King Buzzo on longevity, lion taming, and Melvins Lite
MUSIC Here is a partial list of not quite idioms, butchered sayings, and quasi heartfelt beliefs the Melvins' Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne peppered throughout a conversation during a phone call last week from his home in Hollywood.
"We can't be lion tamers all the time." "You can accuse me of a lot of things, being lazy isn't one of them." "When in fear, or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout." "Treat me right, I'll be your best friend. Treat me wrong, you don't exist."
At least one of those deserves to be crocheted on a throw pillow. Or screenprinted on a Melvins backpatch.
Singer-guitarist Osborne met his longtime collaborator, drummer Dale Crover, in 1984, Aberdeen, Wash., one year after the Melvins had formed and were performing mostly Cream covers. Crover was also in a bad cover band, but Osborne knew he could play well, so he invited him to join his band.
"There's a fine line between genius and stupidity for both of us. I like playing with him, one way or another," Osborne says of their continued relationship. "And it seems to work, no reason to quit — until he gives me a reason, then that will be it." Osborne's speech patterns raise often with sarcasm; in person that signature fuzzy grey 'fro of his is likely shaking, punctuating each joke.
After that first shaky year, the Melvins got an early foothold in the blending of punk and metal, influenced by first round Black Flag (The band would go on to influence scores of musicians itself, recently, Mastodon).
"Somehow I realized even then that I needed to work on writing my own music, not relying on playing cover songs — even though we love to play cover songs, and we still do. But I started writing music pretty quickly. Sometimes we still play those first songs I ever wrote."
In the past some 29 years, the Melvins — which is made up of a rotating lineup, save for Osborne and Crover — have recorded 19 full-length albums, and that's not counting countless other releases (singles, EPs, comps).
Since the end of December, the band recorded more than 50 songs, Osborne notes proudly as his Jack Russell Terriers scream in the background. Included in that batch is The Bulls & the Bees EP, released for free download through Scion last month and the Freak Puke LP, which will be out in June on Ipecac.
The head bang-worthy The Bulls & the Bees is five classic Melvins cuts, thundering drums, doomy guitar, and Osborne's low octave howl, it's drum-happy sludge rounded out by frequent Melvins players Jared Warren and Coady Willis from stoney LA band Big Business.
Up next, there's the upcoming Freak Puke, which is being touted as Melvins Lite. In this record, the band is a trio: Osborne, Crover, and Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas fame on stand-up bass.
Freak Puke is similarly dense and dark, so that's not the reason for the 'Lite' attached to the name. Is it? Osborne explains: "You be the judge. We've always done lighter stuff. I'll just say it's Melvins lighter in weight, as in, our weight is less with three guys in it, as opposed to four. That record just has a different vibe."
He's, of course, right, it's more the vibe of the record that sets it apart. The frenzied plucking of strings that kick off "Baby, Won't You Weird Me Out" take the Melvins even further down the strange hybrid wormhole they've long been building out of mud — yet not so far that we can't recognize their inimitable sound.
After Osborne moved from Aberdeen, but before his trek to LA to be with his wife (and now, their many dogs), he lived for seven years in the Richmond District of San Francisco, near the Presidio. And while he claims to not be sentimental about the past ("I'm more of a 'what have you done lately' type of person") he mentions that he remains loyal to the promoters at Slim's and Great American Music Hall, where the Melvins four-piece/non-lite will be performing all the tracks off the new EP later this week. "As long as those people want to continue doing shows with us, we're there."
Thu/12, 9pm, sold out
Great American Music Hall
859 O'Farrell, SF