Melvins Article 7 STAG (American tour, Day off between Toronto and Cleveland, September 11, 1996)

Look, it's Buzz!

Mel, Smel, Shel, Wel, Bel

The Melvins. A name to be reckoned with. They began about a million years ago. They created the Seattle scene out of their own belly button lint and then moved on to more southerly regions. They’ve just made their third major label record, and it’s called “Stag.” And it is quite possibly their best effort so far. They’re doing the tour thing right now, so I interviewed singer and guitarist Buzz Osborne a couple days before their Detroit show. (The show was Friday the 13th of September, the interview was on the 11th). What follows is a transcription of the interview. After that is a brief review of the show.

Buzz: ...awake.

Why did your press people do this to us?

B: It’s no big deal to me. I have to get up early anyway, we have to drive. Not for like an hour.

Why are there multiple versions of the art for the different formats of “Stag?”

B: Why? ‘Cause we thought it’d look cooler than cropping the CD artwork or blowing it up.

So it wasn’t something coming from the record company like “We have to have different versions of the artwork so everyone has to buy all of ‘em?”

B: Nonono, it came from us, and it wasn’t a monetary thing. It was a n artistic thing.

Who did the art?

B: My wife did it actually.

What was the inspiration for it?

B: We were really inspired by this voodoo tapestry artwork we saw at this exhibition at UCLA. That’s all kind of lifted from there, but she redrew everything so it’s all original. She did our last record cover, too.

Right, I’ve actually interviewed you before (and you told me of this at that time).

B: Oh really, when?

Sometime within a couple weeks before you came to Detroit on the L7 tour.

B: Awhile ago. Cool.

It’s always neat.

B: It’s always neat.

Was it a conscious decision to make “Stag” full of so many different kinds of songs?

B: It must’ve been. I dunno. We certainly wanted to do something that was a lot different than our last record. We’re not the Ramones. We wanted to do something that was, covered a little more ground, still rema[yawn]ined interesting to us. So it’s good. I think it’s our best record, I don’t know what everyone else thinks, but I’m happy with it definitely. Sonically, song wise, everything. It’s just very different from - well it’s not as different from “Prick” as it is from “Stoner Witch.”

Sort of a mix between the two.

B: Yeah, I would say. Certainly. Some reviewers accused us of growing up on this record. What the fuck are you talking about? There are so many songs on there that are [grunt] completely fucked up, I don’t know if that can be considered growing up. Oh well. The American press, the bigger press like Alternative Press or Spin or any of those things have not gotten it at all, as opposed to the European press. Over there they call this biggest work of genius, and here they’re sitting there and it’s like they’re pissed off that we haven’t written some head banging album. I like elements of that stuff too, but they’re missing the point, they’re just totally fucking stupid, you know?

Isn’t this album more head banging than “Stoner Witch?”

B: I don’t know, I never really think about things in terms of that.

It’s just less sludgy in places.

B: I think it moves right along. I think it’s good. In a world of bands that I hate, I think this record is really interesting and creative, and if people fail to see that in it, it’s not my fault.. It doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re fucking idiots. They can go listen to their fucking double compact disc of Smashing Pumpkins and get all the inspiration they need. What the fuck are they talking about. Oh well. OH WELL.

You have the AmRep singles coming out sort of the same time as this album.

B: Well, they’ve been coming out every month.

I’ve ordered them from AmRep so they come in these huge bundles. Are they being sent out every month to record stores?

B: Yeah, that’s what they’re doing. That’s a pretty odd collection of songs, don’t you think?

Yeah, it’s weird because I have a couple of the things. A couple of the tracks are Peel sessions aren’t they?

B: That’s a big secret.

There’s a real lack of liner notes on those.

B: There is. Like no liner notes.

Well it says what the songs are, which is better than some things. And it says who wrote them at least.

B: They get that right most of the time.

You just recorded a new song for those, right?

B: No we haven’t done that yet. Who told you that?

I was talking to Brent at AmRep, and he said you were going to be doing it 2 weeks after I talked to him.

B: Well, we haven’t done it yet. We need to do it. The last song. Actually, the last one, the b-side, is a cover of a song called Zodiac off our “Bullhead” record by this band Brutal Truth... So it’s them doing a cover of one of our songs.

So you’ll only have one song on the last one?

B: Yeah.

Is it gonna be a new one or...

B: We don’t have a clue. We don’t have a clue what we’re going to do. It could be anything. It could be a series of us farting in the van.

You can use this interview tape.

B: I can use this. I’ve kinda thought anything goes on these 7”s. Because I knew exactly what would happen [yawn]. I knew people wouldn’t just go “I like the 7th one so I’ll buy that one.” Or “I like the third one.” Everyone’s just gonna buy them all no matter what ‘cause they’re in a set, or they’re gonna buy as many as they can. It doesn’t matter what we put on them, it’s not even the point. ‘Cause I knew we were gonna put some stuff that some people would really want, and some stuff that we’d like and not as many people would want and some stuff that is just totally fucked up. We didn’t have any idea that we wouldn’t have any trouble getting rid of them, especially in editions of 800 every month. So I thought now’s the chance yet again to do something strange. I think it’s worked out really good. It was a really good idea. I really like it. Very odd.

It’s sort of hard to figure out which is which just from the front covers.

B: You can’t. It’s damn near impossible.

There’s the colors.

B: That’s right, if you can memorize the color coordinated chart that Tom was supposed to send out. Hehheh.

They’re not going to be collected onto a CD, are they?

B: No.

There was some talk of it, but then I heard that it wasn’t true.

B: That could very well be true, but it’s not going to happen in January or anything. No plans for that to happen.

It’ll just happen on someone’s CD-R.

B: What’s that?

The recordable CD thing.

B: Oh yeah. Exactly. I don’t really think that needs to happen, henhhenh, that they all need to be on one CD. I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll probably change my mind.

I enjoy vinyl, but I know lots of people who don’t, so I laugh at them.

B: Yeah well, I’ve never really worried about that. We just wanted to do something weird. A 7” every month for a whole year uhenhhenh. I wish more bands would do strange stuff like that. Make it a little interesting.

I wish bands would release singles in the US.

B: I’m not really a vinyl lover or anything like that. It’s just a recording medium and it’s really cheap at the moment, so it enables us to do things, don’t cost a hell of a lot of money and it’ll still get out to a certain amount of people. Fun. I really like the cover art. It’s a nice little package.

What a nice unit.

B: It’s nice, it’s nice. I like it. That’s important.

How was your experience playing with KISS earlier this year?

B: It was real good. They were totally cool to us. We had a lot of fun. I was happy to be involved in that. We did five shows. It was good, I wish we could have done more.

Were they aware that you’d cover them?

B: Oh yeah, they’re real aware of all that kind of stuff about them. Gene and Paul are the main guys and their brains are still intact because neither of them ever did drugs or alcohol so they’re totally aware of anything to do with KISS especially. And I have to hand it to them, they could get straight cock rock bands to open for them, and for us to do any shows with them at all is kinda cool. I can’t believe they would do something like that. But oh well. It was fun. I was glad to be part of it.

You seem to have been doing a lot of opening in the past couple years. You haven’t headlined Detroit, well, since I’ve been to one of your shows.

B: We headlined there, when was it, a couple years ago.

It was either right before or after you opened for Primus.

B: I think we played there with the Obsessed. Or Godheadsilo. I don’t know.

The closest you came for “Stoner Witch” was Grand Rapids. Have you just been doing a lot of opening stuff, or is Detroit cursed?

B: No, we like Detroit. Sometimes scheduling doesn’t permit it or we just don’t have the time. We always like playing Detroit. It’s fun. We always have a good time there. This time we’re playing someplace we’ve never been. I don’t know what it’s called.

The Shelter

B: Have you ever been there?

I was there last night seeing Jonothon Fire*Eater.

B: And?

I’ve been there before, I’ve seen the Cows there. It’s kind of a weird place, but it’s atmospheric.

B: Do you think we’ll like it?

You might like it.

B: Is it a filthy hell hole?

It’s not too filthy. You’ve been to St. Andrews, I know, I’ve seen you there. It’s in the basement of that.

B: Oh, it’s there. Gotcha.

So you can go get some Greek food if you need to over in Greektown.

B: I like Greektown. Greektown’s good. You don’t like it?

It’s OK. My girlfriend and I were there last night trying to figure out what we wanted to eat, and we didn’t want to eat Greek food so we were shit out of luck.

B: Not much else around there.

There’s actually a nice Mexican place.

B: Really. That’s interesting. I’ll have to head over there.

It’s in the block right next to St. Andrews.

B: We’ll be there the day after tomorrow.

Yep, I have to write this tonight.

B: You better get on it. We’re looking forward to headlining in Detroit. It’ll be fun. We just played Toronto last night. Day off. Cleveland.

Gonna go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

B: You know what? I was thinking about that and I realized I don’t have much interest in going.

Don’t want to see if you’re there?

B: Why on earth would we be there?

L7 is in it. Why wouldn’t you be? Not in the hall of fame itself, but like in the hall of mannequins or whatever.

B: They have the L7 band in it?

Apparently. I interviewed Jennifer Finch on the Warped tour and she said they were in it and there are mannequins of them in it.

B: Really? Very weird.

Not audioanimatronic. Just mannequins.

B: Do they have them going “Hello, hello” at the entrance? And people going “Who’s that?” No, I just don’t have much interest.

What else are you going to do?

B: Sit, go to the movies. Fun things of that nature. Play a show. Soundcheck for a show. We’re doing three sets you know.

Tell me about that.

B: Well, the first set is kind of an anything goes thing where I play bass and Mark plays guitar. And it’s rather strange. Well, we start off with this new song in the first set.

Like a new new song?

B: Brand new. Instrumental that’ll have vocals added to it later. Right now we’re just playing it live as the opener. And then we play this strange synthesizer thing. Dale plays the synthesizer, me and Mark make a series of clicks on the guitar and bass. Then we play the intro to “Eye Flys” off our first album. I play that bass line over and over and over and those guys do some experimental nonsense on both guitar and drums. And then we don’t ever finish a song, we just go right to where the vocals start and then we switch to a song off “Stoner Witch” called “Lacrimosa” that Mark sings, then we play the instrumental “June Bug” off “Stoner Witch” [yawn] then we wind up that nearly half an hour set with “Sky Pup” off of Houdini. And then we take a litttle short 10 minute break or so, and then I play guitar lead, and we have our instruments at about half volume and we play “At the Stake” off the “Stoner Witch” record, then we play “Cow” off of the “Bullhead” record, then we go into a song called “Tipping the Lion” off “Stoner Witch,” I mean off the “Stag” record. Then “Skinhorse” off “Stag.” Let me think, and then “Goose Freight Train” off the “Stoner Witch,” uh, record. And then “Captain Pungent” and “Bertha” off of “Stag.” Then Dale plays “Cottonmouth” off “Stag,” the last track, and that’s the end of the second set. Take a short break. Then we come back and play “Revolve” with our instruments on full tilt, we play “Revolve,” “Sweet Willy Roll Bar,” “Roadbull,” “Buckle,” and “the Bloat, “the Bit,” “Night Goat,” a new song called “Specimen,” and then a cover of a Fleetwood Mac song called “Green Manalishi,” but we do it in a real Peter Green kind of style as opposed to a Judas Priest style, then “Queen” off the “Stoner Witch” record, then “Antitoxidote” off the “Eggnog” record, and then “Sacrifice” off the “Lysol” record and that’s it. And don’t you think that’s enough?

How long do the sets go, together.

B: We play a little over 2 hours total. So it’s plenty.

So what kind of tapes should I bring?

B: A couple 60s should just about cover it without any trouble. But it’s been going good. We started doing it in Portland, er, we played the CMJ in NY and it was a bummer. But I mean, the show was good but I just don’t like those kind of things. Then we did a show in New London, Conn. where we played the three set thing for the first time and it went good. Then we played Boston, same thing. Then we played Portland, Montreal and Toronto. By the time we get to Detroit we should have it down pretty good.

Are you guys playing by yourselves?

B: Yeah, no opening bands. An evening with...

You’ll be playing against someone in St. Andrews when you’re in the Shelter.

B: Who?

The Meatmen.

B: Really? [shocked] That’s really weird.

I don’t even know if Tesco’s in it anymore.

B: They’re from there, right?

That’s what I’ve heard. Touch and Go, too.

B: I wonder how well they’ll draw.

I don’t know. I’ve seen that they were playing bars around New Year’s.

B: Very strange. I’ve never seen the Meatmen.

Neither have I, but I’m young.

B: How young.

Not that young. 22. Old enough to need to get a job

B: You’re young. I’m 32. Tesco’s older than me though.

But you have a job. And he still can’t get it up.

B: Could he ever?

That was the point of most of their songs, wasn’t it? At least in their cartoons, it was always like “unnnn, I’ve got no balls.”

B: I wonder if they’re any good?

I don’t know. You know those bands 10 years after they’ve broken up.

B: We never broke up. That’s why we’re still legit. ‘Cause we’ve never broken up. Take it from there.

And you’ve had the same bassist for?

B: Over three years. It’s a new record. He’s been on Stoner Witch, Prick and Stag. And a couple of things. And he produced our first two albums. It’s a plus having someone like that in the band it [yawn] helps out quite a bit, actually. It’s good. We have a good time. It’s my new saying.

Why not “have a gay old time?”

B: That doesn’t sound as good as we had a good time or we have a good time. Henhhenh. Strange, huh?

Not that strange. OK, I have an especially arcane question. On the stuff for the solo album with you, there’s a Foo Fighter demo thing with “Skeeter” on it, does that have you on it?

B: No it doesn’t really have me on it.

It just sounds like the same exactly as “Skeeter.” So you’re not on that.

B: That’s right, it’s a big secret.

You’re not involved at all?

B: Not in the least. Well, it was a whole project between us.

Do the other songs have you on them?

B: Oh yeah, totally. It was good. Happy to have it out. Good. Strange. Weird. Dave and I had a good time doing it.

Did he do drums on the other tracks, then?

B: Yeah.

Sorry, it’s just one of those things I didn’t understand.

B: Yeah, he played drums and did a few other things. Guitar a little bit. Whatnot. It was fun. Did it very quickly, like two days. It was a good experience. I like the record. It was fun it was good.

I enjoyed it. It was the first thing by you guys I got.

...[this bit was missing]...

B: ...they seem like kind of a rip-off of the 7 dwarves. So, I don’t know shit about it. Nothing. Kinda goofy. I don’t know. I don’t even know enough about em to hate em.

It’s my traditional closing question.

B: Sounds good then. I look forward to seeing the article.

You can always check it online.

B: I never go online.

Well then, I guess you can’t.

B: My wife works on computers but not me. She can’t handle doing that American online thing. ‘Cause (nutbe) fun to her. OK, well maybe I’ll see you in Detroit. Thanks man.

Thanks for your time.

Show review:

Well, they only played two sets, and they didn’t play enough off of their brilliant new album. The Shelter was annoying because there were so many people in it talking that it was hard to hear the show, even a thunder clapping kind like the Melvins play. Did I mention that doors were at 6:30 and the show was over a little after 9? On a Friday? That’s a little something the people at the venue like, ironically, to call “3 Floors of Fun,” where they play prerecorded music so that real bands have to play extremely short sets

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