One of modern music’s most efficacious bands, the Melvins have been perfecting their unique brand of unconventional heavy music for nearly three decades. Led by founder and frontman Buzz Osborne, the group remains an absurdly influential force on countless bands and genres across the board.

With a new album, split, and box set already released this year, the band has kept busy and shows no signs of slowing down. Prior to the kickoff of their upcoming US tour, Osborne took some time out to speak on The Bride Screamed Murder, the band’s Billboard debut, and what the future holds for the Melvins and music as a whole.

20091204191254_13680_large_top-10-buzz-osborne

So The Bride Screamed Murder was released in June…

Yes, it was!

It was! And it saw the band’s first appearance on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Do accolades like that have any sort of relevance to you guys at this point?

I think it shows you exactly how down the scale the music business has come. I mean, it doesn’t take much to break the Billboard charts, you know?

That’s true. I read that an auto-tuned version of the news was somehow #89 last week.

Oh yeah, well there you go. You know, I never really worried too much about that stuff. It’s a good thing that didn’t make much of a difference to me because I would have quit a long time ago if that was the case.

In your opinion, where does this album rank among your entire discography?

I have no idea. I always say that I couldn’t pick one record, but I could pick five out of all of ours probably. And that’s hard, even then.

If I had to pick today, I would put it in our top five; I think it’s one of our best records. But I would also pick Colossus of Destiny, Stag, Nude With Boots, and Bullhead as well. That’s what I’d pick today; that doesn’t mean that wouldn’t change like fifteen minutes from now.

I have a hard time listening to my own music, believe it or not. I’m a little close to it. Anyone who sits around listening to their own music, getting off on it, it’s a little weird. It’s like watching yourself in a movie or something. “You know, I really am good, don’t you think? But that’s enough about me, let’s hear you talk about me.” You know, that type of thing.

I’m the wrong type of person to ask about that kind of stuff. I know what I think, but I’m also hypercritical, and I hear it with warts and all. Rarely do I ever agree when people say, “This is my favorite song!” I also think that yeah, that’s a good one, but I would’ve picked this one. With my own stuff, I hear it differently than everyone else does.

Personally, I have to say that I think it’s the best of your records with the Big Business lineup. And in terms of that, has the writing process changed since Jared and Coady joined the band?

Well, what happens usually with the vast majority of the stuff is that I have a kernel of an idea that I want to do, and we elaborate on it from there. I’m very much an accidentalist in that department, and I like to self-edit as I go along.

A lot of times I’ll think I have a really good idea, and a lot of times, it is a good idea. But then in midstream, I realize it’s not quite as good as this idea I just though of, so then we’ll change things. Or they’ll come up with something that I like, and the old idea will evaporate and turn into something new.

The creative process is always weird; it has to come from somewhere. “Happy Birthday” is, generally speaking, an acapella song, but if you take “Happy Birthday” and add an orchestra to it, that doesn’t mean that you wrote the song. [LAUGHS] You added things to something that was already there!

So we’re always adding things to something that’s already there, constantly.

Melvins - The Bride Screamed Murder

As with all of your releases, it’s hard to determine whether the songs were created spur of the moment or were more carefully calculated.

More carefully calculated–even the stupid stuff is carefully calculated pretty much.

We play weird rock music. That’s what we do, and that’s what I want to do! It’s like Captain Beefheart-style heavy metal. I don’t think people should expect us to be a normal band. Hopefully our fans don’t expect that. They certainly don’t seem to, but pretty much with us, anything goes.

Everything seemed perfectly executed. I love the military call and response. It’s such an interesting way to start an album. Where’d that idea stem from?

I had that idea for a long time. I wanted to do something like that, some kind of cadence thing. I did a bunch of research into cadences, and I realized how exciting they are and what a strange thing they are. Then when I did a little more research, I realized that nobody had ever really done anything like that in a rock band. I think that most people would be too afraid of it, with the association with the military, but if you take out all the military stuff, like the airborne or marine corps type of stuff, which I didn’t think was appropriate having never been in the military, it might be a little weird for me doing those kind of things.

If you take out the bragging part of it, as far as what outfit they’re in, it’s highly musical stuff. I was really impressed with how good the drill instructors are with coming up with things to keep the guys motivated. The closest I can come to where it comes from is it sounds, to me, like slave songs mixed with spiritual songs, a lot of it. That’s what I would say. It’s all very church-oriented sounding to me. It has that vibe.

I’ve listened to literally hundreds and hundreds of them, and the drill instructors are really, really amazing at it. And I don’t know this, but what I’ve been told is that to be a drill instructor in the military is a very high, prestigious job because it’s very difficult to do. You have to be able to do those kinds of things and keep everybody going, and I was just really impressed by it.

It was an area of music that certainly we’ve never done, and I don’t think anyone else has like that. So I went through and picked out a bunch of the stuff I liked, and we strung it all together into our own little thing, and added a bunch of drum corps-type drumming, which our drummers are really good at, but I wanted it in the context of a heavy metal song, you know? So “the heavy metal drum corps military cadence song.” [LAUGHS] And it works! It came out so good!

I was like, this has to be the first song on the record. I thought that we had to do that, because that song, to me, is the strongest musical statement on the record. Even though it’s weird and it’s not normal, I thought it came out really beautiful and really cool, and I thought that it has to set the mood right away. People need to hear this–it’s brand new.

So anyway, to make a short answer even longer…[LAUGHS]

Melvins
Photo by: Mackie Osborne

The cover of “My Generation” is great. How was that song chosen for inclusion?

I’ve always been a huge Who fan since I was 12, always. I never lost track of how amazing that band was. Doing Who covers is really difficult actually. Not a lot of bands do covers of them. If you listen to The Kids Are Alright Soundtrack from their movie, they do a version of “My Generation” that’s similar to that, somewhat. They do an odd cover of “My Generation.” We changed it up a little bit, but that was what our big inspiration was.

I’m always trying to think of really stupid covers to do. I think it’s a good idea. I love playing cover songs. We’ve always played cover songs as long as we were a band. We’ve always done strange covers and tried to do odd songs, not necessarily odd versions of songs, but odd songs that nobody would really think of us doing. Our musical taste is vast. We love all sorts of things, and a lot of that comes out in our music. I’m always surprised that people don’t pick up on the things that we’re really heavily influenced by, but whatever, they’re on their own journeys.

You’re almost three decades into this, and it seems that the past couple of years have been insanely busy for you guys.

Yeah!

Chicken Switch was finally released. What was the holdup with that?

Mainly what happened was we kept finding new stuff we wanted to have come out in its place, and finally we had a spot where we thought it was the right time to put it out. So that was it. We basically sat and waited for it to have a good opportunity to be the perfect time for it.

And I think it’s great! That record…I’ve had some people have a problem with it, which I can’t quite understand. I think it’s a really cool record. It’s unlike anything that we’ve ever done.

It’s unlike any remix album I’ve ever heard. Was it a collective, group idea to do the record that way, as opposed to a more typical type of remix album?

I have no interest in that, although those kind of things don’t often come up. I don’t really get a lot of opportunities to remix a song or have somebody else do it. Generally, we don’t have a lot of tolerance for that, [but] to some degree, we do. If we know that it’s going to be something really weird, we might be into it. But doing a mix that has a slightly, more high-end guitar sounds like a waste of time to me.

Since we already have the original songs, if we’re going to have someone redo them, we’re going to mutilate them into something all new, something that I would have never thought of. That’s more exciting to me.

Melvins - Chicken Switch

So what about the upcoming Scion A/V Remix EP? What was exciting about that effort?

Well, somebody else remixed those. They’re all pretty much house remixes, which is definitely unlike anything we would’ve done as well.

And it’s just one song, right? With five different remixed versions?

Yeah, a whole bunch of mixes of one song. It will certainly be a surprise for people.

I believe in artistic freedom. I really, honestly believe in that. We didn’t talk to any of these remix people about what we wanted. We said “You do what you want to–we trust your vision.” And then let the chips fall where they may.

And that’s fine with me. I’d rather do that than be involved in some other nonsense, like, “I want you to do a remix, and I think what you’re doing is good, but I’m gonna tell you what to do.” That’s bullshit. I have no interest, and no time, for it.

You also released the box set in May. That seemed like an incredible undertaking, and each of the albums were hand-pressed?

Yeah, it’s all letterpress, and we have more of those coming out. It’s going to be a total of 300.

Did everyone partake in the preparation?

Oh yeah, we made them ourselves! My wife did all the artwork, and the printing–she’s done all of our graphic design for a long time. And then we hand put them all together, which is really where I think the future is going to be, musically. You know, music is going to be free on the internet. So if you want something cool, which I believe people still want something cool–I know I do–then you’re going to get it, and it’s going to be special, and it’s going to be limited edition, and it’s not going to be the type of thing that you’re going to be able to walk down to Best Buy and pick up. That’s what’s going to keep it cool because music is going to be out there.

The distribution of music isn’t going to be a problem anymore, because basically, people steal it. It’s on the internet. So if you’re faced with that, what are you going to do? My solution is that you come up with things that you can’t download. If people don’t want this, if they don’t like it–which we’ve had no problem with, everybody loves it. We’ve had a huge, great response with this, which I’m really grateful for because it was a huge amount of work. So I’m glad that there are people out there that think it’s cool–but if people don’t appreciate that, then that’s fine. They can find something else to appreciate I guess. I don’t know, I’m not really sure. I know no other bands have done anything quite like this, certainly not like this.

l_76ae9b1ac9bf431ea50c2a45f7e79fe8

No, I definitely haven’t heard about bands hand-making their special editions themselves…

Well, we fortunately are in a position where we can do that.

The Isis split was also just released through Hydra Head. Did you guys remix those songs yourselves?

We did.  Actually, when we recorded our last record, we pretty much did remixes for every song as we went along.

Why was it released on vinyl as opposed to other formats?

Those guys are into vinyl. I don’t know why! I have no idea. I have an interest in it because other people are interested in it, but I don’t particularly care what format people want to listen to music on. I’m not a big vinyl lover. I like the idea of doing it because it’s a cool, big project to do. But to me, if people want to argue that vinyl is better sounding, then you’re hearing things that aren’t there because that’s not even scientifically possible. [LAUGHS] It isn’t. They’re just wrong, you know. But people are wrong about stuff all the time. I don’t fault them for that.

I’m a collector myself. I collect all kinds of things. I understand the mentality. If they want to collect records, it seems harmless enough to me. If people want to buy Melvins records, then I’ll be happy to make it for them. I’ll be more than happy to! I’m glad they appreciate it. That’s very cool. We don’t have a lot of fans, you know, millions of fans. So I appreciate every single one we do have.

You have a pretty extensive tour starting up next month that is thoroughly covering the western United States. What are the plans for the band after that?

Well, we’re going to Australia in February, and then we’ll probably play shows outside of the US for most of next year. We already did the midwest to the eastern part of the US, and now we’re finishing this end. It’s pretty comprehensive; it’s pretty much everywhere.

Melvins
Photo by: Mackie Osborne

Melvins Tour Dates:

08/28 – Grumpys – Minneaoplis, Minnesota
09/01 – Opera House – Toronto, ON, Canada
09/03 – Club Soda – Montreal, QC, CANADA
09/04 – FME – Le Petit Theâtre – Rouyn-Noranda, QC, CANADA
09/15 – Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA
09/16 – Velvet Jones – Santa Barbara, CA
09/17 – Downtown Brew – San Luis Obispo, CA
09/18 – Blank Club – San Jose, CA
09/19 – Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
09/21 – The Underground – Reno, Nevada
09/22 – The Boardwalk – Orangevale, CA
09/24 – Roseland – Portland, Oregon
09/25 – Crocodile Cafe – Seattle, WA
09/27 – Hells Kitchen – Tacoma, WA
09/28 – Wild Buffalo – Bellingham, Washington
09/29 – Capital Theatre – OLYMPIA, WA
09/30 – Knitting Factory Concert House – Spokane, Washington
10/02 – Neurolux – Boise, ID
10/04 – The Complex – Salt Lake City, UT
10/06 – Aggie Theatre – Ft. Collins, CO
10/07 – The Belly Up Aspen – Aspen, CO
10/09 – Santa Fe Brewing Co. – Santa Fe, New Mexico
10/11 – Casbah – San Diego, CA
10/12 – Detroit Bar – Costa Mesa, CA

For more information on Melvins, check out:

www.myspace.com/themelvins