Interview: The Melvins — "We're not the Warped crowd or the OZZfest crowd…"
Tue, 18 May 2010 19:02:34
"We're not the Warped crowd or the OZZfest crowd," says legendary Melvins' mainman Buzz Osborne.
Talk about an understatement…
Nevertheless, The Melvins' influence can be profoundly felt in most bands gracing the stages of both Warped Tour and OZZfest. From Houdini and Stoner Witch to Nude with Boots and their forthcoming offering, The Bride Screamed Murder [Due out June 1st via Ipecac Recordings], The Melvins have consistently bashed brains brilliantly with each and every riff and lyric. New cuts like "Pig House" and "Electric Flower" spill as much blood as all the classics, and The Melvins are raging as much as ever.
Melvins' frontman Buzz Osborne sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about The Bride Screamed Murder, the benefits of list-making, one inspirational Australian Western, touring with Down and so much more…
The Bride Screamed Murder feels like a natural progression from Nude with Boots. Did you have any of these songs around the same time, or was there a significant lag in between writing?
Well, I never sit down and write songs; I'm kind of always writing. I don't know exactly when all those ideas were born. Some were—I won't tell you which ones—sitting around for a long time, so it's hard to say really. I never sat down and said, "Okay, I'm going to write new songs for a new record." I would just work on things that I've already been working on, essentially. I don't know how other people work but that's how I work.
It all sounds natural, most importantly.
Yeah, if you think in terms of albums, it does. That whole idea will probably change relatively soon because there won't be any more records. The idea of putting together an album will probably be completely lost with the way things are going with the internet. There's no point thinking in terms of albums. We used to think that way because of how long records were. You get about 35 minutes on an album, so in the '70s, that's how long albums were—or you did a double album. Now, CDs are a little more expensive so you think in terms of 45 minutes roughly. That's about how long an album is. Some bands would put a little more on there, but an album, to me, under those technical configurations is about 45-50 minutes. So, if you think of it in terms of that, that's a project in and of itself, then you put together songs that would make those 45-50 minutes interesting. That's how I decide which songs go on the records.
Where did you get the title "The Bride Screamed Murder"?
I'm a list maker by trade. I wish I could make money off of it; that would be great [Laughs]. I think I heard it from a movie, but I have huge lists of things. If I see something that I like or if I think of something, then I'll just write it down on a list. I do it all the time. My wife hates it because I make lists and I leave them all over the place—a list of my favorite records, a list songs in our set list, what order we should play, a list of how songs should play on the records, a list of everything that I have to do that day, etc. Lists somehow make my brain think a little better. If I have a bunch of problems, whatever they may be, if I write them down on paper, they sometimes don't look so overwhelming.
And "The Bride Screamed Murder" was on one of those lists?
It certainly was. All my song titles are on a list. You never know, it could come from somewhere as obscure as a Johnny Quest cartoon or something somebody said. It's on a scrap of paper somewhere. Those scraps are the bane of my existence!
What's the story behind "P.G. X 3"?
Well, there's a movie called The Proposition, and the screenplay was written by Nick Cave. It's basically an Australian western and in that movie, one of the criminals sings that song a capella—differently than the way we did it though. I couldn't wait to get the soundtrack because I thought that was such a powerful song. They didn;t put it on the record though! I don't know why; it's the best thing on there. So I was like, "We've gotta fucking record that song!" It's an old traditional song, hundreds of years old that nobody has any idea who wrote—one of those Irish folk tunes or some bullshit. I think Sinead O'Connor did a version of it. It's all certainly different than mine. I listened to a bunch of versions of that song; my favorite of all of them was the way it was done in the movie. So, using that version as an example of what to do, that's what we did.
That's quite a story.
It's the truth! I think movies are amazing. Watching films is one of my favorite things to do. I think it's the ultimate art form. The storyline, visuals, music all combined into one place and you're sitting and watching in the dark…
If you were to compare this record to a movie, what would you compare it to?
I don't even know, but I do read a lot about directors and the way that they work. I'm trying to adapt that into what I'm doing. It's all very artistic as stupid as that sounds.
The way that you put these songs together is almost like a film director because you're working with so many different elements to try to blend them into one piece of art at the end of the day.
I couldn't agree more. That's exactly what I'm doing and how it works. To me, you've got to make an album interesting from the beginning to the end, whatever it may be. It's a journey; listen to it top to bottom. Hopefully after all this time we've gotten better at it. I think The Bride Screamed Murder is one of our best records, as weird as that is. We deliberately try to do that and not rest on our laurels whatever that may be. We want to push it, heavily push it. The public can handle it. If they can't handle it, that’s not my problem. We make records that we would like as bands, and that's what we do essentially.
That's when you create the most honest art is when it's something that resonates with...
Right, and even if I can't listen to my own music as a fan because I'm way too close to it…it's like reading your own books, you know? It's kind of creepy [Laughs]. But, I make it with that sensibility. That's the kind of thing I would appreciate from a band. That's what we're doing. I figure that we have good taste in music; therefore if we write things that we like, other people will appreciate it because I think we have good taste. That's really the whole secret to it. It's not worrying about anything other than what you think you like and figure that your taste is good enough that other people will like it too. That’s pretty much how it's worked out. Now, if you're going on a mass appeal like, "What does Madonna think when she does a record?" It wouldn't be that by no means.
When people try to understand artists too much, it never works. It's like, just give it a break and listen to the music. Let that speak for itself.
This is the best way to describe us—is if you take Captain Beefheart, George Clinton with Funkadelic and Lenny Bruce, put it in a blender and have that play heavy metal and then you would get us. All of those sensibilities and then pouring heavy metal on top of the whole thing—and it's not really metal and it's not really any of those things either. It is possible to make a living. We've made it a business and made a living off of it by not pandering to whatever is "cool." We only pander to what we like and do well. There's nothing worse than a band that tries to sell out and it doesn't work because they're left with nothing.
Being on an artist-run label like Ipecac seems like the best way to go in order to preserve true artistic integrity.
We've certainly operated with the idea that we can do what we want and they trust us to do whatever we want. As far as the day-to-day running of Ipecac goes, the co-owner, Greg Werckman, is just about the most straight-up guy you're going to run into. So we've been very fortunate in that regard. From Boner Records on, we've been hooked up with people we can trust. It's made a hell of a difference, especially in a world where indie bands don't get paid. Once again, that's an exception of the rule.
It's cool that the label essentially started so Mike Patton could put out the Fantomas record.
Yeah, and then we said, "If you're going to do that, then we'll put our records out with you guys" and we went from there. I'm a creature of habit when it comes to that kind of thing. If you treat me right once, I'll come back to that every time.
Are you guys planning another Fantomas record?
That's Mike's deal; I have no idea. I'm there if that's going to happen. He's busy doing the Faith No More thing. Nobody thought that was going to happen except me [Laughs].
The tour with Melvins and Down was such great bill; was that particularly fun for you?
Yeah, and we haven't done a tour like that in a long time. Those guys have always been hugely supportive fans, especially Jimmy Bower—we've known them all for a long time. Even Phil Anselmo in 1990, was a fan of our band. They couldn't have been nicer. Opening for them and doing that tour was a great thing for us. They put us in front of a lot of people, we wouldn't have and they were a very receptive, nice audience. We had nothing but good things to say about the whole experience, but as far as us being a band that opens for a lot of other bands, once again they're an exception to the rule [Laughs].