King Buzzo talks about the Melvins' January residency at the Satellite
As Buzz Osborne (a.k.a. King Buzzo) rattles off a list of tours, albums and weird artistic collaborations he's been involved in, it's hard to imagine anything he hasn't done with his band, the Melvins, over their 28 years. Until now, one of those things was an L.A. club residency.
Starting Jan. 7, the Melvins descend on the club every Friday for a month, melding blistering full-album sets with their newest atonal material. That means two sets per night with no opener. For Osborne, the band's gray, mop-headed commander, the ability to showcase the Melvins' sprawling discography is something he's been waiting to do for quite a while.
Pop & Hiss: Since we’re just days into 2011, what’s the Melvins' main goal or resolution for the new year?
Buzz Osborne: The first goal is to actually survive as a band. That’s the first goal, which it is every year. We're just continuing to work and continuing to make music is another. And that encompasses a whole lot of things. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I don’t necessarily trust the outside world and their opinions. So it’s having the faith to be able to thrust yourself forward and make sure that as long as you think it’s good, everyone else will. And if you don’t, there’s nothing you can do about that.
Looking at the residency schedule that you guys have, the show seems to evolve every week. What conscious decisions went into planning the residency at the Satellite (formerly Club Spaceland)?
It’s one of the things I thought might be kind of a cool trend to get into, is this trend of bands playing whole albums. It gets people excited about the bands for one reason or another and it makes people feel like they’re gonna see something they don’t normally see. We’re always looking for something new and weird to do. So a residency for us at a club in L.A. is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time.
To me, the only way to make that make sense is to have it be a little different [each week]. So this is one way to do it. So we’re gonna do normal Melvins stuff as well as specific records. We’re doing the specific records as normally as we would [laughs] … which is to say not exactly how everything is [on the record].
You’re opening the residency with a few of your classic releases, “Colossus of Destiny,” “Lysol” and the “Eggnog” EP. Because you have so much material, was it hard to choose which records you are performing this month?
We knew we were gonna do the “Houdini” record. That was kind of a gimme. But people like that record for whatever reason, and it’s popular as far as one of the ones we do. We’re gonna do two sets, so the first thing is gonna encompass songs that aren’t on those records. We’ll concentrate on newer material maybe. And then we’ll do the specific records for the second set. So it’s gonna be a long show. One of the shows is gonna include the Melvins 1983, which is gonna include our original drummer, Mike Dillard, and Dale [Crover] is gonna play bass. One of the shows we’re gonna open as the Melvins 1983 playing some of the songs we played in 1983, the way we played them in '83 and then sort of jazz 'em up.
Is playing the really old stuff exciting for you, being able to recapture that early Melvins vibe? Do you feel like it’s more of a gift to the fans who have all those old albums?
A lot of people will think it’s cool and others will walk away from it wondering why we bothered because they think it sucks. I’m used to that [laughs]. If I listened to people, even people I know, about what we were doing, I would’ve quit a long time ago. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about people, it’s that everyone has an opinion about those types of things. But rarely is it an opinion that can do me any good. Usually, the opinions aren’t about things that will make things better, it’s about what you’re doing wrong. I’m not interested in constructive criticism, believe me.
On a side note, I saw that recent test pressing of 'The Bride Screamed Murder' vinyl you guys put on eBay reached $460. It was funny seeing some people online bitch about the price, not realizing they were buying a special music artifact, not just an album. Do you hear about complaints like that from people and does it irritate you at all?
The public dictated the price. People were mad because it sold as much as it did, but that didn’t have anything to do with us. It’s almost like they think we should have sold it for less and then let someone else sell it for that much money. Look, if people wanna spend that kind of money for something on eBay, who am I to argue? I don’t make social commentary along those lines. And how does that reflect badly on me? I’m not setting the price on eBay. This is what they don’t understand. We are focusing our attention on art. The problem with all this is that we are selling less records than ever before. Why do they think that is? The reason is because people don’t buy records anymore. They steal them for free off the Internet. I’m not gonna complain about that.
So how can I figure out something where we can still continue to make cool stuff, continue to make records? The only thing I can think of is to focus on something you can’t download, which is art. The music is free, which is the most important thing. But for people that want something specific, who want something physical in their hand, we’re gonna make smaller runs of all that stuff and it’s gonna cost more money.
And for even being a pretty big band, you’ve been really adamant about taking the art you create down to a very boutique level.
This is all stuff that we make. I don’t send stuff off to China to have it made. We make it ourselves. We make our box sets. It’s all in-house and handmade. We’re talking limited edition of 100. It’s not because I only want to make 100. It’s because that’s all we can physically make. I don’t want to stay underground for just the cool people. I want everyone to like our stuff. I would love to sell millions of records, but that’s never gonna be the case. We do what we can, not what we can’t. I’m not a complainer, I’m a doer.
Even though you're playing without any opening acts,do you have any bands that you’re particularly excited about this year or that you’re listening to lately?
Oh God, I dunno, changes all the time. I’m not sure who the hip, underground bands are at the moment. But I’m always looking for stuff like that. Anything that can get me excited, I’ll happily buy it. Here’s the funny thing, I’ve never downloaded anything off the Internet ever. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’d rather just buy it. I don’t really trust the computer to keep my stuff safe. I still have the first CD I ever bought, sounds fine. Money well spent in the '80s. And the other thing is it’s not gonna last for a 100 years, but who cares?
I wish that all my music would just be deleted the second I die. I don’t even want a tombstone, I just wanna have my carcass incinerated and spread out over ground and then vacuumed up in a Hoover. Actually, I’d prefer burial at sea, or just lay out in the desert and let the animals have their way.
-- Nate Jackson
Photo: Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne. Credit: Mackie Osborne