The Melvins aren’t going away, and their fans are happy about that. For 30+ years, original members, Roger “Buzz” Osborne (King Buzzo), drummer Dale Crover, and recent addition, ex-Red Kross bassist, Steve McDonnell, have been turning out groundbreaking new albums, collaborating with other innovative artists including Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of Mars Volta, and Mike Patton of Faith No More; and leaving ears ringing from Adelaide to Zurich, and all points in between. The Melvins and all three members have not only been busy recording a new double album—A Walk with Love & Death (their 25th release), The Melvins’ drummer Dale Crover, has just recorded and released a 20-track solo album, The Fickle Finger of Fate (Joyful Noise). I was able to catch up with Dale Crover, a founding Melvins member, former drummer for Nirvana, contributor to the Fantomas, guitarist for Altamont, drummer for Hank Williams III, drummer for Redd Kross and one fourth of the alternative supergroup—Crystal Fairy. His resume and Wikipedia page are voluminous, and with Dale’s and The Melvins’ DIY work ethic, it will only continue to grow. Crover is a man in constant motion and is as far from a slacker as you can get. He made time following a sound check in Portland, to take my call and discuss his new solo album, The Melvins, his love for KISS, and what the future holds for this industrious, gifted musician.
Are you in Portland tonight?
Yes, we sure are. It’s really warm today, and no one here has AC, so it’s rough.
Had you been considering making another solo album for a while? I know you each did one in 1992 kind of like KISS did in the 70’s.
Yeah, seeing as there’s only three of us, that’s why we left our Ace one out. We’re letting Steve McDonnell (Redd Kross, The Melvins, bass, vocals 2015-present) do the fourth one, but he’s got to be Paul (Stanley). We realized the artists that did our covers must not be huge KISS fans because they made him Paul. If you look at Joe’s, he’s obviously supposed to be Paul and you can tell by the posters. Those solo albums are going to be re-released this year. The colors were off on the originals, so you can tell non-Kiss fans were involved because they didn’t get the colors fucking right. Dumb asses (laughs).
What made it finally time to make a solo album?
Well, it’s not like I wasn’t really doing anything. (laughs) I have had this band (The Melvins). It’s something I’ve been thinking about for years and I realized I could do it. Also, in the last couple of years, I’ve been releasing things on Joyful Noise. There was a split album and a weird drum record I did with Cody Velez who plays with the Melvins sometimes and he’s also a drummer in a bunch of other different bands.
Then, there was a weird 10” (127 limited self-made copies signed by Crover) that had twelve cuts on it and six spindle holes. So, wherever you put it, there would be a cut. It was a really weird idea, and they (the artists) said that we’d be perfect for it. It was a limited thing because each one is handmade.
I was thinking about it: I’ll do a full-length record like with QUI (LA duo) and I’d put a lot of drum stuff on it. Here’s a solo record that I can do this material on. It was like I’m going to put on my boots, my hat and strum my electric guitar. I really wanted my solo album to be something really different.
Do you feel like there are something’s you can do on a solo record that you can’t do on a Melvins’ record?
No, I don’t think so. We’re not really afraid of doing anything
(Car noises in the background outside the venue) There he goes in an El Camino. He lined the back of it and put a tub in it. That’s Matt in a nutshell, and you can wash your dog in it after you’re done. And, seriously, that’s what he actually did.
I even have a little riff leftover from the solo record, and we were doing the new Melvins’ record at the same time. I’m going to put on an acoustic guitar, strum my guitar, and make it into a real song.
Where do you feel A Walk with Love and Death sits in your catalog? It’s a double-album, correct?
It is. One side is all a soundtrack record, and the other is a straight Melvins’ record.
The movie is being made and will come out. The soundtrack actually came first; it’s kind of like the script.
I saw the trailer. It’s kind of surrealistic and in the Quay Brothers or Buñuel
vein to me.
Yeah, sure, Surrealism is part of it. People like David Lynch continues to have a big influence on us. A movie called Holy Mountain is one of our favorites. It’s not your normal movie. It won’t be a normal movie, that’s for sure.
When does the film come out?
It’s not done yet, but it should be done soon. It doesn’t have an official release yet. It won’t be at your local AMC Theater. I imagine it will get some kind of DVD or Internet release. I really don’t know if we thought that far (laughs). I’m kind of less involved in it with the exception of a few things.
How did the film part Love come about and were you approached by the film’s director?
We know the director—he’s a friend of ours, and he also does The Melvin’s website. He’s been a friend for a long time, and we all share the same interests. We had this idea, and we knew he could do it. We’re letting him do it and put his own creative stamp on it.
Buzz has been very involved in giving him ideas, footage and images to put in it. It should be very cool and very scary. Judging by that clip, I think it will be pretty cool.
It has a (Dario) Argento look. More European horror versus America.
My wife saw some of it and said: “That’s very gruesome.” I said, “Actually, no one is dead in it.” It’s more about playing with your mind. It’s more about what’s in your head.
Will you ever tour behind your solo album?
I’d like to at some point, but obviously, the tour takes us through November. We won’t be playing any songs off of it on this one. At some point, definitely, I’d like to put something together. I’m still trying to think of a different angle for it. I want it to sort of be a band, but maybe the members can do other stuff.
You guys always have a lot of collaborators.
Yes, both Teri (Suarez Cosio aka Teri Gender Bender, Le Butcherettes) and Joey Santiago (The Pixies) are on this new album (The Melvins).
Will you be doing any gigs with Fantomas?
Actually, we just did a show a couple of weeks ago and we opened for Tool. It was kind of a one-off thing. I realized I hadn’t actually played with them in like eight years. I did a show with Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and the band for a few shows in Chile a few years ago. They really haven’t been that active. I guess we’ll see. It’s really up to Pat (Mike Patton, vocalist, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas). It’s his band, but it’s also up to the other guys. I think they could do really well with it. I don’t know why they stopped, but it’s probably because everyone in the band is doing so many projects.
Do you enjoy being in the studio?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. As you know, we have our own place to work in. That was another reason that I could do a solo record. It’s really easy to schedule (laughs), we got the place. We’ve had gear and all the tools there for years. More importantly, we have a really great engineer—Toshi (Kasai). We aren’t lazy. We’re self-employed so we kind of make it happen. We can’t just sit around and wait for anything to happen.
You were on a major label (Atlantic 1993-96) l for a while, weren’t you? It didn’t seem to make you change a thing in your sound or approach.
Yes, three records. We were happy about it, and we still like those records that we did while we were there. Nothing really changed for us, and I have no regrets at all.
Do you feel like any of your peers compromised when they signed to a major label?
Well, certainly not the Nirvana guys. I don’t think they ever really compromised. Their songs are their songs, and Geffen didn’t change their sound a bit.
I think the guys (Nirvana) felt weird about it at times, but I don’t think it was any different for them more so than any other indie band that signed to a major label.
Discuss the recording process for this record? What kind of effects or tricks did you use to get the sounds you wanted? There’s a dub reggae thing going on a few tracks, and there’s something somewhat Floydian on the track “Little Brother.”
That’s interesting. That particular song (“Little Brother”) is pretty old and was on a four-track demo. When I wrote it, I was like I don’t really know what this is for. I forgot about it. I felt like the beginning was a rip off of The Who and other parts of the song are like Sonic Youth. Then, later, that song in particular, I think it became more Beatlesque. I told Steve to bring his Hofner bass with flat-wound strings. He’s such a great bass player. He actually ended up helping out on a quite a few tracks. I had originally tried to put bass down for the title track myself, but I didn’t think my bass parts were that exciting. I think he came up with much better bass parts than what I originally had on there. Especially for “Little Brother,” and adding keyboards really changed it. The demo version was obviously much different, but I like how it finally turned out.
There are 20 tracks on this release? That’s a lot of music.
Yes, but a lot of it is short drop pieces, kind of like bits that take you into the song. I really wanted the whole thing to flow. It’s not like I planned to record so many songs. I wasn’t trying to put a bunch of songs on it, but that’s what I ended up with. Whenever I do another one, I may not do it the same way.
Where do you find inspiration for song ideas and lyrics?
I usually mess around with a guitar and record it. Lyrics are generally last. Buzz usually creates the music and fits the lyrics around it. I can come up with melodies and I think of what sounds good vocally. Like the first song on the solo record, I could hear where I wanted the vocals to go. I wrote down what I was trying to say. It’s an odd way, I suppose. Four-track demos and cassettes are how I used to do it.
I’ll have some time in the winter to record some new material. We learned a long time ago that touring during the winter in most of the parts of the country is just not for us anymore.
What do you attribute The Melvins’ staying power and consistent popularity to?
I think it’s mainly persistence (laughs) and not going away. Even when we put out a new record someone complains about something. The people that complain about our new music are mainly older people (laughs). The younger fans don’t complain about anything. Buzz and I were having this conversation just recently. For whatever reason, I think older fans don’t want to go out as much anymore. I understand it. I don’t go to as many shows anymore. I have a family and sometimes I just want to stay home or go to a baseball game. I still go to some shows, but not as many as I used to
Are you still KISS fans?
Yes, the KISS guys are fans and have been great to us. Gene (Simmons) was in the documentary about us (The Colossus of Destiny—A Melvins Tale.) He was gracious enough to make time, and he didn’t have to do it. Gene has always gone out of his way to be nice to us. Paul’s been great, too.
Do you like playing guitar more than the drums?
Yeah, I’ve actually been playing guitar for a long time. In fact, I started on guitar first and switched to drums later on. Everyone played guitar back then. I think drummers always want to be guitarists and vice versa. I played guitar first, but I was friends with this older guy in my neighborhood. He had long hair and had a Les Paul. When I met him, I was already into KISS and he had that Les Paul. He was a bit older, so he missed KISS. The first rock song he taught me was Nugent’s “Catch Scratch Fever.” I ended up playing that song at my fifth-grade talent show. I remember this one time I was showing this kid how to play some drum parts on his set, and then I realized I really liked playing drums. I went out and bought a set and stuck with the drums ever since.
My friend Willie Smith asked me to ask you who would you like to play your new solo album for, living or dead?
Gosh, wow, I don’t know. That’s a hard one anyway to say to someone: “Hey, listen to my album.” I actually got an email the other day from Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Off!) saying how much he loved my solo album. He’s always been a fan of music. We toured with those guys in Off! with Steve before he was in The Melvins. Keith makes fun of us for liking KISS, but then I saw Ace’s solo album in his collection. I remember he said he saw Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Whiskey with some obscure soul band, so you know he saw some of those 70’s rock bands that weren’t punk rock.
Where do you find inspiration for writing your lyrics and riffs?
It’s usually me messing around on guitar and recording something I like. The lyrics usually come last. Some people write them first, but I’ve never done it that way. Buzz, too, comes up with riffs first and then adds lyrics later on. I’m good with coming up with melodies that I can write around. I don’t know where it comes from. The first song on my solo record started as just a scratch vocal. I went back and listened and tried to write down what I thought I was saying and it wasn’t even that incoherent (laughs). From doing four-track demos back in the day, I would do a scratch guitar first, then drums, then go back and fix the guitar parts. Now, with owning our own studio, I don’t need to do demos the old way.
I can’t remember where I got that from. I think I just made it up. It could be Cletus from The Simpsons. We were on this show called Uncle Grandpa on Cartoon Network. All the guys that work on it are fans of the band. I watched this with my kids. It’s both very surreal and very funny. I met these guys at our studios and they ended up being writers for the show. The main guy is not a musician, but he’s good friends with the guys in Manx (LA band).
“Little Brother” has a kind of Syd Barrish feel. Was that the vibe you were going for?
No, honestly, that’s probably one of the older songs on there. It was on my four-track. I kind of forget about it. The beginning of it sounded like a Who song and the ending was kind of Sonic Youth. It sounded a little more Beatle-y to me. He brought his Hofner bass. That one and the title track were on acoustic guitar. I knew I wanted Steve on the Little Brother song. Once we added keyboards. Toshi played keyboards.
It looks like you’re going to be on the road for a long time again? Is this a long tour for you?
And we’re out at least through November and then we leave the US for around the world dates, unless, you’re someone that believes in the flat earth concept, then we’re flying around in circles above the flat earth. We were just talking about those people (flat earth believers) today. We were just reading about this. The Arctic Circle is 500 feet high. I wonder if they believe in Global Warming and if the ice melts will the water run off the edge?–DOUG TULL
The Melvins will be appearing at the Ready Room, this Saturday night, August 12th. Tickets are still available.
The Melvins on Tour:
August 8, 2017 – Richmond, VA – The Broadberry
August 9, 2017 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
August 10, 2017 – Knoxville, TN – The Concourse
August 11, 2017 – Louisville, KY – Headliner’s Music Hall
August 12, 2017 – St. Louis, MO – The Ready Room
August 13, 2017 – Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck
August 15, 2017 – Englewood, CO – Gothic Theatre
August 17, 2017 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
August 18, 2017 – Las Vegas, NV – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (Psycho Fest)
August 20, 2017 – San Jose, CA – The Ritz
August 21, 2017 – Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst
August 22, 2017 – Los Angeles, CA – The Echo
September 5, 2017 – Phoenix, AZ- Crescent Ballroom
September 6, 2017 – Tucson, AX – 191 Toole
September 8, 2017 – Austin, TX – The Mohawk
September 9, 2017 – Dallas, TX – Tree’s
September 10, 2017 – San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger
September 11, 2017 – Houston, TX – Warehouse Live (Studio)
September 13, 2017 – New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jack’s
September 14, 2017 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall
September 15, 2017 – Jacksonville, FL – Jack Rabbit’s
September 16, 2017 – Tampa, FL – The Orpheum
September 17, 2017 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – The Culture Room
September 18, 2017 – Orlando, FL -The Social
September 20, 2017 – Athens, GA – 40 Watt Club
September 21, 2017 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade (Hell Stage)
September 22, 2017 – Nashville, TN – 3rd & Lindsley
September 23, 2017 – Memphis, TN – Hi-Tone
September 25, 2017 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
September 26, 2017 – Rock Island, IL – Rock Island Brewing Co.
September 27, 2017 – Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
September 28, 2017 – Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room
September 30, 2017 – Ft. Collins, CO – Aggie Theatre
October 2, 2017 – Albuquerque, NM – The Launchpad
October 3, 2017 – Flagstaff, AZ – The Green Room