INTERVIEW: The Melvins - Rochester City Newspaper

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INTERVIEW: The Melvins
The Melvins do not hold back
By Saby Reyes-Kulkarni on Aug. 6th, 2008


As forerunners of the slow, primal guitar style that eventually spread through heavy music like wildfire, legendary trio the Melvins managed to outlast many of the bands it influenced. The band's continued relevance can be attributed to its insistence on experimenting with its sound, often resulting in avant-garde noise. On the heels of its 25th album (depending how you count), the expatriate Seattle group comes to Rochester transformed into a double-drummer quartet, with the addition of the founding members of Seattle duo Big Business (now a three-piece that also opens the show). As City discovered over two recent chats, bandleader King Buzzo (nee Buzz Osborne) does not hold back, waxing polemic on a number of topics and freely naming names as he skewers his musician peers. An edited transcript of the interview follows.

City: When did the band first start to have an experimental streak?

King Buzzo: I'd say almost from day one. I was never afraid of experimenting. I was into bands that were doing all kinds of wacky stuff. The problem I've always had, especially with the avant-garde, is that they have more rules than anybody else. I've always thought we had really good taste, and that people should like our music.

But you also never expected to sell a lot.

I never expected it, but should it happen? Yes. Will it happen? No. We signed to Atlantic Records for three records, but that was a long time ago. I never thought it would work from record one, but we were like, "Sure, we'll do it; why not? Their money's just as green as anybody else's. We'll take this weird ride."

And they didn't really interfere?

They didn't interfere at all. That's not the horror story one would expect from signing to a major label.

The people that say that kind of stuff happens are wrong. They signed up for it, they're the ones who took the money. You got screwed by a label? Waaaaah. If I was working at a record label with one of those bands, I'd shelve ‘em too. I wouldn't want those f**kin' pussy-ass bullshit bands giving me shit. I'd f**k ‘em over as much as I could, because they're a bunch of dicks. How could you not screw over the Stone Temple Pilots? What band do you know of that got shafted by a label that you don't think deserved it?

Kim Thayil from Soundgarden once said that without the Melvins, Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Alice In Chains would've all sounded very different.

That's very nice of him.

But you once said that if Chris Cornell, Kurt Cobain, and Layne Staley had all looked like Fat Albert, their bands wouldn't have sold any records.

That's true.

How much friendly ribbing was involved in that comment?

None whatsoever.

How much do you think those bands lacked sincerity or integrity?

I'm sure they meant everything they were doing. But if Kurt Cobain had been a 500-pound black guy, they wouldn't have sold as many records. That's the truth. There's no way around it. They were selling an image. That's where most of their record sales came from - that wounded-junkie look. Am I wrong?

Well, in a way you're complimenting them. It's like you're saying that if the music itself was challenging, it wouldn't have caught on with people.

No, it wouldn't have. Think about it - I don't watch TV, but I'm aware of this: there's a thing called "American Idol" where they literally make people into stars. It's bullshit! It's always been bullshit. If you don't play Nirvana on MTV and the radio, they're not going to sell any records. That's just how it works. And how did they get on the air and on posters?

In a recent European TV interview, you said: "I know what rock and roll is about: a bunch of greedy, drug-taking monsters. And I don't want to listen to them when it comes to political stuff. I like to reach higher myself." What do you reach to?

I'm not talking about politics. I won't say one word. The truth in that department will not set me free. I'm around people that relate politics and music very well and are comfortable with that. I'm not.

But the band did two albums with Jello Biafra.

My interest in Biafra, aside from liking his music, was his battles with the [Parents Music Resource Center], which I think helped all of us. I think the music industry in general owes him a huge debt. But I don't relate at all to his politics. I believe in personal freedom, personal responsibility. And nobody tells you what to do more than the left wing. They're a bunch of fascists.

You once described Ozzfest as "emotionally draining," and Sharon Osbourne as a "money-grubbing hag." There's a great story about how they actually tried selling t-shirts to the band at the end of the tour.

Yeah, at half-price. We did it solely because of Tool. Their quote was that they wanted to have at least one band on the bill that they could like. I thought the whole thing was stupid. Most of the bands were horrible. We played with Motorhead, but even that was questionable. Lemmy's kind of a grumpy old bastard who has continued to write the exact same songs for how long now? I like a lot of that stuff, but he's massively out of touch. And I mean massively.


The Melvins

  • Water Street Music Hall, 204 N Water St
  • Friday, August 8
  • 8 p.m. | $15-$18 | 232-1900, waterstreetmusic.com