Recently, I got the chance to speak with two constants of The Melvins – Dale Crover and Buzz Osborne. Since Dale Crover joined The Melvins in the early 80’s both him and King Buzzo kept on pushing the boarders of sounds, composition, exploring everything from continuous metal-tasting passages to the oversarcastic songs like “I Fuck Around”, “Fuck You” and everything in between.

In the interview for Boston Hassle, Buzz and Dale speak about the recently released “Working With God” and work with Mike Dillard, about their upcoming plans and the formation of the ideas, the process of writing and importance of set-lists, they reveal a few secrets about “Working With God” and speak about rock-criticism.

HASSLE:

“Working with God” became the very first Melvins’ record you did with Mike Dillard, who was one of the very first members of the band. Occasionally you collaborated on live-shows and some LP’s– what brought you together for this time ?

DALE:

I think, we just decided it’s time to do another record with Mike. We did a previous records with Jeff Pinkus and Steven McDonald. We had already released a record previously with Mike Dillard. Yeah, this lineup of the band kind of exists with another one. And we do stuff when we can ( laughter ). Mike has a steady-job and it’s definitely a side-thing for him. We’d love to play live-shows! I don’t think we can…Just because he’s got a real-job – we don’t ( laughts ). It’s fun getting together with Mike! We’ve known for such a long time. And even if we hadn’t seen each other for a year, once we get together it’s just taking up to where we left off. He seems to be like a part of a band.

HASSLE:

Dale, with Mike you’re obviously, you two are drummers. And I think, it’s one of these rare cases where two drummers reached a certain synchronicity…Another one that comes to my mind is Martin Atkins and Bill Rieflin.

DALE:

Oh, right!…

HASSLE:

How it is to work with another drummer ?

DALE:

It’s easy enough! But Mike plays majority of the drums on the record. And I play all the bass. So it’s the original version of the band…But it’s not ( laughter ). We started doing this back when Jello Biafra had big 50’s anniversary birthday party. And he has released vinyl versions of the original Melvins’ demos. When those came out, I remember [him] mentioning: “Oh, you, guys should reform that version of the band!”- we said: “Ok!” but I had to play bass. So…That’s how I got the job!

BUZZ:

Working with two drummers I had my hands on…( laughs )

DALE:

( laughs )

BUZZ:

…A lot of crying, explaining things five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten times…

DALE:

You really have to dumb things down with two drummers!

BUZZ:

It was tough!

DALE:

There are a lot of explaining…Long explanations! “No, you’re doing it wrong!…”

BUZZ:

“Just stop what you’re doing…”

DALE:

( laughts )

BUZZ:

And when you have one of the drummers playing bass – it’s even worser. Because, like every drummer who wants to play bass – they want to play slap-bass. Pau-pau-pa-pau!

DALE:

Ti-di-ti-di-ti-di…

BUZZ:

They play bass like they play drums! Les Claypool, he was the drummer to start with. Right ?

DALE:

Yeah! Sure! He’d mastered it!

BUZZ:

Then, there was Bootsy, Flea – they all drummers!

HASSLE:

Over the years, you used to collaborate with various people. Even though they all are like-minded, what do you feel getting into each different situation with different lineup ? Musically.

BUZZ:

Oh…You know, everybody offers their own take on stuff. A lot of times. Thing with Dillard was tough, because he doesn’t live in L.A. So…We had to make stuff in time, so when he’d come down, we’d have things ready, when he’d got there. But that’s ok! We’d never done like that before! And it was a nice thing to do. I think, the record came out very good! I like this record a little more than the last one. But I like the last one, the great deal. And I’m looking forward to do another one some time soon. Hopefully!

HASSLE:

Is there any sort of feeling you have that motivates you to go to the studio ? You always have lots of ideas ready to get used. How do you understand that it’s time to come and record them ?

BUZZ:

Em…I always have songs. If we would record a song right now, I could come in with something. I have stuff! I’m always working on something. I never show up and go: “I DON’T HAVE ANY SONGS! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!”

DALE:

Those songs you wrote for “Working with God” – most of them were picked specifically for Dillard to play drums on, right ?

BUZZ:

I think those ones because I thought he could, but didn’t write them thinking he’s gonna play on. I might had finished them taking that he’s gonna playing on. But generally, I come up with riffs. And decide what I’m gonna do with it afterwards. But I have…Really, honestly, we can put out 10 albums of material without me writing a single new thing. If I just went back through the stuff I had and pick out stuff I could use. But I’m always writing new stuff. Sometimes, you can hear the stuff that’s better.

HASSLE:

I think, in one of your interviews you’ve mentioned that before taking decisions you still need to throw out garbage leaving those ideas that eventually would become songs. How do you understand what can become a real song ?

BUZZ:

I write something and record the idea with the idea that it’s probably something that’s good for that moment. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not. And so, most of it just doesn’t ever get used. So that’s what I mean by you, waiting through garbage. I go back and listen to this saying: “Well, why did I like this ? I don’t like it! Oh! This one I can use something with! Maybe…” – recently, for the last year, I went though all my 4-track cassette tapes. I listened to them. Most of them were the stuff that’s just crap. 95% percent of it was just stuff I worked on and just not good. That’s how it goes ( laughs )….

DALE:

Trial and error…

BUZZ:

Yeah! One thing I really liked about that is that I finally got to the point where I could read my stuff. I just toast it all. Part of that was because…I saw that horrible Kurt Cobain documentary, where they went through all that stuff. I was like: “That’s not happening to me! There’s no way to do that!”

DALE:

Right. That’s stuff that he never wanted anybody to see, probably.

BUZZ:

Right! Here or wherever. Just get rid of it!

DALE:

Did you find any goal for the next record ?

BUZZ:

I do stuff! All that 4-track stuff I went through long time ago, picking out the best stuff. Long time ago. “Maybe there’s something in here…” – I listen to it and…Hours of listening. And there’s nothing! Nothing I’m gonna use! I just toast it!

DALE:

Funny, because we use everything, pretty much! There is nothing that we: “Oh, no! This isn’t it! This isn’t any good!”

BUZZ:

No! After time, we get to the point of band working on it…

DALE:

Right. We always use it!

BUZZ:

That’s not hard to do! With any band – it’s already filtered enough tough with some idea of work.

HASSLE:

After you, Dale joined Buzz and Matt Lukin, you formed the core of the creative unit of the band. What was your work like, on the songs that lately came out as “Deep Six” EP ? Especially taking into account that you were limited with budget and time, at that point…

DALE:

When I joined the band, those guys were just recording their very first demo. In more or less real studio ( laughs ). So, we were playing all those songs. But then, also they were writing songs pretty quickly. It wasn’t too long, after that…We recorded The “Deep Six” stuff in 85…?

BUZZ:

Yeah, probably. Somewhere around there.

DALE:

…And it was all done just in a couple hours.

HASSLE:

Really ?

DALE:

Yes!

BUZZ:

That’s how EVERY BAND recorded.

DALE:

Yes! I believe! Just in the afternoon. I remember, the owner of the studio hitting my drums and going: “Eeeh! That sounds like SHIT!”

BUZZ:

When you hit. And with anybody who’d played those drums it doesn’t make a difference…

DALE:

Right!

BUZZ:

I remember that specific recording, because, The U-Men, were the once who got allowed to use one song. That was it. We’d done more. It was like: “Eh, that’s too bad!” because in the end, they ended up not putting out a lot of records.

DALE:

Well, they were the only band who’d actually got a record. Out of those.

HASSLE:

These days, you have your own studio. How it feels to have these limitless possibilities ? You don’t have to think on a number of songs you put on a record, hours etc…You just go ahead and do what you want…

DALE:

Perry much that’s true! Less pressure. We’re not typically rushed, because we only have a certain amount of time. But we still work very quickly.

BUZZ:

I’m trying to think on a new way of doing stuff. As an experiment. But I’m not sure yet…

HASSLE:

One of the songs that resonated with me was “Brian, The Face-Horsed Goon” – what pushed you to divide one song with one obviously lyrical character into such sort of prelude and the main part ?

BUZZ:

They wrote the music! And I wrote the lyrics! So…I don’t know, what you were thinking when you wrote the music ? But “Brian, The Face-Horsed Goon” it’s just something we had for a long time. The name. And the song, the beginning of it, some people may have problems with – that’s something we had for a long time too. That’s what the original idea of it.

DALE:

I don’t have problems with it ( laughter ).

BUZZ:

Too much goofy stuff on a record! People are so uptight! What are you talking about ? It’s the same people that were upset about Metallica doing that record with Lou Reed. Which THE BEST RECORD THEY EVER DID.

HASSLE:

Yeah! THAT’S TRUE! 

DALE:

( laughs ).

BUZZ:

People – “This sucks!” – no, you sucks! You don’t like this ?! This is the best idea they ever had! By far it’s the best idea. “No! I’d rather listen to St.Anger!”

HASSLE:

Did you like it at all ?

BUZZ:

I never listened to that record!

DALE:

( laughts )

BUZZ:

…All I did – I watched the movie. I didn’t listen to that record. I can’t imagine spending a time and listening to it. I’d rather listen to The Eagles Double Live Greatest Hits record then this record! All I did – I watched the movie. Those guys, they lost it. And then they put out that record with Lou Reed, which is: “No! They have it! They really do have it!”

DALE:

THEY HAVE IT! They fans didn’t feel that way at all. But we feel that way! I thought it was really cool that they did that record. Not in a joking way! Not in a joking way.

BUZZ:

No jokes at all! It’s really good!

HASSLE:

There are a couple more names you refer to in song-titles –  “Brian, The Face-Horsed Goon”, “Bouncing Rick”, “Boy Mike” – do these characters have real prototypes ?

DALE:

( laughts ) – YES!

BUZZ:

Well, they do! But “Boy Mike” is a different to what people think. It’s actually a microphone. That’s what I was thinking when I wrote the song – that’s more of that kind of thing. Like how you remember things, from long time ago. That’s not “Mike” as “Michael” – that’s “Mike” as “Microphone”.

HASSLE:

Over the course of a record, such songs as “I Fuck Around”, “Fuck You” and “Goodnight Sweet Heart”. All them come after quite heavy-songs, except the opening one. Does it all has to deal with an idea of contrast ? Like you don’t want your listeners to feel one particular emotion. But the whole spectrum.

BUZZ:

Yeah…I mean, our band is called The Melvins. So, it’s not exactly heavy-metal-sounding name. Why people would expect that from us ? That’s just dumb limitations. Nobody as a band like us, that has a capability for writing and recording that kind of heavy-metal or doomy or crazy-sounding stuff ALSO DOES Beach Boys’ covers with our lyrics.

DALE:

Yeah.

BUZZ:

Which is the reason why we need to do it! Whether people like it or not. Never not been the case anywhere…It Seattle, when we put out “Stoner Witch”, the Rocket reviewed it…Some fucking chump there, some heavy metal deep-shit, he wrote some shitty review – THAT’S RIGHT! Now it’s considered as classic. Well, that’s how it was!

DALE:

And again, Yoko Ono loved that record!

BUZZ:

“Stag!”. She liked “Stag”!

DALE:

Oh, ok!

BUZZ:

But I mean, people say…”Gluey Porch Treatments” – nobody care about that record when it came out. NOBODY. Nobody gave a fucking shit about it. So, there’s nothing new. People say the same shit over and over and over…About our records. The criticism is always the same. Just because they can’t think outside of the box. They just can’t do it. Can’t do it! ( laughs )

DALE:

Most part like this one [“Working With God”].

BUZZ:

The reviews are not always bad. It’s always the same thing.

DALE:

Mostly the same for people who don’t like what we do.

BUZZ:

Doesn’t matter what we do. Like Pitchfork. No matter what you’d put out.

DALE:

The same rating…

BUZZ:

Yeah! 0.0

TOGETHER:

ZERO POINT ZERO.

BUZZ:

I mean, it’s ok! I know it’s hard to sell. Music fans and critics are really conservative people.

DALE:

Yeah.

BUZZ:

…They’re not willing to go outside of this kind of thing. We always like weird stuff as well as other stuff. All them together make sense to me.

HASSLE:

You Buzz, recently released your solo “Gift Of Sacrifice” and you Dale just presented your “Rat-A-Tat-Tat!”. How different is your mindset, and approaches when you’re working on a solo-material ?   

BUZZ:

That’s definitely different from the beginning. The mindset is not lot different. Trying to write songs that would work without drums on. [With] this one, I added the bass later. Which is why it’s called “King Buzzo with Trevor Dunn” and not “King Buzzo and Trevor Dunn”.

DALE:

I guess for me, there are guitar-sounds and drum-sounds. I guess, a bunch of different things in studio. Not all of them. You’ll think that way: there’s NO BAND.

BUZZ:

What’s really funny is that I saw some criticism on us where people said: “those guys have the real album since…blah-blah-blah!” – motherfucker! I put out a solo record, Dale put out a solo-record. We got a tone of other, limited editions stuff – what are you talking about ? ( laughs ). There’s the brand new record that just came out – what the hell are you talking about ? “Lazy” is not our vocabulary. That’s crazy! Last year, it was fucked up with COVID, I would have done a gigantic tour on the entire world by myself. Then all that shit came. Redd Cross were going to do a huge tour when that shit came.

I mean, we had two records coming out in the end of the year [2020] – my record was pushed back, another record was pushed back. We must have been on tour right now. If we had everything we had planned originally. What do people want us to do ? “LET’S RECORD ANOTHER ALBUM! And then…put it out” – We just put out an album. – You should put out another album. – I just put out an album! I put out a solo-record, Dale put out a solo-record. Plus, a bunch of limited-edition stuff last year! Gimmie a break!

HASSLE:

I guess, it was the same for Genesis P-Orridge. No matter how many records he’d put out – everyone would ask him about “20 Jazz Funk Greats”. And that’s the problem for many people. They want to pick up a record that would sound fresh and new and interesting – all that shit.

BUZZ:

I don’t think they listen to the records! Honestly!

DALE:

( laughs )

BUZZ:

I can review records! But in this case, I’d only review the records I like.

HASSLE:

Yeah! Yeah! That’s the only way of doing it…

BUZZ:

If I won’t review it – that’s because I don’t like it. Writing a shitty review on the record is one of the easiest things in the world. Who cares ? Like me writing a review of Madonna album – who cares ?!

HASSLE:

When you’re playing live, having an additional drummer, additional bass-player – what, according to your opinion these people bring to the music, that’s already written ?

DALE:

When we were going with both Steven McDonald and Jeff Pinkus, we let those guys come up with their own parts. We showed them how the sounds go…Sort of… “Here’s how we play it!” and let them do their thing. Those guys worked really hard on two different bass-parts.

BUZZ:

There’s nobody doing that kind of stuff. “Let’s add a drummer! Let’s have a bass-player!” – nobody’s doing it. We’re on our own.

DALE:

And we never thought like our songs are secret stone and why they can get changed ? They evolve anyway. Live.

BUZZ:

A lot of them are played wrong!

DALE:

You don’t even realize “Yeah, I play it wrong!”…(laughs)

BUZZ:

Just leave it! It’s fine!

HASSLE:

“Working with God” the name of the record, sounds synonymously to the word “creation”. While on the cover, you portrayed a series of tornado. Isn’t it antithesis ? Where does this name comes from ?

BUZZ:

You know, we wanted to use “with God”! Melvins with God, doing something. It could be walking, killing…And then, we came up with “working” – “Oh, yeah! Working with God!”. God creates everything including tornados. So…Why everybody believes that if you’re religious and you believe in God, everything has to be good. No. There’s nothing like a Biblical-hailstorm putting you back on your place.

DALE:

That’s right!

BUZZ:

…Somebody said, once we were talking about a movie: “You don’t want to be an angel! Being an angel, you’d be in a big trouble!”

DALE:

( laughs )

BUZZ:

It’s not gonna be good!

HASSLE:

Yep. This idea you came to sounds synonymous to what Wim Wenders did with “Wings of Desire”.

BUZZ:

Yeah! But we also put “God” in it!

HASSLE:

When you have a non-limited amount of time and resources, spending on the recording as much time as you need – when you usually understand that the record is finished ?

DALE:

We usually do everything by time. “Ok! That’s enough time for a record!”. Put on the puzzle to get to. Other then “Maybe we have an idea that’s gonna start with a Beach-Boys song and then ending with “Good Night, Sweetheart”. We knew the beginning; we knew the ending…

BUZZ:

YES!

DALE:

…so we’d just piece it all together from there.

BUZZ:

If you listen to the song, the beginning of “Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon”. That beginning, if you’d listen to that – it goes into “Brian, The Horse-Faced Goon” the song, and then, there’s “Boy Mike” and then, “Fuck You” and then, as “Fuck You” ends. If you’d look at “Brian, the Horse-Faced Goon” and “Fuck You” ending – in between that, there’s a really good EP.

DALE:

Yeah! Right!

BUZZ:

There’s an EP right in the middle of a record, with bulk ends on both sides – THAT’S by design.

HASSLE:

A RECORD IN THE RECORD!

BUZZ:

A record in the record! People are too dumb to realize that! But that’s actually what it is. And I spent A LOT OF TIME on the sequencing. Like Dale said – we wanted to do The Beach Boys song FIRST, OF COURSE. It has to be first. So, people won’t worry about that. And then, “Goodnight, Sweetheart” has to be last. In between that, how you make it interesting – here’s how you do it. Think about all these various ways. Sequencing a record is like editing a movie together.

We want to add a flow to it, from the beginning to the end. It has to make sense. ‘Cause, having a wrong song you’d have a wrong set-list. I’ve seen bands doing that. Which is why we stick to one that’s really good for the tour, trying a few changes. Because, if you’d have the wrong setlist – nobody pays you that more [attention] than the audience.

Photo Credit: The Melvins

Working with God” is out now on Ipecac Records.

LINKS:
melvinsofficial.bandcamp.com
www.themelvins.net
www.facebook.com/melvinsarmy

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