The Melvins

An Interview With The Melvins
By KUOI Staff

The Melvins have been making kick ass shit for like forty-seven years. Nobody had ever made totally un-listenable music until they came along and ruined everything. Theyre so fucking influential it makes some people sick. They even turned that shitty band Big Business into their slaves. When we caught up with them in Spokane, Buzz was watching an episode of Cash Cab. He seemed to be drooling.

Buzz: Where are you guys from?

KUOI: Moscow

B: Weve played Moscow before.

K: You guys played Moscow?

B: We played there a few times, a long time ago, back in the early 90s.

K: Whered you play?

B: Bars, the college once or twice. Five times total. Wed be lucky if the colleges would book anyone again. Colleges only pick hip-hop acts now.

K: Yeah it sucks. Rap, alt-country, and pop punk.

B: Whats the difference? Its all the same to me.

K: One of my buddies said he ran into you at the Cream reunion show.

B: That might be true.

K: He said you were standing in line to buy a t-shirt.

B: I dont remember buying a t-shirt. I think Dale might have bought one. Heres Dale now. (Dale Crover enters). Were huge fans of Cream, some of my favorite stuff ever, especially Wheels of Fire. That record is amazing.

K: So much of Cream is kick ass.

B: But that album especially. That show was great. That was the one band that I would go to a reunion show for.

K: Clapton has not done very much awesome stuff since Cream.

B: I dont like anything Clapton has done since.

Dale: What do Clapton and black coffee have in common ?

K: What?

D: Theyre both terrible without Cream.

K: Ha ha. That reunion show must have cost like 200 bucks.

B: Three hundred actually.

K: Did you guys go together?

D: Yep. Buzz bought my ticket.

K: Maybe you bought the t-shirt.

D: Yeah, we bought stuff there. So its possible.

K: Do you have a big t-shirt collection?

B: No, not really. Im not a big clothes guy.

K: That big black gown you wear

B: Its a muumuu.

K: Who designed it?

B: Coadys (their other drummer) girlfriend designed it. She makes costumes for movies. Its very well constructed.

K: Everyone whos seen it says its awesome.

B: It certainly is. Theres nothing like being as peculiar as you can be. Its always served me well.

B: Do you wear clothes underneath it?

B: As far as you know.

K: Did you wear it before Sunn O))))?

B: We did everything before Sunn 0)))). (Laughs) The Sunn never sweats.

K: You did the Gun Club cover, Promise Me. Did you ever see the Gun Club?

B: Never, but I would have liked to. They didnt tour much. Too busy being heroin addicts and dying.

D: Tell him the Jeff Lee Pierce story.

B: I saw him right before he died, he was doing that rap thing. He said he was doing stuff with Dr. Dre: (Mimics) Im working with these guys now. He was saying all these bullshit rap things you couldnt understand–he was on the verge of death–and hed finish them all by saying Put That On the Radio! He died like a month later, totally off his rocker.

K: Speaking of off your rocker, I saw you guys in Myrtle Beach last year when you were playing with Down (Phil Anselmos new band). That seemed odd, the Melvins and Down. Most the people at the show didnt even know who you were.

B: Thats why we were there: You dont want to always preach to the converted. That was a good tour for us; we played for a lot of people who never would have seen our band. Im sure we gained a lot of fans, and those dudes were cool to us. It was cool. Myrtle Beach looks like it was a city built by Applebees.

K: True. You did those albums with Jello Biafra. Was he fun to tour with?

B: (Emphatically) No, hes was not fun to tour with. Hes a character. But were big fans of Jello. Friends with him.

K: He seems like a pretty chatty fella.

D: Yeah, he can be.

B: He has a good heart. He really does.

K: So the stuff youve done with Big Business the last three years has been totally kick ass. I think its one of the best things going in heavy music right now.

B: Wed like to think so.

K: How did that idea even come up? No one has done that kind of thing before: two drummers and bringing in a whole other band.

B: We felt sorry for them mostly, that was the main thing. They seemed a little lost and directionless.

Jared (bassist): Ill lose you.

B: No, wed lost a bass player to extra-curricular activities and plain insanity. We wanted something completely new, and wed played with them before, and wed thought of the two drummer things a long time ago but it never really worked. This just seemed like itd fit.

K: Did you give them a call and ask if they wanted to jam?

B: Dale did. I was afraid to. They seemed a little scary to me.

D: It just kinda fell in our laps. They were already thinking of moving out of Seattle and to LA. Kinda odd that we called.

K: You guys live in LA now?

B: Weve lived there a long time, like 17 years.

K: I guess you wouldnt even think of Seattle anymore.

B: I never lived in Seattle. We left Washington in 87 and moved to San Francisco. Then we moved to LA in 93.

K: Crazy. Everyone groups you into the Pacific Northwest scene.

B: They certainly do. But I like LA. Im not moving anytime soon. Where would I go?

K: I dunno, Spokane? Anyway, you guys have gone through a lot of bassists.

B: We use them and throw them away–like Q-tips.

K: I was surprised these dudes are still with you.

B: No one is more surprised than us. We cant believe it.

K: How long are they going to do this?

B: You should ask Jared.

K: (To Jared) How long are you going to do this?

J: Until I get my pension.

B: Once he gets tenure, thats it.

K: Is it when its like: Well, weve done all we can do?

B: When it gets to the point that we cant do it. Maybe mother nature and father time will do us in.

K: How was going to South America?

B: It was good. Always weird to play places that havent figured out the whole water supply thing, so its a bit of an adventure.

K: Was it like that Ramones documentary where everyone went crazy, like kids swarming the hotel room?

D: (Laughs) Not quite like that, but you couldnt have your name on the hotel registry because theyre afraid people will find out and

B: Steal all our shit.

D: Yeah. We had a real good time, played a great show in Argentina, and a festival show that wasnt so good. Im not a fan of festivals. Was it with the Hives?

B: Yeah, the Hives. Kind of a one trick pony, and not a very good trick. There was an all girl French band that literally did nothing but Chuck Berry covers.

K: Id check that out once.

B: I couldnt be bothered.

K: Did you get to travel around much?

B: Not really, some. So much of your time is taken up by travel and sound check. You dont get a lot of time to do regular vacation stuff.

K: And you guys have been doing this for 25 years pretty much non-stop.

B: Weve had some breaks, but yeah. We like it.

K: Is it still fun?

B: Playing is the best, but Im not a big fan of traveling. I hate everything about it. Lot of time sitting around doing nothing, as you can see.

K: It seems like when you first started out and were going town to town in vans and it was this big exciting thing

B: We still go around in vans.

K: Wait, you dont have a bus?

B: Buses are too expensive–really expensive–and we actually want to make money.

D: The cheapest those busses go for is about five grand a week. Id rather put that money in my pocket. We see a lot of bands that spend a lot of money on tour and then wonder why they arent making any money.

B: I like to drive personally.

K: You actually drive the Econoline?

B: Yeah, I drive all the time. I love driving. You have to be committed to it. Plan out your tours so you dont have huge amounts of driving. If youre willing to do that its not that hard to do.

K: So you guys have taken over all aspects of how the Melvins work.

B: We always have. Weve always been pretty much in charge. Keep it as simple as possible.

K: So when you guys got signed to Atlantic did you have issues with it?

B: Nope, they let us do what we wanted to do. Not a whole lot of record label meddling on those albums. Not that we would have allowed it. Those records came out the way we wanted it.

K: I cant tell the difference between those albums and any other youve put out in terms of trying new things.

B: Those are all over the place, happily. We had a bigger budget and fancier studios. It was really fun. I would sign that same deal again, no problem. I dont think we had–we had none, actually–any idea going in that we were going to sell millions of albums. (Note: They didnt.). It was an opportunity to do something we wouldnt normally be able to do, and that opportunity wouldnt be there forever. We knew that going in. It was weird, but we were going to do it. And I liked the idea that wed be on the same label as the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. It seems proper to me. By that point we were already touring and making money, so we figured if it doesnt work out wed just go back to doing what we were doing. And thats exactly what we did.

K: That seems like the only level-headed way of going about something like that and still be able to keep playing music.

B: Not a whole lot of that going on now. When most bands sign to a major and it doesnt work, its over.

K: It seems like thats all they want.

B: Of course its all they want. I fault no one for success or money or any of that stuff. I couldnt care less. But its kinda sad when you watch bands who worked for a long, long time get to a point where they could do okay and make a living and they just quit because they didnt become the superstars they wanted to be. It makes no sense to me.

K: I think the way Mudhoney stayed together was by keeping their day jobs.

B: They never took it seriously, they could have easily done it. They didnt like touring. It was a hobby.

K: Like Shellac with Albini. He does his recording and plays whenever ATP asks him to.

D: Theyre kind of weekend warriors. Were the working class.

B: That band could tour if they wanted to, do as well as we do.

K: Thats gotta be the difference, you guys have to love playing the music or you wouldnt be doing it.

D: That and we have nothing else to fall back on.

K: You could produce.

B: (Disgusted) No way. No one would want me to produce.

D: I dont think itd be as much fun.

B: Bands wouldnt want me to do it, they would hate it. They wouldnt listen to me. They wouldnt take any of my advice, and that would be the end of that. I guarantee it. They wouldnt like what I have to say. I couldnt do what those guys do. I mean, Mark Arm works for Subpop. Steve Albini records almost exclusively as his job crappy bands. He sits there and listens to this crap all day as his job. I couldnt do that. No way. It would be the noose around your neck, the millstone: What do you do for a living? I produce crap, 98% garbage all day.

K: Albini produces pretty good bands sometimes.

D: Bands shell out money for his name on their album. Some of the bands that come to work with him, you can tell he doesnt like to work with them. But he has this studio and he has to pay for it.

B: Thats your job: People come to you and pay you to record their shit-tee band. Oh it would suck. Id just be like: You guys just suck. Here, take your money back, just go. I cant deal with this anymore, youre horrible, youre idiots, youre awful.

K: Youre right, I know no one who would want that out of a producer.

B: See, Albini has to produce things in a milquetoast way that is not adventurous at all. Just something he can get by with, as little waves as possible. You listen to Beatles records, they are produced and made into thisthing. And he cant do it. And he doesnt want to do it. Its the easiest job in the world in terms of what he has to do, because he doesnt have to do anything except record it.

K: His whole philosophy behind it, the mic placement in parts of the room

B: Thats what hed like you to believe. In the end its relatively simple.

D: Ive heard his thing is bands should sound like they do live.

B: And were the opposite. Why have this studio with fancy expensive gear when you can just record it live? You might as well make a live album.

K: It seems like you guys have played with the studio on all your albums.

D: Totally. Thats what its there for. You do stuff that you cant do live. We play live anyway. Anything that we come up with, we figure out a way to do it live.

B: Or I just view it as completely separate. If you want a live experience, you arent going to get it in front of your stereo. I dont approach it like that.

K: I wonder why Sunn 0)))) puts out records when the ultimate experience would be to see them live.

B: Ive never seen them. I know its supposed to be loud.

D: I saw them once.

B: Was it loud?

D: Compared to what? My biggest problem with them is that they dont have any drums. (laughs).

B: The loudest shows Ive been to are like arena rock shows. I couldnt even deal with it. Wherever youre sitting its brutal. I dont know if pure volume is anything that attracts me. Maybe to some degree.

D: If its too loud, turn it down. Thats our motto.

B: Is it?

D: Yes. Why not. Do you know who has the record for the loudest show?

K: I dont know. My Bloody Valentine?

D: Nope. Man-O-War.

–KUOI Staff

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