Melvins | Interview | New Album, ‘Bad Mood Rising’
The Melvins are best known for their sludgy riffs, their relentless touring schedule, and their prolific discography that defies classification.
I spoke with the band to discuss their new record, ‘Bad Mood Rising,’ their pandemic projects, and their upcoming 40th anniversary. ‘Bad Mood Rising’ consists of six tracks and is 40 minutes long, out on vinyl and all streaming services.
“A really good collection of bizarre Osborne songs”
Hey guys. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. Let’s start off talking about the new album you guys released just last month, ‘Bad Mood Rising’… Tell me a little bit about this album.
Buzz Osborne: Well, we worked pretty hard on it. I think it came out good. Another good selection for people that are interested in what we’re doing. We have a lot of records and I think it’s one of the top five that we’ve done, I would say. I feel like what we’re doing, I imagine you would like it and there’s probably some other people who have no concept of what we’re doing that would also enjoy it if they actually happened to hear it.
You guys have been touring so much, when did you have time to put all this together?
Dale Crover: Yeah, we did it the summer before last and knowing that going into 2022 that we were hopefully going to be doing a bunch of touring but we didn’t quite know when it was going to come out. Just because with everything, vinyl has been really hard to get made. Everybody made a record during the pandemic. So it’s like, we kind of had a timeframe but we didn’t want to release digital first and that kind of stuff. So, it kind of came out without any big fanfare just because all of a sudden the vinyl showed up earlier than it was supposed to and we were already on tour and all that. So they came out. We got the vinyl about a week into the last tour that we just did.
What do you want fans to know about this new album? What keeps them coming back?
Steve McDonald: To me, it just seems like a really good collection of bizarre Osborne songs that span the spectrum of what Melvins do and can do and want to do. It opens with a 14 minute song. An extreme example of them doing whatever the fuck they want. Us doing whatever the fuck, you know? It’s in its audacity to not concern themselves with keeping people engaged with your standard tricks. But then there’s hooky/poppy things like ‘Hammering’ and then there’s just weird timing things. There’s a little bit of something for all Melvins fans, I think. I would think this record could maybe satiate everybody at least partially.
Dale Crover: Well, I really like this record a lot. I know it’s kind of cliché when everybody makes a new record and they’re like, “Oh yeah, this is our best record,” but I really like it. Maybe it was because I just went in and banged it out in a couple days – my parts. I was in the process of moving when we made this record so it was like, Okay, I got this little bit of time, this little window here where I can go in and record and the other guys actually did a lot of work on it. That’s not true. I mean, I did my parts, came back and added a lot of vocals at the end.
You guys have your own studio space?
Dale Crover: Yeah, kind of. We’ve been working with Toshi Kasai, the engineer, for a long time. We’ve been working with him since the beginning of the 2000s and for the last seven years, we’ve had a studio with him. So yeah, quite a few records that we’ve made have been in that studio and it’s also where we rehearse. So, it’s really easy to go in and like to sit there and learn something and record it right there. Since we’ve had that studio, once we get in there, I’ll learn a song and once I know it, I’ll start recording it right away. Before we had our own space, we did a lot more fine-tuning of songs before we went into the studio. It’s maybe a little bit fresher doing it this way. But, I mean, I really like the songs that Buzz and Steve came up with on this one. The album opens up with probably our longest ever song (‘Mr. Dog is Totally Right’). It’s at least 14 minutes long. It’s definitely the longest one we’ve ever done so we put that first so everybody won’t skip it.
Would you say that is your favorite track on the new album?
Dale Crover: One of them for sure. I also really like the song ‘Never Say You’re Sorry’ that we’ve been playing live for a while. We started playing it on the Ministry tour that we did last spring. Some pounding, tom heavy, heavy metal type song. I guess it’s kind of reminiscent of a song called ‘Amazon’ that we did probably about 20 some odd years ago. So, sort of related to that. I like that one a lot and then there’s another song on the new record called ‘Hammering’ that I really like. I think Buzz said that he was going for a kind of a Mott the Hoople vibe. It’s like Mott the Hoople slash David Bowie meets ZZ Top.
Prior to that, you guys put out the monster acoustic album, ‘Five Legged Dog’. I’ve been listening to that quite a bit lately and just ordered the vinyl set. That’s a really great collection! I love to hear these different interpretations of your own music and a few covers.
Buzz Osborne: Yeah, I thought that came out great. Two and a half hours of acoustic music from us. So, that was kind of cool to do. I don’t know what comes next for us. I’m not sure.
Dale, as a drummer, how did you make the acoustic album work for you? I mean, did you have to use a toned down sort of drum kit?
Dale Crover: I use my same drum kit but we’ve kind of done the acoustic thing a bunch in the past. We’ve done in-stores and special performances and things like that where I’ll use a smaller drum kit, usually. And then I use these… it’s kind of like a cross between brushes and sticks. They’re like plastic brushes. So, they’ve got a little bit more volume than a regular wire brush or whatever. I’ve been using those for a while. Even probably since the ‘Stag’ record or something like that. I’ve probably been using those brushes on various songs that are quieter. So, pretty much the whole record was recorded with those.
Right. So, the drums don’t overpower everybody else.
Dale Crover: Yeah, I can play like I would normally but then it’s just a lot quieter. So it’s cool.
Did you do any acoustic sets this past year?
Buzz Osborne: No, we just did electric. That was it. We figured we hadn’t played electric in a long time. Maybe an acoustic tour will come at some point down the line, but not anytime soon.
And you guys have been touring heavily this year already. With three tours so far?
Buzz Osborne: Oh, it’s been about 108 shows. We generally do somewhere between 80 and 120 a year so it’s about right. But usually we don’t do that many just in the States. So that was nice. It was nice to do that.
Dale Crover: Yeah. All in the US. Nothing outside of the US. Not even Canada and hardly any repeat cities.
That’s awesome. Are you guys kind of making up for lost time from the pandemic era?
Dale Crover: For sure. Yeah, we probably wouldn’t have done as much. Well, maybe not. I don’t know. But we were offered this tour with Ministry in like July of 2021 and then that tour started, I think, early March. So, we had some time. We knew what was coming. Normally we wouldn’t tour the US at that time, just because it’s still kind of shitty out some places. Usually we wait until around May. Next year, we’ll wait till May unless something amazing comes up that we have to take. That Ministry thing we really wanted to do that and we thought that coming back after being gone with the pandemic for a couple of years that that’d be a really good tour to do. And it was. It was really great. Those guys were super nice and super accommodating. It was just great. The whole crew was awesome. Really nice people. We ended up playing the song ‘The Bit’ with their drummer, Roy [Mayorga], in the mix as well doing a double drum thing again. That was really fun. Then after that, we did another tour in early summer that was about six weeks long. All of the US and that was really cool. Then we did another one, the longer one, which was about two months long that we just finished up. But every place we could possibly play. We missed a few places though. Like we didn’t play in Idaho.
Was it difficult getting back into that hectic touring schedule after such a long break?
Buzz Osborne: We had nothing, no touring at all, for two years. So it was nice to get back to that. But the first tour was with Ministry and everybody was still weirded out by the pandemic. So, there’s lots of mask wearing and all those kinds of things and then later, the next tour we did, there wasn’t as much, and then this last tour we did there was almost none. So, I think it’s pretty much over.
Steve McDonald: Yeah, it was good. It was smart that we eased our way back into it with a support slot. We were only responsible for like 45 minutes and that might have been easier on my body. Also, there is a lot of risk involved in going on tour at the beginning of the pandemic. Everybody is canceling their tours midway. So, it was smart that we went out on the road where we were piggybacking on someone else’s tour. We went on tour with Ministry and there were no cancellations and everything worked out and that was great. Then we did two headlining tours. Two different legs of a headlining tour and it all culminated in 108 shows for 2022. Melvins usually do somewhere in that realm annually but this time it was all US only dates and rarely did we double up. So, that’s a little bit of an issue of pride because we played all sorts of weird places. A lot of places that bands don’t go to. Not many bands can do it. It’s hard to go to B, C, & D markets and have it make practical sense.
Dale Crover: Well, that Ministry tour was a good warm up because we didn’t have to play that long. It was a perfect way to come back after being gone for so long. But yeah, I mean, I’m glad we did all that. It was definitely weird at first just because the pandemic really screwed us up, I mean everybody. When we first were starting to play again, it just felt weird like it wasn’t real or something. Then after a while it kind of seemed like normal. You know? It felt good. It felt really good to be back doing it for sure. I’m looking forward to next year. It’ll be our 40th anniversary.
That’s right, 40th anniversary! You guys got big plans for that?
Buzz Osborne: Nothing we could share. Certainly more touring. Gonna go to Europe. But as far as like what we’re going to do, I’m not really going to go into it at this point. You’ll know soon enough.
Dale Crover: More touring and some more records. More of the same. We will certainly make a big stink out of it.
Do you have a favorite venue or city that you always try to play when you are touring?
Steve McDonald: Melvins kind of go everywhere and it’s more like I’m intrigued by why haven’t we been to Boise, Idaho? There’s only a few places that we haven’t been to or we haven’t been to Canada in four years. There was the pandemic that stopped things but I always like going to Canada but we haven’t hit those places since before the pandemic. Buzz is an obsessive tour router. It’s really fun for him to put together the perfect tour in terms of the shortest drives as possible and just making it efficient. These are things that I feel are unique about the way Melvins do things because I’m used to the years of working with a band where there’s a booking agent off somewhere thousands of miles away and they’re just kind of throwing darts at a map not really considering like we don’t leave the gig till midnight the night before and then we’ve got a 10 hour drive the next day and we’ve got to be there two o’clock in the afternoon. It’s great that Buzz takes an interest in it.
Dale Crover: I mean, once you’re on stage, it’s all kind of the same. This last year, we played some places that we’d never played before. We played in Savannah, Georgia, to a sold out crowd. That was really great. I always wanted to play there but I’ve never had the opportunity. Bozeman, Montana. That was amazing. They had this venue there that looked like it was brand new. It was really nice and we had sold a bunch of tickets to that. Great gig. Another one was Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the Bethlehem Steel factory is and there’s this venue with these giant windows, and you can see the factory in the background. It’s really crazy looking. Very industrial. And then, you know, there’s places like the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. That has always been one of my favorite venues to play. 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. We played a new place in Baton Rouge that was an awesome club called Chelsea Live. We kind of noticed a lot of the venue’s during the pandemic had taken the time to kind of up their game a little bit. A few of the venues that we played in the past had never really had dressing rooms or a bathroom you can use that’s not the one that the audience is using. Which is fine, but then there is always somebody trying to talk to you while you’re taking a pee. “Man, can’t wait for the show tonight.” There’s a few places that totally made it much nicer to play or like this place just got 100 times better.
Yeah, I guess the options were to fix venues up and make them better or go out of business. We lost quite a few in Austin over the pandemic. They just couldn’t keep it going with no income.
Dale Crover: Yeah, I was really worried that there wasn’t gonna be any place for us to play anymore. You know? I really thought this could be it. It could be the end of our career right here.
It was pretty up in the air for everybody for a while there. So, what did you guys do to keep busy throughout the pandemic?
Buzz Osborne: We recorded a bunch. We recorded a four LP all acoustic record, called ‘Five Legged Dog’ that came out late last year. We also recorded the new album, ‘Bad Mood Rising’. We did three installations of Melvin’s TV, which was online. You can watch those of us playing live and doing interviews and stuff like that. It came out really good. And I recorded another solo acoustic record. I have an acoustic record called ‘Gift of Sacrifice’ that came out about two years ago. Unfortunately, we had all these plans to tour it but all that got shit canned with the people flipping out about the pandemic. So, I don’t know if that was right or wrong, but that’s how it works. What else? That’s quite a bit right there.
Dale Crover: I had a solo record that came out during that time but I was pretty much done with it before and it was ready to come out before anything really happened. I mean, we did a lot of Melvins stuff. There are bands that were doing their own kind of streaming concert or whatever and we decided instead of doing a one-time deal, that we would make our own little mini-series and we made it kind of goofy and we did interviews – we interviewed ourselves. So, that was fun to do. That was definitely something different that we’ve never really done before. We kind of turned our rehearsal/recording studio into a little TV studio. It seemed like we worked on a lot of stuff. It seemed like we got a lot accomplished during that time, but then at the same time, you know, I guess not doing any shows, it just felt like nothing had happened.
Steve McDonald: There’s the acoustic retrospective record which is like every song I knew how to play by the Melvins and done acoustically; I was just playing like a hollow body bass. And then we did the new record, ‘Bad Mood Rising’. We did a bunch of videos for the Veeps Sessions that they dubbed Melvin’s TV and those were fun. Yeah, I’m sure there was more. There’s always stuff in the pipeline. Things are always going on with Melvins so I’m kind of like, “just point me in the direction and I’ll dance.” I’m like a trained monkey and they are the organ grinders.
Steve, you were in Redd Kross throughout the 80s and 90s. How did you get involved with the Melvins?
Steve McDonald: Well, I’ve known them since the early 90s. When Buzz moved to Los Angeles, we used to hang out a little bit and talk on the phone but I didn’t stay in close contact. But then I guess it was about 2014, Dale went on tour as a substitute drummer for another band I used to play in called Off! and that just kind of got the conversation going of if Melvins once again needed a bass player, maybe I would do some stuff.
Cool! Jumping back to the new album, you guys had Dylan Carlson of Earth on the opening track. How did that come about? Had you worked with him before this?
Buzz Osborne: Never worked with him in the past but hopefully do some more in the future. I’ve known him since the early 80s. So, I’m glad he’s still kicking.
Dale Crover: We have played some shows together but Dylan had been living in the UK for a while and he showed up to a few shows and we kind of reconnected with him after a long time. We were friends with him a long time ago, like from Olympia. He ended up moving to LA and living in a place that was right by my house and so we hung out once and then when we were doing that new record we got a hold of him to see if he wanted to come over and jam and so he added some cool guitar stuff to it.
I like that the Melvins have this real collaborative spirit. You have played with all sorts of people over the years.
Dale Crover: Yeah, we’ve been doing that for a while for no reason other than it’s fun. It’s fun to have outside people. We’ve been playing together for 40 years so it’s really cool to have outside people come in and do stuff. We’ve done some more of that but I can’t talk about it yet but you’ll see.
I know this is a very common question in interviews but, hypothetically, if you could collaborate with any musician, living or dead, who would you choose?
Steve McDonald: Mick Jagger. I’d like to pick his brain for a while. I was envious when Lenny Kravitz got to do that.
Dale Crover: Well, I know that I’ve been asked this before but let me see if I can come up with something different. We really like the Latin Playboys a lot. There’s some records of theirs that came out in the 90s or whatever. It’s some of the guys from Los Lobos and they did this side project and it’s more experimental I guess. When I first heard it, I was like, “Oh wow, this is cool.” It’s like a cross between Los Lobos, Tom Waits, and kind of weird experimental recordings and stuff. One of the guys in the band was this guy, Tchad Blake, who’s a producer and I know we really wanted to work with him but it just never really worked out. But I think I would really like to work with David Hidalgo from Latin Playboys and Los Lobos. I think that’d be really cool. Other than that, Jimi Hendrix, George Martin, The Beatles, Bob Dylan. Any of those. Iggy Pop.
One thing that I really appreciate about the Melvins is that you guys don’t just put out the same record over and over again. You’ve got all these different diverse sounds and different collaborations. ‘Pigs of the Roman Empire’ with Lustmord is one of my all-time favorite records. How did that album come together? Did you guys work long distance with Lustmord?
Dale Crover: Well, not really. I mean, he actually lives in the valley in LA but we did that record when we were recording with Jello Biafra. Toshi used to work at this studio in San Fernando Valley called Hook and we’re doing this record with Jello but Jello keeps kind of late hours. He wouldn’t get to the studio until five or six at night before he really got rolling. We had the studio there, so, we’re just like, “well, we should take advantage of this and do something else.” And we had the idea of doing something with Lustmord. So, during the day, we’d go in, come up with a couple songs, and record it and then wait for Jello to get there and record with him and then we would turn the songs over to Brian [Williams (Lustmord)] and let him do whatever he wanted. Then we go over there and listen to it and see what he’s done. It was pretty cool.
Buzz Osborne: It was good. It was a true collaboration meaning there were some songs that were just us, some songs that were just him, and some songs it was a combination of stuff, some stuff he sent to us and we did stuff with it and some stuff we sent to him that he did stuff with. It was really great. It was a good thing to do.
Yeah. That’s a great album! I actually interviewed Jello last year via zoom and I wanted to ask about the collaboration with you guys but most of the time, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. My questions just kind of crumbled and I let him go talk about pretty much whatever he wanted for three hours.
Buzz Osborne: Yeah, he’s eccentric. No question. We’re friends with Jello so we like him.
Dale Crover: He likes to talk, that’s for sure. We had a lot of really long practices and at least half of it was us just bullshitting about stuff, which was really fun. It took a while before we got things happening but we did a lot with him. We did those two records and did some touring. It was cool. He kind of initiated playing with us and wanting to write music. He came and saw us play. Well, he wasn’t coming to see us but Hank Williams III and we were touring with him and Jello was a big fan of his and we always kind of knew that he didn’t really care for our band I guess or whatever. Anyway, he knew about us. He had been sent a demo tape, like the very first Melvin’s demo tape, probably in 1984 and he still had it, which is crazy. He had the demo tape and everything that came along with it. He keeps everything. Any band that has ever sent him anything: a t-shirt or a demo tape; he’s got it still. But anyway, we played this Alice Cooper song, ‘Halo of Flies,’ and it’s this big, crazy long, Alice Cooper song with a billion parts to it and Jello, after the show, is like “I finally get you guys. You played ‘Halo of Flies’ and it was amazing!” So, from there, we just kind of started talking and we’re kind of like, “how come you are not playing music?” He had been doing spoken word stuff, but he didn’t really have a band and we’re like, “let us learn a bunch of Dead Kennedys songs and we will be your backup,” and he’s like, “Well, I don’t know about that but I would do something new with you guys.” And so we did. And we ended up playing some Dead Kennedy songs as well especially live and I think we even got to pick ones. He was against it at first but Greg Workman, who is one of the guys at our label Ipecac, used to manage Alternative Tentacles and he’s telling us “if you guys just start playing Dead Kennedys songs, he’ll jump in and start singing them.” So, we just learned some and then played them at practice and sure enough, you know, he jumped in and started singing them. It was great and we did some really cool ones. They were fun to play. Some of them were really tough. Some of those drum parts are crazy. That was quite a fun experience to work with him.
I wish I had caught that live! I love both of those records. Do you have any interesting tour stories to share?
Dale Crover: Well, we had our first accident on tour. We kind of got out of it unscathed but somebody totally T-boned our van when we’re on our way to a gig. It was a bummer but, luckily, it only hit the passenger door and the van was drivable. We made the gig but it was like, “Uh oh. I wonder if we will make this one or not?” We did and then we got a new van the next day. It was great.
Your equipment and stuff was okay?
Dale Crover: Yeah, it was. Well, it’s funny. There was oncoming traffic but it was stopped at this intersection and they’re giving us room to take a left where we’re going and another car just came pulling around. I don’t know how he didn’t see us but I thought he hit the back of the van and I was like, “oh shit. There goes the gear!” But no, they just hit the door and screwed it up. I don’t know. So, there’s my exciting tour story I guess. It was a crazy year. That first tour, like I was mentioning before, we don’t usually like to tour in the winter but we were like running from tornadoes and dodging monster snowflakes in Michigan. It was so windy everywhere, our van was just swerving everywhere.
That’s pretty crazy! Snowy tornadoes are bad. Dale, I don’t know if you want to go as far back as Fecal Matter or if you’ve talked about that to death at this point but I think that’s a pretty interesting point in your life. You formed Fecal Matter with Kurt Cobain in 1985. How did that come about?
Dale Crover: Yeah, we knew Kurt pretty early on. He was kind of the same age as me and for a while, he lived like a block away and I remember when he first played bass and some of his stuff on a tape he had. He’s like, “yeah, I recorded this at my aunt’s house. She’s got a four track.” And I think it was him playing drums on like a guitar case or something, no real drum set or whatever. But he’d done all the songs and god I wish I had some of those still because they’re all different. They might exist someplace. So anyway, from that we started playing together kind of when the Melvins weren’t. Well, the Melvins were constantly playing but, on the side, we would play and I remember learning a bunch of new songs and we eventually went to his aunt’s house with my drums and a bass and his guitar and recorded on his aunt’s four track. I don’t think we had any amps and so we’re just plugged directly into the four tracks. It was all direct. You can kind of tell if you listen to those demos on YouTube and whatnot but you can tell. I think the bass must have been too but I ended up playing bass and drums and I remember Kurt’s vocals suffered because he was sick. You can kind of tell like his voice is really raspy and a few times he’s coughing. From just doing that demo, I’m like “Can I help you put a band together?” At one point, we were thinking that he could be in the Melvins but he didn’t have an amp so that was the drawback. But anyway, yeah, doing that demo, that’s how we got Krist [Novoselic] to start playing with him and they formed a band and eventually found a different name. It went through a bunch of different name changes before they finally settled on Nirvana.
That’s really awesome. Thanks for sharing that with us! Well, we like to end every interview with any last words you would like to give to readers of It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine.
Buzz Osborne: I’m glad everybody that made it through it, made it through it. Hopefully, we’ll see everybody soon and it’ll be a blast and we’ll have fun and we’ll take it from there.
Steve McDonald: Help me jam with Mick Jagger. Melvins should support the Rolling Stones. That’d be great. I would love for us to open for the Stones. So, that’s my goal. Maybe it’s a fantasy, but you have to have dreams in the world.
Dale Crover: Yeah, look out for next year. We will be doing a lot of stuff. There’ll be lots to see. Lots to have and hear and hold. So yeah, we’re back, baby!
Awesome. Can’t wait. Yeah, I’ll be sure to catch you in Austin next year. Thanks again!
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