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. They’re 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: We’ve played Moscow before.

K: You guys played Moscow?

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

K: Where’d you play?

B: Bars, the college once or twice. Five times total. We’d 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: What’s the difference? It’s 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 don’t remember buying a t-shirt. I think Dale might have bought one. Here’s Dale now. (Dale Crover enters). We’re 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 don’t like anything Clapton has done since.

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

K: What?

D: They’re 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 it’s possible.

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

B: No, not really. I’m not a big clothes guy.

K: That big black gown you wear…

B: It’s a muumuu.

K: Who designed it?

B: Coady’s (their other drummer) girlfriend designed it. She makes costumes for movies. It’s very well constructed.

K: Everyone who’s seen it says it’s awesome.

B: It certainly is. There’s nothing like being as peculiar as you can be. It’s 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 didn’t 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) I’m working with these guys now. He was saying all these bullshit rap things you couldn’t understand–he was on the verge of death–and he’d 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 Anselmo’s new band). That seemed odd, the Melvins and Down. Most the people at the show didn’t even know who you were.

B: That’s why we were there: You don’t 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. I’m 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 Applebee’s.

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

B: (Emphatically) No, he’s was not fun to tour with. He’s a character. But we’re 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 you’ve done with Big Business the last three years has been totally kick ass. I think it’s one of the best things going in heavy music right now.

B: We’d 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): I’ll lose you.

B: No, we’d lost a bass player to extra-curricular activities and plain insanity. We wanted something completely new, and we’d played with them before, and we’d thought of the two drummer things a long time ago but it never really worked. This just seemed like it’d 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: We’ve lived there a long time, like 17 years.

K: I guess you wouldn’t 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. I’m 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 can‘t 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, that’s it.

K: Is it when it’s like: Well, we’ve done all we can do?

B: When it gets to the point that we can’t 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 haven’t figured out the whole water supply thing, so it’s 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 couldn’t have your name on the hotel registry because they’re 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 wasn’t so good. I’m 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: I’d check that out once.

B: I couldn’t 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 don’t 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: We’ve had some breaks, but yeah. We like it.

K: Is it still fun?

B: Playing is the best, but I’m 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 don‘t 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. I’d 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 aren’t 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 don’t have huge amounts of driving. If you’re willing to do that it’s not that hard to do.

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

B: We always have. We’ve 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 can’t tell the difference between those albums and any other you’ve 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 don’t think we had–we had none, actually–any idea going in that we were going to sell millions of albums. (Note: They didn’t.). It was an opportunity to do something we wouldn’t normally be able to do, and that opportunity wouldn’t be there forever. We knew that going in. It was weird, but we were going to do it. And I liked the idea that we’d 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 doesn’t work out we’d just go back to doing what we were doing. And that’s 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 doesn’t work, it’s over.

K: It seems like that’s all they want.

B: Of course it’s all they want. I fault no one for success or money or any of that stuff. I couldn’t care less. But it’s 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 didn’t 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 didn’t like touring. It was a hobby.

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

D: They’re kind of weekend warriors. We’re the working class.

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

K: That’s gotta be the difference, you guys have to love playing the music or you wouldn’t 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 don’t think it’d be as much fun.

B: Bands wouldn’t want me to do it, they would hate it. They wouldn’t listen to me. They wouldn’t take any of my advice, and that would be the end of that. I guarantee it. They wouldn’t like what I have to say. I couldn’t 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 couldn’t 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 doesn’t like to work with them. But he has this studio and he has to pay for it.

B: That’s your job: People come to you and pay you to record their shit-tee band. Oh it would suck. I’d just be like: You guys just suck. Here, take your money back, just go. I can’t deal with this anymore, you’re horrible, you’re idiots, you’re awful.

K: You’re 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 this…thing. And he can’t do it. And he doesn’t want to do it. It’s the easiest job in the world in terms of what he has to do, because he doesn’t have to do anything except record it.

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

B: That’s what he’d like you to believe. In the end it’s relatively simple.

D: I’ve heard his thing is bands should sound like they do live.

B: And we’re 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. That’s what it’s there for. You do stuff that you can’t 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 aren’t going to get it in front of your stereo. I don’t approach it like that.

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

B: I’ve never seen them. I know it’s 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 don’t have any drums. (laughs).

B: The loudest shows I’ve been to are like arena rock shows. I couldn’t even deal with it. Wherever you’re sitting its brutal. I don’t know if pure volume is anything that attracts me. Maybe to some degree.

D: If it’s too loud, turn it down. That’s our motto.

B: Is it?

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

K: I don’t know. My Bloody Valentine?

D: Nope. Man-O-War.

–KUOI Staff