Around this time last year, The Melvins toured around California. According to guitarist and lead vocalist Buzz Osborne, he and his bandmates avoid touring in most locations during the winter months as they’re not fond of traveling in a “winter wonderland.” Cold, snowy conditions aren’t a problem in the Golden State, however, so The Melvins are doing like they did in 2019 and have embarked on an 11-date tour of California, which ends in Santa Barbara on February 17 with a gig at SoHO Restaurant & Music Club.
The band’s last full-length LP featuring just Melvins members was 2018’s “Pinkus Abortion Technician,” and the band’s current tour isn’t in support of any recent or forthcoming release. In Mr. Osborne’s opinion, with a thirty-plus-year back catalogue of music, there’s little need to promote new releases. At this point, a Melvins tour promotes the band’s entire career.
“We’re just trying to sell all our records,” Mr. Osborne said.
But that’s not to say that Mr. Osborne and his bandmates are resting on their laurels or cashing in on past glories. In the past year, The Melvins released a series of split albums including “Hot Fish” and “Escape from L.A.” in collaboration with bands like Flipper and Redd Kross, respectively. When it comes to assembling a setlist from The Melvins’ hundreds of songs, the band does its best to cover as much territory as possible from its three-and-a-half decade recording career. While songs like “Anaconda” from the 1993 album “Bullhead” and “The Bit” from 1996’s “Stag” album are frequently included in the band’s sets, there’s no Melvins song that’s absolutely guaranteed to get played at one of the band’s concerts.
Though the band has had its fair share of personnel changes over the years, Mr. Osborne and drummer Dale Crover have remained as the two constant members from its 1986 debut EP “Six Songs” onward. The two principal members met in Aberdeen, Washington through their friend and future Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. The Melvins’ heavy, sludgy mutation of punk rock was instrumental in the development of the Pacific Northwest-based music movement that became ‘90s grunge and was influential on the man who became its figurehead, Nirvana singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain. The great influence The Melvins had on the movement was even recounted by Mr. Novoselic in a 2009 Seattle Weekly blog post he wrote titled “We All Owe Something to The Melvins.”
When asked if he looks back fondly on the cultural moment that surrounded the early years of The Melvins, or whether he thinks the grunge years have been romanticized in the time since, Mr. Osborne says that he doesn’t dwell on the past.
“I’m not really a good old days kind of guy,” he said.
Rather, he is always looking forward, driven by the question “What have you done lately?” With that being said, Mr. Osborne realizes that Kurt Cobain and Nirvana sold millions of records and meant a great deal to the people who bought them, so he understands the continued fascination with the late singer.
“I understand why people like him. He was a nice guy,” Mr. Osborne stated.
The Melvins sound that influenced so much of grunge evolved from the band’s beginning as a hardcore punk group. It’s trademark sludginess took shape when Mr. Osborne and his bandmates decided to give their music a heavier, slower tempo, a decision that was made in part due to influence from bands like Black Flag, but also to differentiate The Melvins from most of the other bands the members knew.
“We wanted to do something that was a little different,” Mr. Osborne recalled.
Now more than thirty years into The Melvins’ career, Mr. Osborne finds it just as easy to be musically adventurous as ever. In fact, he is more trusting and his bandmates’ ability to make music now than he was in the early days. Concerns over whether their newest song is as good as their last have completely fallen by the wayside, and Mr. Osborne knows that whatever music he presents to Mr. Crover and current bassist Steven McDonald will be improved with their involvement.
“If I bring something in, they’ll make it better,” he said.
Outside of The Melvins, Mr. Osborne produces sounds of a slightly different ilk: Acoustic music. In 2014 he released his first solo acoustic album “The Machine Kills Artists” under the name King Buzzo and 2020 will see the release of his second acoustic solo album, which is dropping in May. The singer and guitarist didn’t divulge the name of the upcoming record as he will be announcing it once The Melvins’ tour concludes.