it's new years eve san francisco, 1999, and the terror crew are feeling cusp-of-millenium madness, big time. a heavy bout of flu sees out initial stateside impressions somewhat 'coloured' by bedside nurse MTV's three day shift. britney you to hit her (baby one more time), christina wants you to rub her (the right way), and when the video 'jocks' (oh, the irony aren't hanging with their good friends limp, they are ensuring that EVERY word to EVERY fucking kid rock song EVER sets up camp in you head with no intention of leaving. ever. the outside world offers scant relief: a mere block from what is department store central, a bunch of bums are playing chess on the sidewalk (sat at tables no less) and the band we have to interview that day has, as support, a bunch of retards - of the 'special needs' variety as opposed to the bizkit ones. if not the perfect setting, then certainly an appropriate one for one of rock's most wayward, wanton progeny: melvins.


melvins should need no introduction; they defy one anyway. what is there to say about a band that are described as 'watching a wad of dough rise'- apart from the fact that it's a barely adequete description? the gargantuan frightwig possessed of main buzz osborne (aka king buzzo) is spectacular, but ultimately incidental - melvins just are. such blatant singularities are always bastard interviewees, as i discover when the head that deserves a place atop mount rushmore tires of my pedestrian openers and announces apropos of nothing that: "england is a really weird place." is it? "i find the english music scene to be kind of depressing," buzz continues. "i'm not 100% sure why that is. i've been to small, island type places a number of times and small countries and i haven't found it to be the same. like, we can play all over europe and do just the same as we do in the US. we can go to london and do really well, but the rest of england, nobody cares. why is that?"
KEVIN: "they're really insular." hey we're a small fucking island, ok?
BUZZO: "english people, if it's not on the cover of melody maker or NME, then they won't come and see the show. and generally speaking i find that to be kind of a bummer. you know? why is it that we do worse everywhere outside of london in england than we do anywhere else in the entire world?"

the rhetorical questions begin..

"why is that? because people there don't think for themselves."
WHAAAAT?? america is hardly heavy on the initiative either. our MTV cocoon triathalon proved that!
BUZZO: "well, we get absolutely no airplay on the radio. absolutely no MTV coverage, nothing like that, but we can go to a town like austin, tx and get a thousand people. how come i go to manchester and play to twenty people? why is that? i did a lot of research myself, asking people 'what is the deal here, why is it like this? and the promoters and the people who are at the shows go, 'if you guys were on the covers, it wouldn't matter what you sounded like, you'd have a huge crowd here', and i find that to be very depressing. because i don't depend on that kind of thing anywhere else in the world. that's why i say england is a weird place. it's weird." the mushroom cloud of hair pauses, "england is like nowhere else i've ever been . people think differently." kevin attempts some diplomacy; "people have a more innate interest in finding out about music in, say, texas for example. if you just go to some bar in texas, there's all this pretty great music on the jukebox and it means they themselves are interested in it. i think what maybe buzz was referring to is that in england it looks like, it appears that they're really insulated and kind of keep feeding the same circle without really exploring it by themselves. (hastily) so it appears."
BUZZO: "it's.." weird?
BUZZO: "it's odd." so, definitely my differently-minded, weird-assed limey sludge junkies, you can forget about that there UK tour, darn it.


we have established that england is weird. indeed, it has taken us half the interview to do so with as yet no mention of 'the crybaby'- the third release in mike patton's ipecac trilogy which began with the maggot and the bootlicker. better mention it then. it's a covers album, no? BUZZO: "no, it has some covers on it's us with a bunch of guest stars. such as l. garret, tool, d. yow, foetus, patton, h. williams III, k. sharp from brutal truth, and bliss from the painteens." a meeting of like minded souls?
BUZZO: "no, not necessarily," he counters. "we had ideas and reasons why we wanted to use each and everyone of those people." ok, let's start with patton then.
BUZZO: " i think mike's a very interesting character; he's the only guy i know who has sold millions of albums at one point in his career and has continued, after that to do things that are...insane and interesting. and he hasn't left that...he isn't brain damaged, you know?"

well, that's a debated unto itself, but melvins, like patton are beacons in a burned out '90's landscape, having spent the decade combining a near pathological disregard for major label etiquette (and atlantic thought they were getting the next nirvana!), staggering levels of invention (the strung out grunge battery of houdini and the steroidal psychedelia of stag were monstrous headfucks both) and a rather entertaining propensity for sheer idiocy. after all, what other band from the metal end of the spectrum would release something so wilfully incomprehensible as prick?
BUZZO: "nobody. unfortunately." so is an innate contrariness the motivating force behind releasing three albums in 9 months (with a fourth imminent on mans ruin records)? with the band all living in the same city (LA) for the first time in 8 years why no go for a fifth or sixth or hell, just continually record? i've always go things cooking in my brain" he says, in prelude to another rant.

BUZZO: i tell ya, if i was chris cornell and i had millions and millions of dollars, i'd be doing all kinds of crazy shit right now. if i could afford to do anything i wanted - i'd do all kinds of stuff. i just can't afford it. and what does that guy do? he's got shitloads of money and he does THE MOST BORING GARBAGE ON EARTH. if i was dave grohl, i wouldn't be wasting my time playing a bunch of bullshit. if i had been in a band like nirvana and then i wanted to continue my musical career, i wouldn't sit there and retread a bunch of bullshit and become even MORE commercial than i had in the past. NO WAY! those guys do not need to sell another album and they'll be taken care of for the rest of their lives, AND THIS IS THE FUCKING GARBAGE THEY PUT OUT. that OFFENDS me, cuz those guys know better."

yep, and we get enough trouble already from those who don't, given the durst/kid rock axis.

BUZZO: "kid rock! i hate it. it's idiocy."


idiocy is part of the magic of the melvins, but it's a fucked up, crazy sort as opposed to simple, key chained dumb-ass dumbness. which is why their inclusion on '98's ozzfest hi-profile, hi-package tour seemed a bit of a mystery.
KEVIN: "tool insisted."
BUZZO: "they really wanted tool to do it and tool said they wouldn't do it unless we did it. they're one of the few bands that actually have scruples. there you have it. they're one of the good guys. that's the only reason. i hated ozzfest, i hate the organization, i hate ozzy and his wife, and everybody involved in it. there's nothing good about any of it. it's sickening."

err...were you treated badly?

BUZZO: they treated everybody like shit. they underpay everyone, it's a rip-off, a lot of bands got paid nothing, they didn't pay any of the bands on the stage we were doing."

can you imagine deftones or sevendust saying that? course not. but then they probably got paid, or given free clothes, or got put on a movie soundtrack, or got to hang with ozzy. or something.


the interview is about to end and whilst we touch on buzzo's plans for when eventual world domination is achieved, a suitable fate for courtney love, why other US bands miss out the UK on european tours as well as bands that may not exist, i get no closer to uncovering the essence of the melvins. perhaps to do so would indeed be like dancing about architecture. but surely there must be something the hairquake has a positive passion for...ahaa! the other staple of US rock bands, KISS! melvins love KISS...don't they?

BUZZO: "actually that's been overblown a little bit. a lot of that is kind of a joke. those guys are really nice and everything but uh..i don't prostrate myself in front of them or anything. the solo records were a joke that went a little too far, but it was effective and it worked really well."

but gene must've had some prize stories to tell you.

BUZZO: "ohhh...gene's told us a lot of different things. gene's a great guy. real weirdo, but uh, they treated us very nicely. certainly a lot nicer than the ozzfest people did."