Indefatigable sludge-metal pioneers Melvins are storming through 2016 by releasing their 23rd and 24th studio albums and blaring through a 39-date tour with Napalm Death and Melt Banana. April 1st will see the release of Three Men and a Baby, their long-lost low-end collaboration with Mike Kunka of Godheadsilo. Originally intended for release in 1999, it is now seeing daylight as the Melvins’ first recordings for Sub Pop in their 33-year history.
In June the band will drop Basses Loaded, an album featuring a whopping six different bass players: four tracks with Redd Kross bassist Steve McDonald, a track with Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus, one with upright bass from Fantômas’ Trevor Dunn, four tracks as Melvins 1983 with drummer Dale Crover holding down the low end, one with the current Melvins lineup assisted by the two members of Big Business and, most notably, a collaboration with their old friend Krist Novoselic of Nirvana. You can hear the McDonald-assisted “Hideous Woman” below.
Rolling Stone caught up with guitarist/vocalist King Buzzo Osborne to talk about the band’s busy year.
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A handful of the Basses Loaded tracks have appeared on 10-inches — the Beer Hippy EP, the War Pussy EP and the Chaos as Usual split with Le Butcherettes. What is your attachment to the clunky, annoying 10-inch format?
I like it better, art-wise, than a seven inch. I think it looks better. I don’t have any particular love for any size vinyl. They say size matters — maybe it does.
At what point did you say, “OK, this is going to be a full-length record.”
Well, we knew we didn’t have enough. We had recorded a little bit with Krist Novoselic. And that was a really, really funny story. It was before where [the surviving members of Nirvana] played with Paul McCartney. Dave Grohl had said that he wanted to do all that stuff with us. He wanted to do Nirvana songs with the Melvins, and maybe have David Yow singing. So Krist Novoselic came down and we started rehearsing, and Dave was supposed to show up — and he just never showed up. Blew it off, totally. And it was his idea! I didn’t appreciate that, you know? I’m a lot of things, but one thing I’m not doing is sitting next to the phone in curlers, waiting for Dave Grohl to call me, you know? When he totally blows you off like that, it’s fucked. But whatever. There’s nothing I can do about that. So we did some recording with Krist while he was here.
Is he playing accordion on it?
He does. It’s a really great track. It’s different than pretty much anything we would have done. Really cool. I would love to work more with him, but honestly his life is kind of a mystery to me. I don’t have a lot of connection with those guys anymore. So we’re lucky to have that amount with him.
Did you and Dave ever straighten it out?
Dave never talked to me about it in the first place. Dave talked to Krist about it in the first place. … We were rehearsing with me Krist, Dale and David Yow. Dave just was supposed to show up, never showed up. I was like, “Krist, let’s just go to his house. You know where he lives.” He wouldn’t do it. So next thing you know, they’re doing all this stuff with Paul McCartney.
I don’t do that to people, you know? Generally when I come up with an idea for something and it’s my idea, and people fly down there on their own dime, which is what Krist did, and then you leave him hanging. That’s not something I’m known for. But Dave, he’s busy playing songs at the Oscars and shit.
Did you see him doing “Blackbird?”
Hell no. I don’t watch the Oscars. I was off the A-list a long time ago. I’m not even on the C-list. … This situation, this is how it happened. This is how we got Krist Novoselic on this record. Had we been busy ourselves rehearsing with Dave to do this Nirvana stuff, none of this would have happened, right? So thank you, Dave. We really appreciate it.
There’s also Big Business/Melvins track — the first one in three years. What’s the status of that Melvins lineup?
You know, honestly, when we stopped working with [former bassist] Kevin Rutmanis in 2005, me and Dale, basically, we were very discouraged fellows at that point. And we just said, “We’re not ever going to get in that position again.” Where we’re relying on any one thing. The Melvins are just whatever me and Dale do. It actually opened up the doors for us to do things we never would have done — like the Freak Puke record with Trevor Dunn, the 51-day tour, working with the Butthole Surfers guys — and there’s no weirdness.
We just told them straight up, at front: “Look, I like Big Business. I don’t want Big Business to stop. You guys have to keep this band going.” It’s heart-wrenching, you know? To do all this work with someone, and then have all your stuff pinned on it, and then it doesn’t work out. Fortunately with Kevin, everything’s fine. That’s all been resolved, and we’re all really good friends now.
How do you feel about Dale’s bass playing?
It’s great. The Melvins 1983 lineup, that’s as close as we can get to [the 1983 lineup with drummer Mike Dillard], because I wouldn’t play with Matt [Lukin, original Melvins bassist]. He quit playing music I think … about 16 years ago? He’s not a very pleasant person, and he’s also not a very good player. I think the last thing I actually noticed that he said about me online was that I was a “fat Jewish faggot.” I think the next thing out of his mouth was that we owed him money. And I was like, “You know, honestly, the fastest way into my pocketbook is to call me a fat Jewish faggot. I can’t wait to write a check! Wow! How much do you need?”
The Mike and the Melvins album is finally coming out on. What happened to it originally?
Back then we were doing the trilogy records [The Maggot, The Bootlicker and The Crybaby]. I believe we finished recording those records and started immediately on the Mike and the Melvins record during the same sessions. So he showed up right at the end of the last ones and we had a bunch of songs. I had a bunch of ideas and he had a bunch of ideas, and we had the idea to do “Annalisa” by Public Image Ltd.
Now, the funny thing about that is, and you can’t really tell, there’s almost no guitar on it. I’m doing all the low-end bass, Kevin’s doing all the slide bass and Mike’s doing all the stuff that sounds like guitar. The whole idea was it was going to be three bass players. We got as far as we could get with that, and then it was time for him to do a bunch of vocals, and he just couldn’t figure out what he was going to do, so he said, “I’ll just take them home with me and then I’ll finish them.” And we never heard from him again. Just disappeared. Literally disappeared. Like phones disconnected. We heard that he moved out into the woods, then we heard some wild story about him getting whooping cough, which I was like, what is it, 1930?
So there it sat. It just did nothing, nothing. Maybe a year and a half ago, Kunka got a hold of Crover! And he’s like, “Oh, I took all those tapes and digitized them. … I really was wondering if you guys would be interested in maybe finishing this thing.” And we’re like, “Yeah! Fuck yeah we want to finish it!” … So he drove down from Seattle. I recorded my whole vocal parts, he recorded his. Some of them were already done. All the drums were done, all the bass was done. He might have put bass on and I added a couple guitar solos. Eighty percent, 85-percent of the record was done. I didn’t have any idea even what was on it. “Wow, I don’t even remember writing this song!” At first Sub Pop, I think, was a little hesitant. Until they heard it, and they were like, “Oh, we want to put it out.”
So this was supposed to be a Sub Pop record back then?
Had you signed something?
Yes. And we’d taken some money … to record it. So they had first run at it. I don’t know, I think Sub Pop probably had their hands full at that point. The music industry was on the verge of collapse, you know.
Those were the dark days for Sub Pop, too. They had spent all that Nirvana money on Combustible Edison records.
I’ll take your word for that. I know that one of the guys sold out, and um … I don’t know what happened to him, although I can’t imagine he’s doing too well if he’s just now putting out a Nirvana book. Seems like the last bastion, doesn’t it?
If you read the Tora Tora Tora box set liner notes it seems like the Godheadsilo stuff was some of the only good tour memories you had from 1995.
Oh, well, we really like those guys. You know? We thought they were great. Yeah, that [year] was a tour we did with White Zombie, which is quite literally the worst touring experience of my entire life. Nothing will turn you into a cynic faster than touring with fuckheads like that. You know? Nothing will turn you into a cynic faster. I mean just imagine every rock-starish trick in the book you can possibly think of times ten, perpetuated on you by guys with mullets. That was touring with White Zombie. … The shows that we did with Godheadsilo, that was separate from the White Zombie thing. It was a dream scenario, and the other one was a nightmare scenario.
People can take that however they want. That I’m jealous … I’m not! What am I jealous of? You think in order to have what they have I have to be them? No thanks. If that’s what it takes and I have to be those guys, I’m not interested, you know.
Did you have any fallout for your comments about Montage of Heck?
Oh, I had some people saying that kind of thing. “What do you know?” Yeah, you’re right, I was only there. … It’s not a happy experience for me. I have my own feelings and opinions about all that. And they’re based in reality. Kurt Cobain told me his stomach was fine, that he was just using it as an excuse to stay loaded. He told me that. “No, I think it was actually his stomach.” It’s like, “I just told you!” He told me this! I don’t have a fucking crystal ball. I’m not doing it with a goddamn Ouija board. You don’t believe me? Why would I lie? I gain absolutely nothing by lying about this stuff. Nothing!
So there’s not a lot of happy memories. I think it’s a tragic, tragic story and I don’t see the good side of it. There’s no good part of that. I can’t rationalize that into something that makes me feel good. I mean his daughter obviously has no idea! She wasn’t there. She has no idea. And I couldn’t imagine the problems that she’s facing. With… a mom such as that, Lord have mercy!
I’ve never talked to her. And I certainly never talked to the guys who made that [movie]. But when you’re going to sit there and talk about a guy that I knew back then, and you’re going to say that kind of stuff, you better be able to back it up. And I’m telling you right now, that that’s a bunch of bullshit. You think I’m going to go along with this idea that you guys are putting out there, that Kurt Cobain raped a mentally retarded teenager? That’s not true. That is not true. But it makes for a better story. There it is in his own words. It’s not true.
Websites were running with that recording like it was a confession or something.
It’s crazy. Kurt Cobain … We have no idea why he said or wrote that stuff. But I know it isn’t true. I know it’s not true. I have no idea what was going through his head when he did that. He as a weird guy! He’s eccentric, he had a very, very dark sense of humor, and I think a lot of people don’t pick up on that, and he was a strange character. But it isn’t true. I would have known that. We would have heard that story. We lived in a small town, much smaller than people could possibly imagine. News of that nature travelled like a wildfire. That’s just all bullshit. It’s fantasy bullshit.
How’s your documentary coming?
We’re not making it.
But you gave it the thumbs up.
Yeah, we let him make it and told him he could use music and stuff, we don’t mind that. But you know, I’m not in control of the content or anything. … I saw a rough cut of it, it seems good, but how judgmental can you be on something that’s about you? I mean, the truth about me will never be out there, so it doesn’t matter.