What's going on with the new Melvins album?
We talk to Melvins' Buzz Osbourne about new album Basses Loaded
From attempting to purchase a Beverly Hills mansion with nothing more than rock start cred’ and ‘musical rep’, to performing 51 shows in 50 states (plus Washington DC) in 51 days, to ‘covering’ Throbbing Gristle tracks that never existed in the first place, sludge/grunge/rock/whatever legends the Melvins have always been a band that do things, well, a little differently.
And, as we revealed yesterday with the announcement that their upcoming 24th (yes, 24th!) studio album – Basses Loaded – will feature no less than six, yes SIX, different people providing low end accompaniment, it’s clear that the core duo of Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover aren’t about to rest on their laurels and start playing by the rules anytime soon.
With four tracks featuring the ‘Melvins 1983’ line-up, with Crover moving from behind the kit to get his low-end on, four tracks with Redd Kross’ Steve McDonald, and one track each with Jeff Pinkus of the Butthole Surfers (who also played on 2014’s_ Hold It In_), long-time collaborator (and one half of Big Business) Jared Warren, Trevor Dunn (as Melvins Lite) and, most remarkably of all, former Nirvana Bassist Krist Novoselic.
Although some tracks have already appeared on limited run 10” records, Basses Loaded, collects them all together, in one place, for the first time.
And we haven’t even mentioned, yet, the soon to be released Three Men And A Baby album, recorded as Mike & The Melvins, featuring as it does Mike Kunka of godheadSilo. Due for release on April 1, the album has taken a staggering 15 years to see the light of day.
So, with so much going on we thought the only reasonable way to make sense of it all was to get in touch with guitarist Buzz ‘King Buzzo’ Osborne whilst he took a morning drive around LA to try and find out just what the hell is going on!
So, Buzz, Basses Loaded features six different bassists – why not just make an album with one line-up?
"Well the way we work is that we tend to write a whole bunch of songs and then all of a sudden someone like, say, Trevor Dunn will be in LA – he lives in New York – but he’ll be in LA and we’ll go ‘oh well, let’s get together and record something whilst you’re here’. So then we’ll have that one, and suddenly the same thing will happen with the Big Business guys – they’re here in LA, we’ll write a song and then they’ll finish it. Same thing with [Jeff] Pinkus. And with Steve McDonald of Redd Kross – he lives here in LA so that was easy. It started off as fun ideas to record with these people, and then we had this full album."
How did Krist Novoselic get involved?
"What happened was, and this is very strange, do you remember when Dave Grohl, Krist and Pat Smear did that thing with Paul McCartney? I think they recorded a song and did some live stuff? Anyway, before that happened, Dave Grohl had this idea to do some Nirvana stuff with us – me, Dale and Krist – we’d learn some Nirvana songs and play them at some Nirvana/Nevermind anniversary or something. And so Krist called me and I was like ‘Okaaaay’, because I really don’t hear from those guys that much – certainly not from Dave! So I was kind of suspicious, but I said ‘Okay, sure, I’ll go along with it, it sounds weird but I’m interested’. Krist said ‘sort out a practice space, we’ll all come down and we’ll start going through some of the songs, then Dave will come over too, we’ll rehearse it and we’ll do something’ – I think it was going to be a show at the Experience Music Project in Seattle or something. So Krist comes down and we start rehearsing, Dave is supposed to show up later but never shows up, he never shows up! That day Krist can’t get a hold of him, and then the next day he never shows up again, despite Krist trying to get a hold of him again – he just blew us off, totally! No explanation, no call – and remember, this was his idea! So eventually we were like ‘well, we’re here, we may as well record something’. So that’s how that track came about. To this day Krist says that Dave has never said why he blew us off like that. So yeah, that’s all pretty weird to me but it’s not unlike my entire experience with the Nirvana people – its things like that that make me such as cynic. Trust me, nothing will turn you into a cynic faster than being dicked around by millionaires. And you know the worst part? If I tell that story exactly how it is it makes me look like a douche! Like they should somehow blame me for being upset! [Adopts winey voice] ‘Ooh, you’re just butt hurt because Dave didn’t come over’; fuck that!
"But hey at least we got this cool song out of, right?! And it’s a great track too – he plays accordion on it and it’s really different to anything we’d have done otherwise. Will we work with him again? I mean, I’d like to, but I don’t think that’s going to happen."
This is going to be the Melvins' 24th album – prolific is not the word, is it! How much harder to you find it to maintain that level of output?
"Well actually, weirdly, we have another album that we started making 15 years ago finally coming out later this year – on April 1 we have a record coming out called Mike And The Melvins, that we made with the guys from godheadSilo. So yeah, we finally finished that one, Basses Loaded will be coming out on June 3 and then we have another project, which I can’t really say anything about at the moment, coming out at the end of the year. So yeah, three full-length albums in one year!
You must be gluttons for punishment?
"Well I don’t find it particularly difficult to write material, and we’re not afraid to vary things a lot! I mean Basses Loaded is all over the map.
There have been a fairly incredible number of bassists move in and out of the Melvins over the years – what is it about bassists that has made them so interchangeable for you?
"A lot of it is just bad luck. But as well, I mean, the last full-time bassist we had was Kevin Rutmanis, who left in about 2005 – that was a very difficult parting of the ways. Dale and I were very discouraged fellows at that point because you put all this work into this one person and then to have it not work out for a variety of extracurricular reasons that are, well, without going into graphic details, it got to the point where I just couldn’t live with it anymore and I was not about to watch, and continue to be a part of what was happening. At that point you just have to walk away, you have to let it go for their benefit and for yours. After that situation I was determined to never put myself in a position where I was dependant on any one setup ever again, and that’s kind of how this has all happened. And so now whatever Dale and I do that’s the Melvins, whoever we might play with, and it’s very hard for me to get too close to them. I make it very clear to the people we play with, like ‘we have to go play this tour, but we do what we want to and you continue doing what you’re doing and sometimes we can come together and play’, and now we have a wide variety of things we can do, with a wide variety of people and I never have to be disappointed again! I mean, if you just look at the people we play with: Trevor Dunn, Jeff Pinkus, Jared and Cody from Big Business and now Steve McDonald – I really couldn’t be luckier in that regard, those people are all top notch musicians and they all know how to deliver. I honestly couldn’t be happier, in that regard."
Basses Loaded is due for release on June 3, via Ipecac Recordings.