Interview with The Melvins: Talking About Their Generation

You’re still leaving material off of records? There have been outtake records in the past; there was the Mangled Demos release. If you’re cutting, do you have a huge stockpile of riffs either somewhere on tape or in Buzz’s brain?

Oh yeah. There are songs that we’ve occasionally worked on off and on for a long time that we still haven’t finished for whatever reason. Part just hasn’t come, maybe an ending. We always have stuff that we can work on, as far as new material. Everything that we record we always use. I think the record before this one we had maybe a song that we recorded from a previous session that we used. We always use everything. Nothing goes unreleased pretty much.

In terms of Frankensteining riffs and such, it doesn’t seem like you have some kind of reverence like ‘I tried this riff once in the ‘90s and it didn’t work so I can’t touch it.’

Kind of like the riff I always heard him warm up on. I’ve been hearing him play that for a long time. At least ten years, if not more. Until it finally got turned into a song.

That’s a long genesis.

I don’t even know if he ever thought of it as being a song. And then it’s just like ‘Oh!’ He used to play it really fast because it’s this really fast noodly sounding riff, but when you slow it down it’s a little different.

I guess that kind of ethic where you have an endless amount of riffs, you’re always reinterpreting, it seems that you could easily end up with some kind of option paralysis, where you can’t figure out when to say ‘Song’s over.’

Again, I think he works really hard on stuff. Buzz will say, ‘I wade through a lot of crap to get through something I think is good.’ (chuckles). The song ‘Evil New War God’ had a whole other part to it that we just kind of dumped because it seemed that it didn’t really work. And I think in the end it was probably right. Even though I liked the part, now that the song’s finished and done I can’t even think of how it fit in there. We didn’t really need it.

What inspired the cover for ‘My Generation?’

We were doing that live a couple of tours ago. Usually when we tour, we try to figure out a cover song that we try to do. We’ve always really liked playing covers; certainly have had plenty of them on past records. I dunno. We just really thought that was a really good cover live. And the idea is for Coady and I to sing lead vocals. Who knew? The drummers finally get to have their day.

The version we’re doing is taken from the Who movie The Kids Are Alright; there’s a scene in there where the kids are doing a slow bluesy version of the song. And that’s what we based our version on. But I think if the lyrics weren’t the same, it probably would be a completely different song. But we decided to give Pete Townshend credit anyway (laughs). He was the inspiration, so.

There’s also the ‘My Sharona’ take.

Oh yeah. That was just me messing around in the studio and we did a lot of recording through this little Casio keyboard that our engineer has. It has all these really cool effects on it, and we had a mic set up at all times going through that and I was just messing around between a take and that’s what came out. We thought it was hilarious so we put it on the record.

Are you playing any guitar on this record?

I don’t think I did play any guitar on this record. I have on past records. No. Besides drums and vocals I played piano…

Did you do the organ work on ‘I’ll Finish You Off?’

I did vocals on that one. I did piano and balloon (laughs). And rubber chicken. I played rubber chicken a lot.

In terms of the singing, there are a lot of harmonies on the record, something that you really started doing with (A) Senile Animal.

Yeah. Once we got Jared in the band, I knew right away, ‘Oh, he’s a lead singer, that’ll be great.’ I don’t know why Buzz didn’t realize that at first. And then we were working on new material and starting to work on vocals and he was like, ‘Oh! Oh my god! Oh yeah! Now we have another lead singer in the band!’ I’m like, ‘Yeah. It’s going to be great. We’re going to do all kinds of harmonies.’

I’ve always liked doing harmonies and fancy myself at being pretty good at it. Jared’s really good at it too, and just coming up with melody as well. I think he’s really good at it. Having him in the band has added a whole new dynamic. And Coady’s joined in too. Usually when we’re recording vocals, someone’s doing the main vocal, Buzz or Jared, whoever’s writing the lyrics—we’ve definitely designated lyrics and parts for Jared to write. Then from there, me or someone else will go ‘I’ve got a good line that will go for that, a vocal harmony.’ Myself, I hear someone doing a vocal I’ll always try a harmony for it and try something when they’re done. Go from there.

How much has the playing relationship between you and Coady grown?

It’s really comfortable now. It’s easy. It wasn’t ever hard—we found that we could play together no problem. But now, we’ve done it so much that we don’t even really have to think about it that much. And I think we’re each doing more different parts than we have before. We still do some kind of synchronized stuff, but I think this record, we come up with two separate parts that fit together really well. And since we’ve been playing together for so long, it’s just easier for us to do that, we’re really comfortable with each other, and I think it’s getting better, which is great.

What is the status of some of your other projects? Will there be another Altamont record?

Gosh I hope so. I’ve been trying to get this vinyl released together for a long time that this guy wants to do. Hopefully that will come out—it’s just kind of a compilation—because none of our stuff is really on vinyl. There are a few things, but not much. Since I’ve been so busy last couple of years with Melvins, Shrinebuilder, and I have two kids now, so all my time is taken up (laughs). Our bass player lives in San Francisco, I live in Los Angeles, the original drummer also lives [down] there, but we’ve been talking about getting together at some point and trying to do something.

Hopefully next time I have some time off I’ll be able to do something like that. There is a lot going on. I’m also going to playing this summer with this band from Denver called the Warlock Pinchers. They were on Boner Records, which was the Melvins label all through the ‘90s pretty much. I had told those guys a long time ago that if they ever reformed I would play drums for them—this was back in about 1992 when they broke up. I’ve been friends with those guys since then. And one of the guys called and he was like, ‘Hey guess what? We’re doing a big reunion show and do you want to do it? You said you would.’ So I said ‘Okay.’ (laughs). I think that’s going to be fun, they’re going to do a big thing in Denver. They were huge. They were kind of like white boy rap before the Beastie Boys, and I actually like them a lot better. It’ll be fun. [And] probably more Shrinebuilder stuff as well. I hope I can do some Altamont stuff. I get to play guitar in that band!

The Bride Screamed Murder is out on June 1 via Ipecac. The Melvins perform at Webster Hall in NYC on June 18 and Music Hall of Williamsburg on June 19.