June 13th 2014 not only fell on a Friday but there was also a full moon out that night. It will be another 49 years before a full moon falls on Friday the 13th. This is the night I went to Fresno California to see King Buzzo and his acoustic guitar. The show was at a place called Strummers. I assume they have a capacity of two or three hundred at the most. Good lighting and a good sound system. Touring bands play there. It’s one room with a low ceiling and if 300 people were in there it would be packed wall to wall and probably hotter than shit. It gets hot in Fresno. Luckily it was probably only about 80 degrees when I pulled into the parking lot around 8pm.
As I pull in from the street and scan the parking lot, I see a lot of cars and Buzz’s hair walking toward a big van. There’s not a single parking spot open except one with a garbage dumpster partially in it and wall behind that. This spot also just happens to be right next to the drivers side of the big van. (After the show when I walked back to my car I noticed hundred of what I thought were cockroaches all over the wall behind the dumpster. I had to walk closer to confirm, and yes indeed, they were cockroaches).
I got out of my car and talked to Buzz briefly about it being Friday the 13th.
He said, “I have the perfect shirt on”.
I looked at his t-shirt and it said “Camp Crystal Lake”. With a picture of a lake and mountains and stuff.
“Oh that’s awesome” I said.
He responds, “Check this out”. He leans forward and peels down the shirt he has over the t-shirt and on the back it says “Camp Counselor” in bold letters. This made the shirt 100 times better. Picturing Buzz as a Summer camp counselor that would eventually be murdered in the most gruesome of ways made me smile.
I mentioned to him that it was a full moon and went inside. I went into the bathroom and as I’m leaving Buzz comes walking in.
I asked, “You feel like doing an interview”?
He said, “I’ll do it”.
I said, “You just want to go out back? (In the parking lot) I’ll grab my stuff”.
I went out to my car grabbed a tape recorder and walked back towards the venue. Buzz was standing near the back door talking with Field, the guy opening the show and Dave, Buzz’s tour manager. They were talking about the “Blood moon“. That happened a while back. That led to talk of eclipses and somehow that led to Buzz trying to remember who played in the 2005 World Series. He said the Chicago White Sox. I said that sounds right. Then he struggled and struggled to figure out the National league team.
Finally he says, “Houston Astros”.
I say, “no“.
He says ,“Yes, I remember Roger Clemens…“
I ask, “The Houston Astros“?
He says ,“Yes, yes“.
I say, “No way“.
Dave is throwing out some guesses. I’m saying no,
Buzz says “I’ll bet you ten bucks“.
Meanwhile Field is looking at his phone saying that he doesn’t like sports.
Buzz says, “It was the Astros“.
I ask, “How much? Ten bucks“?
I ask Field to look it up in his phone. Dave says if you're gonna bet you guys should shake on it, but I wouldn’t bet against Buzz on baseball. I shake Buzz’s hand.
Field, looking at his phone says, “The 2005 World Series was the Chicago White Sox….and…The Houston Astros”.
I couldn’t believe it. I reach in my pocket, Buzz says, I’m not gonna take your money. I find a ten dollar bill and try to give it to him but he moves farther and farther away as I try to hand it to him. He says, I would have paid you if I was wrong but I’m not going to take your money.
We talked some more and Buzz went on to name all the teams that played in every World Series since 2005.
So, that’s basically what led up to this interview.
How’s your eyesight Buzz?
Was it good, then as you got older?
Oh yeah, 45. I can’t see shit…up front.
Friday the 13th.
Yep, I got the right shirt on. Camp Crystal Lake.
So, you’ve got an acoustic album?
Yes, This Machine Kills Artist.
How did this come about? Have you thought about it for years, or did you just finish the last tour and decide, I’m gonna do an acoustic album?
No, I’ve kinda had it in the back of my mind for a long time, to do one, and it just came, uh, It made sense. It happened a little faster than I thought it would, so, I don’t know.
How did you tell Dale?
Oh, he didn’t care, ‘cuz we have a new album coming out in October, so it’s not like I took up any of his time.
When you think of acoustic guitars and singers, I think what usually comes to mind is story telling.
That’s not what comes to mind when you think of the Melvins and the lyrics.
No. I tell some stories, but they’re not exactly the same kind of singer song writer stories as anyone else.
I’ve heard the new album and I can pick out lyrics here and there, “I want to say thank you…“They seem open to interpretation because they’re so vague.
Of course. Of course they are.
I think that’s one of the better things about them.
Yeah, No doubt. No question….I want to say thank you to all my friends. That part? Yeah.
But, it might not be about me.
Exactly! You could be thanking someone individually. You could be thanking all your fans…
Or, I could be writing through somebody else’s eyes.
Do you get get more complaints or compliments about your lyrics being too vague or nonsensical?
Well, Bob Dylan had mostly nonsensical lyrics, so did Captain Beefheart. The Rolling Stones, I question anybody to understand most of those, you know. So I never let it worry me. There’s enough bands out there that want to be super direct. I’d rather just leave it. It means something to me. That’s enough.
I think it means something to people who listen too.
There’s a new Joan Jett album. It’s just more of the exact same style she plays…
Well, the only thing that makes it any different than anyone else playing that exact style of music, is what she has to say. Her lyrics, there like a little more insightful, like, “I’m getting older” or whatever. I mean the lyrics are the only thing that makes her new album any different than all the ones she’s done before.
Yeah, I just don’t care. I never liked her stuff. I like Cherry Bomb from the Runaways, but that’s about it.
Probably her best songs are covers, Crimson and Clover, or…
I don’t like those songs. I never liked them when they came out.
I couldn’t stand it. Thought it was just crap. That’s not rock and roll as far as, it’s horse shit…to me. I don’t buy it. I’d rather just listen to the Ramones.
I heard one of their records, the first one just went gold.
Wow, that’s great. That’s awesome.
Did you see the documentary? It mostly Johnny Ramone, and he’s saying that he feels like they never really “made it”.
Did you see that?
Oh Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought it was good. You could tell how much he had to do with all of it.
Yeah, seems like he was the whole thing.
He was everything. Without him it would never happen.
So, as far as lyrics, I assume most people who write songs, do the music and…
That’s what I do.
They make up sounds, or whatever and then fine tune the lyrics.
Uh, I do that a little, but mostly no. Mostly I just write ‘em all out.
To fit the music?
When Paul McCartney wrote “Yesterday” he used “Scrambled eggs” for “Yesterday” as a place holder until he could come up with the right lyrics.
Yeah, that makes sense. He knew he had the melody, so…
When he came up with the song, “Yesterday” He would play it for friends and ask, “Does this sound familiar, is this somebody else’s song”?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Does that happen to you? You’ve been writing songs for 30 years. Do you wonder if, “have I’ve done this before or have I heard this before“?
It’s hard not to, but I don’t worry about it too much.
I think at this point, I hear things in new Melvins songs and think oh that reminds me of an earlier Melvins song, for a moment, you know.
There’s one in particular, uh, A Senile Animal I think. It reminds me of Night Goat.
Well, maybe yeah…it could be…
The songs that remind me of other songs are just a passing moment that I can’t put my finger on, but that one…I think the repetitiveness of it…
Oh, I know what your talking about, um, um, um,…uh, A History of Bad Men.
Is that it?
Yeah….It’s a little different.
Has anybody ever said that before? “That kinda reminds me of Night Goat”.
I think somebody did yeah. I never cared though
Has anybody ever had a criticism that you did care about? Your like, oh, maybe he’s right?
I’ve never gotten constructive criticism from anybody I thought was right. Nothing I ever thought…that I took away with me…”You’re right I’m gonna do it…”.
I think even the lyrics, people who complain, it’s like, you know, after were all dead, they’ll be looking back and saying, “Now everybody does it like that”.
Maybe…I don’t care after I’m dead.
The lyrics on Koollegged rule. “The river…”. You know that one?
That whole song!
I can’t remember them now…I can kinda remember.
Sprouts wings and runs and crawls…
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Did you ever have a picture of Jesus above your bed?
Do you know the lyrics I talking about?
Yeah, I can’t remember what I was writing in relation too. It wasn’t about me. It rarely is…once in a while.
Oh! Boris, I remember Dale said that there was a children’s show in Seattle that had a clown named Boris and that maybe the song was about him.
Boris S. Wort. It’s not about that though.
Is it about anything in particular?
Um…Not anything in particular. I mean it’s clouds of things in there.
So when you got to Houdini and Hooch and the, Los tick a toe res…
Yeah, that was one way I’ve done things, but I haven’t done that a whole lot.
Were you emphasizing the lack of lyrics on that song? When you went to the major label, did you think that was something you could emphasize, something unique to the Melvins?
Well if we hadn’t written those down, nobody would have noticed.
So Cobain said, “You should put these as lyrics”. So we did. He thought it was really funny.
It is! It’s awesome.
Yeah, I’m gonna play that tonight actually.
Nice…Here’s my theory. Pablo Picasso. He made all these crazy abstract portraits of people, and then his wife said could you make a “normal” painting of me. So, it made me think Queen might be about Mackie, or maybe…
Not at all?
Not at all.
‘Cuz you’re the king.
No, no it’s not. Not about it.
No connection at all?
Is that one about something in particular?
Um, I think it’s about someone feeling like they’re more important than they really are... Maybe.
Do you get annoyed when people ask you to explain your lyrics?
No not all. Not in the least. I rarely answer questions too pointedly. I prefer to let people have their own journey. Sometimes they come up with better ideas than I had.
Exactly! My wife says the same thing. It’s open to interpretation and everybody can have their own…
Yes, that’s it.
…Feeling from it.
That’s it. I agree.
Do you like driving?
I love driving!
I used to be able to jump in the car and drive forever when I was younger. Now long distances, I can get stiff or uncomfortable. Do you ever have that happen?
No, I haven’t had that happen
Do you like driving when you're on tour?
What about when you're at home?
Yeah, I love it.
Doesn’t bother me. Only when stupid drivers do something stupid, but I like to drive.
What do you like about it?
It relaxes me. Yeah, I love it.
It’s better than being a passenger.
I’m much more relaxed behind the wheel. Than I am as a passenger…way more.
Is it hard to stay healthy on the road?
No, I don’t drink or smoke or do drugs at all. I think that helps a lot. Other than that, I go to the doctor. I’m pretty much fine. I’m 50 now, so everything is gonna go south at some point.
Made it this far.
Yeah, what a surprise.
A guy I work with used to be a long hall driver. He would just drive and drive and eat and drive. No exercise.
I don’t do that. I exercise a lot.
Is it easier to tour now with just you and a guitar?
Well, I just started. I’ve done about 20 shows and this is the fourth one on this tour. I’ll feel better when I have about 100 shows under my belt.
You’ve got a few months ahead of you.
Yeah, give it all, just go until it’s done.
It seems like you could have a more economical vehicle compared to a big van.
We have a big van. I have two guys with me.
One guys doing merchandise, what’s the other doing?
The other is doing sound, and tour managing.
I’ve heard you refer to yourself as an artist. Is that different than being a musician?
Well, music is art.
Yeah, art is extra… No question.
In the Pink Floyd movie, the Pompei one. At one point Roger Waters is saying that being interviewed is one of the very worst things you could do to a person.
Maybe to him.
Yeah, I think he has a reputation for being confrontational.
Well, if that’s the case he shouldn’t do interviews…Maybe he’s right…Well, the worst part about interviews is when they expect an answer from you. If you ask a question you shouldn’t expect a certain answer. Don’t get upset if the guy doesn’t want to answer, or gives you an answer you don’t like…You ask, you can’t also be in charge of the answer. You can be in charge of the question but you can’t have it both ways. I’ve had that happen lots…“Well, I want more details“, “Well, I’m not gonna give you more details. That’s it.” Then they get mad…Sorry man.
What do you get asked about most often?
Oh you know, influences, stuff like that, but influence is like, you know, I don’t even know how to answer that. I just go, anything can influence me. I have no idea….The slamming of a door…being sick…listening to good music…all of it, all of it. All of it is part of it. There’s no one thing. What is an influence? It’s a thing you try to be like, but somehow put a stamp on it that’s your own. That’s it. That’s as far as you can go with it.
I assume they want to know about particular bands you like that make your band sound like it does. Who knows?
Yeah, I never know what to do with that question. Never. It’s just like I say, “We’re loud, quiet, noisy, calm”.
What advice would you give to the 21 year old Buzz?
Um, Don’t worry you’re not wrong.
It’s proved out.
Did you worry when you we’re 21?
No, I never had any wild aspirations for it to end up being bigger than it ended up being, but I’ve never been afraid of working for it either. Digging it out of the dirt. That’s the difference between me and most other musicians... Like tonight, I’m playing in Fresno, it’s not going to be a big show. I’m gonna do it anyway. I don’t care. I have to go out and sell this thing. I’m gonna play it anyway. It will help me for some other show.
Well, this interview alone will probably double the…
Who knows? I always say yes to interviews.
It seems like there’s more on line now the last few years, than there we’re the first…20 years.
It’s not because I wouldn’t have.
People just never asked?
Well, I’ve never said no to one.
I’ve heard you say, if anyone’s interested in what you have to say…
Then I’m glad to say it. No question.
There was interview, it was in a print magazine, in the last few years. The guy asked you if you we’re frustrated that you could never write a song as good as Honey Bucket ever again. Do you remember that?
Then you said your asshole could write a better song than Honey Bucket.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Do you remember that?
It was a relatively short interview, but it seemed like the guy was trying to antagonize you the whole time.
I assumed it was maybe a friend of yours.
I don’t remember, actually, but I’m not a big fan of that song. It’s OK. It’s not one of MY favorite songs, I’ve written. Not at all.
Do you think it’s like, Hendrix had Purple Haze. Years later everybody wanted to hear that. Nirvana had Teen Spirit, everyone wanted to hear that, but they were past that. It’s like…
I’m not past it. I could still play it. I’m not past any of our songs.
What we basically do is like 2/3 new, newer like the last ten years and then 1/3 older. sets, live. That’s it. So it’s more geared toward the records we’ve put out the last ten years. Then you play through the old ones too ‘cuz I still like that stuff. People want to come…I don’t want to see somebody play just new material when I go see a show, but I also don’t like it when people demand you do one thing or the other. I’m not a jukebox.
I see Cheap Trick almost every year and the last ten times probably longer it been basically the same set list. Like the Beach Boys, or Kiss. They just have the hits they have to play.
Well, we don’t have any hits so it doesn’t matter.
…That’s true. Ha!
We try to remain more contemporary than that. They don’t. They’re not.
They’re just Kiss… We are. Let’s leave it at that.
It makes sense. That may explain half of your longevity.
Maybe… maybe we’re to dumb to quit. I have no idea.
People keep turning out for the shows though.
We’ll see about tonight.
Ha! Well, yeah that’s true. What have you done for me lately, or your only as good as, whatever…
It’s hard to get people to come out and see some dude play acoustic guitar.
Especially when they only know you from the big loud…
Yeah, exactly, so I have to convince ‘em. That’s it. It’s my job to do that. That’s as far as I can go with it.
Ha ha…Well I’m here.
Exactly… I’m up for the challenge…I’ll do my best.
I have no doubts. I’m not worried.
I’m glad you’re not.
There’s a Hendix documentary that was made shortly after he died and they’re talking to Pete Towshend, maybe too objectively about Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Townshend starts getting upset, saying, these were people. These were my friends, and now they’re dead.
It’s like he cracked.
It’s like he got asked one too many times.
Do you ever feel like that when you get asked about Curt Cobain?
No, because I know the journalist aren’t going to like the answers I give ‘em. So, no matter what I do, So I don’t have to worry about it. I just tell the truth and then it’s done.
What do they expect?
I don’t know, but I’m not gonna, what ever they expect…happy, joyous type stuff, but it’s not gonna happen.
I remember reading interviews over the years. You’ve never glamorized…
I remember you, shortly after his death saying, he was a junkie and now he’s a dead junkie.
It’s not something to look up to.
No, it’s horrible.
There’s no good side to it. I’ll never get over it.
Recently it seems you may have softened up a bit, I read that the recording of Stag was difficult for you because, I think you we’re referring that it was around the time he died.
No it was Stoner Witch.
No that didn’t really effect it. It was all weird though.
I hate to even ask kinda ‘cuz…
No, I don’t mind.
I met him briefly a couple times. I recognized him as a person. Not so much this bigger than life…
Have you ever heard the story , Keith Richards was sleeping and he kept a cassette recorder and guitar by his bed for ideas. He woke up in the morning and the tape was to the end. So he rewinds it and the riff to Satisfaction is on there.
I don’t remember. I don’t doubt it.
The riff came to him in his sleep basically and he doesn’t remember writing it or…
I’m sure there’s lots of stuff he doesn’t remember.
So he listens to the rest of the tape and it’s just snoring for a half hour.
Yeah, what a surprise.
It seems crazy to me the Johnny Ramone never thought the Ramones ever actually “made it”.
In his eyes.
It seems like the Melvins are a practical, realistic, blue collar band that is not hoping or expecting more than…
Well, we’ve already been a band ten years longer than they were.
No, they quit after 20 years….’96 and they started in ‘76.
Towards the end there, early 90’s, I didn’t go to a Ramones show in Santa Clara so I could go to a Melvins show in…
Thank you. Thank you, thank you.
On the way back I swung by there and they had the doors open. It was the end of the show. They were still playing, Joey was holding the sign “Gabba Gabba Hey”…that was the time I saw the Ramones.. .from outside in the parking lot.
You said that in the earlier days the Melvins were more confrontational.
What do you mean?
Well, you said that maybe… the music was more confrontational than…
Well, no, the audience was more confrontational. To us.
Oh, yeah, yeah….My attitude hasn’t changed.
I saw on Youtube someone threw a bottle of water or something, and hit you and then you left?
That was a beer glass.
If it would have hit me in the mouth, it would have broke my teeth out.
If it would have.
So I was done, and it was at the end of the show anyway.
That’s what I thought too.
Yeah, I wouldn’t walk off from, fuckin’, I’ve had shit, tons of shit thrown at me.
That’s the first thing I thought. There’s more to it than uh…
Yeah, they’re stupid. They don’t know what they’re talking about. As usual. What a surprise.
Playing venues this size, you like the smaller…
I like smaller yeah.
At the same time this is your job, most venues this size are dumps, with disgusting bathrooms and usually places you would never want see in the daylight, but this is your work environment.
If you have to get from one side of the venue to the other to go to the bathroom or whatever, you personally are going to have to deal with a bunch of drunks…
I try to do it as little as possible…I try to go before I get to the club.
Is it tough dealing with people who are all drunk?
It’s never easy, but I just try to avoid it… I don’t want trouble. So the best thing is to avoid it.
I remember one time in San Jose. You guys were opening for Helmet, and the club didn’t have a backstage so you Dale and Mark we’re hanging around outside and half the people who would come up to talk to you we’re just blabbering like idiots. I mean they may have been smart, but they were drunk so…
Yeah, that’s normal….It’s not fun for a guy who doesn’t drink. Believe me…but, whatever, it could be worse.
Yeah, you’re not digging ditches.
Have you grown up having a mental picture of some celebrity, and then met them in person and find them to be totally different than you expected? Gene Simmons for example?
Not a single person?
I haven’t met that many people…Not that many heroes.
No she was about what I expected. Eccentric weirdo on drugs.
She was at that time?
What do you think?
Don’t be that naive…It worse than you can think. Always.
Meeting celebrities is worse than you would think?
No, peoples lives are worse than you would think…They have publicist and people trying to make you think it’s better than it is.
Yeah, I believe it.
That’s how it works…The worst stories are always true.
No one has ever quit the Melvins.
So, when someone who is in the Melvins gets put out of the Melvins does it come as a surprise?
Sometimes…not to me.
They usually don’t like it….It doesn’t happen that often.
Not anymore it seems.
Well, it never did…All the bass players we had, that were real bass players lasted a long time…We’re not doing that again.
Would you be like halfway through a tour and thinking, “When this is over man, this person is out of here”.
Sometimes. It’s a wide variety of things and nothing to do with the way they played. Personal issues, always.
Whenever they have some problem I can’t deal with.
What’s your favorite Beatles album?
I read that Ron Wood was in the band something like 12 years before they made him a full member.
Yeah, well they haven’t put out a good record since the mid 80’s.
Is Some Girls the last good one?
Do you like any of Emotional Rescue?
It’s OK, but I never listen to, I don’t even own it. Couldn’t be bothered.
The lesser known albums are a curiosity, but you hear them once…
Do you like gardening?
Uh, my wife does the gardening. I do the hard labor.
You get the garden beds ready?
To some degree. We don’t really grow a garden just some plants. I would do it different, so I just let her do whatever she wants.
You’ve said the Melvins have never had any brother bands?
No, none that I can think of.
I can’t even think what a brother band is, but what comes to mind in The Stooges and MC5.
Yeah, pretty much. I mean they’re part of some scene, you know?…Not me, but whatever. I never wanted to be part of anything…I didn’t even know I hated it till you told me I had to do it.
That’s what I mean. Anything.
You might have been doing it fine, then somebody told you you had to do it.
Now I don’t want to do it. That’s exactly it.
You had a black Les Paul with a Kiss sticker on it. I think there was a sunburst Les Paul with a Kiss sticker shortly after that.
Was that the one you played with Fantomas?
No, that was a tobacco sunburst.
Do you still have all your old guitars?
I don’t have the tobacco sunburst, but I have the other ones. They don’t have Kiss stickers anymore.
There’s the black Les Paul, where the Kiss sticker was there’s a circle with…
Yeah! That’s what I thought it was. Did you put that on there?
Oh yeah, carved it with a knife.
That’s a San Francisco/Bay area…
Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
There’s a Melvins movie?
We have one about the 51 date tour we did. Coming out…at some point.
Have you seen any of the…
Yeah, it’s almost done. Be out, hopefully by February.
A two hour movie?
No! It’s 51 minutes…One minute for each city.
Exactly. Fifty three minutes with credits.
Did you play D.C?
Yeah, every state plus D.C. in 51 days.
So, the first day before the 51, I saw you play in Sacramento.
That was two days before.
That…so..so, oh! uh…
We did 52 shows. We had a day off between them.
So then you went to Seattle then Hawaii?
If I was gonna do it again…
Did you go to Hawaii?
Yeah, we had to!
Oh yeah. Ha Ha!
If I was gonna do it again. I would start in Alaska. Then go to Hawaii. Then go to L.A… Or I would start in Alaska, go to Hawaii and then fly to Seattle.Then go around and end in L.A….Probably. If I had to do it again I wouldn’t end in Hawaii. I’d get those out of the way first. If I was gonna do it again, but I’m not gonna do it again. I already did it.
I was gonna ask. Do you want to do it again?
No. It was easy, but it’s pointless now.
Oh…Who Sell Out.
Yeah. Yeah. I like that one a lot too. Seems like the production is…
It’s an Amazing record. Live at Leeds is good, but it’s a live album. Um, Who’s Next…Tommy. All of ‘em are good. The Who are one of my favorites.
It seems like the bands that are super awesome, there’s usually a drummer behind them that is super awesome.
They’re probably the least noticed.
Usually. If your drummer's no good your band is no good.
You can have a sloppy guitar player that’s a mess, but if the drummer's keeping it all together..
I know that feeling.