May 8, 2018
Buzz Osborne is grateful. And he wants you to know as much. He’s not angry, mad, sad, perturbed, disillusioned, or over it. After over three-plus decades of fronting his stalwart band Melvins, the fact that Osborne still has an enthusiastic audience is what drives him to create his singular style of off-brand, eccentric-but-accessible rock ‘n’ roll.
“I’m a very happy guy,” Osborne – aka King Buzzo – says from a tour stop in Baton Rouge. “I’m very grateful that we can still do this. And as a result of that, I will work as hard as I possibly can until I can’t do it anymore.”
“Or until nobody cares.”
People still care. After thirty-five years, a discography of nearly thirty albums, countless shows and a roll call just shy of twenty members, the Melvins chug on, living as something of a neo-psychedelic constant in today’s ever-changing content rich hell.
The band is currently touring in support of their latest album, Pinkus Abortion Technician, which was recorded during the same sessions that yielded their previous effort, 2017’s double LP A Walk With Love & Death.
It was during those sessions that the band realized they had an entire album at the ready. At first, presumed to be something of an EP, Pinkus was soon viewed by the band as a standalone album.
“If you take it in conjunction with the double album,” Osborne says, “it all makes sense.”
And though the band was sitting with the mixes for over a year, Osborne was hesitant to bring their new songs into the live setting, as is typical for the Melvins, it isn’t until after an album is released that the band plays their new songs live.
“I think it’s bad to do songs live before you commit them to an album,” Osborne says.
Focusing on the album and the show as two separate entities, Melvins have long proved that the live setting can provide something entirely unique rather than simply a night of album recreation. Osborne notes how songs can mutate live over time and how now, in the age of smartphones, every performance can be captured and live online ad infinitum, which is why the band prefers the album versions of their songs to reach the public first.
And where many musicians employ a variety of efforts with which to scrub the internet of any fan-sourced content, Osborne recognizes the value inherent in the culture of social media, YouTube and video sharing.
“Metallica isn’t playing the Rose Bowl because of their last album,” he says. “They’re doing it because of YouTube. That’s where people are going these days to discover.”
Osborne’s take on the idea of technology’s intersection with live music is decidedly forward, as his animation reaches new heights when asked about the subset of musicians who insist their fans refrain from capturing photo or video on their phones during a show.
“I’m not sure what they’re trying to hide,” he says. “It’s like when the Europeans discovered America, they weren’t going home. It’s changed. It’s going to continue to change.”
“The thing I find to be really annoying about that stuff,” he continues, “is if people want to sit and watch their cell phone, why the f*ck do you care? I’ve got too much to worry about on stage to worry about someone holding up a cell phone. But if you wanna do it, it’s your show. I don’t have time for that sh*t. Don’t worry about sh*t that you have no control over.”
“We’re not worse off because of technology. And the people who complain use these things every f&%king day. You go back to the landline. I wish when I was a kid to have had YouTube so I could see what Captain Beefheart and Blue Cheer looked like. To see a band going on tour and saying ‘I wanna go see that.’”
It’s easy for Osborne to talk in terms that are all-encompassing in scope. In the course of a twenty-minute interview, he touches on colonialism, global disease, that inspiration is everywhere, Miles Davis, germination, how people hated his band early on, the war on facts and a host of other topics, if only in passing.
He views the arc of his band’s endeavor much in the same colossal sense.
“We planted our flag and let the world revolve around that,” Osborne says. “Our music has had an impact on a global level and that’s because we stuck to what we believed in. I’m very happy that we did that and I’m very happy that I wasn’t wrong. This is what music means. Not from a point of arrogance. A point of being grateful. Again, I’m incredibly grateful.”
It’s hardly out of line to assume the Melvins newest album possesses some sort of grand connection, be it philosophical, lighthearted or otherwise, to their contemporaries Butthole Surfers. When considering facts like the album’s title – which is an obvious nod to the Surfers’ landmark Locust Abortion Technician – that the first song includes a Surfers cover, and that newest Melvins member Jeff Pinkus was a longtime Butthole Surfer himself, the idea of concept album readily creeps to mind.
Unlike every other topic at play in conversation, Buzzo is quick to dismiss this idea.
“Well, Pinkus is playing with us now. And he was in Butthole Surfers.
“That’s really it.”