Consider the celebration started, with the Melvins celebrating 40 years together next year, the band is already in full stride playing multiplicities of shows in every corner of the U.S. The iconic Washington band is on their tour this year, supporting their latest album Bad Moon Rising, and previewing the anniversary next year.
Buzz Osborne aka King Buzzo, Dale Crover, and Stephen McDonald are the Melvins. With now around 30 albums out, the band has cemented itself in rock history. But the Melvins are equally as difficult to assess in rock history as their music. Osborne and Crover played alongside fellow Washington-rocker Kurt Cobain back in the grunge era. But they’ve never headlined stadiums in Argentina and abroad.
Their music has changed as much as themselves, all while maintaining a dedication to being fun and loud and angry and cheerful and every other emotion that loud speakers can convey.
Even in conversation, Crover was all chuckles and quips, while on the road after a string of more than 30 tour dates. Nearing four decades together, they continue to truck along, putting out music. What has always been appealing as listeners of the Melvins is that they’re just music fans like everybody else. It’s not over-stylized music that sounds like it took 90+ people to make in a year. They sound like the band you make plans to go out and see at the club downtown.
In a phone interview while on the road, Melvins’ drummer Dale Crover discussed the current tour dates, four decades together, making their latest record, and making music they like.
Antonio Villaseñor-Baca: How long has this tour been going on?
Dale Crover: We started way back in the beginning of September. El Paso is the next to last show, so we’ve got quite a few under our belts. 35 shows roughly. But we’ve also done two other tours this year. At the beginning of March, we did a big tour with Ministry that was six weeks long. And then we did another tour that was about the same at the beginning of Summer. We’re hitting every place we can hit that we can possibly play in the U.S.
Has it all been for Five Legged Dog or has it just been a matter of wanting to be out on the road?
Well, we’re always promoting something. There’s the new record that just came out, Bad Moon Rising. That’s pretty much what we’re touring right now.
And how have these dates in support of the new album been? Five Legged Dog is acoustic; have you been integrating an acoustic sound or set with the new album?
Live, we’re not doing anything acoustic. It’s all loud and bombastic, aiming to Detroit and El Paso when we get there. Yeah, no acoustic. We just made that record because during the whole pandemic, we didn’t want to put out a whole new record with new songs and waste them on not being able to tour so we came up with the idea of doing a big massive acoustic record with a lot of our songs…and then some! So, it was a pretty big undertaking but we had plenty of time not being able to tour.
The idea for that album came entirely from the pandemic?
Pretty much. We couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t play any shows. We did a few different things to kind of keep things going. Instead of doing a live streaming performance, we came up with the idea of doing our own live mini-TV show, miniseries, with multiple episodes during the pandemic. And then we did the whole record of acoustic songs, like damn near 40 songs. As well as all that, on our downtime, we recorded this new record.
How much of pandemic life and living in lockdown went into [Bad Moon Rising]?
Um, other than that we knew we wanted to do something, no. I think a lot of people sat around and did nothing. You know? Some bands did nothing, some bands made records. I guess we did it in hope that we would eventually be out on the road touring again. We did that over a year ago. We definitely did a lot of planning in advance. Even this tour was booked over a year ago.
Have you noticed any differences being back out on the road again?
Seems that people are definitely excited to go out and do stuff again. Our shows have been really good. And we have noticed that we’ve got a new generation of people coming to see us play. That’s been amazing. Looking out there and seeing new kids, and that means that we can probably do this for at least another couple of years. Definitely seeing a whole generation of people we hadn’t seen before because they were too young.
And how do you perceive that or contextualize it? Where are these new fans coming from? How does it feel having these newcomers at your show?
Well, great. It probably means that we still have a little bit of life left in the band. I don’t really know…other than, at a certain age, kids became interested in music. And though we’re not some huge band and we’re somewhat underground, there are still people interested in our music. Thank god!
You guys have been together for almost 40 years…
40 years! Almost 40 years, next year is going to be the 40-year anniversary. Now I’ve only been in the band for 39, but who’s counting?
Right, And 39 and 40 are worlds apart right?
The Melvins’ legacy in music is so wide-ranging not just in sound in how it has changed and come back and changed, but how do you situate yourself in a kind of musical landscape? Do you think about that at all at this point, bordering on 40 years together?
No, I think that we’ve always just tried to make music that we like, that we’re happy with and not try to follow any trends or what people like. I think if we worried about what people like, it would be over. We like it, we think it’s good, we think people should. That’s been how we’ve always viewed this. Musically, I always felt like what we were doing was really important. And still do. Even with this new record coming out, I’m really excited about. I think it’s one of the best records that we’ve done- as cliche as that sounds because people always say that- I think it’s really good. I’m really happy with it. I’m really proud of it.
But after nearly 40 years, does it sink in to your head at all of ‘how do we compare’, ‘how do people see us’, ‘what does our music mean altogether as an entire discography’ at this point?
No; I don’t really try to look back that far. I guess I just don’t worry about that stuff. I don’t look back that much. Just kept moving forward.
How have you kept to that mentality?
We have a very driven leader of our band, in Buzz Osborne, that always keeps things moving. Without him, we would sit around and do nothing. But he’s very driven. This whole thing is something that he started and keeps going. I’m along with it for the duration because like I said, I know what we do is important and I’m in it. Plus at this point, we’ve got nothing to fall back on. It’s either this or…I don’t know.
And in doing research for questions for these interviews, the shallow stuff that comes up immediately are the ‘this band’s influences’ type of stuff. I was wondering how ya’ll take influence from music today? Music has changed so much from when you started.
Sure, but we still get excited about bands and one thing that I know and new development in the show that is happening is a band that we found out about recently called Taipei Houston. They’re this two-piece from the Bay Area in San Francisco. Their dad happens to be a drummer from a band called Metallica (Myles and Layne Ulrich, sons of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich). I guess talent runs in the family because these guys are absolutely incredible. And they’re gonna be with us. So you know, every now and again a band comes along that is inspiring. These guys are one of them. El Paso should get to see a new band that might be big.
Definitely, in your music, there’s this sense of a group of guys just playing music without thinking of the next making of a product.
Well, we’re thinking of selling a product. I can’t say we don’t. If we weren’t making money off this, we couldn’t be doing it.
How have you navigated between the two then, making music you like and making the product?
Well, like I said, never worrying about what people are going to like. We like it, we think other people should too. Luckily, they do. I really love playing music, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. It’s not all about money. But you gotta survive. It’s definitely about survival. It’s all about survival.
And what about particularly with Bad Moon Rising, was there a specific idea or theme when it came to writing and composing the album?
honestly, I had little to do with it other than coming up with my drum parts. Buzz and Stephen got together for a week or so out in the desert and worked on doing some demos together and writing together which is something we don’t often do. When we were recording this I was in the process of selling my house and moving out of town so for me, I got all my stuff done in about three days. Which sounds quick but we come from a background where we had to make records in that amount of time. So I did my parts and went away, let them do their thing, came back and added my vocals. It was all done rather quickly.
How did it feel coming back and just needing to do the finishing touches?
I mean I heard everything during the whole process. But yeah, I hardly even remember doing it. It was done so quickly. So, I don’t know. Some bands spend months and months in the studio and sweat over everything and worry and worry and worry and come out with complete garbage. I don’t know. We’ve always come out with records in quick amounts of time. That’s the way that we started. We just didn’t have a bunch of money to make records. We were always on an independent label that didn’t have some big budget for us until we got with Atlantic, then we did spend more time in the studio. But even then a long time for us is like three weeks. Certainly at that time in the 90s, there were people listening to just a kickdrum for three weeks trying to get a sound of it. It’s funny, a lot of people spent a lot of money on a lot of stupid stuff back in the 90s when people were getting a bunch of money to be on record labels and now I’m sure those people wish that they wouldn’t have blown threw a bunch of cash on frivolous stuff. And now, with everything we’ve gone through with this whole pandemic, I bet there are quite a few people who wish they wouldn’t have spent money on a bunch of stupid stuff that they did. We’ve always been a DIY band.
That makes me have to ask, I think we all struggle with being a self-critic. You talk about making music in a way where you do what you like, working together, and then you put it out. And you’ve put out several albums out with quick time frames. Does that self-doubt ever creep in?
Hmmm, there’s a lot of editing that goes in there. I think self-doubt is just knowing something is not good. At the same time, we’re not afraid of what people are going to think. Obviously. I get on stage and jump around like a complete meathead, so I don’t really care. Not that much. I mean, yes and no. I think if you worry too much about that stuff, it won’t be any good.
By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca