Going With The Known Demons: An Interview With The Melvins

Published on September 29th, 2008 in: Current Faves, Interviews, Issues, Music |

By Summer Hayes

Early on I knew the Melvins only by association, but it wasn’t until I saw them live that I realized how incredibly talented and unusually bizarre they really are. My initial introduction occurred in the early ’90s when the surge of grunge-angst rock (a.k.a. Temple of the Pearl in Chains) emerged from the northwest shores of Washington State. Ironically, I was too busy listening to Faith No More and swooning over Mike Patton to delve into the unconventional, yet highly addictive, sounds of the Melvins (and to think that I was on the right track and didn’t even know it). Nearly ten years later, in late 2002, I went to New Orleans to check out Mike Patton’s latest creation, Tomahawk, only to discover that the Melvins were the opening band. I was hooked.

melvins 2008 promo_3

So you can imagine how excited (and nervous) I was when I arrived at One Eyed Jack’s in New Orleans to do an interview with those legends. I walked into the front bar and was greeted by their road manager Tim Moss (whom I later found out was the guitarist from PORN), who brought me to the red Matador room upstairs. I was under the false impression that New Orleans was going to be the last show of this tour, but when I asked Tim about it, he informed me that they would be playing a few more shows in the US and then they were going to South America. While we were talking about the tour, Toshi Kasai (guitarist from Big Business) came in with a load of equipment, smiled, and apologized (unnecessarily) for interrupting. Soon, King Buzzo came through the door (well actually, his silver afro came in first), said hello, and politely offered me something to drink. Buzz then asked me if I lived in New Orleans. I explained to him that I actually was a native, but I was only visiting to celebrate my birthday. Buzz asked me if I was turning 21, and I voluntarily (and sarcastically) agreed that his calculations were correct.

Buzz: So why are you interested in doing an interview with us. . . first off?

Popshifter: Because you’re amazing.

Buzz: We’re amazing?

Popshifter: You are amazing!

Buzz: Well, we can never get enough of those compliments.

Dale: So keep ’em coming.

Buzz: Keep ’em coming.

Popshifter: Well, if you don’t believe me, then you guys don’t hear that nearly enough.

Buzz: We don’t. Nope. We’ll take half of that money in cash though, believe me.

cracker barrel

Popshifter: Would you spend it at The Cracker Barrel?

Buzz: I wish!

Dale: Where?

Buzz: The Cracker Barrel. See you’ve gotta understand, when you’re on tour it’s better to go with the known demon than the unknown demon.

Popshifter: That’s true.

Buzz: You gotta know what kind of crap you’re getting.

Dale: Be careful what you wish for.

Popshifter: (laughing) Well, I wanted to start by asking how the new line-up is working for you guys?

Buzz: Good! We think it’s good.

Popshifter: I know you guys have a new bass player, and have been through a slew of them. . .

melvins 2008 promo_1

Buzz: Well, not as many as you might think. Less and less in seven years. The one before that was quite a while. . . eight. . . six [years]. I don’t know. It’s really only been ugh. . . one, well, two for 14 years. Not bad.

Dale: Yeah, that’s not bad.

Popshifter: So that’s working out well for you guys.

Buzz: Yes, he’s working out great, as is the drummer. You have to remember, people do lose their minds. We don’t know why. We might be the cause of it, actually.

Dale: I don’t think so.

Buzz: Could be, you never know.

Dale: Well the last time, well not the last time, I guess it was a couple of times ago, we actually played here. . . and we had to can our bass player. More or less, Buzz and I went off, and then came back and he was passed out.

Popshifter: Oh yeah, that’s not a good thing.

Dale: I actually heard something today, some fan was like, “Last time these guys played here they were hanging out at the bar. . . and I think he did a couple of shots of Jaeger with Kevin [Rutmanis].”

Buzz: Hmm. . . really? What do you know?

Dale: The bartender actually told me, “Yeah, he was down here drinking before the show, and I realized he had a few shots, and man, he’s gotta play.” (laughs)

drunk cops

Buzz: And he played horribly and that was the end.

Dale: Being in a band is the only job, where when you get there, the first thing they do is go, “Here’s all your booze, man.”

Buzz: Yeah, well they also do that with Air Traffic Controllers.

Dale: Yeah. . . that’s true.

Popshifter: (laughs)

Buzz: Pilots maybe, too? (giggles) COPS! Alcoholism permeates every level of our society.

Popshifter: (laughs)

Buzz: It does. It’s a great leveler

Dale: Just buy it by the gallon.

Popshifter: Oh, so it was here where that happened?

Buzz: Yes, in this very place. He was sitting right were you’re at.

Popshifter: Right here?

Buzz: Perhaps. . . somewhere. . . (gestures to where I am sitting)

Dale: I thought he was joking, but I guess he was thinking. . .

Buzz: (interjects) GET DRUNK!

Dale: I asked, “Is he asleep? Or. . . nahhh. . . he’s. . . oooh. . . he’s uhhh?”

Buzz: No he’s ripped! It wasn’t pretty.

Popshifter: So speaking of bass players. . . is it true that you guys have played with Gene Simmons?

kiss comic
Image from
The Appendix to the
Handbook of the Marvel Universe

Buzz: Yeah, we played one show with him (pauses) and we only played one song with him.

Popshifter: What was that like?

Buzz: It was good.

Dale: So we consider him being in the band.

Buzz: Yeah it was fun!

Dale: We get compliments on it.

Buzz: We couldn’t believe it.

Dale: Yeah, there really haven’t been that many bass players.

Buzz: Yeah, I just told her, like two in ten years.

Dale: I think I’ve had more girlfriends than bass players in the shortest span of time.

Buzz: You’ve had more venereal diseases than bass players.

Dale: Well you know, being in a band is kind of like being in a relationship.

Popshifter: Absolutely.

Buzz: And we’re better than ever.

Popshifter: (laughs) Also I wanted to ask you guys if you would mind talking a little bit about the influences that Flipside had on you guys?

Buzz: The magazine?

Popshifter: Yes.

Buzz: Well, I learned about a lot of punk rock bands from it.

Dale: Definitely.

Buzz: That’s an interesting question; where did that come from?

Popshifter: Actually my sister, who is the editor of Popshifter, was a fan of the magazine.

Buzz: We don’t know for sure, but we heard that there was trouble, amongst the Flipsiders.

Popshifter: Yeah, it’s not around anymore. It kind of just fell off the face of the earth.

Buzz: Bad trouble.

Dale: Yeah, it’s been gone a long time.

melvins and cows flipside
Melvins and Cows review, from Flipside
Image from Melvins.net

Buzz: We liked it a lot. I learned a lot about you know, little punk bands that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It was hard to find. . . the magazine, where we lived.

Dale: And they liked us. . . we did a bunch of interviews.

Popshifter: Who wouldn’t?

Dale: Well, believe it or not. . .

Buzz: Plenty of people don’t.

Dale: Maximum Rock n Roll, they really liked us.

Buzz: Too maximum, less rock & roll. Too rock & roll, not enough maximum.

Dale: That magazine has not changed one bit.

Buzz: I couldn’t care less.

Dale: We were like, “I don’t care about the scene in Finland.”

Buzz: I don’t care about any scene. Music in general is all that matters to us.

Popshifter: It shows, too.

Buzz: Good, good. . . that’s what we want.

Popshifter: I am actually a relatively new fan, I mean I’ve known about you guys forever—just through other bands—but when you really start listening, it’s really incredible.

Buzz: Wow, thanks! What took you so long?

Popshifter: (laughs) Exactly!

melvins ep
1986 Melvins EP
Image from Melvins.net

Dale: Wait, how old did you say you were?

Popshifter: I’ll be 30 on Saturday.

Dale: Oh, okay.

Buzz: No excuses.

Popshifter: I’m not really 21.

Dale: Oh, I thought I just heard (gesturing to Buzz) you say you turned 20. . .

Buzz: No, I said you were turning 21. . . it’s always nice to tell women that, you know. . . they’re just barely 21.

Popshifter: (laughs) I also wanted to ask you guys if you could give me some background information on the Nightmare Before Christmas Festival that you guys are putting together?

Buzz: Oh yeah, background. . . meaning how does it happen?

Popshifter: Yes.

Buzz: Well, we had done other ones in the past with those guys, and this time they wanted us to curate it. I think they were running down their list of people who have curated it in the past. . . and the list is getting shorter, so we became better.

Dale: (laughs) All right! Yeah, we were really surprised that they would want us to do something like that. We don’t really ever get asked to do that many festivals and stuff like that.

Buzz: Never, ever. Festivals have no interest in us. I don’t know why.

nightmare before xmas 08 flyer

Popshifter: I don’t either. I just saw that JG Thirlwell (a.k.a. Foetus) was going to be involved with it; I thought that was pretty interesting.

Dale: Yeah, yeah.

Buzz: Yeah, we’re big fans and friends of Jim.

Dale: Butthole Surfers. . . The Damned just got added. The Dirtbombs.

Buzz: A bunch of bands.

Popshifter: I would love to go.

Dale: Have you ever been to one before?

Popshifter: I have not.

Dale: You go there and the whole thing is like a giant holiday camp, where there’s rooms and everything right there. There’s a bowling alley, indoor water park, bungee-springy things.

Buzz: (chimes in) Champagne enemas.

Popshifter: (laughs) Bowling and champagne enemas?

Buzz: Minehead families running wild.

Popshifter: Also, I wanted to ask you a question about one of the songs on your new album.

Dale: Uh-oh.

Popshifter: Don’t be scared.

Buzz: I’m not.

redrum the shining

Popshifter: I think it’s the fourth song, and I’m not sure how to pronounce the name?

Buzz: “Dies Iraea?”

Popshifter: Yeah, it bears a strong resemblance to the theme song or title track from The Shining.

Buzz: It is! Dies Iraea. . . like diarrhea.

Dale: Very strong resemblance to it; we didn’t change one note.

Popshifter: How did that come about?

Buzz: It’s an old song actually. The Shining, well, we didn’t write that song, and it’s also been in at least two other movies that I know of.

Popshifter: So that would be. . . Wendy Carlos?

Dale: (chimes in at the same time) Wendy Carlos, yeah.

Popshifter: Are you guys fans of hers?

Buzz: Not overly.

Dale: Well, I liked the A Clockwork Orange soundtrack. Those are the only two movies that I know of that she worked on.

Popshifter: I understand that you are doing more harmonies on the new album.

Buzz: You mean more than none?

Dale: Since we got Jarrod [new bass player] in the band, it’s like we have another lead singer, and he’s really good at it. We were in the studio and like, I’d do a part, and then Jarrod would be like, “I got another part,” and [Buzz] would say, “I got a third part.”

adam jones by steven tackeff
Adam Jones of TOOL
Photo © 1997 Steve Tackeff

Popshifter: That’s awesome. It sounds really good!

Buzz: We’re kinda like The Partridge Family. Speaking of Jarrod (he comes into the room). . .

Dale: (kind of whispering) Here he comes. . . here he comes.

Popshifter: Hello.

Jarrod: How are you?

Dale: She’s doing an interview. She’s asking about the harmonies on the record (awaiting a response). . .

Jarrod: Oh, are you talking to me?

Dale: Yeah she’s talking about the harmonies on the record.

Jarrod:The angelic harmonies? (smiles and walks out of the room)

Popshifter: So how long have you known Adam Jones [artist/guitarist from TOOL]?

Buzz: About a decade.

Popshifter: How did you meet?

Buzz: We met through music; actually we used to do shows with him.

Popshifter: I would like to know the first album that each of you ever bought.

Dale: First album?

Buzz: Album? Ugh, I think it was a Creedence Clearwater Revival record.

crazy horses

Dale: I had hand-me-downs.

Buzz: Well, what’s the first one you bought?

Popshifter: Like, bought with your own money. You wanted it and went out and bought it.

Buzz: Say something cool.

Popshifter: No, say something honest.

Dale: Yeah, okay. . . ugh.

Buzz: The Allman Brothers Double Album?

Dale: No it was more like The Osmond Brothers’ Crazy Horses.

Buzz: That sounds good.

Dale: Huh?

Buzz: Sounds good!

Popshifter: Okay, well, I think I have one more and I’ll let you guys. . .

Buzz: That’s it? All right.

Popshifter: Over the last twenty-something years. . .

Buzz: Twenty-five.

Popshifter: Twenty-five years. I was just curious . . . well, you guys have always been on the map, but always kind of not-mainstream, which I think is really—

Buzz: So what you’re saying is we’re not very successful.

Dale: (laughs) Aww. . .

Popshifter: No, that’s not what I’m saying at all.

Buzz: That’s very diplomatic of you.

Popshifter: What I mean is, was it a conscious decision to avoid being like, world-famous?

Buzz: That was not intentional.

Popshifter: Not intentional?

j timberlake
Probably not singing
a Melvins tune.

Buzz: Absolutely not. We want to sell as many records as we can, under the circumstances. We’re not trying to be perverse or weird, or trying not to sell albums. We’re beavering away at not selling albums. That’s our plan.

Dale: (laughs)

Popshifter: Well, I think that the fact that you have maintained the integrity of your music and you don’t do what people tell you to do, I think that’s awesome.

Buzz: (sincerely) Well, thank you!

Dale: Yeah, thank you.

Popshifter: You’re welcome.

Dale: You just can’t write songs like Justin Timberlake.

Buzz: Well, we can. . .

Dale: No.

Buzz: Why not? I’ve never tried. The problem with trying is it might not work, and hope is the first step towards failure. Remember that . . . always.


Later that night, I returned to One Eyed Jack’s to witness another outlandish display of imagination, one that only the Melvins could provide. The show was incredible and even louder now with two drummers mirroring each other (Dale: right-handed and Coady: left handed) and four vocalists. The four-piece is a sure fit and adds a whole new element of noise to their live shows (not that they have ever lacked in the noise department).

nude with boots

Founding members Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover are now joined by Coady Willis (drums/vocals) and Jared Warren (bass/”angelic harmonies”) of Big Business. The magnitude of musicianship from all four members is undeniable and especially prevalent in their live performances of songs from such classic albums as Stoner Witch and Houdini.

After nearly 25 years of experimental genius, the Melvins are still delivering their slow, hardcore, melodious sound, with incessant off-beat time signatures and growling vocals that literally make me giggle with amazement every time I hear them. The 2008 release of Nude With Boots introduces a new chapter in Melvins history that proves to be a beacon of influence to anyone craving something loud and unusual. So do yourself—and Buzz—a favor and go get your copy. . . because Cracker Barrel waits for no demon; known or unknown.

Additional Resources:

For all upcoming tour dates for the Melvins, please visit the Ipecac Recordings website.

For more information on the upcoming Nightmare Before Christmas Festival, please visit the official website.

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