One of the things that turns me off from a band the quickest is when they babble ceaselessly about the ideas behind their music. There’s nothing less rock and roll than a guy demanding to explain to you every emotion that went into writing a song, or rattling off influences like the recipe to some moody acoustic soup.
Buzz Osborne has no time for any of that bullshit.
The frontman, lead singer, songwriter, and guitar player of the Melvins doesn’t spend his time retrospectively romanticizing his career, or beating old hits to death on tour 20 years after their release. He has no interest in being an icon or the voice of any generation. And that’s probably why his music is regarded by many as some of the most influential to come out of the late 1980s and early 90s, and why so many more commercially successful bands cite the Melvins as a direct sonic influence.
The Melvins (comprised mainly of Osborne and drummer, Dale Crover, with a rotating cast of bass players) have been releasing an album every year or two since 1987. Few of their contemporaries can claim that kind of consistently prolific output, and the reason is that, unlike many of the other bands that were discovered in the Grunge explosion of the early 90s, the music they were making always took a front seat to image or gimmicks.
“Influence can come from a wide variety of sources. It can be noises in general, or a book you’re reading. You don’t know,” Osborne explains. When it comes to the band’s writing process, the system is just as straight-forward, “You just wade through a lot of garbage, and then something happens. You kind of self-edit as you go along. But unless you put in the footwork, nothing’s ever gonna happen. That’s always been the case.”
And he has no need for nostalgia. He recounts a small basement show “many years ago in Albuquerque with Urge Overkill,” as being a lot of fun, but when I ask if he misses those days, the answer is a flat “No.” Osborne elaborates, “The difference is, now there’s people that care about our music. Back then there wasn’t. That’s hard to deal with. We went for a long time without anybody caring about us. I don’t wish to go back to that.”
Osborne’s curt, direct opinions are consistent in every interview he’s ever given, and every article he’s ever written. He pulls no punches and indulges no idol-worship. He’s simply a man who plays his guitar, and chooses to allow that to speak for itself.
The message is entirely in the music, and that ideology extends to picking their supporting act as well. The Melvins are currently touring with LA-based Mexican firestorms Le Butcherettes, an angry, loud, female-fronted punk band that also leaves everything out on the stage. As Buzz recounts, “I saw them play live, and that was how it worked. I thought they were really good, and really wanted to tour with them. They’re one of the better new bands that I’ve seen.”
So if you get nostalgic when the radio or Pandora plays old Nirvana, or Alice in Chains, or Primus, and you wonder why there aren’t any bands around today that skewer their feelings with a wall of distortion and a primal scream, realize that the Melvins are still around. They never changed. They were just waiting for the rest of us to catch up and realize that the thing we loved about all of that music before MTV made it “safe,” was that it was made by people who played from their fucking hearts.