INTERVIEW: Buzz Osborne Discusses Unplugging, Creating 'Molk' And Puking At The Grammys
By Casey Moffitt in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 18, 2014 4:10PM
photo credit: Mackie Osborne
Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne has done a lot of unusual and weird things during his career. But that's how he endears himself to his fans. Osborne said he believes the fact the band is always willing to try something new is the only reason the band has been able to survive for more than 30 years. Osborne continues to tread in new territory as he tackles his first solo acoustic tour, bringing its way to the Beat Kitchen March 22. We caught up with Osborne on the road to talk about the latest chapter of weirdness in the book of Melvins.
"I'm going to do more of it. I'm very into it," he said of the acoustic experiment. "It's something new and I love a new challenge. We did the Melvins Lite thing a while ago with Trevor Dunn on the upright bass and I think we'll do more of that. We did the two drummer thing with the guys from Big Business and we'll do that again, too. It's all good."
Osborne is promoting his limited 10-inch release, This Machine Kills Artist, under the familiar moniker of King Buzzo. It contains four new songs written specifically for the acoustic guitar, plus two reworked Melvins tracks. An acoustic LP is expected to be released in June, with 17 new songs, including the four from the 10-inch release.
"I don't know what I'll call exactly just yet," he said of the title to the upcoming album. "I might just call it This Machine Kills Artists the LP. I don't know. I really like that title and it means a lot to me."
"I'll leave it up to interpretation," he said. "But there is a lot of meaning to it, for me. It means a wide variety of things. It's funny and serious. Of course you could look at it from the other end and say, 'don't look too closely to it at all.'
"There are plenty of bands out there that are willing to take you by the hand and walk you down the road and explain everything to you," he continued. "People shouldn't expect us to do that. We're a different kind of thing."
Musically, the acoustic material sounds very much like Osborne's work, as evidenced by the first song released for public consumption, "Dark Brown Teeth." There are no protest songs on the album. There are no country/western tunes. Osborne said he intended to do his thing, just on the acoustic guitar.
Photo via Melvins' Facebook page
"I'd rather blow my brains out that play that campfire acoustic shit," he continued. "I love country music, but I'm not going there with this."
Rather Osborne said he continued to write songs as usual, and just put it on a different instrument. It's a style he has dubbed as "Molk"—a hybrid of metal and folk—which he is sure will turn the music world on its head.
"The Grammys are going to have to come up with a whole new category, which I will be the only one nominated," he said. "I want to be the first guy to puke on the red carpet. I'm going to puke on the red carpet and then I'm going to shit on it. And when I get on stage, I'm going to cut myself and start puking and shitting and bleeding all over the stage. I promise, if I win a Grammy that's exactly what I'm going to do."
Osborne said he didn't know what inspired him to write an acoustic album, but once he started he couldn't put the brakes on it.
"It was just going to be the four songs and that's it," he said. "But it felt good, so I just kept going. I'm very envision then execute. Do it now. Make it happen. I always believed that people who have an opportunity to do something should just make it happen."
It also explains, in part, the odd timing of the tour. Osborne said the tour was booked around the release of This Machine Kills Artists, and plans to produce the full-length album came later.
Osborne said he has been performing in front of his tamest audiences on this tour, but those who see the show seem to be into it.
"Nobody's thrown empty whiskey bottles at me or anything. Nobody's asked for their money back," he said. "There was one guy last night who told me it wasn't loud enough. Oh well.
"Most of the people coming are there to see me play. They want the show to be good," he continued. "They already like what I do and I don't have to win them over. Not like when we we're an opening band on a tour. But I'm not scared. I've been doing this a long time."
Photo via Melvins' Facebook page
"I learned to play guitar when I was 18," he said. "Soon after I learned to play the guitar, I started writing songs and playing in bands."
Osborne admitted it was a little strange to take the stage all by himself for the first time.
"It's kind of a tough sell because it's a lot weirder than what I've done before," he said. "It's a different kind of thing, but it's worked well so far, and I think it will work better the more I do it."
"Even going back to the Melvins first album, we were playing stuff that was not going on around us, and we paid the price for that," he said. "Imagine playing in a room where everyone hates your guts just for the way you sound. We weren't trying to piss anyone off, but people are weird and touchy sometimes."
During his last visit to Chicago this past summer, Osborne again found himself playing in front of a strange audience at the Humboldt Park boathouse. Melvins were recording a video of the Butthole Surfers tune "Graveyard" for the AV Club. An ice cream truck was parked behind the band, and when asked how much the ice cream cost, Osborne responds, "It's free!"
A small horde of children rush past the performers to get their hands on some free ice cream, and couldn't care any less about the ruckus the band is making.
"That was a lot of fun," Osborne said. "It really couldn't have worked out any better."
The ice cream truck was brought in for the shoot, bus Osborne said the children were there on their own.
"Oh, no, we didn't ask those kids to be there," he said. "Can you imagine? I'd probably be tagged as a flaming racist if we brought in a bunch of black kids like that!
"It was like the planets aligned," he went on to say. "We were supposed to do two or three takes of that, but we're professionals and we knew that was going to be it. We're wise enough to know that we weren't going to get anything better than that."
Buzz Osborne performs Saturday March 22, at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., 8:30 p.m., $13.50 advance / $15 at the door, 17+