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Heavy Mental: Melvins Founder Buzz Osborne Discusses the Band's Collaboration with Members of Another Oddity, the Butthole Surfers 

Tuesday, Oct 14 2014
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While most bands that hit the 30-year mark seem content to live off their early glories, influential mavericks the Melvins continue to shred the heavy-rock envelope with gleeful experimentation and a mind-bogglingly prolific output. Over the past decade, the group, anchored by guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, has released albums in three distinct configurations. Its ferocious two-drummer lineup with Big Business principles Jared Warren and Coady Willis has released three albums and an EP. The band also issued a star-studded covers compilation, reunited with original drummer Matt Dillard for yet another effort, and, under the moniker "Melvins Lite," teamed with avant-rock bassist Trevor Dunn for the album Freak Puke and a record-breaking tour that hit all 50 states and Washington, D.C., in 51 days.

For their latest salvo, the Melvins welcomed Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff "JD" Pinkus (who played on their 30th anniversary tour last year) and Surfers guitarist Paul Leary into the fold. The new Ipecac Records disc Hold It In stands as simultaneously one of their most accessible and willfully weird recordings ever. The acerbic Osborne recently talked to SF Weekly about how the album came together and why Leary won't be joining the band on the road.

SF Weekly: How long was the idea of working with Paul and Jeff gestating prior to recording Hold It In?

Buzz Osborne: I've always been a huge Butthole Surfers fan. The first time I saw them was in the early '80s when all they had out was their first EP. I thought they were amazing. They've always been a huge influence and one of my all-time favorite bands.

So from a long time ago, I always thought it would be great to work with Paul Leary. I always thought he was a great guitar player. He's one of my guitar-playing heroes for sure. I loved their sensibility about everything. Then we got to be friends with Jeff and it kind of just went from there. Things fell into place. I don't understand why more people don't hire Paul to play guitar for them.

You mentioned in a recent interview that this is the first album where you didn't write a majority of the songs. In it, Paul mentions writing three of the tunes, but what exactly was the split?

There's a lot of stuff we sent to him and he just put his thumbprint on, you know? Where he'd play guitar and do some vocals. So he wrote three of the songs: "You Can Make Me Wait," "Eyes on You," and "I Get Along." Pinkus wrote "Nine Yards" and he wrote a couple of other ones, but most of those were more like me and Dale and Pinkus wrote them. And then there are some that I just wrote almost entirely like "Brass Cupcake," "Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad," and "Sesame Street Meat."

Me and Jeff would come up with stuff together. Me and Jeff and Dale actually jammed together. We never really did that with Paul; maybe a little bit, but not much. I'm a firm believer in letting people do their work. When you get someone like Paul to work on your record, you let them do what they want. That's what you do.

So when you were touring with Jeff last summer with the two-drummer lineup, did you have time to start working up some of the material then?

It was before that. We did some stuff with Jeff before that, and then realized we should do a whole record, but that we should do it with Paul. That's kind of how it worked.

A couple of the songs reminded me of the Buttholes' classic psychedelic swirl, specifically "Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit."

That's Jeff's song. He said he recorded that when he was on acid.

"House of Gasoline" was the other one that really echoed that kind of early Buttholes psychedelia. Did it end up that way because of their contributions, or did you have that in mind going in?

I wrote "House of Gasoline" and then those guys added their stuff on the end of it. That's how that worked. I had every intention of them doing that at the end, so yes.

I've noticed some surprise in the press for the album about the songs being more accessible, which makes me wonder if those people have heard the albums with Jared and Coady. I think those are some of the catchiest songs you've done, and this is just a continuation...

Absolutely it's a continuation, but if you listen to the Butthole Surfers, their stuff is really catchy. Everything they ever did was catchy. Even off their first EP, it's really poppy. So that wasn't a problem.

Did you know from the outset Paul wouldn't be touring for the album and did you try to convince him to go out on the road?

Yeah, kind of; Paul's kind of got his own thing going on. I would love to have him come play guitar with us. I don't know what that would entail. It probably would mean he'd have to be away from his work for longer than he would want to [Leary works extensively as a producer and mixer]. But I don't know. Maybe someday; I would love to have that be the case. It would be really fun. I'm not opposed to that in any way.

Did you give any thoughts about a second guitarist to fill in on the tour, or did you just figure there was no way to replace Paul anyway?

No, I'm open to any idea at all. We have a band that has had a bunch of different lineups and now we just did a new album with two of the guys from the Butthole Surfers. Nobody is doing anything like this. There's no other band to compare us to. None. Who? No bands do this kind of stuff. I'm really excited about that and I honestly don't feel like we have any peers at all.

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