Buzz Osborne of the Melvins on how the band chose covers for Everybody Loves Sausages
Melvins have been an influence on some of the most sonically forward-thinking rock bands and other musical experimentalists of the last three decades. Impossible to consistently pigeonhole as simply punk, or metal, or even rock, Melvins have set a high bar for integrity, both as a live band and as artists in general. Last year Melvins Lite did a tour of all fifty United States plus the District of Columbia in fifty-one days -- a feat unmatched by any other band.
The Melvins also released three distinctly, musically different records. This year, the group released Everybody Loves Sausages, an album of covers with collaborators including Mudhoney's Mark Arm, Scott Kelly of Neurosis and James Thirwell, better known to many as Foetus. We recently had a chance to speak with the always entertaining, opinionated and engaging Buzz Osborne about the new record, John Waters and that massive tour.
Westword: Last year you did that tour of fifty states plus D.C. in fifty-one days?
Buzz Osborne: Yes we did. No one can take that away from us.
What was the most unusual place you played?
Probably Cheyenne, Wyoming, at a community center. It was actually a great show. There were a lot more people than I expected -- a very appreciative and fun audience. Jackson, Mississippi, was interesting, too. A couple hundred people, and it was in this place they said was haunted. But I think everything is haunted so...
Nobody plays Jackson, Mississippi. There's really nothing there. It's a big city. When you go there, it's not in the middle of a cow field. It's a metropolis like any other city of that size. The downtown looks basically the same as Cincinnati or anywhere else. They just don't have a rock scene, or a scene of any kind, unless you're a shed band playing an amphitheater or that kind of crap.
For a band like us, there's just nothing there. Probably because there's not a club that can stay open for any amount of time or has stayed open. If clubs can stay open for a long period of time that generally means a rock scene grew up around it. It's sort of like with Houston, Texas. Houston, Texas, has way more people than Austin, Texas, but the scene is smaller for a band like us. The scene in Austin is way more thriving, oddly enough.
Houston has a bizarre but interesting scene from an outsider's perspective. Indian Jewelry came out of that. Houston is one of the largest cities in America, geographically speaking, so you would think there would be more going on.
Bizarre is a good way of putting it. Everything about Houston is bizarre. And it's not as thriving a music scene as Austin, which is way smaller. You could walk across it. I wouldn't want to walk limit to limit in Houston. It's no different than a truck stop outside of Denver. You drive an hour outside of New York City, what do you think the people are like?
Yeah, some people seem to be under the impression that everyone in New York is enlightened. Nope.
Oh yeah, in California? There's no rednecks here. Take a trip to Bakersfield. Drive outside of town twenty minutes out of town what do you think you've got? Small town America is small town America. That's where I grew up, and I'm from it, far from it. That's the way I want it. No interest. I want to be surrounded by an urban environment in it and leave it at that. I have zero interest just living with the hicks. I don't like the hipsters, either, but it's easier to hide yourself in a big city. Hide in plain sight, as they say.
You can look however you like and no one is going to say much about it.
Here? No. You'd have to be on fire before anybody would look twice. Thankfully.
You recently put out that covers album, Everybody Loves Sausages. You've done covers in the past, obviously. Why do you like doing covers?
We're big music fans from the beginning, that's the main thing. It's always fun to play a song you like. I was never in a cover band. "We're gonna play covers at the high school dance" -- that was never my thing. I've never had that experience. Usually when bands do that, they never get out of it, and get stuck doing it forever. I was never able to do it. Playing Steely Dan covers, or some bullshit, it just wasn't my thing.
Have you ever done a Steely Dan cover?
Nor would I.
Why did you want to do a covers album this time out?
Well, take it into context with everything we did in the last year. We did a full length album with the Melvins Lite; we did a five-song EP with the regular Melvins; and we did a four-song EP with the Melvins 1983. All that, and this covers record has come about in a year. Taking that into consideration, it all makes sense. It's like when we did the trilogy back in the late '90s: The Maggot, The Bootlicker and The Crybaby, which were all completely different records.
And the next thing we put out was Colossus of Destiny. I just assumed people would think it was the logical next step. It all fits together nicely. People were like, "Why did you put out this bullshit album?" What are you fuckin' talkin' about? It's not bullshit in conjunction with everything else we do. There it is. It's four things that are totally, sonically, completely different, yet you still have a problem with it? You can't win, no matter what you do.
We have a new album. We're taking the songs from that Melvins 1983 EP and did more songs, and we're putting it out as an album in the fall with Ipecac. It's our original drummer, Dale [Crover] playing bass, and me playing guitar. It's called Tres Cabrones. "Tres Hombres" means "Three Men," but this is "Tres Cabrones" which basically means "Three Dumbasses." The funny thing about this tour is that we're doing this tour, and our bass player is on paternity leave, and luckily we got Jeff Pinkus from the Butthole Surfers to play bass for us.
Oh yeah, his band Honky is on this tour.
Yes, so it all makes perfect sense. Dale is going to be playing with Honky, actually. It's all good. Jeff is a great bass player, so we're excited about that. We couldn't have picked anybody better.
You do that cover of that song by the Scientists, "Set It On Fire." Unfortunately, not nearly enough people have heard of that great Australian band.
That's the thing. My wife always tells me, "One of your big problems is your failure to see the weaknesses in others. You assume you think everybody thinks the same things you do." That's certainly not the case. I assume everybody knows who the Scientists are. Then I thought about it and [realized they were pretty obscure]. Mark [Arm] certainly knew who they were. I always thought Mudhoney had a lot in common with the Scientists. The one that was really funny to me is that in interviews the number of journalists that have never heard of Roxy Music.
Are you kidding?
I have talked to at least three people in interviews who said they had to go check out Roxy Music after that. Of course I assume everyone knows who the Fugs are, but the two I figured nobody would know would be Pop-O-Pies and Tales of Terror because none of that stuff ever came out on CD. I just happened to be a fan of that stuff when it came out in the mid-to-early '80s.
The Tales of Terror stuff, I think that's one of the best punk rock records that ever came out of California, and it never came out on CD. What the fuck are these people thinking? The Pop-O-Pies' White EP is one of the best records to have ever come out of San Francisco and it never came out on CD. That's fucking crazy. But whatever. The way we picked out this stuff is that we wanted things that influenced us that wouldn't necessarily be obvious.
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