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In the Studio

Melvins Spill Their ‘Freak Puke,’ Didn’t Murder Cobain

Buzzo and Dunn / Speakeasy PR

Tireless sludgemuffins the Melvins are as busy as ever in their 29th year. Their 5-track Scion A/V EP The Bulls & The Bees is due March 13; their 13-LP Sugar Daddy Live split 12″ series is slowly rolling out via Amphetamine Reptile; they’re making their network TV debut on Last Call with Carson Daly in April; and they’re weeks away from launching a 21-date tour with fellow noise-metal muckos Unsane. But right now, all Melvinmaniacs are turning their eyes to Freak Puke, the band’s 21st studio album. Recorded without the Big Business half of their freight train double-drummer line-up, veteran guitarist King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover teamed with Trevor Dunn, famed bassist of Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Madlove, and various Tzadik improv workouts. Recorded with Dunn exclusively plucking and bowing a stand-up bass, it’s a return to the quieter, moodier elements of Melvins records like 1996’s Stag and 2000’s The Crybaby, while losing none of their jet engine fervor. SPIN cornered Buzzo as best we could.

Where did the idea for doing a full record with Dunn come from?
I have to do things to make it interesting for myself. I played with Trevor for a long time in Fantômas, been friends with Trevor for a long time: I’ve often times said the best thing that ever came out of Fantômas was my friendship with Trevor. Those are the kind of things that you can’t put a dollar figure on… Last spring, while Big Business were on tour, me and Dale invited Trevor out and in about a week we worked out an entire live set with him that we could play then played five shows here to see if it would work. We basically reinvented ourselves with a stand-up bass in less than a week… Just for this session, I think we recorded, more than 50 songs. With Trevor we recorded enough for two albums and more. All of that will see the light of day eventually.

Is he playing stand up on the whole record?
The whole record. There is no electric bass on that record whatsoever. As a matter of fact, there’s not even a bass amp on that record. It’s all miked bass. Not even a pick up out of a bass into an amp or anything. It’s straight acoustic. I think it’s an animal unlike anything we’ve ever done.

I couldn’t believe Dale plays with brushes on it.
Yeah. Dale played a really old drum set. A 1940s Gretsch kit I believe. I play through all kinds of crap. We do some much screwing around I have no idea what’s what, you know. Studio to me is just wide open. A lot of times we’ll go in totally unprepared and take it from there. The one thing that was funny was there was this book came out recently. It was this grunge book, Everyone Loves Our Town. Danny Goldberg was saying that I was saying we fired Cobain off the Houdini record [in 1993], which we did! Danny doesn’t remember that, of course, because being Danny Goldberg, he has a very selective memory. He was saying Kurt was upset that we didn’t have our songs finished and he thought we were unprepared. We’re always unprepared! [laughs]. What the hell is he talking about? That’s how we always work!

You and Courtney Love were the stars of that book. Everyone’s so chickenshit to say anything confrontational in interviews these days…
Well, what is she going to do to me, you know? Honestly there’s so much stuff out there. At this point you just feel sorry for her, you know? This is the woman who’s never told the truth in her life about anything. Any of the stuff she says about me, it’s like I have no concept of where that’s coming from. Especially the stuff in there about me murdering Cobain. We always laugh about that. Yeah my big plan was to kill him in my bathroom… so I could end up with an OD’d stiff on my hands? That doesn’t even make sense. That’s hilarious. Whatever.

How is the Sugar Daddy Live split 12″ series coming along?
The next two we’re doing are Killdozer and OFF! Those’ll be out probably by April. And we have a variety of other bands that have been doing it. Mudhoney, Butthole Surfers, Fucked Up… Those are hyper-limited. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. I hit upon the idea that we should do splits, but why do they have to be with bands that still exist? Well they don’t. U-Men are one of my favorites.

Is it weird having to make phone calls to bands that don’t exist anymore?
I just had [AmRep’s] Tom Hazelmeyer call them. He actually had their number. With the Cows I just called our old bass player. It wasn’t hard at all. The thing that made it easy for those bands was when you told them they didn’t have to do anything.

You guys are doing Carson Daly soon. That’s the first time you’ve been on network TV, right?
I think so. But I’m not really familiar with network TV because I don’t watch TV. I’ve never seen the Carson Daly show. I don’t know who he is, really. I have literally, I have not watched TV since the early ’80s, not at all.

What’s the last TV show you watched religiously?
It would’ve been when I was still in high school. Probably I don’t know, Happy Days? Me and my wife, we just don’t care about it. When I moved out of my parents’ house somewhere in the early ’80s. I just never watched TV again. Not because I think it’s not cool or something or I’m trying to be more bohemian. I just don’t have time for it, you know? I don’t care enough to be against TV. People want to sit and smoke weed and watch television, fine with me. I really, really don’t care what people do. If you want to smoke weed or destroy your life with other drugs or whatever you want to do, I’m fine with that. Good. I think you should OD. You should OD with a giant stockpile of drugs right in front of you. I think you should.

Melvins tour dates
April 11 – San Jose, CA @ The Blank Club
April 12 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
April 13 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Troubadour
April 14 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
April 17 – El Paso, TX @ House of Rock
April 19 – Austin, TX @ Mohawk
April 20 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
April 21 – New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s
April 23 – Orlando, FL @ The Social
April 24 – Gainesville, FL @ Double Down Live
April 25 – Atlanta, GA @ The Loft at Center Stage
April 26 – Charlotte, NC @ Amos’ Southend
April 28 – West Chester, PA @ The Note
April 29 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
May 1 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom
May 2 – DeKalb, IL @ Otto’s Nightclub
May 3 – St. Louis, MO @ The Firebird
May 4 – Nashville, TN @ Exit In
May 7 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
May 9 – Santa Fe, NM @ Santa Fe Brewing Company
May 11 – Santa Ana, CA @ Galaxy Concert Theatre