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Interview & Photos: Melvins

Interview by Keira Zhou and Gerry Song
Photos by Keira Zhou

How did the project first start? How did you form the current band?

Buzz: Currently, me and Dale are playing with Steven McDonald from Redd Kross. Dale is also playing in Redd Kross on drums. He and Steven are both double duty tonight.

Dale: Both bands have been playing for a long time. The band (the Melvins) started

36 years ago. Actually I just celebrated my 35th anniversary in the band.

Buzz: We started in 1983.

What happened to the first drummer?

Buzz: He still lives in the same town we grew up in. In Washington. He is married to the woman he was going out with when I met him.

Is that why he quit band?

Dale: He didn’t really quit. We still do music with him. He looks exactly the same except he has a giant beard now.

It seems like the band had a lot of members joining and leaving, what were the reasons behind that?

Dale: Yeah usually the bass players. It’s been a long time too.

Buzz: 2005 we lost a bass player to drugs and alcohol. We said that we’d never have that happen again. So what we were gonna do was, whatever me and him (Dale) are doing, is the Melvins. That opens the door for us to collaborate with a lot of other people. Now we are not attached to the waste of a bass player who’s in the band. We don’t have to be.

Has the music, song writing been influenced by different members of the band?

Buzz: It’s good psychically. Because it’s like “oh you don’t want to do it? Fine we’ll find someone else.” It’s good to play with the same player for a long time, but I can’t get too much attach to it. At this point, whatever me and him (Dale) is doing is the Melvins.

Do you think your sound stays consistent despite different people?

Dale: It’s consistent but musically we are all over the map anyway. Anybody we’ve been played with, we’ve never told them that “it has to be this way”, we let them do what they want. We played with them because we like the way they’ve already played. Let them interpret the song.

What’s the audition like for the Melvins?

Dale: There’s no audition. We just decide that we want to play with that person. We are usually a fan already. We’ve never been in the situation that we played with somebody and be like “oh that sucks”. It always worked out.

Who would you say that has been the biggest influence on the band?

Buzz: The Who. They want to do a lot of stuff. They concentrated on being a really good live band. They are all really good players. They have a lot of weird music.

Do you two agree on the Who?

Where do you disagree?

Buzz: We don’t disagree on too much stuff.

Dale: Yea not really. Musically we all like a lot of the same stuff and open minded about all kinds of stuff.

Buzz: He (Dale) might like a little more than I do. Some newer bands, I’m not quite as open minded to. But I haven’t had situations where he offered up something that he thought that I would like that I didn’t. And vice versa

Do you spend time outside of the band?

Buzz: We spend a lot of time together in the band. He’s (Dale) got a family, wife and kids. Obviously that would take up a lot of time, a lot of space and energy.

Dale: But golf sometime, go to the baseball game sometimes.

Buzz: If you have ticket to any sporting event, I would go.

Dale: How about a concert?

Buzz: No. That I will not do.

Unless it’s The Who?

Buzz: Um I don’t know. Even if you have tickets to The Who, I probably wouldn’t go.

I might, but I doubt it.

Your lyrics cover a lot of themes and topics; what inspires that?

Buzz: Um, there are enough bands being super direct. People should expect us to be. Music usually inspires it. Music comes first, and then think of the lyrics to go along with the music. A lot times, I don’t like to flow the melody line that’s already there. I want to come up with a new melody line. Then when I listen to music, I often hear that sort of things and that irritates me. You know, “Oh yea he’s just singing the bass line”, “He’s singing the guitar line”; I don’t like that. You know the song Paranoid, Black Sabbath song; he’s just singing the riff. That’s lazy. It works, he can’t think of anything else to do so that’s what he did.

Do you like that song?

Buzz: Yea I like it fine, but I’m more impressed with things that are much more linear than that. I pointed that out to people, and they started to listen to music like that too, and they are like “yea you are right!” They have never thought of that.

What’s a working session of song writing like for you guys?

Dale: He’ll (Buzz) usually have something already that he wants to work on. Sometimes we’ll just jam for a while.

Buzz: If you give us a drum set and a guitar, we can write songs all day.

How do you decide what to bring to recording then?

Buzz: Sometimes if I’m stuck, I’ll just go through the thousands and thousands of riffs that I have, that I recorded but haven’t figured out what to do with yet, and try to see if something emerges from it. A lot of times, it’s funny, but people would be like “Your older songs are better.” I would go, “Ok, what record? Some of the songs in our new record are from what I wrote then. It is just new to you.” Usually I have something that I like, that I know it’s good but I just don’t know what to do with it. We’ve worked on stuff for 10 years sometimes.

Dale: Yea, sometimes a riff comes back, and I’ll be like “yea, I forgot about that one.”

Buzz: Time sometimes just makes that work. All of a sudden you are just inspired in another way. I can write stuff all day long, but not all of them are gonna be good. If you want good songs, they don’t come easily.

What’s your personal favorite album of yours?

Dale: Gosh I don’t know. I always say Stag, but now I think I like Stoner Witch better. Some of our early records were done in such a short amount of time; it’s a blur.

Buzz: We were very well rehearsed. Now we are not so rehearsed when we record.

Dale: Which is fine. Things changed. When you were younger, and you’ve never been in recording studio that much, you wanna be rehearsed, you don’t wanna fuck up anything. But then after you do for about 50 records, you are relaxed a little bit.

Buzz: You start to realize that good is arbitrary. We’ve worked on songs extensively and put on a record, and worked on a song hardly at all, put on a record. Nobody knows the difference. They don’t say things like “oh this one sounds like they worked way harder than that one.” No, they don’t notice it. The songs that I think are really really amazing, nobody really cares about. I don’t know what people are gonna like. I can’t be concerned about it. It’s not our business, whether you like a record or not. I like our album A Walk with Love and Death, two albums, which are completely different. I’m very proud of how it turned out. Side Two is soundtrack of a movie that didn’t exist at the time. We made a movie after it. I just want to make soundtrack music, and then we made a movie to go along with it. Me and this other

guy Jesse filmed the whole thing.

Do you two also make films together?

Dale: We did a tour film of the tour we did in 2012. That was 51 shows in 51 days, every state plus Washington DC. Everybody did some filming. Our tour manager had a computer and dumped things on it and did some editing.

Buzz: So we did a 53 min movie, 1 min per state. But I’m interested in that kinda of

stuff (filming).

What do you guys like to do during downtime on tour?

Dale: Sit around and drink coffee. A normal day on tour would be, get up, go to eat free breakfast at the hotel, go to the gym, work out, shower, and drive to some place for a while, stop somewhere along the way, usually for gas, maybe for food if there’s time, get to the gig, load the shit in, set the shit up, check the shit out, and then go eat dinner, and sit around for a while and wait for the show to start.

And drink coffee?

Dale: Coffee is throughout the day.

Buzz: It’s not vacation, you know. It’s working. We are expecting people to pay money to see what we are doing here. I think that should be the main goal of what we are doing. People should be focused and professional about that. Not like “I’m bored, I’m bored”, I hate that.

Dale: You can’t be bored now that you have a fucking TV in your hand. Just watch


Buzz: These people are coming from the situation, unless they are born rich, that they had to work. Don’t they understand what it’s like to waste time at work? They certainly would be doing that normally at a job. Why is it so hard? “Oh I’m on tour, I’m bored.” It’s just work. We are artists. Art is extra in people’s lives. So we are trying to provide them something that they are not given in their normal life. That’s our job. Not everyday is good, but you do your best.

Do you have a favorite touring memory?

Dale: Last year we got to jam with Cheap Trick, that was pretty fun.

Buzz: Good day for me is playing a really good show, wasn’t too long of a drive, and

then you get back to hotel at decent hour, fall asleep watching the movie.

Is that what you value now, where like early on in your career, it was crazier? Or it’s just always the case?

Buzz: Earlier on in our career we did a big tour in the US and we just drove home about half way though it, cause it was going horribly. And we said that we won’t gonna tour again. It’s not worth. We didn’t tour for years. We did short tours. We were not going across the country to play to a bunch of people who hated you. And we didn’t tour again until it was shown to us that we could make it work.


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