31 Minutes with the Supernova Buzz Osborne of The Melvins

Words Crafted by David Leigh Abts & Marshall Johnson
Edited by: Ashley Goodwin, Samantha Sweeney
Photo by Elizabeth A Abts with Art by Ben Street

Imagine the passion and intensity of Henry Rollins, but with a sense of humor that is off the charts like John Candy. Our team recently got the opportunity to check out the Melvins’ sound check at Santos Party House in New York City. After the sound check, we were going to have 30 minutes with Buzz Osborne. I was warned by a Rockstarr* friend of mine that Buzz was very clever and that he was going to blow me out of the water. I was wary, so I studied up on other interviews with him to see where some of them had gone sideways. One interviewer asked him how it felt to be the Godfather of Grunge, and his response was: “I would like to take those newspaper clippings down to the Cadillac dealership and see what I can get for it.” It’s this pragmatic approach that seems to trip up interviewers who want to talk about the glory of the rock star lifestyle. Osborne is a man who has had nothing handed to him, who cherishes and has worked hard for everything he has.

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Knowing his passion for films, we asked him if he would ever score a movie. He responded, “I have probably written over 200 songs, you’d think that out of all that material there’d be something that a filmmaker could use… I would do it if they would let me do what I wanted. You show me someone that’s gonna pay me and trust me.” He continued, “You have investors, you have backers, you have a lot of people who are involved with that much money, who certainly aren’t looking at my press clippings.”

“I’ve always thought that we were writing soundtracks with every record, but no one else thinks that… I have little to no interest in someone collaborating with me that knows nothing about music. They are not going to let me go ‘I think your movie sucks. I think your directing sucks, your actors are f____ing horrible.”
“I am work for hire at that point. [I am] getting hired to write music. I can’t deal with that kind of criticism. I am not strong enough to deal with that. I’m not real good at getting humiliated. As a matter of fact, I am against it.” He says all of this with a boyish grin, highlighted with a single silver tooth. His hair billows like some sort of dangerous sea anemone. He’s an alpha’s worst nightmare. The alpha’s alpha. This is a character that walks into the room, calls you a yo-yo, and is right about it or, at least he makes you second-guess your own morality. And then twists the knife by beating you to the punch, and calls himself a yo-yo, too.

He’s the guy that boils down everything to simple decisions. Gun control, abortion, business, music, politics, healthcare, family. It’s all a basic equation to him. And it’s both terrifying and illuminating, but certainly inspiring to hear him preach. “Everyone has a price… At some point everything is for sale… I am not against money. I’m just against being put in a position where it’s not worth it to me.”
It can be confusing sometimes. He will say something incredibly inflammatory, and then explain himself in a way that defuses the issue and puts it all in context. It’s like he’s poking you to see if you’ll take the bait and throw a punch back. But if you wait just long enough, he’ll come around and show you the logic behind it all. And it makes sense, in most ways.

He’s worked hard his entire life, and that’s what gives him credibility. It’s clear that this approach to his work is honest and true. The last 9 to 5 he held was in the 80’s, when he worked at a pizza joint. He’s sure to point out that the best thing about not making any money at a pizza place is that, at the very worst, you won’t starve.
Leading up to this interview, we told friends that we were going to meet with the Melvins and everyone’s reactions were amazing. People were practically jumping for joy like Star Wars: The Force Awakens was coming out one day early. But when asked what their favorite Melvins song was, most people reacted as though they couldn’t decide which one, or they “didn’t know.” And this happened over and over. No one has a problem naming a Spin Doctors hit. Why do people get so excited about the Melvins when they don’t know the first thing about the band? Is it because they’ve played with and influenced so many of our other favorite bands? Is it because they’ve, arguably, created an entire genre of music based on their sound? Is it that they’ve been playing really loud for over 30 years, and don’t show any signs of growing tired of it? Or maybe, it’s just Buzzo’s billowy hair.

In the end, there’s something iconic and dark, alive and self-aware about the Melvins that everyone relates to. It’s the moment that you realize that the most awkward part of yourself is your strongest characteristic. It’s that cool thing that we are afraid of and don’t understand, but desperately want to be a part of. It’s like we all somehow understand, that if we listen to the Melvins with fear in our hearts, it will make us stronger.

For band & tour Information on The Melvins: http://themelvins.net/

For more photos by Elizabeth A. Abts: http://lizmiller.photoshelter.com/

For Art & Music from Ben Street visit his band’s site Immigrant Union: http://www.immigrantunion.com/

Another piece brought to you by Mothers Day Orphans Productions: http://www.mothersdaystories.com/#!band-reviews/c131j

1 Comment

  1. Lauren Silvestri

    July 27, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Love the art used in this!

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