Dark licks with a force

Buzz Osborne. Picture by Mackie Osborne

Buzz Osborne. Picture by Mackie Osborne

First published in The Guide
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KING BUZZO The Haunt, Pool Valley, Brighton, Saturday, August 30

When Buzz Osborne – frontman of grunge legends Melvins – decided to release a solo album he knew exactly how he didn't want it to go.

“I have no interest in sounding like a crappy version of James Taylor or a half-assed version of Woody Guthrie which is what happens when almost every rock and roller straps on an acoustic guitar,” he said when This Machine Kills Artists was released.

Listening to the album fans need not fear King Buzzo has suddenly gone country or overly sensitive. The guitar may be acoustic, but he is still playing sludgey chords and dark licks with a force and power which more than make up for a lack of bass and drums.

Speaking to The Guide in Perth after playing the last show of his Australian solo tour Osborne hasn't missed the power of the band behind him for these intimate shows.

“If you're not used to looking stupid in front of a lot of people then you shouldn't be in this job,” he says.

“Nobody else is doing an acoustic show like this. Once people come out to see it they will get it.

“I guess it's always been in the back of my mind to do something like this, but I'd never done it.

“I wrote all the Melvins stuff anyway, so the live show is 50/50 Melvins and new stuff, which works really well.”

The solo tour isn't the end of Melvins though – with Osborne and drummer Dale Crover teaming up with former Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus and guitarist Paul Leary to produce the 24th Melvins album Hold It In, which is due for release in October.

“I didn't want to leave any stone unturned in case this solo thing didn't work out,” laughs Osborne. “It's like a dream come true – I'm a big fan of the Butthole Surfers. If you had told me 30 years ago I was going to do a record with those guys I wouldn't have believed it.

“Both those guys have such great instincts for songs – Paul brought in three really great songs, I did three or four and Pinkus did a couple. It's the first time I've not written the vast majority on an album myself.”

It continues Osborne's 30-year career on the underground – aside from the short period the band was signed to major label Atlantic having been endorsed by old friend and occasional producer Kurt Cobain.

“The big fans from that time are 40 now,” says Osborne. “Our audience stays about the same age though, although we are getting older. Most of the people coming to our shows never saw us the first time.

“Not everyone wants to see a big rock show. I think our records should sell in the millions, but I like those smaller shows more. I'm not a big fan of shows in places designed for sporting events. If I was 16 years old I would like it because I would be away from my parents for a lot of hours, but personally I like playing theatres.”

The forthcoming Melvins album follows the band's 30th anniversary release Tres Cabrones – which saw Osborne reunited with original drummer Mike Dillard.

“I never lost track of Mike – we have been friends since junior high,” says Osborne. “He was not destined to leave that area – he lives about a mile from where he grew up, and married the girl he met in eighth grade. He wasn't about to abandon that for the band.

“We've remained friends for the best part of 40 years. I got the idea of doing some 1983 stuff with him playing drums. We opened for Melvins shows like that, and wrote some new songs with him and Dale on bass.”

The Tres Cabrones album has inspired a revolutionary idea involving Melvins's 11 past band members – most of whom were bass players.

“What would be really cool would be to get every incarnation of the band to do one song each on an album,” he says. “Maybe some of them won't do it – some of those guys hate my guts – but that's not my fault...”

Doors 7pm, tickets £12.50. Call Resident on 01273 606312.

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