Interviews: Buzz Osborne: Behind the Mumu

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Buzz Osborne: Behind the Mumu

Jean Gentile

Buzz Osborne will answer any questions you ask him. But, there is the trick. His answers are direct, carefully pronounced and often brief. In fact, because he usually speaks with some sort of force, you wonder if the question bothers him, if he doesn’t like you digging into a certain area, or, maybe he’s talking with it. the same calculated intensity as he plays his music. That is, his answers are so direct that they often answer the question without providing any clarification.

For example, Buzz doesn’t hesitate to mention: “I’m nice to everyone… up to they become an asshole. Once people become assholes, I’m done with them. Buzz says with such cold power I think he’s thinking of a specific incident. So I ask him, “Buzz, who doesn’t love you?” It seems to me that almost everyone who knows you loves you. I like you!”

Buzz’s response? “Maybe old group mates. Critics. “The fact that Buzz is worried about the old lips of former band members, and what some idiots behind a computer think (… um…) suggests he’s actually quite sensitive. Now if you ask a sensitive artist if he’s really sensitive, his response is usually, “No! I don’t care what people think!”

Buzz’s response, like all of his responses, is more genuine. He said, “Yes. I am sensitive. But, when I read reviews that are so bogus, so wildly bogus, I know I must be right.

Frankly, you can’t argue with logic. Now about to release the album number – get this – twenty five (which does not include their multitudes of singles, EPS and live releases), the group flourished for nearly 40 years as many contemporaries withered, whether through irrelevance, drugs, disinterest. or poverty.

On the contrary, in a way, they speed up. Before the pandemic, the band was spinning like clockwork, often playing more than 100 dates a year. They are louder than ever. Their recent albums contain some of the fastest tracks they’ve ever recorded and they regularly release two to three albums a year. Meanwhile, on stage, Buzz is a show. Dressed in a colorful mumu, he tears his guitar apart while beating his corkscrew white hair and screaming in his horrid tone. By the way, mumus are specially commissioned by Osborne (he has a mumu person) and are both functional works and works of art in themselves. Osborne said the main purpose of the mumu is to stay cool and loose during a show. I also think they’re kind of a throwback to the ‘bad hippie’ era, when guys like the Mothers of Invention, the Fugs, and the Pink Fairies wore dresses just to scare people off.

And, here, the Melvins are set to release album number twenty-five, a MASSIVE set of four LPs that find the band reinterpreting tunes from their entire catalog in a mostly acoustic style, with some cool covers, like this one. of the Stones. “To balance.”

It is remarkable given that they walk in contradictions. They are a really slow playing punk band. This is the grunge band that invented grunge even though it is unlike any other band called “grunge”. This is the independent group that was on a major label and enjoyed the experience. This is the metal band that used to sell T-shirts that read on the back, “Q: Why did the metalhead cross the road?” / A: Because he’s a gullible jerk who’ll buy anything with skulls on it. (This shirt, by the way, had a skull on the front).

But then again, is Buzz a contradiction, or is he just a really, really, really unique guy who doesn’t fit into any pre-made mold you’re trying to put on him. And if so, how do you make such a creature?

“I was born in Morton, Washington and lived there until college,” Osborne says. “It was a very, very small town, but we lived near the center of it. Then my father’s job transferred Montesano, so we moved there. It was still a small town which was not as small as Morton, but we lived on the outskirts. In college and most of the time in high school, I had absolutely no friends.

Basically, Osborne’s father was a tree specialist – once the loggers cut down a tree, Osborne’s father, an independent third party, determined how much usable timber from the tree was, leaving it up to the seller and it is up to the buyer to determine the value based on the calculations. Her mother worked in a variety of jobs, including at the post office and as a housewife. He has siblings, although they are younger than him, which means that during his pre-teen and teenage years, Osborne was on his own most of the time. As he once said, “I didn’t like teenagers when I was a teenager! ”

He spent his days wandering in the woods near his house, thinking about things and shooting guns. “I never had an aversion to guns,” he says. “I’ve always had them around me. It is a tool like any other tool that can be used for better or for worse.

Young Buzz, uh, uh, “Roger”, was also a true reader. Sure, he read comics like any other kid, but he also devoured Jack London’s books, adventure stories, and eventually found his way into science fiction. It is a practice that he maintains until today. He still reads constantly, although he now often focuses on biographies. He particularly likes a few books on Howard Hughes and Walt Disney.

In fact, there’s sort of a cliché in Melvins’ inner fandom that bands love Disneyland. It’s sort of true. I bring up the Melvins-Walt Disney connection, perhaps in an awkward way. Osborne responds, “I’m interested in reading about Walt Disney… but that doesn’t mean I want to be like him. I sure don’t want to be like Howard Hughes. But I like Disney. I haven’t been there for a while. I love the forced perspective of it. I love the way it makes everything feel like it’s huge, when it’s not really that big. I love how the weird angles and perspective make you feel like a kid. Interesting that Osborne, who says he didn’t like kids even as a kid, loves the way Disney makes you feel like a kid.

Towards the end of high school, Osborne started a band with his few friends – Matt Lukin and Mike Dillard. Dillard was released a little over a year later and became a family man. Iconic drummer Dale Crover took over the sticks and has been with Osborne ever since. Osborne and Crover are still friends with Dillard and sometimes still record with him under the name “Melvins 1983”. As for Lukin, who left the group in 1987 and joined Mudhoney? They are not friends so much …

“I still don’t have a lot of friends,” Osborne adds. “But the friends I have, I’ve had them for a long, long time. It’s quality, not quantity.

Since their formation, the Melvins have pretty much invented grunge and reinvented rock about six times. Their iconic Lysol The album slowed down punk rock to about a quarter of a speed and increased massive heaviness, resulting in an abstract album of Sabbath Meets Alice Cooper Meets Poison Idea. The famous Houdini album, partially produced by Kurt Cobain, is often cited as a reference grunge album … and occasionally as the iconic grunge album (but if you ask me, it’s more heavy metal than grunge, but that’s another discussion…) Pigs of the Roman Empire The album, recorded with the sound-bizarre Lustmord, fuses the metal of Melvins with some super wacky sound experiences. Pinkus Abortion Technician asked “why can’t a band have two bassists at once and also do a Butthole Surfers / James Gang mashup?” The answer was ‘it can’.

And now with Five-legged dog, they reinvent themselves. The album is a huge QUADRUPLE ensemble where they re-record acoustic versions of their own chosen songs over their 40-year career. They also offer some choice covers, such as a moving rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Sway” (sung by Melvs bassist Steven McDonald, a cover of Brainiac, a track by Warren Zevon, and also a cover of a drummer. Dale Crover’s This is a diverse set which, as with many Melvins projects, is open to interpretation as to meaning and purpose.

“I was going to go on tour for my second solo album, which was acoustic. I recorded this with Trevor Dunn, ”says Osborne, clearly frustrated that his plans were thwarted. (Famously, unlike many other disorganized chaos groups, the Melvins make their plans two years in advance.) “But, the pandemic got in the way and I had to cancel the tour. So, during the lockdown, we decided to record these songs. Only one album seemed cliché. A double album… well, it’s common these days. And if you’re going to do three LPs, you might as well do four. ”

One wonders if a lot of Melvin’s weird ideas don’t have a grand, high-end concept behind them, but in reality, they’re just experiences or impulses – which arguably is the highest platform. art and expression. The album itself seems to play with contrasts. “Hung Bunny / Roman Dog Bird,” an old Melvins classic famed for its heaviness, is, of course, acoustic here, but the band tries to take the terror and menace of the electric version and recreate it through the tone. , intensity, and ambiance. They succeed. If anything, the band seems to be arguing that the obscurity, humor, weirdness, and rarely “normal” aspects injected into their tracks don’t come from the tech, but from the human himself. As Osborne quoted earlier, “it’s the Indian, not the arrow.”

That being said, this is the first full album where the Melvins have taken a step back and looked at their own catalog (although they have already re-recorded some of their own tracks). So what does it mean that the band is revisiting their own work with such intensity? How does it feel to look back on your own past and assess it?

Osborne pauses before responding, “I don’t spend a lot of time looking back or reliving the past. I could reflect on mistakes to better prepare for future events. But I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about myself. The living contradiction speaks.


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