HONKY (Tool support tour, August 31, 1998)

Melvins mix candor with clumsiness

Monday August 31st 1998

By David Conner

For Washington-based band The Melvins, touring means often times coping with less-than-desirable tourmates, crowds or accommodations. The trio, formed in 1987 by current singer Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, has taken to the road this summer with Tool and Ozzy Osbourne's Ozzfest. Playing a comfortable 45-minute set each night of their current shows with Tool, Crover says they are essentially playing for the fun of it.

"Tool are friends of ours," he said by phone from an Oregon dressing room. "Otherwise, we'd probably just be home working on new music."

The setup is quite nice for the band, which now includes bass player Mark Deutrom. After playing to capacity crowds in nearly every city, The Melvins have the option of relaxing on bean bags at the head of Tool's stage while the headliners perform.

Their musical style is a slow, grueling sonic cadence that draws common comparisons to Black Sabbath. It can be difficult for a pop fan to endure, and thus each show is not always a success.

"We've [gotten] stuff thrown at us every once in a while," Crover said. "Usually it's less panties and bras, more harmful objects."

The most painful object to get trucked onto the stage? Crover contends it was a British pound. While Johnny Rotten would simply ask for bills to be thrown instead, The Melvins have a bit of American humility to them.

"I don't think we're worth quite that much, though," he said. "We're probably more pence material."

The Melvins got their start among the sprouting group of Northwestern musicians burgeoning to explode onto MTV and album-oriented rock as the 1980s withered away. Osborne and Crover both went to school with Nirvana's Kurt Cobain in Aberdeen, Wash. Crover played drums on several tracks on Nirvana's Bleach.

Additionally, they played among the Seattle music scene until it busted wide open with Nirvana's success. They contributed to local band Mudhoney's lineup when original bassist Matt Lukin left The Melvins to join them.

The band members have since relocated from Washington to California and the United Kingdom. Osborne haunts the streets of Los Angeles, while Crover lives near San Francisco. Deutrom carries a British citizenship.

Following a quick record deal with Atlantic records, The Melvins returned to Indie status in 1996, and currently remain somewhat outcasts of the pop music scene.

While the band generally drew a respectable audience to their Ozzfest side-stage shows, Crover said they just didn't fit in with the overall attitude.

"There seems to be a similar sound at Ozzfest," Crover said. "Most of the bands sound a lot like that band Korn. They all jump around in unison."

While Ozzfest wasn't quite the rock 'n' roll summer camp other veterans have called it, Crover said that seeing Motorhead was a great pleasure for him.

"I hung out with Lemmy some," he said. "We saw him sunbathing in a pink thong. No joke! I have pictures to prove it!"

The present situation for The Melvins gives them quite a center-stage presence. While they saunter in front of Tool's James Maynard Keenan on their way to snatch a beer from the ice chest precariously set extreme stage-right, Crover, Osborne or Deutrom might only get asked to share a bottle with their hosts. Not too shabby a proposition.

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