That Time the Melvins Played With Yoko Ono
The Melvins--immortal avant-metal overlords of cataclysmic, stadium-sized riffage, double-drum devastation and deliciously diabolical yelping--are the freakishly genius punk crushers that the late Kurt Cobain wished to high hell his band Nirvana could be. While Melvins idolizer Cobain is long gone, the dementedly frizzled guitar prophet Buzz Osborne and his best bud, drum god Dale Crover, trudge on in ridiculously prolific fashion.
Mackie Osborne Melvins: Freaks Puking
Since 2006, when the fearless twosome merged with bassist Jared Warren and Coady Willis of metallic mashers Big Business to form the murderously imposing two-drummer lineup of the Melvins, they have enjoyed a renaissance of utter grind 'n' pound magnitude, as evidenced by hammerhead gems like like (A) Senile Animal ('06), Nude With Boots ('08), The Bride Screamed Murder ('10) and live document, Sugar Daddy ('11).
See also: The Melvins, Globe Trotting Men of Metal
While Big Business was busy doing their own thing, the kingly metal punishers underwent yet another reinvention. With Brooklyn's own Trevor Dunn (Tomahawk; John Zorn) providing shrieking and throbbing stand-up bass, Buzzo and Crover added another notch to the Melvins pedigree: Melvins Lite. Freak Puke ('12) followed, as did a record-breaking 51 shows in 51 days tour.
This year, Melvins have once again reached another career pinnacle: their 30th anniversary. They've hit the tour circuit once again to celebrate the feat, a new covers record called Everybody Loves Sausages (Ipecac) recently hit, loaded with guest vocalists galore, such as Mark Arm, J.G. Thirlwell, Jello Biafra, Tweak Bird's Caleb Benjamin and Amphetamine Reptile chief Tom Hazelmyer, belting out a glorious bevy of tunes from Bowie, Scientists, Venom, The Fugs and The Kinks.
We caught up with Crover to talk dogs, Beatles, baseball, Maxwell's closing and the surviving Nirvana dudes not allowing a Melvins/Macca collaboration.
Melvins, Baroness and Honky play House of Vans on tonight, July 31st
Are you guys in the van right now?
Dale Crover: We are. We are on the way to lovely Cleveland, Ohio.
Where did you play last night?
We played in St. Louis.
Does Buzz usually do the driving?
Yeah, he likes to drive. He insists on it. I drive sometimes. He's just crazy; he likes to drive. And always drives [laughs].
You guys tour a lot, huh. Are you ever home?
We do. I would say we tour roughly three months total out of the year. So I'm home a lot.
And you just did the mammoth 51 shows in 51 days tour. How did that go?
Yeah. We did that last fall. That was a great tour; that was one of my favorite tours we'd ever done.
Any bad shit go down during those 51 days?
No, not really. The only thing bad that really happened that could have made the whole thing fall apart was we got two flat tires in one day. That was on our way from Albuquerque to Phoenix. Two flat tires. First one was fine because we had a spare and then when the second one blew, then we were kinda screwed. So we were touring with this band called Tweak Bird and those guys were already at the club and so we called those guys up and they came and got us and all our gear. We made the show.
Tweak Bird saved the day.
Yeah, they did, which is great. Good thing we took them on tour with us. We took them on the tour but we didn't have them play at every show because then they would have played 51 shows in 51 days before us (laughing). We took them on about 47 (laughing).
The singer of Tweak Bird sings one of the covers on Everybody Loves Sausages, right?
He does. He sings on the Queen song, "Best Friend." We had him in mind with that when we recorded that. We were like "We'll get Caleb to sing this. It would be perfect."
You play that song pretty straight.
Sort of, besides the Casio keyboards, ya know. It's a little bit different.
Well, they (Queen) don't have the weird middle section that we put in there. I think we might have cut a verse or two, as well.
Oh, did you?
But you get the idea (laughing).
Melvins have seemed to always play close to the vest with the covers you've done like "Smells like Teen Spirit" or the "Youth of America" Wipers cover. Is that intentional, that you don't want to fuck with them too much?
Sometimes. It depends. We've certainly, with some of those songs, taken liberties. Not all of them are straight ahead covers.
So, you are in the midst of the Melvins' 30th anniversary tour. Was there any thought in commemorating the feat with a full-blown spectacular, say bringing all the vocalists who sang on Sausages like Mark Arm, J.G. Thirlwell, Caleb from Tweak Bird and others, in tour with you and recreating the record?
We would but we probably wouldn't make any money that way. Too many people on tour, ya know. Too many hotel rooms to pay for, so... We were trying play maybe something off of every record (for the tour) but then the show would be way too long, so...We decided to do as much as we could from throughout our career. There's almost off something off of every record but not quite.
It would be quite the undertaking to play a song off of every Melvins record.
It would; it would be too long. I don't think anyone would want to sit there for three hours with our band.
Three hours isn't that bad.
I wouldn't want to do it [laughing].
No, no. I wouldn't want to watch it. Even if I really, really love a band, I feel like three hours is a little too much.
But if the Melvins play a three-hour show, you can take a break and let Coady drum on certain songs.
That's right but we do that anyway.
[Laughs] I'll just let him take over. Nobody's the wiser.
Melvins have played Maxwell's in Hoboken, right?
Oh, yeah, we played there on that (51/51) tour, actually.
Right, with Melvins Lite. So Maxwell's is closing at the end of this month.
That's crazy. That place had been open an awful long time.
Do you have any Maxwell's memories to share?
We played there about five times or something like that. I remember we played with Tool, down at some place in Asbury Park. We played there with those guys then we went up there and played a show at Maxwell's. So we went from this big giant place to a tiny place--all in the same night. Pretty fun.
Any Melvins early day memories of Maxwell's?
Oh, gosh, I don't really remember, ya know? It's always been good, though. They got good food. The last time I was there (in Hoboken), I finally realized that they had behind that intersection they got a baseball diamond and that was where the very first official, organized baseball game was played. I was impressed by that.
The Voice did a piece on Mudhoney recently and Mark Arm said he recorded two Scientists songs with you for Everybody Loves Sausages but only "Set It On Fire" made the record?
We did. Actually, with pretty much everybody we recorded two songs. Originally, we hadn't planned on it being a full-length record; we were going to do singles. Kind of like tribute singles: tribute to Roxy Music, tribute to Scientists and whatever. So, we were gonna do an A and a B-side and once we started listening to all this stuff, we realized it would make a pretty good record.