Thirty Years On, The Melvins’ Buzz Osborne Is Still Doing It His Way

The band’s latest, "Basses Loaded," is out this week



Buzz Osborne has no time for bullshit. The Melvins’ founder, singer, guitarist, songwriter and hard-core armchair philosopher is on a short break between the band’s last U.S. and upcoming European tours, after which the band will play another 40 U.S. shows in the fall. And still, there’s a new album to promote, letterpress CD covers to be handmade and packaged, future plans to be conceived. Osborne’s been working non-stop since he was 13, and jamming with the Melvins for more than 30 years. And he’s gone his own way from the start.

Before the Melvins, he says, “I worked shitty, minimum-wage jobs, but I also never had any student debt. So I never had any of that kind of stuff to worry about.” Osborne saw college as a waste of time. “I never bought into any of that crap. I always just thought it was dumb. Like, no, no, no! There has to be another way to do this.”

He worked odd jobs for another five years after the band formed, but he always stuck to his ideals. “I realized that I had good taste in what I was doing. And if I made music that I liked,” he explains, “there would be other people that liked it. It wouldn’t be millions, but it’d be enough.”

With Basses Loaded (Ipecac Recordings), the new album out this week, the Melvins continue their tradition of creating and playing whatever the hell they damn well please. Their music has never fit into any neat category, despite their reputation as one of grunge’s mighty forefathers. At times dark, heavy, and raucous, other times downright playful, the album even contains a cover of the Beatles’ “I Want to Tell You.” For this album, Osborne and drummer Dale Crover are joined by five stellar bassists (Crover plays bass on a few tunes as well). Once Redd Kross bassist Steve McDonald signed on, Osborne knew he’d finally get the chance to record one of his old favorites with another huge Beatles fan. And it was incredibly easy to do; they played it through once, and tracked all the pieces very quickly. “Fortunately,” he says, “I was working with musicians who are impeccable.”

“What the fuck is a weekend? Someone is telling you this so that you will be trapped in a world of failure.”

For their cover of the 1946 Benny Bell single “Shaving Cream,” the band injects some mischief into an otherwise radio-friendly sing-along. Elsewhere, ex-Nirvana member Krist Novoselic helps out on both bass and accordion, and Butthole Surfers’ Jeff Pinkus rejoins the band he’d toured with many times to record “Captain Come Down.” “Jeff is an amazing bass player,” Osborne says. “The Butthole Surfers are and were one of our favorite bands ever. When you think about a band that has had a major impact on music… There’s a band that will never be in the Rock and Roll of Fame, for what it’s worth. That’s a bunch of bullshit.”

Not that Osborne’s waiting around for a pat on the back himself. He’s too busy working on new music, the next thing.  “If there’s one piece of advice I’d give people is that you can not become successful by working 40 hours a week. That is a bunch of bullshit dreamed up by some fucking union. And what the fuck is a weekend? Someone is telling you this so that you will be trapped in a world of failure.”

“I spend 70 percent of my waking hours working on my band, figuring out, hustling, how I’m going to make this work,” he continues. “I always have. You cannot become rich, and you certainly cannot become successful, only working 40 hours a week. Nobody ever has.”

And, please, no excuses. “Everybody has talent in one way or another, but you just have to do it. I don’t find any aspect of it to be easy.” Whether it’s picking out chords on guitar or writing lyrics, he says, “you have to wade through a lot of fucking traps in order to get to the good stuff.”

And there’s much more good stuff to come. Osborne never stops working on new material. Whether he’s touring, or taking a break at home with his wife in L.A., the wheels are spinning. “There’s a really good line in that movie Dune,” he says. “’Plans within plans.’ I’m all about plans.”

“You have time for everything you want to do you in your life,” he says. “You just have to do it.”

— Stephanie Wargin




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