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Gooey couch treatment

November 2017

Interview by David Gill

Music archaeologists believe Melvins formed in 1983—damn near 35 years ago! Music historians inform us Melvins have been a huge influence on every band you like. Music journalists recently reported, Mevlins released their 26th studio album in 2017, A Walk with Love and Death (Ipecac Records) and it was a double album! This is a completely impresseive feat of accomplishment in and of itself, but Melvins have consistently come correct and heavy for its decades-spanning career. Long-time RW collaborator David Gill interviewed the band before a gig in San Francisco this past summer. [Portions of this inteview also ran in Riff Magazine.]

RW: So I was looking at your tour schedule for the rest of the year and it is insane. How do you guys survive that?

Buzzo: Performance enhancing drugs. Just like the pros. That’s how they do it.

RW: What’s different about touring now as opposed to thirty years ago?

Crover: We don’t have to sleep in somebody’s kennel.

Crover: We actually have hot and cold water in the places that we stay.

Buzzo: We’re not sleeping in an abandoned slaughterhouse.

RW: So is that a good change or a bad change?

Buzzo: I prefer not sleeping at the slaughterhouse. I’ve done that.

RW: But that’s so punk rock!

Crover: Vans with air conditioning.

Buzzo: That’s new.

Crover: And an audience.

Buzzo: Someone gives a shit now.

RW: Well, I saw you in the 90s. I was there.

Crover: So you were one of the 10 people there.

RW: Yeah, at Lounge Ax.

Buzzo: We only played there once.

Crover: We played there after the Smithereens did an afternoon show.

RW: You came out and did a nine-volt battery solo for like five minutes.

Buzzo: That was a song called "Trouble Come Again" off the Eggnog Record.

RW: It’s weird, back then, we didn’t know what you looked like. The first appearance of The Melvins was onstage with guitars. Is that weird now that people are encountering you on the internet? Is it hard to maintain the mystery?

Crover: Not for me.

Buzzo: I don’t really try. I’m not really part of social media so… Those guys would know more about that than me.

Steve: With such a great look why have you never put your own image on your record cover?

Buzzo: We put some. I did an acoustic record and the cover is just my face.

King Buzzo This Machine Kills Artists

RW: With so much material to choose from, how do you guys figure out what you’re gonna play on a given night?

Buzzo: We draw lots.

RW: Does it change from night to night?

Buzzo: No, it does not. We figure out the set before we begin. We might make a few little changes here and there but by and large to me some songs go better together than others.

RW: Tell me a little about your vocal influences, Buzz.

Buzzo: I’m not really thinking about anybody. All I want to do is sing with a cartoony voice.

RW: Talk more about the cartoon influence.

Buzzo: Well, you know we grew up with cartoons. I like animation—short attention span. I’m not a big fan of bands that sing from the beginning of the song to the end. 'cause it makes the vocals not as special. I like the vocals, when they’re happening, to be a surprise.

RW: But there’s an element of cartoon that’s like exaggerated, overblown, and that fits with your vision of rock and roll? Does that come from Beefheart?

Buzzo: That’s a big part of it, yeah. Not so much when we started, it was more like Flipper, Black Flag, art damage type stuff. I mean, we’re really more of a performance art band live than we are a rock band.

RW: Perfect segway to my next question. We’ve heard about your rock influences, where does the experimental noise come from?

Buzzo: Throbbing Gristle, mostly. Maybe a little of SPK, Flipper.

Crover: Butthole Surfers. All the obvious ones for sure.

RW: Anything less obvious? Like Nurse with Wound?

Buzzo: I never really liked Nurse with Wound. They’re alright but it’s just really pretentious. Throbbing Gristle is a little pretentious too, but it spoke to me more. A really good record for people who don’t know Throbbing Gristle is "The Taste of Throbbing Gristle", a compilation they put out. If you don’t like that, you don’t like them. Steven plays in Redd Kross and they’re much more like a rock band…

Steve: Although, on the noise tip, we covered we covered Teenage Jesus and the Jerks in 1981 for what that’s worth.

Buzzo: But you know what I mean, you’re more rock oriented.

Crover: But then they’re not afraid of noise either.

Steve: But that’s what we have in common too.

Buzzo: But that’s what attracted me to you guys [Redd Kross] in the first place. Was that whole [experimental] thing. A combination of like Kiss, Butthole Surfers, Bowie, Blue Cheer, The Dolls.

Steve: We tried to be like—

Buzzo: The Partridge Family,

Steve: —not self-conscious, but not embarrassing rock band. Unapologetically not embarrassing.

Red Kross
Red Kross

Buzzo: But you were heavily ironic without it being weird.

Steve: So ironic, I didn’t even know.

RW: What does Kevin bring to the current lineup?

Buzzo: He’s a good player. I like his sensibilities. What I mean is that a band like Poison, they don’t get it.

RW: What don’t they get?

Buzzo: They’re just stupid. That’s the best way to put it.

Steve: I tell the story of when Redd Kross played with Poison once. People said, “You guys are into the Dolls? You gotta check out this new band in town, Poison. You’ll love ‘em.” So we played with them and when I watched them I was mortified to think that anybody would put us in the same category with them.

Buzzo: Exactly.

Steve: It’s hard to understand how someone else might perceive you.

Buzzo: Well, I’m just saying the way I saw it.

Steve: I think you saw it the way we intended it.

RW: What’s different about making records now?

Buzzo: Everything changes. But I’m not afraid of it, that’s for sure. I was never really concerned about what people thought of our records. I just wanted to make records that I liked. And I’m still doing that, so that hasn’t changed.

RW: When you look at the trajectory of your music, do you see a trend or way that it has developed? Has it evolved for you?

Buzzo: Yeah, I’d like to think. It’s tough to not retread some of the same territory. I mean someone like Neil Young or Bob Dylan sound like them no matter what they do. It’s difficult to get out of that.

RW: The music got more sophisticated.

Buzzo: I’d like to think so. Well the Ozma record, we got pretty crazy with it pretty quickly.

RW: To talk a little about The Treasure of Sierra Madre, that movie has some pretty interesting themes about success and money can do to people.

Buzzo: Not a happy ending.

RW: Do you think that’s an accurate portrayal of what success and money can do to people? Is that one of the things that appeals to you about the movie?

Buzzo: What appeals to me about that movie is the storyline and how it’s directed and how it’s acted. I don’t think the story itself is that weird. It’s not the weirdest, craziest story I’ve ever seen or anything like that, but the way they put the movie together I thought it was really cool. I just think it’s really good. There’s not a single scene in that movie that doesn’t need to be there.

RW: So, it’s not that it’s an anti-capitalist screed or anything.

Buzzo: I didn’t get that out of it.

RW: I don’t mean to say anti-capitalist, though that is how I feel in my own personal views.

Buzzo: That’s the spirit.

RW: But it does seem to be a really negative depiction of the effects of success, and since you’ve been close to success if you’ve seen any of that in real life.

Buzzo: I can take a quote from the movie where he says, “It might be good to not put things strictly on a money basis.” If that’s how we’re looking at things then who among us is successful?

RW: And the idea that you need to stay behind and repair any damage you do to the mountain.

Buzzo: You have to remember, the prospector was broke when he started.

RW: And they cooperated, collaborated in a way they weren’t able to when they got successful.

Buzzo: Well, he tells it exactly how it’s going to happen. The prospector explains from the very beginning exactly what will happen and that is exactly what happens. Not to him, but it happens. Although he did agree to shoot the guy who showed up.

RW: Yeah, they were all gonna shoot him at the same time so they would all be guilty of the murder.

Buzzo: It’s a really good movie. I never tire of it. John Huston was a genius, when you take that he made that movie and then you look at everything else he made; everything from Wiseblood to Annie to Reflections in a Golden Eye and A Walk with Love and Death, our new album. He made a movie called that too, so...

RW: Tell me a little about the soundtrack aspect of the movie; is there a film that’s done for that right now?

Buzzo: It’s getting made now.

RW: Will it have a theatrical release? Arthouses?

Buzzo: Well there’s no reason to get reckless, is there? We don’t need to go that far.

RW: So this is something you’re doing in conjunction with a director?

Buzzo: We’re working with a guy named Jesse Neiman from Atlanta, so, we’ll see what happens. We’re big fans of Holy Mountain, and David Lynch and Forbidden Planet.

RW: Those are good ones, yeah.

Buzzo: They’re weird.

RW: What’s the appeal of the weird for you?

Buzzo: What do you mean?

RW: I mean, why does that speak to you? Obviously, it doesn’t speak to everybody or it wouldn’t be weird.

Buzzo: I’m a weird guy. We all like all kinds of things John Waters, lots of things we can laugh at. We all have good senses of humor. If you look at a movie list from a fundamental Christian it’ll be different. It won’t be as weird.

RW: Does weird critique the world in a way that’s more satisfying to you?

Buzzo: I have no idea what the world wants; I only know is what I like. And generally my tastes tend to be weirder than what the general public likes. And then, once in awhile my tastes add right along with what the general public likes. I don’t know why. I have no idea, but I’m not trying to be perverse. I’m not just doing it to be weird.

RW: Did you ever foresee when you started this that you’d have this long of a career?

Buzzo: I didn’t have plans like that.

RW: What are your plans now?

Buzzo: We’ll start off by getting through this interview. No, we have a new album, another album done, being mixed, and it’s a lot different from the one we just did.

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