It’s not often you get to work with one of your heroes, but for Melvins guitarist Buzz Osborne, that’s exactly what happened.
Butthole Surfers’ Paul Leary joined the Melvins for their new album, Hold It In, which will be released October 14. Also joining Osborne, Leary and drummer Dale Crover for this 12-song Melvins outing is Butthole Surfers' bassist JD Pinkus.
Osborne says Hold It In is a refreshing piece of fiction in a boring world of "fact and bullshit." If Leary’s outside-the-box approach to guitar playing and Osborne’s passion for songwriting are anything to go by, it’s definitely best to just let it ride.
The Melvins will kick off a round of U.S. tour dates October 15 in Sacramento, California. Osborne, Crover and Pinkus will be the touring roster for this run of dates.
I recently spoke with Osborne and Leary about the new Melvins record. I also asked Osborne about his Nirvana connection.
GUITAR WORLD: How would you describe Hold It In?
OSBORNE: It's a good cross-section of a lot of things we've done as well as some things we've never done. It's the first Melvins record I played on where I didn't write a majority of the material. That was a little different than what we normally do. Paul is also one of my favorite guitar players, and I've thought about doing something like this with him for a long time.
LEARY: For the most part, it’s a little fresher and an amalgam album. I wrote three songs on there and we’ve also got Jeff Pinkus, which provided another Butthole element.
Buzz, what was it like working with Paul and Pinkus?
They're both really good players. Paul is a completely out-of-the-box guitarist that I've admired for the better part of 30 years. They handled it perfectly and are avant-garde to the highest degree.
Paul, what was it like working with Buzz and Dale?
Most of my recording experience has been as a producer or with the Butthole Surfers. It was refreshing to be with a group of people who were just as anxious and happy to come up with ideas as I was. It was a whole lot of fun.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Hold It In. "Brass Cupcake."
OSBORNE: That was a song I wrote. I had the idea to let Paul do his amazing vocal work on the middle part of it. His thumb print is all over it.
"You Can Make Me Wait."
LEARY: I was stuck sitting in traffic when the idea for that song came to me. I’m usually a "cart before the horse" guy who comes up with the music first. In this case, I had the lyrics in my head and then the music came later.
"The Bunk Up."
OSBORNE: That was a song I started writing a while ago. I came up with the beginning riff, and the middle part is a lot of Paul. I played the basic guitar parts and left an empty space for him to do whatever he wanted.
"Eyes On You."
LEARY: I usually keep the TV turned on in my studio, and one day there was something on the news about surveillance. I had my guitar plugged in recording at the time and the words just started coming out of my mouth.
How do you come up with your ideas for song titles?
OSBORNE: I've been a list maker for years, even before I was a musician. I was always writing things down and kept long lists of things that would make good album titles and things like that. I’m constantly thinking in terms of songwriting.
Buzz, what can you tell me about your connection with Nirvana?
OSBORNE: We were all friends long before music ever happened. I was the one who introduced Cobain and Novoselic to music of that nature and took them to their first punk rock shows. I also knew Dave [Grohl] when he was in a band called Scream and told him that Nirvana was looking for a drummer.
But there's always the good and the bad. The good part is knowing that the things we were involved with had impact on a global level. But the bad part of it (and the thing that overshadows all of it) is the fact that he's dead.
So it's hard for me to look at it through rose-colored classes and say, "This is amazing!" I don't feel that way. If you can find the upside to drug addiction and death, let me know. When I think of him [Cobain], I don't think of it in an MTV way. I think of it in real terms. We were there when they played their very last show. I knew what was going on with him and everything that was happening. It was all bad.
What excites you the most about this new Melvins album?
LEARY: I haven’t really written or performed on an album like this in a long time. It seems like it’s been forever. I’m excited to see what people think about it.
OSBORNE: The main thing I want to make sure people understand is that this is not a “project." It’s as much a Melvins album as any I've ever done. After the better part of 30 albums, for us to put out a record that's this advanced sounding at this point in our career is crazy. I also can't say enough about how impressed I am to have done a record with Paul Leary. He's one of my all-time favorite guitar players. It's a dream come true.
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James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.