Buzz, Dale, Stephen live- photos by Jaysen Michael
Live review & interview by Kortney Jmaeff
The shelf life of the Melvins is longer than many fine wines... Scratch that- they're more like primo aged whiskey. Both drummer Dale Crover and singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne have been on board with the Melvins since they began in '83. Since then, these grunge pioneers have been touring constantly, recording and creating a molten mix of metal and hard rock that was later taken to insane commercial heights by their Northwest brethren like Nirvana (who can thank them for hooking them up with Dave Grohl). You can decide for yourself how hardcore they are when you consider that in 2013, they attempted a Guinness World Record, playing 51 states in 51 states. There's some dispute if George Thorogood may have accomplished it back in the eighties, but the important thing to keep in mind is that history will place the Melvins higher in influence, if not chart success.
The Melvin clan has just finished their summer Canadian tour, and I had a chance to catch them live in Calgary on June 25th at the Marquee Room. In our era of watered-down productions, technologically advanced recording techniques that add little to the actual quality of music, the Melvins all-out grunge approach is a welcome antidote. The Calgary show was A-to-Z explosive, with covers of classics from Bowie ("Saviour Machine"), the Stones ("Sway") and James Gang ("Stop") alongside new cuts off their latest album Pinkus Abortion Technician with second bassist Jeff Pinkus of the Butthole Surfers alongside Steven McDonald (also of Red Kross fame) and yes, they've thrown in Surfers ("Moving to Florida") and Kross songs ("What They Say") into their sets too. Packing the 2 hour set list (with no encore) with song after song (ala the Ramones), they played smoking versions of their own "Sesame Street Meat" and "The Kicking Machine." Seeing two bassists play live sounded like a weird, misshapen concept, but the Melvins pull it off with ease, sounding like a solid wall of noise that rattled the packed gig. True, they've never been a fast tempo band, preferring sludgy, massive riffs to blinding furious rhythms but singer/guitarist Buzz Osbornes hair was worth the price of admission alone. A gray wisp of puff resembling a poofy ice cream cone, Buzz bopped and grinded through hours of intense noise. The audience ate it up, with many a fan was mesmerized by the longer numbers, lost in a sea of pure rock sludge. No fancy lights, no over the top wizardry, just bass and drums up the wazoo. The evening close with favorites like "The Bit," "Honey Bucket," "Eye Flys" and new track "Don't Forget to Breathe." The Melvins burned the stage down that hot July night, leaving only cinders behind. Surviving for more than 35 years is a feat that 99 percent of bands don't enjoy but we'd be glad with another 35 years. Looking forward to 2053 for their 70 year anniversary tour.
In the aftermath of that sweaty night, Melvins' drummer Dale Crover had some short/sweet thoughts to share about the last line-up and their history.
PSF: How did the collaboration with Pinkus come to be?
DC: The original idea was to do an EP of some of the songs we had played live with Jeff when he was touring with us.
PSF: How did the idea come up to have both Pinkus and Steven on the same album?
DC: We were already recording with Steven when Jeff showed up to the studio. It was a no-brainer to have Steven join in as well. The EP idea turned into an LP rather quickly.
PSF: Since you guys have tried so many styles and types of music, what style is next?
DC: Oh hell, I dunno. How about Skiffle? I see a big Skiffle resurgence in the near future. (ED NOTE: Skiffle sludge, love it)
PSF: Do you think rock and roll is getting better or worse as it gets older?
DC: It doesn't have the shock value it once had, but I still enjoy it.
PSF: Do you have any peer bands or any groups that possess a similar vision as you guys?
DC: Not that I can think of. I mean, most of the bands that would be considered our peers don't really exist anymore. But besides that, we've always been on our own trip.
PSF: Who do you think is the best live band ever?
DC: I've seen a lot of really great bands, but I think the Stooges may have been the best band I've ever seen live.
PSF: When it comes to songwriting, where do you look for inspiration?
DC: Playing with other musicians is usually what inspires me. Also, the recording studio itself is a big help for songwriting.
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