Interview: Buzz Osborne of The Melvins on Former Bassist Kevin Rutmanis, Working With Tool and the Status of Fantomas

August 23rd, 2012
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The one thing you can expect about The Melvins is that they play the game by their own rules. Interviews are no different. The band is generous with their time and frequently do media interviews behind each release, but are notoriously snarky and sarcastic when fielding questions. That’s not to say they’re mean-spirited, but you get the sense it’s easy for them to be witty and sarcastic, almost to the point that they enjoy it. In a brief interview with lead singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne right at the end of one tour, and before they start up the biggest tour of their long career–a massive 51 show jaunt as their Melvins Lite configuration with Trevor Dunn attempting to break a Guinness World Record for the fastest tour of the USA–Osborne is funny even when being complemented. After commending him and his band for the lack of rock star bullshit, he quips, “We have a lot of bullshit, but it’s not rock star bullshit.”
A 51-show tour in 51 days seems like a daunting task to most, and while many bands lament the struggles of being on the road, Osborne seems unconcerned. “Most of those people are probably doing a lot of extracurricular activities in the ‘chemical refreshment’ department. That’s probably wearing them out more than anything else,” he replies with a hint of knowing sarcasm. “I mean it’s tiring, you know, it’s all relative. Compared to what? Know what I mean? Compared to a guy digging for a living, or working on a tuna boat. I doubt we’re going to get tired.”

Recently The Flaming Lips staged a similar stunt to coincide with MTV’s O Music Awards, breaking the world record for most shows in multiple cities in 24 hours. Throughout the stunt Guinness Book of Records representatives verified that the band was in line to break the record. When asked if The Melvins planned to employ a similar tactic to certify their achievement Osborne (sometimes referred to as King Buzzo) seemed reluctant to employ that degree of extravagance. “Well in order to do that, you have to pay the Guinness people. It’s an awful lot of money. I’ll just leave it at that. If you can wait and then do the paperwork, you still get the same thing. In order to have them there it costs thousands of dollars.”

He goes off on a humorous tangent about an aborted attempt in the ’80s by George Thorogood to break the record. He explains, “The people always say George Thorogood did it. But if George Thorogood did it, why isn’t he in the record book? You know why he’s not in the record book? He didn’t do it!” He continues, “He’s obviously not the Guinness world record holder. Clearly not. I can say I’ve done all kinds of things. Whether it’s a world record is anyone’s guess. I can say I have it. ‘I climbed Mount Everest first.’ I did it. Now that I’ve said it, it’s true.”

And although he jokes about the frivolities of a Guinness world record attempt, he’s far more serious and tight-lipped about a string of recently announced collaborations. The band’s drummer Dale Crover revealed to Metal Sucks that the band has been working on some covers of Venom (with Scott Kelly of Neurosis), Roxy Music (with Jello Biafra and former bassist Kevin Rutmanis) and Queen (with Caleb Bird of Tweak Bird). When asked what songs they’re covering he offers simply, “I don’t want to tell yet, because we’re not done with them yet. We’re going to do a compilation, and then we’re going to put out single records, 12 inches. A whole bunch of tribute records that we’re doing, lots of people we like.”

He does speak openly about a recently announced EP by The Melvins 1983 configuration of the band. He explains, “We also have a 1983-era Melvins record coming out. Four song EP, we recorded new stuff with the original drummer [Mike Dillard] and Dale playing bass. That comes out soon. We’re really looking forward to that as well.” Is this a sign that the band might begin touring not only the standard lineup of the band (with drummer Coady Willis and bassist Jared Warren) and Melvins Lite, but also The Melvins 1983? Osborne is skeptical stating, “No, not as much. Maybe just a few shows, Dillard’s got his hands full with three kids and he’s a union machinist. It’s difficult for him to get the time off.” He adds a joke at the end, “The rest of us are losers. So we can take all the time off we need.”

This also begs the question of the band’s sudden reunion with former bassist Kevin Rutmanis on the aforementioned Roxy Music cover. Does this mean the band may begin performing and recording with Rutmanis again? On this one Osbourne explains, “No. That’s a one-off. We’re also playing with him on the 51 date tour playing with his band in Vegas and in Los Angeles.” He continues, “Yeah, we have no plans to do that. None at all. To even venture that that may happen is really putting the cart before the horse.”

Since there are now so many configurations of The Melvins, would the band consider doing a special mini-festival highlighting all their current incarnations? It sounds possible, but far from the drawing board right now. Osborne replies, “Next year is our 30th anniversary, we might do something like that. But it would be relatively limited, considering how much time the drummer would only be available. We couldn’t do a huge deal. It’s likely we’ll do something.”

Also, legions of diehard Mike Patton fans have been rumoring for some time that a new Fantomas album (which Osborne plays guitar for) is in the works. Not true, says Osborne. “That’s absolute nonsense. No way that anything like that has happened. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. But right now, no, that’s not happening.” Apparently the group hasn’t done any writing or recording either. He elaborates, “None at all. We haven’t been in a studio since 2003. Patton’s project. If he wants to do it, I’ll work around it. His schedule. We haven’t done a live show since 2008. Honestly, I have no idea.”

As for The Melvins’ one-time collaboration with Tool on The Crybaby, he’s optimistic that the two bands might rejoin to write more original material but confirms nothing has been planned. “Well you know, I would do whatever they wanted to. They’re busy doing their own record right now, somehow. I obviously don’t have any idea how that’s working for them. I do know they’ve been working on it for a while. But I would say yes. There’s nothing in the works.” Before concluding, Osborne offers one more appropriately funny remark. “I mean, neither band is going to last forever. It’s like I tell people, ‘If you don’t like what we’re doing now, all you have to do is wait.’ We won’t do it forever, then you won’t have to worry about it.”


Photo By Martin Wong

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By Raymond Flotat Posted in Features , , ,

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