For all those who know me and my taste in music, there is rarely a day that goes by when I don’t listen to the Melvins. They are just one of those bands that continue to get better with age, continue pushing the envelope, and continue to make records that are consistently different without losing their core sound.
So… when I got the chance to interview Melvins guitarist/vocalist/ and all around badass, Buzz Osborne, I jumped at the chance even though my palms went instantly sweaty and there was a ringing in my head for a month prior to the interview.
Buzz Osborne is an eclectic, passionate, and matter of fact individual. He is a talented musician and competitive…. golfer… He even gave me some tips on how to use my slice to my advantage.
Osborne has been playing music for three decades with drummer Dale Crover, and I was afforded the chance to sit down with him to discuss the game of golf, his bandmates, and the legacy of The Melvins.
Buzz Osborne Interview
You do a lot of interviews; do you ever get tired of them?
Osborne – “I do as many as I can. The point is to raise awareness of the tour and the record we are doing at the time. Really, we don’t need to do records anymore, we do records just for fun, and because we want to. A lot of people think that we do the record to back up the tour, but we don’t need to do them.”
The Melvins are seemingly always releasing new material, is that just because of the creative process?
Osborne – “Well… simply, it’s what I do. I write songs…It’s my end of the bargain, I afforded a living by music, and with that, to me, comes people who support us. So, I will do my part… that is really it. I will do my part until I don’t care anymore, or until no one else cares anymore.”
Seems that in the past 20 years The Melvins have really gotten their due and have become an inspiration for a host of bands,
Osborne – “It’s nice, but again, it’s kind of just what I do. I don’t find it to be tremendous…. Being creative is kind of a burden. It’s not an easy thing. It’s easy to do nothing. I don’t know that I would wish it on anyone. You really have to make it work, and it’s different than people imagine. It’s great that I am doing what I am doing, but you give up other areas of your life that most people don’t. It’s a very not normal existence.”
How was the tour with Spotlights?
Osborne – “Spotlights are great, we handpicked the band. They are on Ipecac as well. Ipecac said ‘what do you think of these guys’ and I checked them out, and I thought they were perfect, a husband and wife team, and we thought that was nice. They really wanted to be on tour with us.”
Your latest record A Walk With Love and Death recently came out over the summer, what is the band’s’ songwriting process like?
Osborne – “I come up with ideas ahead of time, and then we hash them out, and we did it pretty fast with this record. We didn’t sit in a rehearsal space and flog the songs to death. I wasn’t really going for that kind of thing. I just have little to no interest in that, maybe the next one.”
One of my favorite Melvins records is Colossus of Destiny, it’s absolutely crazy and I love it, and I wanted to ask how the band approached making that record?
Osborne – “It’s actually an intro to our set and the last song on the record is “Eye Flys” and we wanted to do a show where we didn’t have an opening band and then right into our set. It was meticulously planned out. It’s all live. People hear that kind of stuff and think that it’s just thrown together, like not a lot of effort goes into it, and they can think that, but then they should really try it. It’s not really a noise record, it has a meter and a flow to it. Same as the new stuff. People always say, it’s noise, it’s stupid… well to you maybe.
“There’s not a lot that I can do if people don’t appreciate that record. There may be another record in there that you can appreciate. And then there are some that have a hard time with that….’well, these records don’t go together’, well…. Yes, they do, they fit perfectly. Would you like it if I made the same record as the last one? I don’t get it.”
When did you decide to become a full-time musician? Was there a point in your life when you decided that this was what you were going to do?
Osborne – “We had made enough money off of one of our first records to where it made it possible to live off of, to where we didn’t have to pay rent, and where we didn’t have to have a job for a while. We decided to continue to make music until we couldn’t do it anymore. That was in 1988. And we’re still doing it. It’s been almost 30 years without having a job.
“That doesn’t mean that it has always been easy, it’s a long process. I spend 70% of my waking hours figuring out how to make this work. It’s not about what is going to sell, because I don’t know what is going to sell, or what people are going to like, I have no idea. I would never know ahead of time what is going to work for us. Once you divorce yourself from that idea than you can do things.
“And, it’s not perverse, we’re not trying to be weird for the sake of being weird. I’m trying to do things that I like. And in some circles, it is weird…. But that’s not my fault. I pride myself on playing with guys that are really good, and that to me is the most important thing. Whether people like it or not is not my business. I don’t have any say in that, and I don’t want any say in that.
“Should millions of people buy our records…. I think so…. But they don’t. My favorite movie is this movie called The Treasure of Sierra Madre and there is a saying in that movie that goes “It might be smart to not put things strictly on a money basis,” So how do you judge success? We’re all rich compared to someone else in the world. The poorest person here is still richer than someone else in the world.”
You and Dale (Crover) have been in the Melvins together for 30+ years. How has your relationship changed over time?
Osborne – “We don’t really fight about anything… we never have. It’s really not like a marriage, when we’re at home we have our own marriages. We don’t spend a lot of time together when we’re at home. It works… he has a lot of patience for my vision, and we trust each other. We seriously don’t argue about anything. We try things, and bat things around, but it’s not a war by any means. We don’t do anything that absurd.
“We’ve been with people who have been like that, and I’ve never understood it. It’s like ‘How do you know? How are you so sure that you’re right?”
Did you like his solo record: The Fickle Finger of Fate?
Osborne – “I haven’t heard it.”
How did you start playing guitar?
Osborne – “I didn’t start playing guitar until I was pretty much out of high school. I didn’t get a real guitar, maybe messing around with an acoustic guitar, until I was in tenth grade. But I didn’t get an electric guitar until I was out of high school. I play all the time, but I’ve never taken lessons. Recording and playing live is totally different, but I like playing guitar it’s fun.”
I read that you are an avid golfer, do you ever play golf on tour?
Osborne – “I don’t have time for that on tour, and it’s way too hot in Tampa. And I don’t like carts, unless it’s a course that demands you take a cart. The cart really screws me up. It’s not a leisure sport for me cause I’m very competitive. But, you kind of have to be zenned out to do that, it’s not a party. There are some things that I just am not able to do. I can’t hit the ball 300 yards, but I surely can putt, so I don’t worry about things like that. Don’t worry about things that you can’t control. Nothing will make you a better golfer than playing inside 100 (yards).”
What is your take on the digital vs physical album media as it has changed a lot in the past 15 years?
Osborne – “It has and it hasn’t changed, bands still don’t get paid. They never did. Where were these angels that paid bands in the 70s or 80s? People have this idea that 25 or 30 years ago bands got paid by record labels. Guys like Bo Diddley or Muddy Waters never made any money.
“The vast majority of records that come out on an indie label have, almost always, screwed bands over. Bands are not making any less money than they have ever made prior to going digital.
“Most people that buy vinyl now don’t necessarily listen to vinyl. 30% of the vinyl gets played, and people listen to the digital version because it’s convenient. When I’m touring I don’t bring CDs with me. I want to be able to take thousands of songs and listen to whatever I want. I also wouldn’t trust my record collection in a streaming service, personally. If I want something I’ll buy the CD. I think CDs sound great, people will argue that, but whatever.
“People want something out of vinyl, that’s fine with me, I don’t care how people listen to the music as long as they’re doing it. It’s like picking gnat-shit out of pepper.
“There are no good old days, it was never easy, there was never a time when I felt more comfortable than I do now, and it has very little to do with the industry. And… if the industry people can’t figure out a way to make this work than they should be gone.”
What musicians are you listening to right now?
Osborne – “George Jones, Buck Owens, Roger Miller, and Jerry Reed, that’s was what I was listening to on the drive today. It’s not like that every day, but that was today.”
What was the first concert you ever went to?
Osborne – “Three Dog Night, I wasn’t a fan, but it seemed like fun, and it was something to do. It was cool, I don’t know that I would like it now. There were a bunch of bands like The Kinks, and Kiss that were all really good… Black Flag, Van Halen.”
If there was a record that you would want to be buried with what would that be?
Osborne – “Tom Waits – Blue Valentine – that would be a good one. Maybe Tennessee Ernie Ford Sixteen Tons. Those are two good ones.”
What’s next for The Melvins
Osborne – “We’re doing a tour of Europe and then Australia. We have a new album done but I can’t go into too many details. You’ll see it soon enough. It came out great, and I’m really happy with it.”
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