but if I had to pick one absolute favorite Melvins record, it would be Gluey Porch Treatments?
Yeah! Because it’s like – you listen to that and it’s just absolutely – there’s no precedent for it at all! Is there? I mean, it’s like you invented an entirely new – not grunge, but an entirely new genre. It’s just such a bizarre form of music you’re playing on there.
Yeah! That’s a weird one.
How did you come up with that sound? What was going on in that point in time that would result in you creating that kind of music?
Well, at the time, we were listening to a lot of Swans, Gang of Four’s “Solid Gold” album which has remained a favorite, umm…Public Image Limited’s “Flowers of Romance” - that was another big positive influence for us. Uhh… Meat Puppets II. Not as much Sabbath as people would imagine at that point; we were actually much more into Black Flag than Black Sabbath at that period in time. We liked them, but….
Yeah, but none of that music sounds at all like Gluey Porch Treatments. I mean, for the first five minutes of that record, you can’t even tell what speed it’s supposed to be on!
Yeah, that first song’s pretty slow. But you have to think of that album in terms of the place and time it was created. It was recorded at the end of 1986, which was the height of –
Oh! Hardcore punk.
SKINHEAD hardcore. And we didn’t like it at all. We didn’t like their whole attitude - towards us especially! So we wanted to do something that made us totally opposite to what they were doing. Which were the kinds of things that made us happy! Bands like Venom. We were really into Venom and Flipper and the Swans. Stuff like that. And some Sabbath too, I guess. Though I think I was listening to the Dio stuff at that time. Probably Heaven and Hell more than any of them.
(sings in high Dio voice): Sing me a song! You’re a sing-ahhh!
That’s not a very good lyric at all. I actually own every single Black Sabbath album for some reason. I’m not sure why – I definitely don’t like all of them!
I don’t like all of ‘em either, but I mean Paranoid is great! Is it as good as Dark Side of the Moon? No! But do I like it when I listen to it? Sure! It’s rock music! Ultimately it’s not going to be all that brilliant or challenging.
You guys definitely don’t stick to one of kind of rock though. I mean, you put out a lot of heavy records but -
I challenge anybody to put out sixteen different albums and remain interesting and unpredictable. And I believe that we’ve done that.
Absolutely. Every time you guys put out a new album, I have no idea what it’s going to sound like. I mean, for Christ’s sake, the trilogy you did a few years ago (The Crybaby, The Bootlicker and The Maggot) – Those CDs all came out in the same year, yet they sound like they were recorded by three different bands!
Colossus of Destiny was actually supposed to be the third album. But then we came up with the guest star idea so we put that one aside for a while and released it as an extra album. It’s actually the fourth album of the…uhhm… trilogy.
I remember when those were coming out, everybody was trying to figure out the overriding theme of the trilogy. Was there one?
Yeah, the theme was to do four albums that sounded completely different from each other and put them out over a year’s time! And figure out how to make it all make sense.
Did you tour that year too?
Yeah! Well, we got all that stuff done before we went on the road. We actually recorded The Maggot and The Bootlicker at the same time, in the same studio. You wouldn’t know it though. Those albums were all very planned out.
I should also mention that right around the time I became a Melvins fan, I became a REALLY big Cows fan.
So when Kevin joined the Melvins, I was like “Oh no! Does that mean the Cows are breaking up?,” but now the singer has his own band and Kevin’s brought his sound to the Melvins and everything’s fine!
The Cows would’ve broken up either way. They actually continued playing together for a while after he joined the Melvins. I wouldn’t have broken up the band – I wouldn’t have allowed that to happen.
I loved that album you produced for them, by the way.
Yeah, that was a great experience! I loved producing the Cows. But they’re finished.
Why did they break up? Do you know?
Yeah, the guitar player quit. That’s why they broke up. I even offered to play guitar to keep them together, but it didn’t happen. I was obviously a big fan of the cows. How could you not be? I don’t know any band that are like The Cows! So Kevin was too golden an opportunity to pass up bass player wise.
Why did (former Melvins bassist) Mark Deutrom leave?
He didn’t leave. I kicked him out of the band.
Oh! Why? What did he do?
I didn’t like playing with him anymore.
Is there dirt? I like dirt!
It’s a long-winded story. Basically, over time I got to be more into the idea that he was wanting one thing and I was wanting another. We finished the last tour and I thought, ‘I don’t wanna do this anymore.’ Then I realized no, I didn’t want to do it any more with HIM. That was it.
Why? Was he a jerk or something?
Why – I just don’t feel like – I mean, we were doing fine before him and after him. I just never thought especially towards the end, that he wanted the same things that I wanted for the band. I’m not prepared to do a demo for a major label. We never did before. I’ve never fished for that ever. I’d be happy to send them some of our previous work, and they’re welcome to come see our show, but I’m not gonna make a demo for any label – if that’s what they want me to do, they can politely shove their heads up their ass. Is that why I’ve been making albums every year for the last 16 years? So I can come meet with a major label and pass their audition? FUCK. YOU.! I‘m not putting myself in a position where they can tell me what’s wrong with my music. NO FUCKING WAY. If they wanted to do that, I can’t tell you how much money they’d have to offer. It would have to be like, “Here’s a one with an infinite amount of zeros so I can tell you what’s wrong you’re your music.” And bands who do that get exactly what they deserve. If you want to do that, my hats off to you. I’m not doing it.
So his whole goal was just to make big hit records at any cost?
At that point in our career, Mark was very much interested in doing that. After we got dropped from Atlantic, which I KNEW was going to happen because they didn’t know what they were getting into when they signed with us. And we were honest with them. “We’re not gonna be writing gritty pop tunes, I hope you understand.” But then they signed an awful lot of bands at that time without really knowing much about them, so we went ahead and did it. It was a great contract and we made three albums we really liked. For me, it was business as usual when we got dropped. You know, just find another label and keep going. But Mark was trying to set up all these meetings with labels. If you think I’m willing to hand over my music to a 23-year-old A&R guy so he can tell me what’s wrong with it – I’m sorry, but that’s just not going to happen. If they want to sign our band, I’m not like Howard Hughes – they can easily come and find me! But so far, they haven’t and that’s fine! Major labels don’t care about quality.
Well, of course not. These are just people who – this is their job. They’re trying to make a living. Well, on one end they’re trying to make a living – then there are the people on the other end who are already rich and just want to get richer. But you can’t make a living putting out music that people aren’t going to understand. It won’t move units!
And that’s fine. But I’m not willing to put myself in the position where I have to prove myself to them. I would certainly take their money though! How could you not? For our first record, Atlantic gave us 100 grand and 100% artistic control. They just said, “You do what you want – here’s money.” And we had to record the album with that but I mean – that wasn’t all that difficult! Under those circumstances, working with a major label was basically a cakewalk. Every band should have that kind of luck. Unfortunately, most bands are only interested in being superstars. They want to sell out at any cost because they want to be big stars. And I’ve never seen even one example of somebody who did that and didn’t end up compromising themselves for fame.
Even – I mean, do you think that Kurt Cobain did it to become a big star?
What do you think?
I think he probably did do it so he could make money and be a big star.
I think you’re probably right. And I think it was in the cards that that was going to happen. They pushed the Nirvana album the same way they sold the Stone Pimple Toilets one. And if someone wants to take offense to that, I could care less. Because I know that’s how it works. And believe me, I know very little about the music business! I don’t play those types of games. Let me try to make this clearer – I have no problem with making money or selling records. I’m just not interested in having to give blowjobs to do it.
The thing is – there were some songs on your Atlantic Records that sounded like they could have been hits.
Well, if you play anything in heavy rotation for a year or six months on MTV, it’s gonna sell. Why is popular music popular? Because it’s familiar! Not because it’s GOOD. It’s not good BECAUSE it sells a lot of records. People seem to have a problem understanding that.
Well there was a time when a lot of popular music WAS good – I just don’t think it’s happened since the late ‘60s or early ‘70s.
I don’t know. I couldn’t really rate any era of music. There are always gonna be bands that sneak through that I can agree with the moronic public about for once.
Are there any popular bands right now that you think are really good? Well, I guess you like Tool, since you’ve played with them.
Tool are very popular, but it’s hard to explain – they’ve somehow managed to do things on their own terms. That’s a hard one to figure out. They don’t really write singles, but they do really well. For all intents and purposes, what happens to most bands on major labels didn’t really happen to them. And good for them! I like those guys a lot. Certainly the guitar player is one of my closest friends. We’re friends well beyond a musical level. Which is probably why we’re friends! Because we talk about other things, instead of this music shit.
That sounds just like something I read the other day about Johnny Ramone. It was an interview in like ’95 or ’96 and these two girls were making fun of him for having Eddie Vedder sing with the Ramones in concert, and he just said, “Look, I know it’s two different types of music, but I really like Eddie as a person. He’s my best friend right now. He’s a great guy, and I’d like it if you’d stop saying bad things about him.”
There you go! But then Johnny Ramone has always seemed like the kind of guy who doesn’t give a shit about anything. But then again, Johnny – The Ramones are the perfect example of a band that I wouldn’t want to be, playing the same type of music over and over and over. Do I like the Ramones? Yes I do. But would I want to emulate that? No.
Well, I don’t think anybody should necessarily emulate them, but about a million bands have!
Yeah, but that’ll always happen.
Have any bands copied the Melvins’ sound?
What do you think?
I don’t know! Who would have?
I’m not going to say any names. I think people can figure it out for themselves.
Okay. (note: after the call, I realized that he was probably talking about Nirvana. Or Soundgarden. Or Kyuss. Or Queens of the Stone Age. Etc etc etc.)
I won’t answer that.
That’s fine! I’ll just take the question out.
No, I want that to be my answer! That I won’t answer that! It would make me look bad to name names, and I think people can figure out for themselves whether other bands are trying to sound like us or not.
Okay. Well, on a more important topic, a bunch of people wanted me to ask you about your hair. I personally don’t have any questions about your hair, but they wanted me to ask you so I’m asking!
I don’t know…. Is it still big?
Yeah! I get it cut and it just grows back out again!
Yeah! Isn’t it funny how that works? I’m actually kinda looking forward to male pattern baldness.
I’ve got it! I don’t care much though. I’m 29. So it’s okay.
Oh, are you an ageist?
No! I just mean that back in college when I was worried I was losing my hair, my real fear was that I would be bald and ugly and alone for the rest of my life. But now I’m 29 and married so who gives a crap if I go bald?
Exactly! She’s not gonna care if you lose your hair. And if she DID, she’s not the kind of person I would want to be married to anyway.
Are you married?
I’ve been married for nine years!
Wow! That’s great! Is that your wife screaming on that one song (“Theresa Screams”)?
Which song? Oh! No, that’s one of her friends screaming. My wife does all our artwork.
Oh that’s right. I knew that!
Hey, I actually only have about five more minutes, so if there’s anything you REALLY want to ask, go ahead now so we don’t run out of time.
Okay. Well, for one thing, I’d love to know why Joe Preston isn’t in the band anymore. Because judging from his solo album, he was perfect for the band. It was so aggressive and heavy – challenging….
Joe Preston was difficult to get along with. I didn’t like his work ethic. He was only in the band for about a year before I realized that he wasn’t what I was looking for. So I fired him – I don’t have time to play games.
I know you’re not in this situation right now, but if, I mean just hypothetically, what if all the cool labels went out of business and the only way to continue making a living with music would have to involve submitting a demo to a major label -
Then I’d figure something else out. I don’t think that that will ever be an issue. We’re in a very good position right now.
Could you retire now if you wanted to?
Oh no way! We’re not millionaires by any means. We’re thousandaires! Not even a lot of thousands. I can’t take a year off, no fuckin way. And I don’t wanna take a year off! I don’t understand why people, when they make a lot of money, stop putting out records. What do they do, sit around and count change? They get to the point in their lives when they shouldn’t worry about anything, yet they make music that’s dumbed down so it will sell. I mean, who’s putting a gun to your head? I have heard so much out and out musical shit that comes out when people make a lot of money.
Okay – just one more question and then I’ll let you go. Are there any bands from the past five years or so that you’d really like to help promote to the people reading this?
Well, I don’t know if they need the promotion, but the most impressive band I’ve heard in a long time is the Latin Playboys.
Oh yeah. Their album “Dose” is genius. They only have two albums, but I really hope they put out another one. Both their albums are good, but when Dose came out, I listened to it and just thought, “My god, this is everything I love about music. It’s inventive, smart, well-executed, well-played, well-recorded. Everything!! Hearing new stuff like that is the type of thing that keeps me going. But it didn’t sell very well and that’s unfortunate. It’s one of the best albums I’ve ever heard in every way.
Are you serious? I’ve never even heard them! Who are they?
It’s two of the guys from Los Lobos and 2 other guys. They’re fucking awesome. They have this song called “Lemon And Ice” that’s the best fucking song ever. It does it for me every time I hear it. In the opening track, they’ve taken their music and done something with it that’s like, “My god – this is why I make music – this kind of attitude.”
Is it Latin music?
It’s not the type of music, it’s their heart. I mean, it’s not about the fact that I think they have really rockin tunes. It’s more their musical purity and genius that I think is underappreciated and that’s a travesty. I really can’t say enough about of these guys. I was floored the first time I heard them.
Do they sound like Los Lobos?
Like a twisted version of Los Lobos. They’ve taken the Latin thing and twisted and mutated it – it is unbelievable. Absolutely stellar – Dose is in my top 10 favorite albums of all time, if not Top 5. They’ve taken everything I like in music into account and made it make sense. I hope that my own music comes close, but I’m honestly too close to it to to appreciate it the same way that I can appreciate the Latin Playboys.. Far be it for me to sit around listening to my own stuff. And you should never trust anyone who does.
I rest my case!
Okay, thanks so much for your time!
Return to Melvins Articles 2002