Chances are, if you’ve been paying any attention to music trends and leading influential acts over the past 30 years, you’ve heard of The Melvins. And, if not, I guarantee their inspiration has seeped into an up-and-coming band’s music somewhere along the way. Formed in 1983 by guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne (King Buzzo) and drummer Dale Crover, the band has held steady as a fine example of prolific creativity, dedication and intense, heavy noise. Below, Crover explains the band’s perseverance, spontaneity, and knack for inciting natural disasters wherever they go.
For such a prolific band, was there anything special about the development of your new EP, The Bulls & The Bees, that set it apart from previous releases? Is it ever challenging?
Recording and writing isn’t really ever challenging. Buzz, our guitar player, always has lots of material to work on. He’s never had writer’s block. I never understood that. Maybe people just don’t practice enough. Buzz is constantly doing stuff and coming up with ideas he likes and putting them down. It’s challenging to come up with something we haven’t ever done before, certainly, but a lot of us work really hard on that stuff. I’ve never felt we’ve been stuck doing the same thing and whenever we come up with new stuff, I’m always really excited. It’s fun! We really like what we do. We watch other bands that spend hours and days and months and years. It seems like they don’t really get too far. I’m not really sure what that is. We try to get enough sleep and stay focused and try new [things] and not be afraid to try new and different things. The problem with a lot of bands is they’re too afraid of what other people think. It’s like, “Well, do you like it?!” We’ve always felt like we were making music that us and music fans would appreciate.
With this EP, we had an opportunity to do something with Scion. We’ve worked with them in the past; they’ve promoted shows and, a little over a year ago, they commissioned us to do a video of one of the songs from our last record and did a remix of the song. They wanted to take it a little further and do an official release so we did this five-song EP. It’s a free EP and can be downloaded legally without feeling guilty about it. But that’s nothing new because for well over 10 years our records would leak months before it was ready to come out. Now it’s free!
You and Buzz have been the two constants in the band. Big Business’ Jared Warren and Coady Willis joined in 2006. How is this lineup?
This is our fourth release with this lineup with two drummers and we’ve had a couple live records come out in the last year or so. I feel like, with those guys in the band, we’ve got it down pretty good. This time around we didn’t spend a lot of time hammering the songs into the ground. They were fairly fresh when we recorded them, which I really like. I find it to be a bit more comfortable recording that way, when you don’t have a complete, set plan. I mean we knew the song and structure and how it’s supposed to go but we didn’t have much that was set in stone. Recording that way is a lot more comfortable and a lot of the songs are done in the first take, for me anyway. (Laughs) I mean, I’ve recorded songs that we already knew that took way longer just because I had something set and knew when I’d messed it up and we had to go over it. We’re just not as worried this time and it made the whole process really fun. And, besides this EP, we’ve also been doing a ton of new recording. Buzz did another record with this bass player, Trevor Dunn, who he plays with in a band called Fantômas. Trevor comes from a jazz school of playing so he ended up doing a record with him as well.
That’s interesting because it kind of goes against the whole “practice makes perfect” theory. Maybe, in your case, leaving room for improvisation worked out better.
I think so, for sure. Even with stuff that we have completely rehearsed, there are always mistakes. We’ve always gone by feel. “Well, that was a really great take but I screwed up this one thing…but in the end, what’s the best for the song?” Stuff happens and I forget where the mistake even was or you just don’t notice it anymore because it doesn’t affect the song overall and might end up being the most important part of it.
And when you’re touring, does that spontaneity come along?
Songs always change once we play them a ton of times, too. Once you go live, things always get faster anyway (laughs) but that might be a drummer thing right there!
Would you say you’ve seen a lot of new interest in the band? I read somewhere that the band is experiencing a bit of a “resurgence.”
I think things are probably better than ever now. I guess there’s some kind of a resurgence, but we’ve always been here and have always done our thing. Certainly after grunge just kind of faded, people thought we were done, but we never felt that way! (Laughs) We’ve seen a lot of bands out there who gave up because they didn’t make it or become big rock stars. But we never did it to be rock stars. We’ve been able to make a living off of it for a long time now. We tour and sell enough records so that we can make this whole thing work.
Yeah, at least you’re not sitting in an office cube all day or anything.
Right! Maybe never breaking up or never quitting and being around for so long has made a respect for the band. Every year we go on tour there’s always new fans. Generally people are in their 20s and 30s then once you hit 35 people kind of drop off, which I understand. I don’t go to live shows much anymore myself. It’s much more exciting when you’re in your 20s to do that sort of stuff. I still like music and everything and still look for new bands but I have two little kids now that wake me up at 6:30 in the morning! (Laughs) Or I don’t pay attention to who’s playing and I’ll hear about it afterwards. Living in L.A., there are always shows going on.
Finding out about a show after it’s over is the worst! Well, I hope the rest of this tour is uneventful for you and that you avoid natural disasters this time around.
Yeah, two earthquakes and even a volcano! The volcano was when I was touring with another band though, not The Melvins. It’s always something someplace…hurricanes or tornadoes or earthquakes.
Something’s going to get you someday.
You can catch The Melvins at The Note in West Chester, PA, on April 28. They will also be at Webster Hall in NYC on April 29. For more information, go to themelvins.net.