The Melvins: Holding It In, One More Crazy than 5150 and Living in the Moment
Story and Photos by Brandy Rettig
Inside the Showbox at the Market, three figures emerged from an artificially lit photo shoot area. They were walking my way. With the lights shining brightly behind them, I couldn’t make out their faces. I didn’t need to; their silhouettes immediately told me who they were: Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and Jeff Pinkus. The Melvins. I flicked the switch on my handheld recorder and looked up to see one of the most influential heavy music bands standing in a semi-circle in front of me.
From the very first words of my introduction, Buzz was engaged, interjecting one-liners and setting a playful tone of quick-witted humor.
PA: Hi, I’m Brandy Rettig with the Seattle Passive Aggressive Music Magazine.
Buzz: Passive Aggressive, I like that.
PA: I’m so excited to talk to you guys, I’m a fan of all of you both individually and collectively.
Buzz: That’ll all change.
Everyone laughed. It was the third night of their new tour and when I asked them how it had been going so far, more jokes were tossed at me.
Jeff: Feels like the second night.
Dale: Feels like first time.
When the second round of laughter trailed off, I jumped in, asking them about the new composition of the band, “The new album, Hold It In, represents a new incarnation of the Melvins…” Buzz, pointing to Jeff quickly interjects, “Right here: Jeff.” I look to Jeff and ask him how that came about.
Jeff: Well, it was…I lost a bet.
Buzz: Payment, payment…he’s still losing, he’s on a losing streak.
Jeff: We started out as just doing four songs together. Then, it just sounded so fucking good we decided to do a whole record together.
PA (to Jeff): Where was that at? I saw you sit in with the Melvins last year while Jared was on paternity leave; did that kind of start it?
Dale: No, it was even before that. Yeah he (Jeff) got dumped off in L.A. after some roadie tour he was on.
Jeff: (laughing, says to Dale) You saved me from some meth head.
Dale: We decided that since he had nothin’ else to do that we’d play.
PA: And then how did you all get Paul (Leary) involved?
Buzz: Jeff! Jeff oiled the wheel!
Jeff: I talk to him all the time, so I asked them (Buzz and Dale) about “Well, Paul would love to do a couple of noise tracks on it” and I just told Paul he didn’t have to learn any songs and…(laughter)
Buzz: He wrote three!
Jeff: Yeah, he wrote three, he didn’t have to learn any songs.
Buzz: It was great.
Jeff: Yeah it worked out great. He’s real happy with the way it turned out.
With Buzz and Dale living in L.A. and Jeff and Paul in Texas, I asked the guys to explain a little bit about how their songwriting and recording process works.
Jeff: You just gotta be ready to write in any mode whatsoever now days.
PA: Do you send files back and forth?
Dale: We do a little bit of that stuff. But we recorded some stuff with just Jeff out in L.A. and then Buzz and I went to Austin last October and stayed out there for a week and a half and recorded with Paul. We did a bunch of stuff at his house…watched a lot of Judge Judy with Paul, that was good.
Jeff: Yeah, Judge Judy and weed.
Dale: Yeah, that’s what Paul’s into.
Jeff: He likes to make an even playing field when you get to his house so he gets people so stoned that they just shut up. (everyone laughs)
Buzz: While we were recording, the album title came from him saying that he stopped taking LSD because it gave him so much gas. He got tired of walking around “holding it in.”
PA: Paul’s not here. How come?
Buzz: Well, we might tour with him later. But I mean, you’re setting up to do a whole tour, it’s a lot, a lot of stuff you have to do and a lot of songs and he’s not ready at this point.
Jeff: We’re also not playing the whole album so there’s songs that would take a little time for him to get with the whole band together. You know, I’ve played a lot of these songs with them before so it’s quicker to get up to speed with that.
Buzz: But we would love to do that. Hopefully we will. We’re talking about it, so…
Dale: We’ve wanted to work with Paul for a long time. It’s always been…we really like these guys.
Standing in the middle of the Showbox floor with a band that has rocked the very the stage in front of us so many times over the years with so many different lineups (Mike Dillard, Mark D., Leif Garret, Trevor Dunn, Jared Warren, Coady Willis, etc.) I had to know, “Does the Showbox stage hold any nostalgia for you guys?”
Buzz and Dale nod affirmatively.
PA: But the Showbox isn’t the first place you played in Seattle, right?
Buzz: No, uh, we played a bunch of places…I can’t even remember all of them.
PA: Was it the Metropolis?
Buzz: No, we never played there. No, the owner didn’t like us. (looking around the Showbox) I used to go to punk rock shows here, when outside was really scary, you know, it was a total vomitorium with blood and people killing each other, now your mom could walk around here and not worry.
Jeff: Is this where that Iggy show was?
Buzz: No, that was a place called the Hippodrome. I saw TSOL play here, I saw a bunch of shows here. It was like, way more destroyed. It was like, hammered. None of this bar stuff was here and there used to be a boxing ring. They had boxing here. When we were here it was a dump, just a horrendous dump. And it closed down for a long time. Then they reopened it.
Dale: I can’t think of the first place, the first show in Seattle was that I played with these guys.
Buzz: I don’t know. We played a lot of little places that were there for about a week.
Dale: It was that basement place.
Buzz: Oh yeah. So many places like that, a ton of them. We had a hard time getting shows for a long time.
Dale: Yeah, well there was a whole period in Seattle where they wouldn’t have shows, I mean the cops shut everything down because of, do you remember the Schoochies night club where, I can’t remember what happened, drugs or somebody got stabbed or something and then that was it for all ages shows for a long time in Seattle.
Buzz (to Jeff): We saw you guys (Butthole Surfers) at the Central.
PA: It’s still there.
Buzz: You left stuff there.
Jeff: I don’t think I owned anything when I played there.
Buzz: You owned those pants and shoes.
Jeff: Yeah, I wore those to sleep in.
Buzz: Those were “all the time clothes.”
Jeff: A onesie for adults. Takes all the thinking out of it. I like that. That’s a good idea. I’m an idea man, just not a follow through guy. (laughter)
Listening to guys who so heavily influenced the music scene not only in Seattle, but worldwide, talk about the early days of heavy music in Seattle left me with goose bumps. And it left me wanting to know what they had in store for the future.
PA: What’s next for the Melvins? I hear there’s a documentary in the works? (Referring to The Colossus of Destiny-A Melvins Tale, a documentary about the Melvins currently being created by filmmakers Bob Hannam and Ryan Sutherby)
Buzz: Yeah well, we’re not doing that, these other guys are doing it. We’re friends with them. That’s their deal. We’ve got a movie about our 51 day tour.
Dale: Yeah, we got our own movie!
Buzz: It’s done, we just gotta figure out when we’re gonna put it out.
PA: What is that?!
Dale: It’s a movie that we made ourselves on the 51 states in 51 days tour that we did a few years ago.
PA: And you’re titling it?
Dale: Fifty-One Fifty-One. One more crazy than Fifty-One Fifty.
After the excitement of hearing that Melvins fans including myself will soon be treated to a Melvins movie of their own making, my final question for the guys relating the band’s legacy was answered in such an unexpected manner that I was left noticeably stunned.
PA: For 31 years, you guys have rocked…
Buzz: Has it really only been 31 years? Are you sure?
PA: You’ve influenced countless individuals and bands…
Buzz: Don’t blame us.
PA: What do you want the Melvins legacy to be?
Buzz: I really couldn’t care less. After I’m gone, I don’t care what happens.
Dale: We won’t be here to find out anyway, so…
Buzz: I’m much more an in the moment type of person. I don’t even want a headstone. I want to be incinerated and dumped in the garbage. I mean, once you’re dead, who cares?
Having been so personally influenced by this band, I was visibly taken aback by Buzz’s answer. My facial expression betrayed me, making my feelings evident. Buzz immediately saw this and further explained his answer to me. Putting it in the context of dogs was what ultimately made me able to grasp what he was saying, “My dogs…my dogs are in the moment, they live in the moment. That’s what I want. They are spiritual giants as far as I’m concerned.”
That’s when I got it: living in the moment, doing for the now. Endeavoring to so live, as Mark Twain said, “that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”
Buzz: I mean, I’m not doing this for after I’m dead, I’m doing it for now.
PA: Well, it’s working now.
Buzz: Right, that’s all I care about.
Dale: And the fact that people give a shit about us now, that’s what’s important.