They wanted to do something big and stupid. That’s what King Buzzo says. So the Melvins are attempting to break a world record by playing 50 states and D.C. in 51 days. They’re trying to break George Thorogood’s record, though there’s some serious controversy about it. See, Buzzo says Thorogood and the Destroyers didn’t complete their 51-shows-in-50-days mission back in 1981. But the band’s manager argues otherwise in Rolling Stone last month.
Buzz Osborne spoke with the Alibi by phone on day 34 of the tour and was anything but serious. Looking back, the 48-year-old says if he wasn’t a musician now, he wouldn’t mind being a “CEO of denting a seat cushion.” Lucky for fans, he learned to play guitar, got into punk and started the band in '83. Since then, the Melvins have been pumping out stoner, drone and experimental rock and have made 22 studio albums.
The tour launched in Anchorage, Alaska, and features a Melvins Lite lineup, including Osborne, drummer Dale Crover and Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle on upright bass. Of the stage show, Osborne says: “The best thing to do is to expect absolutely nothing and, if you get anything at all, you can be pleasantly surprised.”
The latest album, Freak Puke, was released in June on Ipecac Recordings, a label founded by Mike Patton, and features Dunn for the first time. “We allowed the standup bass to expand and be as big as possible,” Osborne says. “That was the inspiration for the entire thing. Let it go. Just let it do what it wants.” He and Dunn also played together in avant-garde metal band Fantômas, which is Patton’s brainchild. As for a new Fantômas album, Osborne says the outlook is dim. “If we consider that we haven’t done a gig since 2008 and haven’t been in the studio since 2003, I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
Osborne doesn't plan to call it quits anytime soon but notes that no one ever really plans to stop playing. “I just know this thing won’t last forever. I don’t know exactly when it will be over,” he says. “Eventually, we just won’t do it anymore. We won't be into it.” The band has been cranking it out for almost three decades now. To celebrate that anniversary next year, the numerically focused Melvins plan to play 30 shows in 30 days for 30 bucks a ticket.
This isn’t a one-man show, and Osborne shared some insights about his band mates. “Trevor is a metrosexual. That means he looks gay, but he’s not really, you know. He thinks he’s a better dancer when he’s drunk than he really is,” he says. “And he has a relatively good sense of humor, except for it mostly centers around toilet humor.” He says Crover is a family man, fancies himself a “really fancy dresser” and also believes he's a better dancer when bombed. “He’s the kind of guy that is willing to take a dare.”
Osborne wants to project a freaky aesthetic on stage. “The creative energy just comes out of the air and looks like my hair,” he says of his trademark electrified, white mane. Once known for his fondness for Gibson Les Paul guitars, he now favors Electrical Guitar Company gear. He even has a signature model from the company, the King Buzzo Standard. In addition to his collection of edged weaponry, art and toys, Osborne owns 15 guitars. He'll have three EGC models on tour.
Don’t expect the threesome to show up in a big tour bus. The group will arrive in “a vehicle that’s big enough to haul all of us and our little bit of gear.” He does most of the driving while bobbing to Judas Priest, Los Lobos, Tom Waits, Black Flag, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Judy Garland. Collaborating with both Hendrix and Garland at the same time is one of his dreams. Osborne may never get his wish, but the show must go on. And on and on.