From Arthur Magazine No. 30 (July 2008)
Two dudes, who remain pseudonymous for their own protection, reason together about new records. They are joined this issue by Melvins’ BUZZ OSBORNE, pictured below at Arthur HQ with his pick o’ this issue’s litter…
D: [listening to opening bomber] He’s inviting us over to smoke “figs” in his yard. Is that a misprint?
C: [pointing at band photograph] They’re in the backyard because these guys are too old too be smokin’ in the boys’ room. Another in a great history of smoking location songs.
D: That could be a Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour!
C: And invitation songs. Remember that Paul Wine Jones song? “Me and the boys/gonna have a good time tonight/Gonna play some poker/Pork chops.” I miss Paul Jones. That guy rocked and had velvet hats to burn. Not that you should ever burn a velvet hat.
D: [musing over band photo, especially the longhair] What does that guy do all day?
C: When not masquerading as a hick savant guarding mama’s moonshine still? Apparently he’s one of the deepest psych record collectors on the East Coast.
D: [looking at band picture again] I would say he’s one of the top hair growers on the East Coast!
C: Endless hair never ends. Seriously though, a band like this only needs one True Believer. And this guy definitely qualifies, let me tell you!
D: [listening to singer squeal, squawk, mutter and grunt on “The Manly Vibe”] Brings back fond memories of Hasil Adkins talking about hot dogs and doing the hunch.
C: Yeah, if Hasil dug the Nuge instead of the King. This album is for everyone who’s ever thought George Thorogood didn’t finish the job.
D: [abruptly] Or that the Kings of Leon aren’t old enough!
C: … Anyways, I saw these guys play last week.
D: Well of the course the question is, Can they boogie endlessly?
C: Yes, they are quite capable, these Endless Boogiemen. And after the first song, which lasted about two and a half hours, the singer asked “Do I seem taller? I got some new shoes!” Where’d you get ‘em? somebody yelled. “He took a few seconds, and then answered: “I bought ’em at a store!” They’ve got cool t-shirts: just an infinity sign on black.
D: Can you understand what he’s singing?
C: He’s singing in tongues. This song is called “Steak Rock.” Which is about right. I bet the song is timed so that you can cook a steak in the amount of time it takes to listen to it. So where’s the barbecue at?
D: Not in my backyard, sadly.
C: This record should come with an order of peach cobbler.
D: [helpfully] And napkins!
D: [doorbell rings] We have a guest.
[Enter Melvins vocalist/guitarist Buzz “King Buzzo” Osborne]
C [to himself]: Speaking of singing in tongues…
D [jumps up, joyful, and bows]: All hail King Buzzo.
Buzz: [ignoring, cheerful] I brought drinks. Diet Coke and Lemon Perrier for everyone! What are we listening to? Seems good.
C: What do you think about the vocals?
Buzz: [considers] Pretty Humble Pie-sounding.
C: What about…Black Oak Arkansas? You guys ever listen to them?
Buzz: I like some of that stuff, yeah. Simply for the weirdness factor alone. I always thought that [Black Oak Arkansas singer] Jim Dandy was getting ripped off endlessly by David Lee Roth, and moreso, Axl Rose. He sings EXACTLY like Jim Dandy. You know who else is really into Black Oak Arkansas is Jello Biafra. Heavily! That’s why Biafra has that star belt. He’s happy to admit it.
C: Didn’t Black Oak Arkansas buy land and live communally at one point?
Buzz: I don’t know the history. Jello [Biafra—of Dead Kennedys, Alternative Tentacles label, and an occasional collaborator with Melvins] knows more about any band than anyone I’ve ever known. His mom was a librarian and he has that kind of mentality built in. This friend of ours who was friends with Jello in the early ’80s had given him a cassette demo of ours. Well, Jello gave me that demo back recently. He still had it! Are you fucking kidding me?!? CASSETTE! It’s insane. He’s got every demo, every CD, every T-shirt that’s he ever gotten sent to A.T., he’s got catalogued. It’s crazy. I was with Jello once when he found a mono one-sided 7-inch of “TV Eye” that the Stooges put out. I just gave up. His collection is all just from him digging and digging and digging.
Ah, what is this again? It’s pretty good.
D: Endless Boogie!
C: They are not men.
D: No—they are record collectors! [C and D crack up]
Buzz: I don’t know that I’d buy it but I think it’s pretty good. I don’t fault them…
C: I don’t think anyone expects anyone to buy this. It gets further out as it goes on, like a long modern trance/raga record a la Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s “East/West.” Abstract Beefheart, going for long walks wandering round the desert instead of holing up in a trailer and weirding out.
C: It’s a guy holing up in San Francisco and weirding out. He calls the project Arp.
Buzz: Like the Arp synthesizer?
C: Yep. As far as band naming goes, vintage gear is the new “Wolf plus noun.”
D: Sunn o)))!
C: I hear the influence of the Moon too. I went up to Big Sur before it burned and saw Arp play at night outside the Henry Miller Library. I had a few sasparillas and they blew my mind, making moonglow soundwebs around the trees.
Buzz: This stuff is alright. I’ve heard a lot of stuff like this before. It all sounds like people are trying to do soundtracks for the Mario Brothers. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s cool. I don’t know if I’d buy it. It’s good! I wouldn’t turn it off if it happened to be on.
C: What kind of mood?
Buzz: Music for cleaning your house. There’s a few Melvins records that we’ve described as “music for vacuuming.” You know? Sounds better with the vacuum running! Crank it up with the vacuum?!
D: When is that, when you’re doing chores at the Melvins house?
Buzz: We woulda quit a long time ago if we had to live together. But I don’t even play loud music in my house. Most of the time I want to be able to hear a pin drop.
C: Do you check out a lot of new music?
Buzz: When it’s in front of me I do, definitely. I don’t go to a lot of live shows simply because we play a lot of live shows I can’t stand the idea of going to another fuckin’ club on my off-time. The car’s the best place to play music, I think. [listening to Arp] Yeah, this is good.
Lay It Down
Buzz: This is new? Wow. I would not have known.
C: Ahmir Questlove from the Roots knows and respects how the old, good stuff got made, he’s always had a good ear…
Buzz: Al Green—he’s off his rocker, that’s for sure. You ever heard one of those interviews with him? Hahaha. The other guys in Fantomas, Mike [Patton] and Trevor [Dunn], are really into him. Fantomas used to do a cover of his song “Simply Beautiful.” It was about as straight a cover as we ever did. This is nice! [laughs] He’s a minister, isn’t he? That’s cool. It doesn’t sound like he’s ready for the insane asylum just yet! That sounds like good driving music, for nice long drives straight past Sedona or something. Do not stop for gas. Take a right at Flagstaff and just keep going.
Pacific Ocean Blue – Legacy Edition
D: Speaking of being outdoors…
Buzz: Beach Boys?
C: It’s actually the solo album that drummer Dennis Wilson made in the mid-’70s, remastered and all that, first time it’s been on CD ever domestically, second disk has unfinished recordings for his second album, Bambu, which was in progress when he drowned.
D: [spookily] And he drowned in the Pacific Ocean.
Buzz: I’ve never heard this. Sounds like he’d been listening to a lot of Jesus Christ Superstar. I think they should’ve added more low end on the reissue. There’s also this high end, it’s almost a hissing sound, that’s all I can hear now. I mean, I appreciate the Beach Boys’ insanity but I would question whether he’s even on this, even singing.
C: It’s him.
Buzz: Well, you never know. This is nice…
D: Imagine being the kid brother of a genius, what that would be like.
Buzz: Which means he’s probably insane too. Have you ever read that book The Dark Stuff, where Nick Kent tries to interview Brian Wilson? That’s my favorite part of the book. [considers] That’s my favorite rock book, actually.
C: What about this book? [Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks, 2007]
Buzz [looks at book jacket]: I wouldn’t even pick that up.
C: It’s by a neurologist talking about weird disorders. Like people who get a song stuck in their head, and in trying to figure out why that happens, we learn something about how our brain works…
Buzz: It’s always a horrible song! If I’m going to hear a song over and over in my head, it’s going to be a fucking Rick Springfield song.
C: Right, so the book is about well, why does the brain do that?
Buzz: I’d imagine it’s the same thing that motivates dreaming. Why does that happen? We have no control over that either.
Buzz: You like to think you could.
C: You don’t know about lucid dreaming?
Buzz: When you slightly wake up and be aware that you were dreaming? Okay, but it’s not like you could SET UP the dream prior to doing it.. You can’t lay down and go ‘Okay I’m going to dream about hanging out with Raquel Welch.’ No way.
C: People have been dreaming for zillions of years. There’s been plenty of time to develop—through trial and error or whatever—techniques. There’s dream yogis…
D: You know once I was in New York and I got on the subway and this lady was standing there saying “My favorite Beach Boy is Al Jardine.”
C: Was it the little old lady from Pasadena? Anyway, yeah, there is some cheese factor here, but a few of the songs are gorgeous, like Brian Wilson songs if he was more spiritual, less troubled. Obviously Dennis wasn’t nearly as creative, but: so what?
D: Creativity ain’t all it’s cracked up to be! You just need…higher focus.
Let It Ride
C: Trio, two brothers, burly bearded bass and guitar, harmonies. Ohio. Second album, Let It Ride.
D: [to himself] Lay it down, let it ride: all these album titles are highly suggestive.
Buzz: Production-wise, I would like to have heard more kick drums. I can’t hear it at all. Which I think is a mistake for this kind of music, first off. Can you hear it? I can’t hear a kick drum, not at all. Seems like it needs it, would really push the song along better. Seems like they’re good players… [listening] Ah! There is some kick drum.
D: This and the Howlin Rain album, in the same year? American rock is rolling again!
C: It just has a nice…feel. Everything is working for this band: melodies, riffs, harmonies, rhythms, guitar tone…
Buzz: If you’re gonna start a band and play this kind of music, you’re setting yourself up for a pretty hard row to hoe, you know? So much of this stuff has been done. In order to stand above, you really have to do something extraordinary. That’s tough. That’s like becoming a famous opera singer, you’ve got your hands full. But this seems good.
C: You’ve got to stand against the canon.
Buzz: Yeah. Forty fucking years of it! That’s tough. See, I wouldn’t have the guts to try and do that. Doing stuff like this, I would just feel like I was up against the masters and it would be hard to… I’d rather do something that’s a little bit more a hybrid, a little more my own. These guys seem like they’re pretty good. It seems well-produced, well-executed, they seem like good players, their heart’s in the right place. I believe them when they’re doing it, which is always important in music. You have to believe it. If the people doing it don’t seem like they believe it, why should I?
C: It doesn’t matter what they’re doing as long as they believe it.
Buzz: I think so. I’ve always thought you should pretend like you know things you don’t. It’s the most important thing.
HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR
Hercules and Love Affair
Buzz: Is this NEW?!?
C: DFA makes a disco album with Antony singing. You can’t lose.
Buzz: Sounds nice. They look like a bunch of weirdos, that always helps. It’s always good to be peculiar. Being peculiar is never going to hurt you.
D: You ever listen to disco?
Buzz: No not really. Depending on what you mean by disco. Blondie? Yes. Donna Summer? Not really, no. I just didn’t pay any attention to it. None of my friends were into it, I didn’t go to dances. Although I guess I always liked the way those chicks looked. But I was 14, and I was into pretty much the way any girl looked at that point, you know? Just such a mystery, you know? That I’m still figuring out. Hopefully, I’ll never figure it out! That would be totally boring. There’s so much you CAN’T learn, you know?
D: [getting in the philosophical mood] Do you know less now than you did then?
Buzz: I wish I knew then what I know now. That would’ve made it a lot easier. I wouldn’t have worried so much.
Buzz: I didn’t have any idea really of what was gonna happen to me, you know? There was a short period in my life when I didn’t really care, but generally speaking, I didn’t have a whole lot of high hopes. Now, I’m a lot more relaxed. We kind of have it figured out, as far as Melvins are concerned. As long as we don’t pretend that we’re gonna be dusting off five number one gold albums, then we’ll be fine. But then, I never did pretend that. Nothing’s changed…
C: The internet isn’t killing Melvins?
Buzz: [laughs] I timed it: our new album [Nude With Boots, out now on Ipecac] was available on the internet within 48 hours of the advances going out.
C: Do you care? Has the internet made music better or worse?
Buzz: I think it’s much better than it was! I was ordering Sex Pistols records out of the back of Creem magazine back in ’77-8. I was really into Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, all that stuff when I was about 12. Creem always had weird looking bands. I saw a picture of the Sex Pistols, I thought This looks interesting. That was it. Same with the Clash, the Damned… Solely on the way they looked, the pictures. Some mail-order thing, they’d have a list of records you could buy. It took weeks for them to arrive. I lived maybe 150 miles from the nearest record store that would have had had anything of that nature. When you’re between 12 and 15, for me anyway, 150 miles might as well have been 150 million miles. Right now you can sit down with any cheap computer and figure out histories and what’s going on, it’s GREAT. Tremendous.
C: We had Sam Goody and Wherehouse.
D: Now they have the internet and Hot Topic, and all they want is emo!
Buzz: [laughs] So much for that argument!
C: They have the Internet, but still they do not understand.
Buzz: They never did. That’s not going to change. But, information-wise, it’s way easier. Look, when I started out going to see a band play, I would have to drive to Seattle to buy a ticket for a concert. That was a 150-mile one-way trip to get up there and have ’em tell you, ‘Sorry, it’s sold out’? No, no, no! I would’ve happily paid a Ticketmaster fee so I could have got my hands on a ticket as opposed to driving up all the way to Seattle to have them tell you, Nope, the Motorhead show’s sold out, sorry! No no no no. It’s way better now. Waaaaay better.
The Sun Splits for the Blind Swimmer
[Silence, listening to “Oh I’ve Come A Ragin Sun”]
Buzz: Who’s this?!?
C: This is his first record.
Buzz: This the first song on it? Always interesting how bands decide what the first song’s going to be on the cd.
C: What’s a good strategy?
Buzz: No idea. That’s the tricky part, you know?
C: [listens to “What for the Stables”] Reminds me of Michael Gira, from mid-Swans and Angels of Light eras.
Buzz: Yeah. Leonard Cohen, possibly. Seems good. He seems pretty scary.
C: He’s a weirdbeardie for sure. A baritone Will Oldham?
D: [musing] “Baritone Will Oldham” should be Bonnie Prince Billy’s new stagename.
C: It does have a nice roll to it, doesn’t it?
Buzz: [“This Ivory” begins] This one doesn’t sound as scary. This is the fourth song? This is what he has batting clean-up on the record. This is gonna drive the rest of them home?
D: He’s gonna drive them home, but not too fast.
Buzz: This is pretty good! It’s really weird. Interesting, definitely. Where’s this guy from?
C: It’s really striking. You don’t hear guys sing like this too often, cuz the bar actually is so high. So when one does, we should pay attention. Noah Georgeson’s songs are like this too, really beautiful music sung in a lower register than we’re used to hearing. Someone told me Stephen Merritt from Magnetic Fields sounds like this? [listening to “Fishhook”] This one’s almost Johnny Cash.
Buzz: I can hear that. It’s a really ambient recording. He’s not right in your face. The mic’s ten feet away or something, recorded the whole thing at once. That’s what it sounds like to me, a total live recording. Where’s he from?
C: I’ll look it up—[sad]—on the internet, of course.
D: [out of nowhere] The internet was introduced to the public prematurely! It should’ve been developed further so that it wouldn’t have become so jammed with stupid shit. It’s making the whole culture dumber, right when we needed everybody to get smarter. The country that first embraced the Internet—the United States—is the same Western country that’s shifted the furthest towards militarism and authoritarianism in the last 40 years! That is no coincidence! [leaves for kitchen]
C: [explaining to Buzz] D has been bitching about the internet a lot lately.
C: What do you think? Is the Internet making us smarter?
Buzz: Who knows. Probably to some degree. It’s helping somehow. Has to! [Thinks further] I guess it’s debatable. People have always been stupid, I suppose. [Thinks further] Well, it’s better for me. I love it. I’m hoping our friend King Darves is from Modesto. [cackles] Or San Diego. A beach community.
C: It’s great this way, but I can also imagine him singing with a choir, or a string section…
Buzz: Yeah. He could definitely be a little more adventurous in his production, no doubt about, which would be really amazing. He’s got a lot of potential. But if it doesn’t get any better than that for him, this is still really good. [laughs]
Buzz: Who’s this?
C: Kim Gordon and Julie Cafritz, and Ikue.
D: How can they call themselves Free Kitten without Ibold?!?
Buzz: Nice letterpressed promo.
D: This is serious! It’s not Free Kitten without Ibold!
C: Not too many duet albums from electric guitar playing female singers in their forties and fifties.
Buzz: Nope, not too many of those. I would say…never? The Shaggs, maybe? I didn’t know Julia was still doing music.
C: I think it’s the first time in a long time that she—
D: What?? Who gives a fig about Cafritz? Where’s Ibold!
C: Buzz, you ever see Julie in Pussy Galore?
Buzz: We played with Pussy Galore. I loved them, thought they were great. The lineup I liked best was without her. Three guitar players. But my favorite record of theirs was probably the Sugarshit Sharp EP. We even did a cover off it, a b-side on a seven-inch a long time ago. ‘Industrial rockabilly’ was the way I described it. Which I thought was really cool, you know? They were on our wishlist for [December 2008’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” festival in England put on by All Tomorrow’s Parties, and curated by Melvins with Mike Patton].
C: That’s never gonna happen.
Buzz: I know, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Yeah we played with them in ’89 I think. Real good. I think [Jon] Spencer [from Pussy Galore], once again, fits into the ‘peculiar’/weirdo category. Definitely peculiar. He’s one of these guys that writes music, that he probably perceives as being more commercial sounding than it really is. The way he looks at it. He doesn’t see it.
D: Free Kitten are now Number 1 on my official shitlist! This is bullshit, man. WHERE’S IBOLD?!
Buzz: [Film starts] Death Race 2000 mixed with Way of the Gun… with the cops from THX. Is it supposed to be this quiet?
Buzz: Weird. I don’t know anything about these guys really.
C: French techno electro guys who always appear in helmet and costume.
D: Like Kiss!
Buzz: This obviously wasn’t filmed in France, or at least not any section of France I’ve ever been to. Looks like the set of Star Trek. Or New Mexico. I love driving through areas like that, one of my favorite things in the world to do. Especially touring, that’s what’s so great about it. You get a lot of this kind of stuff. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that sort of stuff.
C: Not enough. You don’t want to live out in the desert, though?
Buzz: I’ve done my time in the sticks. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather live than here in L.A. Where would you go? Connecticut? Texas? [Returning to the subject at hand] This is cool so far. I’m hooked. [The license plate for the car that Daft Punkers are driving shows on the screen. Buzz reads aloud:] “HUMAN.”
C: That’s one of my favorite songs of all time! It’s Todd Rundgren—
Buzz: I’ve never listened to him.
C: It’s from A Wizard A True Star. Not exactly a record, or an artist, in fashion right now, so it’s interesting to see it so prominently featured in a film by guys that are appearing at the Grammys with Kanye West.
C: The weird thing about this film, I don’t think Daft Punk even put their own music on here…
Buzz: Weird! I really admire that. [continues to comment on action on screen] Is there going to be an Indian casino in the middle of nowhere? … Uh oh, this is where it gets dangerous, with the manure spreaders… Another guy with a helmet! Whaddya know. Well, “safety first,” as they say… Hmm. So they’re just one of many now… Does the baby have a helmet on? Looks like it…Uh, speaking of helmets, I gotta go.
D: What, you got a hair appointment?
Buzz: I wear it natural. Laters…
C: New full-lengther from Iggy’s three-headed stepchildren.
D: Less Stooges this time ‘round, more… I’m not sure.
C: Alison may be America’s most exciting young drummer. But: I’m really more into the Awesomes’ other projects right now: Red Dawn II! Weirding Modules! Arthur readers should investigate on their own, using the power of …the internet.
SEUN KUTI & FELA’S EGYPT 80
C: Well, here we have Fela’s second son, playing original numbers with members of his father’s group Egypt 80. He’s not his father. But definitely his father’s son. I can’t wait to see Seun at Felabration in Lagos in October, with [older brother] Femi—and Egypt 80—AND TONY ALLEN AND GINGER BAKER!!!! This is great. It’s afro, it’s beat…
D: It’s blazing! Who could not want to listen to this? Whazzup Shawn Cooti!
C: It’s pronounced “Shay-oon Koo-ti”…
C: …and this is “Jecks Toe-th.”
D: Jex Thoth? [muses] This is the name Lovecraft would give to a female superspy. Thoth. Jex Thoth.
C: Spooky music for spooky times.
D: My favorite thing about impending doom is this type of metal. I call it, impending doom metal. Is Jex Thoth her real name?
C: I believe it’s her nom de doom. Jex’s voice reminds me of Ingha Rumpf from German blues rock thumpers Frumpy. Beckoning from the back of a shadowy cave. This one’s called “When The Raven Calls”! Evoking ashen streets where even urchins no longer dare. Foreboding axe leads straight outta Slab City, CA….and yet…there’s a shuffling bop step to the drumming that makes me almost start to snap my doomy fingers. Instead I shall pump my doomy fist!
D: Y’know, I wish Buzz was still here.
C: Yeah. How bad do you miss him?
D: Pretty…I dunno. Whoa, I mean I think Buzz would really like this!
C: It’s metallurgy, paganomics and rhapsodomy rolled into one bewitching rock package.
D: Call it kohl rock.
C: Shall I show you a picture of the girl who is singing?
D: Oh I can picture her in my mind very well… Like if Ozzy had a daughter who looked like what I’d want Ozzy’s daughter to look like.