Which came first: The Melvins or The Scene?
While certainly the Melvins wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a scene in place for them to exist in, it would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Melvins and frontman Buzz Osborne to the modern scene as a whole. For 30 years, they’ve been blowing the boundaries of both rock and roll and music in general wide open with their buzzsaw attacks and wildly kinetic energy. Their legacy is such that their influence can be felt across the rock and roll spectrum; in many ways, the Melvins loom over the scene, or, indeed, scenes, as a guiding light, setting the example for almost every band that ever came after them.
For the second time in under a year, the Melvins are preparing for a US tour with Le Butcherettes. To celebrate this, I spoke with both Buzz and Le Butcherettes front woman Teri Gender Bender (nee Teresa Suarez) about the burgeoning relationship between these two bands. It’s clear that the reverence goes both ways. Teri grew up on the sounds of Buzz and the Melvins; Buzz has been nothing but impressed with the music and performances of Le Butcherettes.
The tour kicks off this Saturday, June 6 in Tucson, Arizona. In part one of our pre-coverage, I speak with the man, the myth, the legend himself, Buzz Osborne, about his love of Le Butcherettes. But Buzz is not a man who can be contained to a mere single topic…
James Roberts: Can you tell me a bit about your first experience with Le Butcherettes?
I saw them, I don’t know how long ago…maybe a year ago, maybe a lot longer…open up for Jello Biafra at the Roxy here in LA. I thought they were amazing and I don’t think that about many bands. I thought they were a really super-great live band and they just had something I hadn’t seen in a long time and they’re different than we are. I asked them to tour with us, I think they were hesitant at first. People have a strange idea about what exactly we are. Then once they got in it they told me it was the best touring experience they’ve ever had. Our audience loved them. We’ve trained our audience to like stuff that’s left of center. They’re really accepting of that stuff. I’ve never seen a band open for us that got an adverse reaction from our audience. Ever. Like [no] “get out, fuck you.” We’ve had all that kind of stuff happen to us, playing with other bands. Which has always been a mystery to me because I’ve never understood the idea that you have a headlining band that picks you to play with them. Their audience doesn’t put two and two together and say “well this is the band that the band we like likes?” [laughs] “We’re just gonna give them shit the whole entire time!” Our audience never does that. Le Butcherettes went over really great with us and made it to where we want to do more with them. Hopefully we’re going to do the US, and maybe go to Europe with them. That’s what I’m hoping.
What was it that blew you away so hard?
They were doing something different. I’m always amused at anybody that’s willing to do that. They’re not unlike us, which I feel we don’t have any brother bands. Plus they’re peculiar and I think that’s a total plus. You can’t be too peculiar in music, it’s not possible. The more peculiar you are, the better off you’re gonna be. Always.
What did you find so peculiar about them?
Well the way they set up on stage was peculiar, to start with. Sideways. The way the singer [Teri Gender Bender] how she reacts to what she’s doing. It’s really over the top. I like that. They seemed absolutely fearless. I thought that was really cool. Plus they were playing music that was not anything quite like before. The simplicity of it was great, the drummer was great. I just thought it was great, it was really great. I know that it would be a really great match with us. We’re also doing a 10” with them, that’s going to come out for the tour, called Chaos As Usual.
So is that a split or is it a collaborative?
Yeah, it’s a split. Actually, I played guitar and sang on one of their songs. But just a bit. I haven’t heard the final mix of it. But I was honored. They’re one of the few bands out there that are doing what I like. It’s few and far between, and always has been. There’s never been a golden era for me where I’m like “I like every band!” Once in a while something slips through that I can agree with the general public on a massive scale, but not often. Usually it’s bands that are weird. Plus I’m super into the idea that we’re out there playing with a band that’s not some hipster, stoner rock band or something that’s different than we are, so people get a good show as opposed to two bands that sound the same. They’re certainly a rock band but I don’t know what you would call it. They’re certainly avant garde. It’s rock music. It’s a little more heartfelt. [Teri’s] a great frontman and a great singer and there’s an energy and a humanness about it that you can’t get off the internet. You can only get that from going to a live show. That’s the one thing that’s good about that, that’s the one thing the internet or packaged tours can’t give you. I was brought up on that kind of thing, that’s what I like. In your face. I think it’s important.
I love that you said that because I was wondering if you thought that the differences between Le Butcherettes and The Melvins are somehow complimentary. Are they the cheese to your wine, for instance?
It’s great, I think it’s great. Variety is the spice of life, as they say.
In this day and age there’s been a lot of rhetoric, and I suppose there always has been, but there’s been a lot of criticism like “rock and roll is dead” but it kind of seems to me that Le Butcherettes are embodying that spirit. Is that good to see?
Rock in roll is dead? What would that be in reference to? What do they mean? What?
It’s always kind of bothered me too. It just seems like such a blanket, bullshit statement.
Do they mean that they’re more interested in a DJ and a laptop? Is that what they mean? Or do they mean that people can’t sell records anymore? Or are they more interested in hip-hop or something that has nothing to do with actually playing live? I mean, I don’t get it. I’m not sure what they mean. The general population, if you want to look at what millions and millions of people like, most of the time I don’t agree with it anyway. So the more inhuman you make it, the better it’s gonna be for bands that are going to do something more human. I think it’s absolutely going to make things better. Good! Kill it off! I’ll help you drive a stake through its heart. As long as we can do something different, fine with me. I’m not a good old days type of guy. At all. I think that kind of stuff is stupid. Like I said, I don’t think there was a golden era of music. One thing I heard, I read that Richard Hell autobiography, he said that people talk about CBGB’s of the 70’s like it was some great thing. What he said was what they don’t understand is 90% of the bands who played there were crap. [laughs] People only remember this handful of bands, and he goes “no no no, there was bands playing all the time that were garbage.” Nothing has changed.
I have that argument a lot, actually. Everyone likes to say “oh the music of 70s was better than it is today” and it’s like you’re only saying that because what you’re hearing from the 70s today is what’s still survived.
Well, I mean, some of the music was good. Some of the music 60’s was good, not all of it. Not all of the 70’s music was good. Not all of the 80s music was good. There’s good music in every era. I listen to music from the 50’s; rock music from Elvis on up. Good music is good music. It always irritates the hell people when I hear people say like “well, you know Hendrix was okay but these kids are young.” Oh, you mean they’re too stupid to like stuff that’s good? They’re ageists. Screw that. When I was 16 years old, Hendrix was already long dead. I still thought it was great. Does that mean I’m stupid? No. I prefer listening to music that is good. [laughs] Even in the early 80s when I wanted to go to punk rock shows, I still didn’t like generic punk rock bands. I was really picky. They had to be good. It’s the same thing today. Like okay, those big package festivals, we don’t get offered to do those things a lot. Usually it’s a decent paycheck, and for a band like us that makes a difference. But do I want to go to Coachella? Who would I watch? Most of that stuff is stuff I have absolutely no interest in. This year they had Steely Dan playing. What’s next year, the Doobie Brothers? Steve Miller Band? Are you kidding me? Jesus, somebody please kill it. Quickly! I am not amused! Steely Dan. Are you kidding?! Is Boz Scaggs gonna play next year? It’s insane. I don’t get it. I just don’t it. It makes no sense to me. None. But whatever.
[we both laugh hysterically]
That’s the first time an interview has genuinely made me laugh.
You see what I mean, right? Steely Dan?! Really?! Reeeally? My god. I just don’t get it. Where’s Sid Vicious when you need him? I don’t get it, it never made sense to me. Just like I never was a part of the big rave culture or any of that hippy shit. To me, it looks like Coachella has just turned into some hippy [shit]. I just don’t think that the people who want to listen to our band have much interest in that sort of thing. If you want to listen to Melvins you have to kind of look for it. We’re not readily available. We’ve certainly never done Coachella or any of that kind of stuff. Now, if they offered me a ton of money I would certainly do it. I need the money. I would take the money. But as far as being behind it? I can’t endorse stuff like that. I wouldn’t go. If I was 16 years old and on acid, it would be great to be away from my parents for that long. But Jesus Christ, to buy a ticket to that thing it’s 800 bucks! My parents wouldn’t have given me 8 bucks to go to a concert! Who goes to these things?! I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. It doesn’t make any sense. But whatever. Lots of that stuff doesn’t make any sense to me. So the bigger stuff like that gets, the better it’s gonna be for bands like us and Le Butcherettes. I think.
In that rant you said something kind of interesting, you said “who would I watch?” Is that a big thing for you, even being on the road with the same band day in day out? Is watching them important to you?
Oh yeah. I love watching them. They’re a great band to watch. They’re really fun. I mean I don’t watch their whole set every night, I got things I’ve got to do myself, you know? But we certainly have a massive interest in them. We think they’re great. They’re one of the best bands out there. I wish them all the luck in the world. I love the fact that they appreciate touring with us and thought it was a great experience. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
Is it bizarre for you as a musician that you’re touring with bands now that you have inspired?
Better us than some other bands that I can think of. It doesn’t bother me in the least. I think it’s great. But I don’t know that we inspired them. I have no idea. I don’t go in and ask them “what do you know about us?” I never walk into questions like that. “What did you think about us?” That’s one of the worst questions you can ever ask somebody. The last thing you want is for somebody to be straight with you. Don’t be straight with me. I don’t want to hear it. People always say that kind of stuff. “I just wish they were straight with me.” No, you do not. You do not wish that. You say that, but you don’t really want it.
There’s a reason they say the truth hurts, right?
Well the truth doesn’t always set you free, let’s put it that way. We had a bass player who said “I just wish they were straight with me.” And I’m there thinking “no you don’t. You do not wish that I was straight with you.” [laughs] Plus, not with him in particular, but you get to this point where people go “oh well they owe me this.” I don’t owe anybody shit. I don’t owe anybody anything. Nothing. All I owe the world is for me to be a decent human being. That’s it. Beyond that, I don’t owe anybody anything. I don’t owe anybody explanations. I don’t owe anybody anything. Nothing. As long as I keep my side of street clean, that’s all I need to do. As long as I’m not fucking with anybody else, I don’t see any reason why I should have to worry about things of that nature.
So I know you recorded that song with them for the 10” but do you think you’re going to perform that on stage at all or maybe do anything else live on this tour together?
I don’t know that we’ll do it together. I have no idea. It certainly hasn’t been discussed. I’m not going to worry about that. I’m not against it. It’d be fun. It’d be fine with me. We’d just have to figure out logistically, and a lot of times, with that kind of stuff, [I feel like] it’s their moment. I don’t want to overshadow what they’re doing or anything. Maybe it would be uncomfortable. But you know, who knows? I’m not the greatest pillar of confidence in that department, in my own abilities. I respect them as artists and I know they’ll be able to do it. Would I add anything to their set? Maybe, I don’t know. If that happens, it happens. That’d be great.
What was the experience like recording that song? Was it a collaborative creation or did you follow their direction?
No, they weren’t even there. They sent me the music and I did my own thing on it and sent it back, hoping that they would like it.
Is that weird process, recording separately, or is that something you’re used to?
I love recording. It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do. We do it all the time. We think it’s a wonderful. I view it as a different kind of animal than playing live. It’s a completely different experience. I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe people are so stupid out there that they think they’re watching a live concert when they’re listening to a CD. [laughs] I don’t worry about the live experience with a CD or record. I don’t think Pink Floyd worried about that when they made Dark Side of the Moon. They made a good record. If they could play it live, great. I don’t think it was a really big concern of theirs. When we’re making albums or doing something of that nature, I just concern myself with making a good album. If bands want to make a record that sounds like they do live, then why don’t they just record a live record? That’s fine too. MC5’s first record was live and it’s a great record. When we go to the studio, which is a completely alien environment, and try to create a live experience? It’s not a live experience. I like to be able to create a live experience. You want to create a live experience play live. Or you do live in the studio, that’s without an audience. Okay? If that’s what you wanna do…
Would it be weird to ask if you could see any long term collaborative project coming from this?
I’m open for anything. People don’t really ask me to do that kind of stuff. I would, usually, if I have time. I would certainly do it. In whatever capacity they wanted.
Hold it In/Chaos as Usual Tour (with Le Butcherettes)
June 6, 2015 – Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
June 7, 2015 – El Paso, TX – Lowbrow Palace
June 9, 2015 – San Antonio, TX – Korova
June 10, 2015 – Austin, TX – The Mohawk
June 11, 2015 – Dallas, TX – Trees
June 12, 2015 – Norman, OK – Opolis
June 14, 2015 – Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck
June 15, 2015 – St. Louis, MO – The Firebird
June 16, 2015 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
June 17, 2015 – Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theater (w/System of a Down)
June 18, 2015 – Columbus, OH – A&R Music Bar
June 19/20, 2015 – Montebello, QC, Canada (Amnesia Rockfest) (not Le Butcherettes)
June 22, 2015 – Toronto, ON, Canada – Danforth Music Hall
June 23, 2015 – London, ON, Canada – Call The Office
June 25, 2015 – Cleveland, OH – The Grog Shop
June 26, 2015 – Syracuse, NY – The Westcott Theater
June 27, 2015 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
June 28, 2015 – Hamden, CT – The Ballroom at the Outer Space
June 29, 2015 – New York, NY – Santos Party House
June 30, 2015 – New York, NY – Santos Party House
July 1, 2015 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
July 2, 2015 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
July 3, 2015 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
July 5, 2015 – Nashville, TN – Exit In
July 6, 2015 – Louisville, KY – Mercury Ballroom
July 7, 2015 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue Theatre
July 8, 2015 – Chicago, IL – Double Door
July 9, 2015 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
July 10, 2015 – Rock Island, IL – RIBCO
July 11, 2015 – Minneapolis, MN – BASH 15 at Grumpy’s Downtown w/ COWZ, Hammerhead, Gay Witch Abortion
July 12, 2015 – Fargo, ND – The Aquarium
July 13, 2015 – Sioux Falls, SD – The District
July 14, 2015 – Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room
July 16, 2015 – Ft. Collins, CO – Aggie Theatre
July 17, 2015 – Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
July 18, 2015 – Taos, NM – Taos Mesa Brewing
July 19, 2015 – Albuquerque, NM – The Launchpad
July 21, 2015 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom