For the last thirty-three years, the L.A.-based/Montesano, Washington-spawned Melvins have consistently found new ways to keep their music interesting for themselves and their fans while maintaining a coherent sound and an unpredictable, quality live show that has made the group among the most influential rock outfits active today. The Melvins' often slow, colossal-yet-playful sludge rock influenced many current doom bands. The act also inspired Seattle's grunge scene of the ’80s and ’90s. Guitarist Buzz Osborne taught Kurt Cobain how to play guitar; drummer Dale Crover performed on Nirvana's 1988 demos. The Melvins continue to be relevant because of the musicians' proclivity for escaping their own boredom and stagnancy.
“We're constantly trying to come up with new things and new ways of doing stuff, and different ideas we haven't done before, and stuff that we think is interesting,” says Crover. “With us and ideas, the stupider the better. Buzz will come up with an idea and it'll sound ridiculous, and then we make it happen, and then it's good, at least for us.”
For example, in 2012 the Melvins performed 51 shows in 51 days in each of the United States plus Washington, D.C. There are also three versions of the band: the core trio; the Melvins 1983, which includes original drummer Mike Dillard; and the Melvins Lite, with former Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn. The Melvins' most recent foray into new territory is A Walk With Love & Death, which was released in July. With a title taken from the 1969 film by Osborne's favorite filmmaker, John Huston, it is the band's first double album. The second half of the album, the "Death" side, is the kind of rock music you might expect from a Melvins record: forward-thinking, mind-bending, heavy rock of incredible intensity informed by an irreverent sense of humor. The first half, the "Love" half, however, is an original soundtrack to an as-yet-uncompleted experimental film made in collaboration with Jesse Nieminen.
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“It's like a combination of Holy Mountain meets John Waters meets David Lynch,” says Osborne. “It includes a lot of my photography and videoing. It's not a normal movie, but normal compared to what? It's not Mary Poppins, but it's not a student art film, either.”
Osborne refers to Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 film Holy Mountain, produced by Beatles manager Allen Klein, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Jodorowsky's previous film, 1970's El Topo, kicked off the midnight-movie phenomenon that continues today and influenced David Lynch's own mind-altering movies. If the trailer for the forthcoming Melvins/Nieminen film is any indication, its artistic lineage is clear.
Rather than have the movie first, however, the Melvins engaged in what they do best: create the sounds to inspire the visuals.
“It's the script, in a way,” says Crover of the new album. “That provides the whole idea for the movie. Which is kind of scary. I don't think that was intentional. There's some weird stuff on it that you can hear on headphones. Don't listen to it in the dark. You'll freak out.”
Crover also recently kept with Melvins tradition by doing yet another thing he hadn't done before, and that is release a full-length solo album, The Fickle Finger of Fate. The album grew out of an experimental record Crover released through Joyful Noise. A unique, “twelve-sided record,” 2016's Skins comprises twelve short songs written by Crover and released in a run of 127. Out of that exercise, Crover expanded on the ideas for the new record and made the Skins recordings accessible in a more widely available format. Though the song titles suggest a sort of narrative, Crover says that there is no intentional story arc but perhaps a theme.
“What that is, I'm not quite sure,” says Crover. “But then it's about when everything is going well in your life and running smoothly and somehow you fuck it up — usually by your own negligence somehow. It's something I've seen happen with some people over and over again. There goes the fickle finger of fate touching him again.”
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The Melvins won't include either Crover or Osborne's solo material on the current tour, nor will the group be playing tracks from the soundtrack, leaving the door open for a run of live shows around that set of songs in the future. Rather, the band will be drawing from its roughly 25 albums across its entire career, with a few new songs.
“I don't like concerts like that,” says Osborne. “I wouldn't want to see Pink Floyd or a band like that only doing songs off the new album. Who cares? We've never done that. We also don't play the hits. We don't have any hits. But we don't go out thinking, 'These are the songs everyone wants.' I don't know what everyone wants. We only play about seventy minutes – make it a really interesting seventy minutes.”
Melvins, with Spotlights, 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, Tuesday, August 15, Gothic Theatre, Englewood, 303-789-9206, $25.75, 16 and over; 8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. show, Saturday, September 30, Aggie Theatre, Fort Collins 970-482-8300, $20 advance, $25 day of show, 16 and over.