Buzz Osborne of the Melvins on how the Beastie Boys were Warlock Pinchers for Dummies
Since 1983, the Melvins have been perfecting their brand of influential rock, inspired in part by punk and in part by the music Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover grew up hearing as kids in the '60s and '70s. With the Melvins, the two have taken that sound to different places with each record that their contemporaries, from whatever decade that might be, never fully explored. It's evident that the musicians are not paying homage to anything or anybody in particular, but rather following their own muse, which has always taken them to strange and consistently fascinating places.
- Tonight: Melvins Lite at Bluebird Theater, 9/12/12
- Review: Melvins Lite with Warlock Pinchers, 8/7/10
- Melvins Q&A: Getting Your Goat, 8/26/04
- Warlock Pinchers: An extensive oral history
As a result of their exploration and the sheer visceral power of the music, the Melvins proved influential on more than one generation of musicians, including Kurt Cobain, a roadie for the group that Osborne, so the story goes, once taught to play guitar. Melvins Lite is the three-piece version of the band, featuring Osborne, Crover, and former Mr. Bungle bass player Trevor Dunn holding down the low end in lieu of Jared Warren, who otherwise handles those duties.
The latest Melvins Lite release, Freak Puke, showcases the band in fine eclectic form, with songs that recall the contorted melodies of early solo Brian Eno and Jonathan Donohue-era Flaming Lips. We recently spoke with the hilariously irreverent and sharp Osborne about the influence of Black Flag, hating hippies, Warlock Pinchers and the true weirdness of the Who.
Westword: In an interview with Gibson a while back, you mentioned how Black Flag was more of an influence on your guitar work than Black Sabbath. How did you first get exposed to the Flag, and what albums would you say had the most impact on what you do?
Buzz Osborne: I got exposed to them in the early '80s, before Damaged, maybe during Jealous Again. To me, it was an extension of heavy-metal stuff. What I admired most about heavy metal was the drumming. Some people only appreciate guitar players like Steve Vai. That's not my thing; that's not my world. I like things that are weirder than that. I don't really like things that are too pretty. Once in a while, I agree. I generally like guitar players that are more like Jimi Hendrix and a piledriver. Greg Ginn was like nothing I'd ever heard before. I really liked it.
Basically, Black Flag played pop music, just weirder. After that, I got into bands like Gang of Four, Public Image Limited -- Flowers of Romance, Solid Gold, Metal Box. Those records are all very strange. Compared to that, Black Flag was playing the same kind of song Chuck Berry was -- verse, chorus, verse, chorus -- you know.
But there was something about his guitar playing that was exceptionally good. They never seemed to realize what was good about them. It's possible. The whole thing seemed to degenerate into a bunch of evil hippies after that. My mom is always laughing about that, too: "You always hated hippies." [She's] right, I always have. I'm like Cartman on South Park, pretty much.
Alice Cooper was the kind of hippie I liked. Alice Cooper, John Waters, Charles Manson. Blue Cheer. Alice Cooper described it best as driving a stake through the heart of the peace-and-love generation. That never stopped. That's one of the things that attracted me to punk rock, other than the massive intimacy of the whole thing. There was an attitude that spoke to me. I liked all those bands from then, X, TSOL -- all those punk bands were really good. Sex Pistols, the Clash -- all of it has a rebellious air about it.
Which is still what attracts me to heavy metal. At least they're rebels, you know? I would much rather listen to the rebellious nature of music as opposed to bands that are "nerd gets his heart broken." I can't handle that shit. It doesn't do it for me, unless it's really exceptionally good, which almost never happens. To me the story should be, "Nerd gets his heart broken and goes to girlfriend's house and cuts her fucking head off." Now, that's a song! Not this whiny-ass crap.