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People have this weird impression about us, that we think and operate like other bands. And we really don’t, an Interview with (The) Melvins Part I

 

Interview by Pam and Mark Schaff

Photo by Pam and Mark Schaff

 

MGM : So the new album, ‘Basses Loaded’, came out a couple months ago, how’s the reception been?

Dale Crover : So far so good, well, people say they like it. They could be lying to me, but…

MGM : No, it’s good.

Dale : I think that people are into it. We like it, we think it’s a great record. We’re playing some of the songs live. One of them was in a cartoon recently.

MGM : The Uncle Grandpa cartoon?

Dale : Yep, Uncle Grandpa, that was a blast to be in. I picked that song, I was like yeah, you guys should put this one in the cartoon, it would be perfect.

MGM : Now this one is for Buzz, I know you’re  baseball fan.

Buzz Osbourne : Yes, well me and Dale both are. But since it’s my question…lol

MGM : Well I guess that either one of you can answer it then. Was the name of the album based on baseball, or because you had a lot of guest bass players on the album?

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Buzz : Look at the spelling. It’s Basses.

Dale : It’s a play on words. Basses Loaded. Actually, Trevor Dunn, one of the bass players on there, always joked how he was going to call one of his solo records bassist loaded.

Buzz : Bassist loaded, yeah.

Dale : We knew he would never do it, so we were like, hey we want to call our record this, he was like great!

Buzz : He actually said, “well I kinda stole that from somebody else”, I go who? He said “I don’t remember”.

Dale : So it doesn’t matter too much.

MGM : So how was it, you had like six different bass players I believe?

Buzz : We didn’t realize that when we started recording.

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MGM : Was it because you started recording like ten years ago or something?

Buzz : We don’t really think about that when we’re doing records. It’s just how it worked out.

Dale : Some of it was done already. We had done a couple records previously, one with Trevor, one with Jeff Pinkus, and we had tracks from those that we didn’t use. We knew we were going to save them for whatever future releases coming up. And then we ended up recording with the Big Business guys, Steve is playing live with us now. And then the original lineup with the band, where I played bass, we were like, oh, we could just do a combination of these different lineups. But yeah, some of it was already done, and we just realized, oh, and so then, that’s where the title came into play as well.

MGM : So I can’t wait to see the documentary, now is that something that you guys are putting?

Dale : It’s not ours. Some friends of ours did it. Right now they’re trying to show it at a few different film festival things. It’s playing this weekend in Las Vegas at the Psycho music fest out there. Then I think he’s got, I don’t know what else he’s got lined up for it. But that’s what he’s trying to do. At least play it in theatres before any kind of DVD release, just to see what it can do. These guys have never made a movie before, and so it’s all new to them.

MGM : There’s a huge buzz, people are talking about it.

Dale : That’s good. We saw it. We think it’s good. It’s weird watching a movie that’s about yourself.

Buzz : Yeah, we’re not that big of narcissists. I mean we’re narcissists, but hey. (laughs) Comes a slight limit.

Dale : But so far so good, hopefully those guys have good luck with it.

MGM : That would be great.

Buzz : We give them our blessing.

Dale : Yeah, absolutely, it’s a huge undertaking.

Buzz : Yeah, we’re tired of talking about us, let’s hear someone else talk about us…

Buzz : Yeah it’s good, it’ll be surprising to see, because we don’t really operate like other bands do. Some of that will surprise people. People have this weird impression about us, that we think and operate like other bands. And we really don’t. We’re not in competition with other bands. I was talking about this with some guy yesterday in Pittsburgh, even my gear, I make a point of, the gear that I’m going to use tonight, there is no one else on earth that has this setup. I guarantee it, no one else has it. That’s by design.

Steve McDonald enters the room.

Dale : This is Steve.

MGM : Hi!

Buzz : This is Steve McDonald!

Steve : Hello!

( Dale and Buzz Clapping)

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MGM : Nice to meet you Steve!

Buzz : Steve is playing bass with us, he plays bass in Redd Kross and Off! He also played with Spark, who else, oh, Courtney Love.

Steve : And rhythm guitar for two shows with Courtney Love.

Buzz : At the Hollywood Bowl.

Dale : Beck.

Steve : Beck, I toured with Beck once. I played in DC3 with Dez Cadena.

Dale : Anarchy 6, lead singer. And some other ones I’m forgetting too, that were pretty good. He was in a band with Sky Saxon. That was a pretty good one

Steve : A band with Sky Saxon, The Seeds.

Dale : Purple Electricity

Buzz : Did you drop acid with Sky?

Steve : I did not, Sky at the time was a perfect argument against dropping acid.

Dale : Movie Star!

MGM : That’s right, you were in two movies weren’t you? You and your brother.

Steve : Yeah, there’s two of us.

Buzz : No, how many movies were you in?

Steve : Well um…

Buzz : Spirit of 76

MGM : Oh wait, three movies you were in.

Dale : Lovedolls Superstar.

MGM : And the sequel.

Steve : Yeah Lovedolls was a series, there was Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, that was the first one. Then the blockbuster Lovedolls Superstar came next.

Buzz : Then the offers poured in after that?

Steve : Yeah!

Buzz : Spirit of 76 was more like a real movie.

Steve : yeah it’s like a proper 35 mm B film.

Buzz : That wasn’t just a Dave Markey handheld.

Dale : That’s what got ’em the gig right?

Steve : Yeah, well we kind of inspired it.

Buzz : You guys ran away with that movie I thought.

Dale : Which one 76?

Buzz : Yeah.

Steve : Yeah, we were the run away stars.

Dale : Lovedolls two, you guys were really funny.

Steve : Thank you, boy I’m glad I came upstairs.

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MGM : Perfect timing!

Buzz : My favorite part of Spirit Of 76 was “watch out for those Pinto’s, they explode if you hit them in the back. You don’t have to hit them in the back, they just explode.”

Steve : Yeah you just sneeze in their direction.

Dale : I remember that was a big deal back in the mid seventies. Uh oh, you have a Pinto, it’s gonna explode.

Steve : It was a period film about the mid seventies.

MGM : Right

Buzz : Did you’s see it?

MGM : No, I do want to see it though. I can’t find it.

Buzz : I don’t have it on DVD, Do you have a DVD copy you can give me?

Steve : If I have an extra one. If I have two you can have one.

MGM : It’s on tape, Buzz gets it.

Dale : I saw it in the theater.

Buzz : Did you guys do a red carpet in Hollywood with that movie?

Steve : We did actually. It opened and premiered at one of the small rooms at the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

Buzz : Did you and your brother ride up on the Schwinns?

Steve : Yeah, like banana seat bikes. We did not. There were some cool people there. I don’t know if it was the premier or one of the screenings, but Mel Brooks was there. And Carl Reiner.

Dale : He was in it wasn’t he?

Steve : No, Rob Reiner is in it. A seminar speaker. Devo are in it. David Cassidy. Leif Garret. Yeah it was quite a treat.

Buzz : Did you do blow with Leif Garret?

Steve : I missed the opportunity. One of those regrets.

Buzz : He was always doing something like that, How’d you miss it? He wasn’t sharing?

Steve : I was asleep at the wheel. I don’t know what I was thinking. Well actually, he was a perfectly good excuse against doing blow I would say.

Buzz : You realize, he was just another greedy guy with a mirror full of coke?

Steve : Well, the thing that Jeff and I thought was really funny, was that it was around the time he was dating Justine Bateman from Family Ties. And he had this picture of his girlfriend next to his bedside table, but it was this ridiculous paparazzi shot.

Dale : He told us how embarrassed he would be when they would go out. She would just be super rude to fans. Just vicious. But he was a really nice guy.

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MGM : You guys did a song with him didn’t you?

Dale and Buzz : We did.

Dale : He told the best Hollywood stories I’ve even heard.

Steve : Well he’s been through it.

Buzz : He’s seen it all.

Dale : Like he was Brooke Shields first date, he dated Tatum O’Neil, Ryan O’Neil socked him, doing coke with Hunter S. Thompson, delivering quaaludes to the set of Blues Brothers with John Belushi doing coke, eating sushi and popping ludes at the same time. Smoking heroin on an airplane with Robert Downy Jr. Anyways Back to us!

MGM : So you guys have been around for almost 35 years.

Buzz : Has it been only 35 years? Seems like so much longer.

MGM : What do you guys consider your greatest accomplishment?

Dale : Our greatest accomplishment, hmmm…. gosh I don’t know.

Buzz : Talking my wife into marrying me. That was a big one.

Dale : There’s always great things that happen. Like the cartoon for instance, was a really amazing thing for us to do. There’s always stuff that comes up that amazes us. We feel really fortunate.

Buzz : We survived this long.

Dale : Yeah we survived this long, that’s probably the greatest one right there. That we’re still around and not one member that’s ever been in the band has died. Yet….

Steve : Wow, That’s great!

MGM : Yeah that’s huge.

Buzz : We’re looking at you Steve. Somebody’s number is up. That’s it!

MGM : On the flip side of that question, do you have any regrets?

Buzz : No! I apologize for nothing. I mean. What? I have no idea. No. Nothing. You know I mean….No. Nothing. I wouldn’t change anything. I mean we know plenty of people, I mean what makes you happy, what is it?

Dale : As far as any band decision, no.

Buzz : No. You know people often say that kind of stuff to us. What is it that makes you do this or that? I don’t want to be anybody else. If I have to change places with someone and I have to be them, No, I wouldn’t do it.

MGM : I don’t blame you.

Buzz : No Thanks!

MGM : You guys got lumped into the whole grunge thing back in the day. Do you feel it helped your career?

Buzz : We did all we could by moving away. We put a thousand miles between us and them.

MGM : I think you guys were far ahead of your peers at the time in terms of having a unique sound. No other band sounded like you guys at the time.

Buzz : And we paid the price for it for a long time.

MGM : Do you guys feel like you kept your integrity intact, and you didn’t sell out? It seems that way from everything I’ve read about you guys over the years and interviews.

Dale : We tried to sell out.

Buzz : I mean, I wasn’t beavering away trying not to sell records.

MGM : But you weren’t trying to write pop songs, or trying to be radio friendly.

Buzz : Honestly I think our records could sell millions of copies. It’s not my fault that they don’t.

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MGM : I think they should sell millions.

Buzz : Right! I mean you know you can’t, Steve and I were both on Atlantic records at a time when bands sold millions of records. But if you look at what they sold, maybe ten percent of what they put out would sell a million records, if that. Most of the stuff they put out failed miserably. Massive money.

Steve : That was a time when it was all a big tax write off.

Buzz : Well they were just hoping for that 30 million seller. Just throwing shit against the wall to see if it stuck. And that’s how it works, and there’s no way, they were trying to sell out constantly. Everything, and they made no bones about that. It wasn’t like bands weren’t trying to do that. I mean even on an Indy. When we were on Boner Records, we had a distributer like Caroline tell us, or tell Boner, their record covers are stupid, their name is stupid, If you guys would do something that wasn’t so stupid, they would sell a lot more records. So even on an indy level, you’re not going to get away from it. Even then!

Steve : I think a lot of people have the misconception that major labels, at least for the bands in the grunge era for instance, that if you were signed to a major, that there was some executive tampering with your music, and giving you this opportunity for this one thing. And all these bands were lining up to do that. Bands like the Melvins and my band too, we just, I think they would just look at these bands and go like, I don’t even like this, but there’s a chance that it might sell millions, so we’re not going to even pretend to know which version of this band would sell millions. we’re just going to let them do their thing. But there would be a lot of outside perception that there was some like, puppet master, tampering with you. Just because you had led Zeppelins logo, same logo as a Led Zeppelin record or whatever, another band that was probably never tampered with as well you know, I’m sure they made the records they tried to make. The market place just is what it is, who knows.

Buzz : Nobody knows.

Dale : Yeah, they sorta don’t know.

Steve : But I mean, certainly things like boy bands, are totally constructed, something that’s created by the industry, auditioned, a team of hit songwriters do that. But I don’t think that, is something certainly bands of our peers.

Buzz : But if you look at a band, even a stupid band like The Mentors. The Mentors, who are nothing.

Steve : Them are fighting words.

Buzz : Yeah, I mean we like the Mentors, but if you look at a band like that, they were nothing at all. Nothing, no one cared about that at all. All of a sudden the PMRC gets all involved in that, and they get all this publicity, and all of a sudden, everybody in the US knows who they are. They go from making nothing, to I’m making a thousand bucks a show. So publicity and stuff like that does work. It absolutely does work.

Steve : I mean we were listening to The Mentors the other night, and it’s like, how can anybody take it seriously enough to be offended by it. I mean, “I’m a peeping Tom, I’m peeping at your mom”.

Buzz : But if you don’t want anyone to know about this, or be offended by it, the worst thing you can do is bring it before congress. Ignoring it is the best thing you can do.

Dale : And how did they even find it?

Dale : I’m going to find the most offensive thing in this record store, Ask the clerk. well there’s this band called The Mentors, he’s probably just laughing his head off.

Buzz : Yeah it’s just nuts. So there it is. I’m certainly no expert, but I know of American Idol, and you can take someone from obscurity and turn them into a big star. Even if it only lasts a few minutes, it just proves they can turn people into big stars. There it is. You take someone like Madonna, who’s clearly not a talented person by any means, and turn them into something big. So if they had taken our stuff, or Redd Kross’s stuff, and pumped it as much as they do with anything like that. It would have obviously sold a lot more records. Clearly! You know, if The Mentors can do it.

MGM : I think you guys are at a much higher level than that.

Buzz : My point is that there is something to that. We came out of the major label thing in a much better position than when we went into it. And we never thought it would work. We never thought we would sell millions of records. We just did it as like a little side road. Knowing it wasn’t going to work. And we were never bamboozled into believing this was our big shot.

Steve : I think that’s a unique part of The Melvins story. I think a lot of bands, myself included, when you see your friends suddenly like strike it. I’ll say that we were a generation that was like pre internet, and if I wanted to watch music on TV, there was one channel. It was just an endless fucking supply of things that seemed like your peers. That seemed to be becoming famous overnight. And I think that my band didn’t even do anything different to try and tap into that. We were just our weirdo selves. But I think that we might have hoped or whatever, and if you didn’t do that, then everybody in the company would act as if you were a failure. And the stupid people, like myself included, might have taken on that feeling. And that’s a stupid feeling. It’s not yours to own. If anything it’s like their marketing issue. They should have promoted something more if they wanted it to sell more. But these guys, at least from talking to them more in depth, they’ve always had a really grounded attitude about it. Like, really, you think you can sell, go for it. Give it a shot.

Dale : And we were willing to give it a shot. I mean opportunities like this don’t come up every day.

Steve : Sure, but I think walking into it with that attitude sets you up for, like a young artist, made if that kind of moment happens again, it’s like don’t let them make you feel like you failed at something or whatever. I think that Buzz’s sort of philosophy has really safeguarded him against that. And so the second they weren’t on Atlantic anymore they didn’t sulk, ” Oh we’ve been dropped”, “Oh we’ve failed”. For most bands it takes the wind out of their sails.

Dale : They feel like they can’t go back to something. For us anyway, we were already doing this for a living before we got signed to Atlantic. And so we knew, that well, we didn’t have to do anything different. Just do what we’ve always done.

Buzz : Plus, I really don’t care what they think. I don’t really care what anybody thinks. I mean I think they should like us. If they don’t, there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t respect them if they don’t like us. At all. I don’t go, well that’s nice, really nice, I’m glad you don’t like us. I think their idiots.

MGM : Agreed!

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Buzz : That’s OK though, I don’t agree with most of the world about any issues.

MGM : If you had to pick just one album, what would be your favorite?

Buzz : Of our stuff? Oh I couldn’t pick one. No way! If I had to pick records as a cross section for people to listen to our stuff, I don’t know, ‘Colossus Of Destiny’, ‘Eggnog’.

MGM : What album would you say best represents the Melvins?

Dale : Stoner Witch is a good across the board, of the things we do.

Buzz : It is, but it still gives people the wrong impression in some ways. Because I think it’s overproduced. In a lot of ways.

Dale : I haven’t really heard it in a long time so I don’t know.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 later……

 

 

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