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Melvins – Buzz Osborne

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

When you have years of experience doing what you do, your expertise prevails. The Melvins certainly make this statement true as can be heard on their latest album Five Legged Dog which features thirty-six amazing acoustic driven songs. Since they first hit the music scene in 1983, the world has had the opportunity to experience their outstanding, unique rock music and they are not slowing down. Currently, these extraordinarily talented musicians comprising of Lead Guitarist/Vocalist Buzz Osborne, Drummer Dale Crover and Bassist Steven McDonald are taking their new astonishing show across the country on their Five Legged Tour which will be in Orlando on October 11 at The Social, then in Ft. Lauderdale on October 12th at the Culture Room, and in Tampa on October 13th at Orpheum Theater.
Catching up with Osborne just prior to the tour, he revealed some details about the new show, some insight regarding their new LP and their music in general, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with the new tour?
Buzz Osborne: We’re gonna do as much stuff as we can. We like to do around sixty, seventy minutes solid. So, like a solid block of music through the whole thing. Carefully worked out before we see our first live performance, and then we will continue to do that through the tour and do as much of that sort of thing as we can. I think people get a better show that way. I enjoy it more when it’s performed more like a Broadway musical than it is more like a jukebox. You know, let’s play this. Let’s play that, and I don’t like the changing set every night. I just don’t think it works, personally. I’ve seen bands do it and we’ve toured with bands that did that. Some nights, it was just horrible. Just horrible and I felt sorry for the people who were there because they picked the wrong set list. The wrong pacing. It’s all kinds of things. It’s like nah, it doesn’t work.

SFL Music: Yeah, you guys have been around a few years, right (ha, ha)? Forty years.
Osborne: We’re coming up on forty since our first show.

SFL Music: That’s awesome! What would you say is the secret to your success?
Osborne: I don’t know. Having two brains (he laughed).

SFL Music: That works.
Osborne: Yep. I just think I have a severe dedication to what I’m doing, and discipline.

SFL Music: Is that what you would advise an up-and-coming band or an up-and-coming musician?
Osborne: Well, I think the main thing would be, be as peculiar as you can be. I think that’s a good place to be. No one needs normalcy in music. Why would you want that? My job is to not be normal.

SFL Music: Great advice. I heard the new thirty-six song acoustic album Five Legged Dog. It’s amazing!
Osborne: Thank you.

SFL Music: You’re welcome. Tell me about some of the songs. “Charlie”, what inspired that?
Osborne: “Charlie” is actually a Redd Kross cover by Steven who plays in our band. He did that song in his band Redd Kross he’s in as well as the Melvins. Like the early 80’s. I was always a huge fan of that song and so we covered it and we’ve been playing it live a bunch. So, that’s always been nice. I think it’s about Charlie Manson (he sang “Charlie is our friend”).

SFL Music: What about “With Teeth”?
Osborne: Yeah, that’s a tough one. I wrote that a long time ago. It would have been early nineties. That’s one of my favorite ones that I’ve done. It’s a very simple song. I kind of envisioned it sort of, how I wanted to do it before I wrote it. I guess it would be about, I don’t know the best way to put it. I guess it would be like realizing that life is a war of attrition. How about that?

SFL Music: That’s awesome! Some of the lyrics struck me “learn to let it go” and “when your heart beats wild”. I wondered what inspired that.
Osborne: Yeah, I guess that’s it. It’s a winner take all situation, sort of. I always felt that musical human emotion is there whether people understand what you’re saying or not. Music is as old as time itself. I mean, there’s never been a civilization that didn’t have some kind of music. Never. Even the most primitive have something because it speaks to us in a way that I don’t think can be defined, and its magic to me. It’s a magical experience. Nothing will move you more than music does in your entire life. I mean, like art wise.

SFL Music: Is that what inspired “Hooch” and “Anaconda”?
Osborne: Yeah, I guess so, yeah. Those are tough ones. Those are from a strange period in my life.

SFL Music: Do you want to elaborate on that?
Osborne: Well, I wasn’t as established as I am now. I was just starting to make a living playing music and that was our third album. I had done two albums. I wanted to do something that was much different than what I had already done and sounds like that. It’s got an odd chording to it that I came up with myself. It’s a normal tuning, but I play weird chords that no one would be able to figure out. They would be able to easily play it if I showed ‘em, but if they wanted to try and figure out that song, it would be difficult ‘cause its weird minor chords that kind of ring out in a strange way. That attracts me a great deal. I guess that could be the best way to interpret it is the hopelessness that sometimes you feel working at a normal job. That’s the best way to describe it. That would be working a normal job and just be thinking about all the animalistic things I’d rather be doing.

SFL Music: Some of the songs start off with drums, percussion, then guitar/bass like “Evil New War God” and “Pitfalls In Serving Warrants”. Then the other thing that really strikes me is the way you guys harmonize and your vocals. Different songs like “Sway” is a little more rockish, sixties style and “Fly Paper” as well. Did you have formal vocal training?
Osborne: Oh no. No, Lord no.

SFL Music: That’s amazing because you have such a great voice.
Osborne: Thank you. No one ever says anything about that. I always thought that was crazy because I thought all of us were really good singers. No one ever says anything about the vocals. I thought on an acoustic record like that, the vocals are going to need to be really, really, really good to make up for what might not be there otherwise. So, we were very careful about that. We worked very, very hard on the vocals more than any other element of that record.

SFL Music: You can definitely hear that. What inspired you to become a musician?
Osborne: I’m not sure exactly. I started playing guitar relatively late in life compared to my guys I play with. I started when I was about seventeen or eighteen and they all started when they were just little kids. Dale and Steven both. I thought it would be something cool to do. I turned seventeen in 1981 and was playing live shows by 1983. So, it seemed like a long time at the time, but really from the time I started playing guitar to the time we played our first show was not very long. It was just a few years. Yeah, I think it was March 13th or March 20th of ’83 is when we played our first show, but next year is our fortieth anniversary. I didn’t even get a guitar until I was almost out of high school. Had a little acoustic guitar, but no electric guitar.

SFL Music: Is that your favorite? Do you like acoustic over electric?
Osborne: No. I like both of them. You know, I could be happy doing one or the other. They do very different things which I like, but I approach all that stuff much differently than most people would. I have a different idea of how guitars should work and a lot of normal guitar playing stuff sounds really corny to me and I don’t like it. Really frilly sounding chords and stuff, I don’t know. It’s too much for me. I like the way Bob Dylan played. It was simpler and to the point, and I don’t really care about (Andrès) Segovia or people like that or super fancy acoustic guitar. It’s just boring to me. Boring and it’s corny. Yeah, I don’t know, the thing about the guitar, fancy guitar playing, like all these fancy guitar jocks out there. I just think eh, it doesn’t do a thing for me. It’s all head, no heart. I don’t care about that. I mean, guitar gymnastics. Yeah, you can play all these fancy riffs, but it doesn’t move me. Rarely do you find that situation where that happens. I mean, someone like Eddie Van Halen was able to do on 20% of his music. He was able to come across with something. He’s such a good player and so far beyond everyone else, and then wrote songs that worked along those line. Most of those guys, they don’t have anything that’s any good musically. Musically, it’s just boring, super boring. I don’t get it. Speed weeny guitar playing is ok, but I never worried myself over though, I’m sure if I sat down and really wanted to work on that sort of thing, sure I could do it. I feel like I could do anything I want to on guitar, but I never tried to do that because it didn’t interest me. Why would you practice things you didn’t want to do? I don’t understand that. That never made any sense to me. Guitar playing in general has never made a lot of sense to me the way people approach it. I don’t get it. When you’re teaching people to play guitar, the first thing you should give them is open tuning. Open E tuning and they could play guitar that day. And then maybe that would hook them into playing guitar in a way, and then they can learn the rest of it later, whatever it may be, but let ‘em get the musical hook in them before they get too discouraged by how hard it is. Why do we play guitar? It’s not for technique. It’s for enjoyment. It’s for communication artistically. It’s not for oh, look I can play this technique. Who cares? If you can’t write good songs, what difference does any of that make? None to me. I’ve written and recorded hundreds and hundreds of songs without any guitar lessons or any of that, or any ideas how music works on a mathematical level or being able to read music at all. So, there you go. I’m a professional musician and I don’t know how to do any of those sorts of things. I can’t communicate to you on that level at all, nor do I want to. I’m sure that I could learn all of that, but I just don’t see any reason to. That’s like a colossal waste of time.

SFL Music: Songs like “Lovely Butterflies” and I like how you guys did the Alice Cooper “Halo of Flies”.
Osborne: Yeah, “Halo of Flies” is amazing.

SFL Music: What would you say influences you when your write your music?
Osborne: God knows. I mean, you’d have to be specific. There’s been thousands of influences. It could be just you know, Iggy Pop described when he was a kid going to a car factory, boom. All the loud noises was a big influence, right? That could be an influence. My dog could be an influence.

SFL Music: Life in general?
Osborne: Life. My wife. All these things can be a huge influence on what I’m doing. I listen to tons of music all the time and you can go, I really like this Tom Waits song and I want to turn it into something we can do. How would we do this? That could be an influence or anything. Anything along those lines. I love that kind of stuff. I get great influence out of a record live (Judy) at Carnegie Hall by Judy Garland. It’s in my top ten records of all time I would say. If you listen to the dynamics she uses in her live show and she’s not a perfect singer, but she is better than everybody. When she sings, you believe her, and so like with Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix is considered the best guitar player by lots and lots of people, but he does not have a single technique that any guitar player in the future would ever teach anyone. It’s all wrong, but he’s the best! That doesn’t make any sense to me. If he’s the best, wouldn’t you teach people to think along those lines? They don’t. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s just, you’re crowding people into these little boxes that I don’t understand, and so I just feel like I’m, especially with guitar, I’m on my own out in the world and that’s fine with me. I don’t want to know any of those things. I don’t want to learn any of those things, and then I won’t be able to do them, good. If I can’t play speed weeny guitar stuff like that, then I won’t be influenced to do it. Don’t practice things you’re never going to do.

SFL Music: So, in 2021 you released Working With God and then you released Five Legged Dog. Are you guys going to release any new videos?
Osborne: Videos no. Videos by large are a waste of time. Nobody watches ‘em, so you might get a few hits here or there, but certainly nowhere would play them. We would be releasing them and putting up on YouTube. That would be it, but during the pandemic we did a Melvins T.V. thing which is three hour long shows where we played live and did interviews and stuff like that. So, we’re gonna be selling a record of that stuff, and then we’re gonna put those out as a DVD or Blue Ray too. That was a huge undertaking. We did it and it was really fun to do.

SFL Music: When are those going to be released?
Osborne: Those already came out during the pandemic. You can watch on Paid Preview. Then we put out the soundtrack on a double album that we’re going to be selling at the shows, and then we’re gonna put The Melvins CD together on a DVD Blue Ray.

SFL Music: You guys named the band after your supervisor. How did that all come about? The story is people didn’t like him, so were your trying to support him?
Osborne: No, I didn’t like him. No, no, no. I didn’t like him at all. He was a fuckin’ asshole, but we were looking for a name that wasn’t going to pigeon hole us, you know like the Holy Rollers or some kind of deaf metal name or something, or some punk rock name. I didn’t want anything like that and I liked the name The Ramones which is like, you didn’t know what you were getting. The Ramones, that could be anything. That could be a fucking mariachi band for all you know. We intentionally wanted a weird name like that and then we also wanted, our work, it doesn’t necessarily go along with what we sound like. Just make things a little more interesting along with life. I thought bands like the Butthole Surfers did that really well. They were good with their graphics. It didn’t really give you an idea of what the record was going to sound like. You had no idea. The most offensive thing about it is how we sound not what we look like or what we say. Not a lot of cursing or screaming, along those lines. If people don’t like us, then they just don’t like us.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you wanted fans to know? Anything else new?
Osborne: We got a big tour coming up. Happy to have everybody come out and see us play would be great. I don’t know when we’re gonna be back through, so should be fun. So, come on out. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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