Over the last tumultuous thirty years we’ve seen the rise and fall of (insert everything you’ve ever once held dear to you here), proving that nothing is too sacred, nothing is so pure, and that nothing is resistant to change. In fact, the only thing constant in life is change (well that, and this clichéd-ass saying). And while no other industry has changed more quickly and dramatically than that of the music industry in that time, no one is more ready to meet it head on than Melvins frontman, Buzz Osbourne, whose music career has spanned each one of those 3 decades.
I had the chance to meet with Buzz before he took the stage in Philadelphia last week while promoting his all acoustic, solo album, This Machine Kills Artists, and the conversation went something like this:
You’ve been on tour all summer promoting the new album this This Machine Kills Artists, how has the crowd response been?
The response has been good. I really didn’t know what to expect so– I’m happy anybody’s here at all (chuckling)
The name of the album is This Machine Kills Artists. Would you care to explain the meaning behind the title?
It’s a take on the Woody Guthrie thing, but I don’t know if anybody knows what he meant by it so we can just leave it at that. It’s one big mystery.
So how did Woody Guthrie ever impact you or inspire you– or did he at all?
Him? Probably through Bob Dylan, who I think was a lot better. Dylan was inspired by him and a number of other people, but what I liked about Dylan is that he was mean spirited, much more so than [Woody Guthrie], which was more attractive to me.
So Woody had somewhat of an outspoken message in terms of his lyrics..
I don’t know what that would be. I have no idea
Well he seemed to be taking a stand against fascism in his lyrics.
What is fascism– what is a fascist??
You tell me.
No you tell me! That’s the thing. Before I can understand what he’s taking a stand against– I mean fascism as I know it, is somebody telling someone else what to do. Seems like he’s not adverse to that himself, so I don’t know what he means by fascists. I have no idea. If he was pro-labor, they’re telling people what to do too. What’s the difference? (Laughs) So I have no idea what he means? No clue. I doubt anyone’d ever ask him.
Then I’ll ask you– what’s your message?
Ummm… I don’t have any all encompassing message. I’m a huge Captain Beefheart fan and I didn’t have to know what he meant. It still works though. I think it’s pretty clear if you listen to it. I don’t know– I don’t have a plan along those lines. At least in my art I don’t mix social commentary. I think it’s a mistake, personally. I would like to think that people in their personal lives would look higher than entertainers for their political or their social beliefs… (stops to laugh) …though rarely do. I’ve steered clear of that.
Going back to April of this year, your old buddies from Aberdeen took the stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when Nirvana was inducted.
Was that in April? I’ll be damned. Good for them.
They kind of owe you and the Melvins quite a bit it from when they were first starting out. The introduction to punk rock, introducing Dave Grohl to the band…
Well I don’t know what they think, but maybe. (Pauses) It was very nice of them to acknowledge us.
I did hear Krist thank you in his induction speech for introducing he and Kurt to Punk rock way back when. Can you remember any of the bands you turned them on to?
Yes he did. That was very cool. I can’t really remember what bands, but they weren’t into much beyond your normal Led Zeppelin type of music. You know– weirder stuff, but I really don’t know exactly.. it was in the early 80’s, basically anything I was listening to which was a wide variety of things. He hadn’t heard any of it.
Last summer I went to see Mudhoney in New York when they were promoting their latest record, Vanishing Point. The Melvins and Mudhoney are 2 of those bands that came out of Seattle, and are still putting out great albums 30 years into their career, still plenty of energy on stage, but I was thinking of the album title, Vanishing Point. Do you think the title was maybe alluding to something more? Could that be their last record?
Yeah, that’s nice. I like those guys a great deal. They’re one of the only bands from that era that has anything to do with us. But no, I don’t know why they would. They don’t work that much. They don’t have too much going on. I think it’s more like a hobby for them now. Why quit?
Speaking of exit strategies, the Melvins have over 30 years playing together and more records than any band I can think of without Googling. Has there ever been a conversation about it?
(Hesitates)..N-No, not really. I mean, I might as well do it until I can’t.
Throughout your career the music industry has seen quite a bit of change– from cassette tapes, to CD’s, to digital. How do you feel about the present state of the industry and what would you change if you could?
Well, you know, not everybody wants to hear a shitty digital download. I’m still a big fan of CD’s, personally. That’s the best. But yeah the industry is definitely making it harder for musicians to make money off of their art. They’re really making it difficult for a lot of the artists who exist, so…. oh well. That’s the way it goes. The genie’s out of the bottle and there’s no way of putting it back. Might as well just accept it. At least that’s the way I see it– there’s nothing I can do.
What would you do if you could change it?
Nothing. Why would I? I’m not afraid of change. I’m up for the challenge, that’s why I’m out here with an acoustic guitar. Up to the challenge– do it, make it work. No, I wouldn’t change anything I think it’s a bad idea. I’m far too classic liberal. The basic nature of conservatism is things staying the same. Classical liberalism is people who aren’t afraid of change, whatever it may be. (Pauses) But not liberalism as we know it now. No, it’s a lot different. It’s closer to fascism. I have no interest in telling people what to do. Not at all. Not in any fashion. I believe as long as we’re not hurting anybody else I don’t see any reason why I should tell you what to do. And that’s called freedom. (Laughs) And that’s as close to a social commentary as I’ll make.
I’ll strike that from the record..
No you can’t. It’s out there now. That’s fine. I mean I don’t make, you know, comments about the president, or anybody.. wars– none of that. I have my own private ideas about all of it, but publicly I’m not going to get involved with that. It’s a bad idea, I think it’s stupid.
People should make up their own minds about that kind of stuff. Present company excluded, most rock people are whore-mongering drug addicts, who can’t even make good music. Why would we listen to them about a political issue? Or actors. Most of them wouldn’t work 2 months for two million dollars. There’s nothing you can learn from them — nothing. So why should we listen to them about any issue.
Because they’ve got the loudest voices?
Because they just want to make themselves look like they’re good people and they’re not at all. So I look to higher sources. I don’t care about what any of those people think.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to see his acoustic show, which features songs from the new record, stripped down versions of Melvins songs, Alice Cooper covers, and some hilarious stories– and you happen to live in–Houston, Austin, or San Antonio, Texas; Tuscon, Arizona; or Pioneerto, California– go check him out! Tickets are still available here.