Buzz talks small towns, the vinyl craze and politics
So you slept on snagging tickets to the Melvins show June 16 at the Pyramid Scheme. And, like clockwork, it sold out quickly. Well, we’ve got the next best thing: a conversation with guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne, the heavy-as-hell sludge band’s chief songwriter.
King Buzzo chatted about the band’s latest LP, Hold It In, which features Osborne and drummer Dale Crover – but also Butthole Surfers members Paul Leary (guitar) and bassist JD Pinkus. The veteran doom band is also reissuing Electroretard on June 2 – it will be packaged with The Bulls & The Bees EP. Here’s what Osborne had to say.
Why did you get your pals from the Butthole Surfers on the Hold it In LP?
Buzz Osborne: We’ve known them for a while and did some shows with them in the past. I was always a big fan of theirs for a long time. I’ve always really admired the way Paul Leary plays guitar. He’s always been one of my absolute favorite guitar players. I loved the Butthole Surfers’ weirdness and sense of melody and the fact they were able to write, what I consider, pop songs. I don’t know if most people see it that way. In the studio we let those guys do what they wanted. We wanted them to be as involved as possible. I didn’t want to sit there and tell them what to do. We let them write songs and run wild with the whole thing.
You grew up in a small town – did that inspire your songwriting at all?
I grew up in rural Washington state. I thought it was horrendous. I didn’t find anything there I really wanted to do. I can’t say I benefitted from it, not at all. In a situation like that there’s not much for kids to do so we ended up getting hammered and getting in trouble. If anything, I’m surprised I got out of there. My wife’s from Los Angeles, I’ve lived there for around twenty-three years now. My wife and I went back and drove around where I grew up and she said, “This is way worse than you described it.”
Do you follow politics much these days?
I don’t really get into it in a public forum. I’m not super excited about bands that take a massive political edge.
So you won’t be doing any Rage Against the Machine-style rants anytime soon?
Lord, no. That’d be a perfect example of exactly what I would not want to do – teenage-political blather. I guess it’d be along the lines of what the guys at South Park think. They don’t like conservatives but they really don’t like liberals. If I’m thinking along those lines, it’s like the people who think driving a Prius is going to save the world. Screw you. One minute of internet searching would do all of that in, which they won’t do. But they want to make me feel bad? They’re fascists, essentially. A fascist is someone who wants to control every aspect of your life. I feel that from liberals far more than anyone else. If we all took care of ourselves and kept our side of the road clean, things would be a lot better. And I don’t care what you do, but when you cross the line and start interfering with someone else’s life, to me that is the biggest crime of all.
How do you listen to music these days? Which format?
CD. It’s the best sounding thing out there. They’ll be hard pressed to find something that sounds better than that. I think eventually people will realize that again. If people want to listen to vinyl, that’s their business and I’m happy to sell them vinyl, but I don’t particularly think it’s better. I don’t know why people would think it does – it doesn’t make any sense to me. Vinyl is the worst sounding medium there is. People think they’re hearing warmth, what they’re actually hearing is compression. Talk to any mastering engineer and they’ll tell you exactly how much low and high end they have to cut off to get it on vinyl. I don’t mean to shit all over vinyl. If you have a decent stereo and speakers, vinyl sounds fine. It seems like a relatively harmless addiction. It’s basically a boutique item. It’s like kind of like collecting baseball cards. But I’m also not interested in storing my music on a computer or anything like that. I’ll listen to MP3s out of convenience but I’m not storing my music collection in the iCloud. No way.
What do you think of illegal MP3 downloading?
It doesn’t really bother me when people do that kind of thing, but with it comes consequences. The consequences are nobody will invest in music because there’s no money to be made – so there will be less of it and not much of it will be great. Record labels were giving the Beatles money because they knew they’d be able to make money on the other end. When that’s done and there’s no money to be made on the other end, why would people bother?
What’s next? Is there an end in sight for the Melvins?
I don’t have a lot of interest in doing anything else. I’ll do it as long as I can, I guess. If the Rolling Stones can still get on stage, why can’t I?
Buzz recommends some new-ish bands:
Le Butcherettes, they‘re playing with us on the tour – which I’m really excited about. They’re one of my favorite new bands out there. There’s a band called Tweak Bird, they’ve been around a while, it’s these brothers. Another one is called Big Business. I like those bands a lot.