Summing up the Melvins' contribution to rock and roll is a fool's errand at best. While the band introduced the world to a slow-plodding sludge later marketed as grunge, the sound's early pioneers moved from Washington to San Francisco well before the mega-hype hit the fan. And though former Melvins roadie Kurt Cobain once pined for a role in the outfit and sang its praises after achieving sainthood himself, his friend and mentor, Roger "Buzz" Osborne, along with mainstay drummer, Dale Crover (one of Nirvana's many timekeepers), gave marketing execs migraines from day one: The Melvins spoofed Kiss solo albums; they offered cockeyed covers of both Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with help from fallen teen idol Leif Garrett; they burned bridges with Atlantic by releasing Prick, an unlistenable monstrosity that made Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music sound tuneful by comparison. But for all that experimental aggression, the Melvins (whose revolving roster of bassists includes Shirley Temple's punk-rock daughter, Lorax, Osborne's former paramour) endured two decades of being unfairly tagged as Black Sabbath clones. Perhaps Ira Robbins of Trouser Press gave us the best working definition of Montesano's red-haired stepchildren: "Oppressive in the best possible sense, the Melvins produce richly sensual, stunningly ugly music that gives the feeling of being crushed by a friendly fat guy tripping his brains out."
Westword: Congratulations on reaching the twenty-year milestone.
Buzz Osborne: Woo-hoo!
8 p.m. Wednesday, September 1, Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, $16, 303-788-0984
What's the secret to the Melvins' longevity?
Goat placenta -- and lots of it. The reason we've been able to last so long is we'd never looked at a calendar. We actually thought we'd only be in a band about a little over ten years. It's weird. But it's all right. I'm hoping to get jumped into one of these gangs down here so I can start making money sellin' dope. I gotta start working on my retirement.
Forget this rock 'n' roll garbage, eh?
Well, you know, I've got a lot of people strung out since I've been involved in it. So I'm just helping customers as it is. Gotta keep 'em going -- keep 'em hungry for the dope.
Are you surprised there's still an audience for the Melvins?
I'm surprised there ever was. We've survived basically under the wire our entire career, which is great. I think I proved that it's possible to have a career in music without having any normal goals and have it still work out. Most people want to be big asshole rock stars. We just want to be big assholes.
Was music your best career option -- aside from drug dealing?
I guess so. I don't know what else I would do. Maybe I could work for a bank or some kind of security company [laughs].
Most of your childhood pals ended up in the logging industry, didn't they?
Or dead. Most of the people that I came up through the trenches with are either missing in action or drug casualties -- one of the two. God only knows where they're at. Jello Biafra calls us 'the last band standing.' We just finished a record with him -- for [Alternative Tentacles]. It's the Melvins with Jello Biafra singing. He wrote all the lyrics. It's gonna come out in October.
Do you feel like the Melvins got their due?
We've probably gotten more than we should have. I mean... what is our due? I have no idea. I think I should have billions of dollars right now. And until I get that, I'll feel cheated.
But you influenced bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden who went on to make millions.
Sure, but all those bands sound like commercial bullshit to me. We don't have that kind of edge to us. I never wrote songs like that; I never even tried. So it doesn't surprise me that bands like that took elements of what we do and did their own thing with it and made tons of money. They all sound far more commercial than we ever will. We don't sound like your average Alice in Chains cover band, you know? We're exactly the same as Alice in Chains, except we don't play hit songs. We just shoot the dope -- that's it. We're just like Chris Cornell without the tunes.
In the early days, Cobain was afraid of Nirvana being perceived as a Melvins ripoff band.
Well, he seems to have gotten over that. [Laughs.] Yeah! Then he started kissing the goat, and it all went downhill from there. The worst thing that ever happened to that guy was meeting us. If he never would have met us, he wouldn't have started playing music, which means he'd probably still be alive now.
Pumping gas in Aberdeen?
Exactly. He wouldn't have ended up with his head blown off -- married to the number of the beast, you know? It's true! He's dead, and he was married to Courtney Love. What could be worse than that? And his name is still tagged onto some marriage certificate to that fuckin' beast. It's horrible. It's not a good rock-and-roll story; it's a terrible story. And we're part of it. Excellent. I couldn't feel happier about all those things. No matter what happens from now on, I'll somehow be associated with Courtney fucking Love. Great. Well, she's going down the shitter, which means these days I've got a real pep in my step. Maybe the world is a right place. Maybe for once the stars are aligned. Now if it was back in the good ol' days, they would've just Frances Farmered her ass, and she would've been out of our hair a long time ago, you know? Some mouthy bar bitch like Courtney Love would've been tossed into an asylum, and we wouldn't have had to have been bored by her. But these women's libbers have screwed it up to the point where now we have to listen to some mouthy bitch like that get to do what she wants for as long as she wants. I don't know if that's good or bad. I think it's bad. I think we should go back to square one, where women get put in their place and that's the end of it. I'll see if I can explain that one to my wife. I don't think it'll go very far.
She wears the pants in the family?
She wears a lot of different kinds of pants, depending on whatever mood suits her. We're actually very happy campers at this point. We've got a new record coming out that sounds great.
Pigs of the Roman Empire!
Yeah. It pretty much is what it says. We collaborated with this guy, Lustmord, who's had a long history of soundtrack-type stuff. And he added an element to our music that we actually hadn't had before, so it was really great. Thematically, we tried to cover areas we've never covered before and still have it fit in with everything we've done -- and not be completely over-the-top bullshit. And I think it worked.
Was it designed to go along with a film?
We took a movie that we really liked, and then we shut the sound off and made a new soundtrack for it. We redid it to our liking. The trick is now people have to go out and figure out what movie it is. But we're not gonna tell anybody. It fits in perfect. Pigs of the Roman Empire...I just like saying it. The Romans had a good run. I don't view them in the dim light that a lot of people do. They basically created society as we know it. People who think the Romans were bad should check out what the rest of the world was doing at the height of the Empire. Check out the Germanic tribes at that point -- loppin' off people's heads. They certainly weren't creating a senate or anything like that. The Romans were civilized compared to the rest of the world.
Crucifying people instead of impaling them?
Exactly. Actually, the Romans hung more people than they crucified.
Did you see Mel Gibson's Jesus movie?
I was on tour the whole time, but I heard it was great. What could be better than watching somebody get beat to death? I'm all for it. Beat that guy! Beat him!
Does the title of the new album comment on our current state of politics?
That's absolutely coincidental. I just liked the name. There's no political connotations. People can take that if they want to. I personally don't. I don't believe in either party. I'm a non-partisan. I think the Democrats and Republicans are cut from the same mold; they wear the same suits; they hire the same lawyers; and they're a bunch of fuckin' liars. I don't trust either of them.
So you won't waste your time voting?
Sure, I vote. But I wouldn't vote for a Republican or Democrat. No fuckin' way. Not a chance. I won't say who I'm backing. But it's not a Republican or Democrat. I wouldn't vote for either one of those scumbags.
Do you have any funny stories about Gene Simmons or Shirley Temple?
Shirley Temple was possibly one of the most hard-core people I've ever been around. She's a tough broad. I wouldn't want to fight her, that's for sure.
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I worked at a bookstore where she came for a signing. She demanded chicken broth and a tablecloth long enough to cover her fat ankles.
Well, there you go. And she got it, didn't she? She's the real deal.
Would you ever want to collaborate on a song with her?
She wouldn't touch the Melvins with a ten-foot pole. But I've got marks all over my body from her touching me with a ten-foot pole.