Friday October 5th, 2012. 9:59 am.
Nervous? In one minute I’m going to call Buzz Osborne.
What Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi did for musicians of their generation, Buzz Osborne has done for mine. Teenage years of reading guitar magazines and music interviews of “King Buzzo” was minor preparation for the “Do’s and Don’ts” of interviewing the leader of the Melvins.
DON’T ask about Kurt Cobain. Obviously, he has said all that needs to be said about their friendship, but I had to ask about Mike Patton, frontman for Mr. Bungle, Faith No More and countless projects including Fantomas with Osborne.
DO Ask about the music; A complex and crushing sound that has inspired countless bands. Ask about their Guinness World Record attempt; touring the country, playing every state (the Pensacola show at Vinyl Music Hall was the Florida show) as well as Washington DC in 51 days. Keeping with tradition, I also have to ask Osborne the question that triggers the answer he’s given every time he’s asked how the tour is going.
I sat down to coffee on the table and Escambia Bay outside my window. Fingers resting on the laptop, my left shoulder shivering in sync to the thoughts of “What in the hell did I get myself into?” I dialed Buzz’s number as soon as the clock hit 10:00 and said “Hello…”
Buzz Osborne Interview
MS: Exactly one month ago, you embarked on this record breaking tour of 50 states (and Washington D.C.)in 51 days with no days off. How are you holding up?
BO: Good. We just played our 30th show last night so…so far so good. We haven’t killed ourselves. The police haven’t caught up with us yet, so. It’s all good.
MS: What made you want to attempt this Guinness record breaking event?
BO: Mmm. Thought it would be a good idea for some reason. I don’t know exactly.
MS: I know a few years ago Mike Watt attempted it; he did 50 and he had a day off or so, but you guys are going non-stop…
MS: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen so far?
BO: Oh god, I don’t know. Some coked up club owner who doesn’t give a shit, maybe. Nothing too crazy. We’re pretty much business out here. That’s it. We’re not having coke parties with teenagers or anything.
MS: I know Jared and Coady are playing here Saturday, how do you decide when to tour as the Melvins and when to tour as Melvins Lite?
BO: Well, the Melvins Lite thing is a new thing, so we haven’t had that be much of a problem. We plan this stuff out well in advance so we never meet any trouble. Those guys have their own thing going on which gives them an opportunity to do whatever they want to, it’s good. No bad side to it.
MS: How did you hook up with Kevin and the Electrical Guitar Company? Your model, the King Buzzo is pretty popular.
BO: We rehearsed in the same place as the guys in Isis and they have his guitars-I don’t know how they found those-they eat…they somehow got in contact with him, so I tried one of them and I thought it was amazing and I just called him up (and) that was it. That was a few years ago; I started using his guitars pretty much exclusively. It’s all good.
MS: With your experience and your history, you’ve outlasted bands that have been influenced by you. What keeps you going?
BO: We still like a lot of stuff that we’re doing. If we don’t like it, we’ll change it. That’s pretty much it. I’m not ready to quit just yet. I don’t know when I will be. I have some plans. There’s not much we do that’s not planned out totally, every angle.
MS: Do you have anything else coming up with Mike Patton?
BO: No. We have absolutely nothing coming up with Mike Patton. The last time we played a gig with him was in 2008. The last time we were in the studio was in 2003. So it’s clear that this is not a big deal for Mike. Fortunately, I have my own things going on and if Fantomas wants to do something…but I’m not going to hold my breath.
MS: As far as now, any plans to do anymore studio work with the Melvins?
BO: Of course, we never take too long between records. We have all kinds of things planned. None of which we can talk about now, recording-wise.
MS: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
BO: You mean just in general?
MS: By anybody, in life, in general.
BO: Stay out of debt. That’s the best advice, definitely. A very good piece of advice is, “Never go into business with someone who cheats on their wife.”
MS: I’ve experienced that.
BO: What was that?
MS: I’ve experienced that. That’s very true.
BO: Very true.
MS: What would Buzz of today tell a younger Buzz just starting out?
BO: “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine.”
MS: With the recording, the touring, the performing, what’s the coolest part of the entire Melvin’s experience for you?
BO: Well, they’re vastly different. So, I don’t know, maybe playing live. Recording, it’s such a different kind of thing. I can’t really compare the two. I really try to keep the two completely separated if at all possible. Don’t feel like they’re the same animal and all.
MS: On this tour, as far as the music how do you keep it fresh? Do you guys mix it up?
BO: What do you mean?
MS: As far as setlists.
BO: How do I keep it fresh? Well, it’s always fresh, no matter what we do. We play pretty much the same set every single night. And we have it planned out from the beginning. And people get a better show that way. Because what we do is not normal rock. We’re not playing, “Here’s a song for you, here’s another song for you.” It’s performance art from top to bottom. It’s an hour and a half performance that has little or nothing to do with what songs we’re playing. That’s it. Now, if people want to paint us with a traditional rock n’ roll brush, then they’re already losing. I don’t view us that way. So, I’m just not going to compare myself to any other bands that think along those lines. I don’t feel comfortable doing that.
MS: Any chance that you guys could work with an orchestra?
BO: Nah. That’d be a pain in the ass. The orchestra thing, it’s all well and good, but pretty much musicians’ union hasn’t really isn’t a chance of any of that really working. I really have no time for that kind of bullshit. Dealing with that horseshit; no, thanks.
MS: Do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
BO: I don’t even really care; it all tastes the same to me.
MS: Is there anything you’d like to add for the fans coming out in Pensacola next week?
BO: I don’t know when we’ll be back to Pensacola. So if you have any idea that you want to see us, maybe you should.
Email Q & A with Kevin Burkett of Electrical Guitar Company
How did you hook up with Buzz, create his model and what does the Melvins music mean to you? And if you could throw in a your top 10 albums, I’d appreciate it. Thanks!
We met through Mike Gallagher of ISIS. ISIS and Melvins practiced in the same place in LA. Mike was a huge fan and decided to go show Buzz his new metal guitar and he loved it. We basically took my Standard model and added Gibson 498T (which is the pick up that he played in all of his LPs). We have made acrylic versions and a few other models for him.
Melvins are the beginning of everything cool. Everything I love can be traced back to them. They also have stayed relevant and ahead of the curve for over 20 years. Pretty bad ass.
Top albums…not really in any order.
1.Peter Gabriel, UP
2.Nirvana, In Utero
3.That Dog, Retreat From The Sun
4. Sunny Day Real Estate, Diary
5. Shellac, At Action Park
6. Melvins, Houdini
7.Foo Fighters, Color And The Shape
8.Tegan and Sara, Sainthood
9.ISIS, Wavering Radiant
10. Hem, Funnel Cloud
Here is a link to my Pensacola News Journal column “World Record Attempt brings the Melvins to Vinyl Music Hall”.
– Michael L. Smith