For almost 30 years now, the Melvins have operated on the fringes of both the indie and alternative rock worlds. Too heavy to be indie and too weird to really fit in with what passes for alternative, they influenced many of the Seattle bands that emerged in their wake but never quite reaped the dividends (though they did land a major-label record deal for a short time in the '90s). Currently on the road to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest tour of the U.S. — they plan to hit all 50 states and the nation's capital in 51 days — the Melvins continue to persevere on their own terms. Recorded under the name Melvins Lite (which means they only used one drummer instead of two), the band's new album, Freak Puke, is yet another heavy set of dark songs designed to give you nightmares. The band's singer and guitarist, Buzz Osborne, checks in with some of his favorite hobbies and why French movies aren't better than American ones.
On setting a Guinness record for the fastest tour of the United States and D.C.: No band has ever done it. I think a folk artist did it by himself, but no band has ever done it. George Thorogood says he did it, but if he had done it, he would be in The Guinness Book of World Records, and he's not. We talked to the Guinness people, and there's no record of him having done it. In 1980, I was a George Thorogood fan. I know for a fact that he made it through about 30 shows and then canceled the rest of the tour. To this day, he says he did it, but I know he didn't. Bullshit makes the world go 'round. We don't care about any of this. We don't care about doing 51 shows in 50 states plus D.C. It's a publicity stunt. That's it. I'm all over it. I think it's cool in the grand tradition of Evel Knievel, though not quite as dangerous.
Old vs. New Fans: There's nobody still following us from the beginning. There wasn't anybody anyway in the beginning, so that's not hard to beat. Our initial expectations were just to play a show. We beat that relatively quickly. When you have no expectations at all, it's hard to be disappointed. I consider us to be a very weird band. We're hard for millions of people to like. Millions of people will not buy our records. That's fine with me. I don't care. I think millions of people should buy our records. I'm not trying to operate an exclusive club. I really believe that people from eight to 80 should love our band. It's just that the general public has never agreed. People get to be between 30 and 40, and they don't go to as many shows. We lose people every year and gain new people every year. None of that worries me. I like new bands and old bands. It doesn't concern me how old they are. I feel like there is not enough good new music out there for me to be that picky. I'm picky, but when something is good, I'm not going to hate it because millions of people like it. Once in a while I agree with the general public. For every David Bowie album I loved from the 1970s, there's an REO Speedwagon record that I didn't like. Pink Floyd and Queen sold millions, and I agree. I like that stuff. The Eagles, not as much.
Musicians Are Lazy: I work a lot on our artwork. We do letter-press prints and lots of hands-on stuff, none of which goes to stores. We sell it online, and all that stuff does really well. We have a good cottage industry, but I'm not afraid of working, as opposed to most musicians, who are arguably the laziest people in the entire world. I love it when people talk about how much CEOs are paid, but they don't talk about how much lazy musicians are paid. What, they have to come up with 12 songs every five years? How do they manage? Whatever. The first thing I would do if I sold millions of record is say I'm not going to do things the way that these bands do it. The reasons why I was drawn to punk rock in the first place had little to do with playing in the hockey arena.
His Toy Collection: I collect hyper-limited vinyl toys. Look up an artist named Gary Baseman. It's not stuff you find at Toys R Us. Most of it says ages 14 and up — not because it's dirty, but because it's a liability. My all-time favorite toy is the Great Garloo. Anyone who has one can give it to me, or I will buy it from them. They're very hard to find.
Favorite Movies: I love movies in general. My all-time favorite director would be John Huston. His work ethic was amazing. He was in a wheelchair and on a breathing machine when he did his last movie, The Dead. He took on Moby Dick, too, which was great. He didn't get famous until his early forties. He worked until he died. He did The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is easily the best movie of all time. People are like, "What are you talking about?" I'm like, "No. Watch it." People always say Apocalypse Now is the best movie of all time. It's good, but by no means better. Treasure of the Sierra Madre is amazing. It's a perfect movie. There's nothing that doesn't belong in it. I've watched it at least 100 times.
French Movies: French movies are not better [than American movies]. They are not better. There might be some good ones, but take a movie like Network. It's genius. There's nothing even close. I can like stuff like [German director Rainer Werner] Fassbinder, but I like him more for the idea of how much he worked and how hard he worked, right up until when he died. He would be a hero as far as work ethic. Or someone like Francis Bacon, who painted just about until the day he died. Not just painted, but was a genius. There's a great book about what he had in his studio. The chaos he surrounded himself with was amazing. You take a blockbuster movie like Lawrence of Arabia, and you watch it and realize it's why we like movies. It's an English director [David Lean] with American backing. They have hit a home run that no one has ever come close to. I never tire of that movie. There's nothing like that. Movies are the ultimate art form.
What's Next: We have a bunch of plans for next year and we have stuff planned for the band's 30th anniversary. We're doing a big New Year's show in L.A. at the Alexandria Hotel with Redd Kross. People should fly out. Cleveland will be colder than shit, and you can take a break in sunny California.
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