Keeping things interesting
“I strive to make music that inspires other people to make music.” Buzz Osborne can rest easy, after all, he did help spawn the sound of an entire decade of music. '90s giants Nirvana, Tool and Soundgarden owed their sound, their success, to a band named after a dude no one liked. Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover gave birth to their l'enfant terrible in the early '80s and while their problem child is all grown up, it's still wreaking havoc. 25 years and 22 albums later the guys are still causing tinnitus in tender eardrums and have recently released an album of covers. Surprising fans with some of their choices Everybody Loves Sausage includes tracks from Queen, Divine, The Fugs, The Jam and Aussie swamp rockers The Scientists and features cameos by Mark Arm, Scott Kelly and Clem Burke. Prolific, playful, profound and anything but prosaic, Buzz Osborne tells us why The Melvins is not the easiest band to like.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I've been writing music for over 30 years and I've been playing guitar for 32 years… Written over 200 songs easily… Early influences were Hendrix, The Who and the Ramones… I think influences are a hard question to answer. Where do you begin? They could be anything.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
When I quit my job cooking and delivering pizza and concentrated only on music, that was in 1988. 25 years with no other job! I'm cool with that believe me and I see no reason to screw it up.
What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
The biggest musical road block is just trying to decide what to do. Anything goes as far as we're concerned and we simply try to keep it interesting which is not always easy. I write music and behave band-wise in a fashion that I would appreciate as a fan. I have a wide variety of interests.
What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
Music comes first always, then the lyrics get inspired by what the song sounds like, unless it has no lyrics. Sometimes the best instrumental songs have lyrics as well… Ha!
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Live we don't do a lot of improvising but my guitar solos change a bit as the tour goes on. Composing is like improvising because you are making shit up as you go along and then it turns into something else hopefully.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
It's about sound it's about space it's about fucking up your face. I suppose the in-between bits are as important and the noise itself.
Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
I'm not 100% sure what it is you're getting at but I'll take a crack at it anyway. I have NO idea what the audience deducts and usually don't ask them if they get it. It's usually better not to know. Peter Green wrote in the song Oh Well, the lyric "Don't ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to." I think that's good advice under any circumstance. Honestly I hate talking to people who use the phrase "yeah but." Like if I was dumb enough to ask a fan if they liked the show they would say "yeah, but…" and then I have to stand there and listen to what comes after the "but." "Yeah but..." is the mating call of the asshole...
In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?
Cultural differences? Do you imagine all cultures walk in lock step? Are all white people the same? Are all black people the same? Are all Asian people the same? I'm considered a white person and I guarantee you most white people in the world have NO interest in what I'm doing musically. They don't like it.
This has nothing to do with culture obviously. If what you are talking about is MUSICAL culture then my answer would be very similar. I suppose there is a hip-hop culture and a heavy metal culture but we don't fit into those cultures either. Now I have no idea how other people write music or who they imagine they are writing it for, all I know is that I've never taken into consideration WHO was going to be listening to my music. I've always just assumed I had good taste and that if I write music that I like other people will like it too.