Iconic avant-metal-punk royalty Melvins are fast approaching their third decade of meting out its uber-prolific anthemic maelstrom of sonic heaviosity with uncompromising, valiant experimentalism, and things aren’t slowing down for these influential and ageless Cali riff kings. Despite the onslaught of rising black, doom and tech-metal pulverizers, founding members Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover continue to rise above the fray.
Arguably, the quintessential Melvins reinvention commenced back in 2006. The freakazoid-haired, pudgy guitar god Osborne and heavier-than-hell drummer Crover drafted the Melvins-idolizing dudes in Big Business, converging to transform into a two-drummer tandem of ginormous proportions. A four-LP, face-crushing roll—(A) Senile Animal (’06), Nude with Boots (’08), The Bride Screamed Murder (’10) and last year’s live Sugar Daddy—ensued.
Now, the Melvins have joined forces with their buddies in NYC’s legendary noisemaking metallic-blues face-scorchers Unsane for an old school AmRep reunion styled tour. They have a new EP and Freak Puke, Melvins Lite’s debut with Brooklyn’s Trevor Dunn on stand-up bass, is set for a June release.
Sound of the City caught Buzz on a drive break, but while the chat was full of shenanigans, Osborne’s mind was clearly on the health of Unsane drummer Vinnie Signorelli, who has recently fallen ill.
How is the tour going with Unsane?
Going good. We’re on out way to Houston, Texas right now.
Are you and the Unsane dudes traveling in the same van?
No, I’m driving one of the vans.
So Unsane is in another van?
They’re somewhere; I don’t know where. [Laughing]
Any highlights or debauchery to speak of thus far on the tour?
Yeah. It’s been totally insane with the Unsane.
I interviewed Chris Spencer for the Voice and I got really wasted.
You did? Good.
How did you go about choosing the Unsane song “Alleged” for the split single that was released by Amphetamine Reptile?
It was the only song of theirs that I never heard.
No [Laughing]. Seemed like we could do something with it. We did the beginning as kinda the same and then we kinda changed it and we Melvin-ized it at the end.
What do you think of their cover of “The Bloat?”
I thought it was groovy. Not a lot of people do covers of our songs.
Would you like to see more bands cover the Melvins?
Oh, sure. I’m not too worried about, it but you know. It is what it is.
Melvins, “The War On Wisdom”
How did putting out the free EP come about?
Well, Scion wanted to do it and we said “Okay.” That’s essentially it.
You were free to do it although the Melvins are on Ipecac?
We’re free to do anything we want anyway. I don’t have a legally binding contract with anybody—not since we were on Atlantic.
You guys have been on Ipecac for a long time.
Yes we have, for more than ten years.
What do you like about Ipecac?
They do what they say they’re gonna do and they pay their bills. Best thing you can say about an indie label. Not a lot of elitism there, ya know?
You’ve had the Dale Crover-Coady Willis two-drummer lineup for a while now. What took you so long to think of that idea?
Actually, we thought of it a long time ago; we just never did it. We liked Big Business and there was two guys and the drummer was good and we knew he could do it. So, we just took it from there because there’s strength in numbers. [Laughing]
When Jared Warren was in KARP, he idolized the Melvins. I assume you guys have a mutual admiration.
Right. Well, we always liked Jared and I knew he was a good singer so we thought that was a good idea and Coady was a good enough drummer that we knew he could do it. Or at least so it seemed. You never know until they’re in the band. Maybe he’s crazy. Or a necrophiliac, or something. You never know. Then you get on the road and you go “Wait a minute. Maybe this won’t work.” Fortunately, I haven’t noticed (if Jared is a necrophiliac). If he’s doing that, he’s keeping it secret. Thankfully.
I’m always looking for weird things to do and certainly this is one of them. So, the Freak Puke record comes out in June. We’re doing this tour [with Unsane] then doing some more shows with Trevor Dunn, who I met while I was playing in Fantômas. He’s a great guy.
I actually saw Trevor play bass in the Darius Jones Quartet just recently.
Was it at a place called “The Jazz Hole?” [Laughing]
No, it was at Jazz Standard. [Laughing]
Not the Jazz Hole?
[Laughing] Do you follow Trevor’s numerous jazz projects?
I couldn’t possibly follow it. He works all the time.
Melvins, “Honey Bucket”
How did you come up with the title of the album you did with Trevor, Freak Puke?
Ya know, I don’t know where I got that. Let’s just say I got that from ummm…I got it from, um, Charles Manson. How bout that?
What was the thinking behind doing an album with stand-up bass? Trevor has played electric bass for you guys.
Well, I saw Trevor play stand up bass with Nels Cline and I thought it was something we could do and the wheels started rolling in my head. We reinvented the band but it’s just an extension; it’s not going to take over. We’re gonna do both things—Melvins Lite and regular Melvins.
So Melvins Lite is not just a one-off thing. It will continue?
I certainly hope so.
And the two-drummer lineup will go on, as well?
You bet. Or we’ll totally go insane and overdose in the toilet like Elvis.
Are you and Jared in some sort of hair competition?
Always. All I do is compete. That’s it.
What’s the significance of the glittery black robe you wear when you play live?
Everybody’s doing it so I’m a joiner inner.
Are you and Greg Gutfeld of Fox News’ Red Eye tight? You’ve appeared on his show a few times.
Well, ya know, I know him. He’s a really good guy and he’s always been nice to me. He’s a big music fan and because, I mean, for somebody like me and for somebody to be interested in our band, they have to kinda dig. So, if it wasn’t for him, that association wouldn’t have happened. So, he’s gotta be cool—there’s no two ways about it.
I read you’ll be on Red Eye again in June.
I am. I’d be on it as much as they wanted. Oh, yeah.
Do you watch the other show he hosts on Fox News, The Five?
No, I don’t watch TV at all. I’ll watch a DVD of a TV show and do my bit, ya know? All The Simpsons available on DVD I have. But I don’t watch it on TV. I love movies. Movies are a big deal of mine.
What was the last movie you saw?
Last movie I saw was this move called The Raid: Redemption. It was fuckin’ awesome—Indonesian Kung Fu movie.
You’re into Kung Fu flicks?
What music have you been listening to in the van while on this tour?
Today we’ve been listening to a lot of the Beatles. I’m much more into the mid-period and later period—from Rubber Soul on. You can’t go wrong with the Beatles. Never trust anybody that says they don’t like the Beatles. If they say they don’t like the Beatles, that’s how you know they are a fucking idiot.
Have the Melvins ever done a Beatles cover?
We did. We did “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” We did it like the moving sidewalk bit.
Are you including any covers in your set on the current tour?
We’ve been playing “Youth of America” by the Wipers. We never played it with these guys, so I’m looking forward to it.
Melvins, “The Talking Horse”
I was at a NYC show in 1991 at the long-defunct Marquee where you guys opened for Nirvana around the time Nevermind was just released. Do you remember anything about that show?
Yes. I remember the manager of Nirvana was kind of a dick to us. That’s what I remember, mostly. That kinda ruined the whole thing for me. Never gotten over it.
[Laughing] Over two decades later, you’re still affected by it?
I’m like an elephant. I never forget.
The Voice interviewed Joe Lally last year and he said his dream is to play bass for the Melvins.
Oh, yeah. We love Joe a whole lot; he’s a great guy. I heard that. We might just take him up on that. We like to do all kinds of things.
Any other thoughts?
We’re really looking forward to coming to New York City. It’s always a treat and our show at Webster Hall will be a blast.
Yeah, I’ll be there.
I can’t wait. New York’s always a great place to play and one of the greatest places in the whole world to play. It’s one of the greatest cities in the whole world, by far.
Would you consider moving here from Los Angeles?
No. I’m California, baby. That’s it. Ya know why?
Because of the lights and the glamour.
But there’s lights and glamour in New York. I’m sitting in Times Square right now.
Don’t tell me your problems. We love New York—don’t get me wrong. I love New York; I would live there but I’ve lived in California 27 or 25 years, something like that, but I can’t see myself moving. I have nothing bad to say about New York.
What do you like about L.A., besides the lights and glamour?
It’s the weirdest place in the whole world. By far. The weather can’t be beat and you got room to spread out.
So you like driving everywhere and the traffic?
Ya know, I’ve heard there’s traffic in New York. Correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve never understood the whole traffic in L.A. thing when there’s traffic in New York and the rest of the country bitches about (L.A.).
Finally, I saw Dale and Coady have been backing Unsane on their sets on the tour. Is Vinnie Signorelli (Unsane’s drummer) sitting this tour out?
Yes and our heart goes out to Vinnie. He’s in a lotta trouble. I don’t know exactly the problem but he’s got something wrong with his legs. I don’t know how much detail I can go into but all I know is he’s in all of our prayers at the moment. Dale and Coady have picked up the slack in the drummer department for Unsane and the reason they’ve done that is, number one, it was the right thing to do and number two, they’re troopers. But our best thoughts are out there with Vinnie. Our heart goes out to him.
Melvins play Webster Hall with Unsane on Sunday.