Artist Spotlight: Melvins (or; How To Leave Town Before the Gold Rush) [Part 11 of 11]

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10.

Crystal Fairy – Crystal Fairy (2017)

The relationship between Melvins and Le Butcherettes began with their 2015 tour. “We really liked these guys… at first we had Teri coming out and doing this kind of noisy jam thing at the end, and we’d have her freak out on vocals and jump around and do her thing. It was always the highlight of my night,” drummer Dale Crover said. Then they decided to do an actual song together

“It came up in the conversation that I liked Bikini Kill and they kind of got quiet,” singer Teri Gender Bender said. “They were just like, ‘We actually grew up with them.’ Damn, of course, you grew up with Bikini Kill. Sometimes you forget you’re talking to legends ’cause they’re so down to earth.”

Guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne asked what song she would like to do. “I immediately said “Rebel Girl” because that was one of my personal anthems back at high school in Guadalajara. They learned it super-fast,” Bender said.

We figured it out really quickly and then practiced it in a sound check in Hamden, Connecticut, on tour, and then we did it for the first time that night and it went really good. So, we did it every single night with her,” Osborne said. “It was during all that I started thinking, we should do some music with her. I couldn’t wait to try to do something with her.”

Melvins featuring Teri Gender Bender released “Rebel Girl” in a limited run of 100 numbered 7” records. For those keeping track at home, former Butthole Surfer Jeff Pinkus played bass on it (and did background vocals).

Turns out that both Melvins and Bender both were thinking it would be fun to collaborate. Two weeks after the tour ended, Bender, Osborne, and Crover met up in the Melvins’ rehearsal space. “We just started playing something and she joined in and came up with melody and words really quickly,” Crover said. “When Buzz and I are writing songs we do things pretty damn quickly. We don’t need to practice this a bunch of times and try to work this out; we know how we want this. And we worked the same way with Teri.”

On the first day in Los Angeles, the trio wrote and recorded “Drugs on the Bus,” “Necklace of Divorce” and “Bent Teeth”. Then, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta) added his bass parts later.  The second session was at Rodriguez-Lopez’s studio in El Paso, where the rest of the album was recorded.

“It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done,” Osborne told Rolling Stone. “I guess the one thing I really liked was being able to write songs that Teri could sing. I think she’s an unbelievable talent. It was a privilege to me to be able to write songs and then have somebody write lyrics and sing along … in such a great way. It’s not something that I take lightly. At all. I love it. It was a joy and a pleasure to work with Teri. One of the high points of my career to me. And I’ve had a lot of ’em.”

Dale Crover – Fickle Finger of Fate (2017)

“I thought I would just release a few singles, and then when I had enough songs, I could just make it an album of some sorts,” Crover said. “Mostly, it just comes in the moment. I may have something cooking for a really long time, in terms of riffs. Or, I may pull out my iPhone and just record me dicking around and such. A few of the songs on this record though have been around for a long time.”

The album actually came about because of the 12-sided Skins EP. “Since there were only a hundred made, a lot of people missed out on the opportunity to buy the thing, and we heard some complaints, which people always complain about stuff no matter what you do (laughs),” Crover told Glide Magazine. “But I came up with the idea of making a full-length record and adding more regular songs along with it.”

The album has 9 of the 12 “drum haikus” that Crover did for the Skins EP, and maybe even more on there uncredited, because sometimes songs just have a random drum part at the end. Some of the songs are straight forward rock, but some of them are very much in line with Melvins material. “Fickle Finger” is pretty much a normal rock song, but “Thunder Pinky” could’ve been on any of the 90s Melvins albums. Perhaps most surprisingly, “I Found the Way Out” sounds like a Pink Floyd outtake.

Steven McDonald EP (2017)

Melvins reissued the KISS solo EPs in a box set, but they included a new update for current (as of this writing) bass player Steven McDonald. I’ve never heard it, but he does cover a Sparks song. The guitar solo on the song was done by (then) Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. Turns out, they were in Sparks together for a few years.

These guys are such jerks. This one is limited to 140 copies, and it’s not available digitally. If you’re feeling spry, you can buy a copy on Discogs for $290.70.

A Walk With Love and Death (2017)

Is this the Melvins’ a.) First full length with Steven McDonald on bass, b.) Their first double album, or c.) Their first soundtrack work? The answer is YES.

The two disc set features Love, the first disc that is the soundtrack to the short film A Walk With Love and Death. Disc two is Death, the Melvins album proper. It features contributions from Le Buctherette’s Teri Gender Bender, Pixies’ Joey Santiago, and That Dog’s Ann Waronker.

“We’re constantly trying to come up with new things and new ways of doing stuff, and different ideas we haven’t done before, and stuff that we think is interesting,” Crover said. “With us and ideas, the stupider the better. Buzz will come up with an idea and it’ll sound ridiculous, and then we make it happen, and then it’s good, at least for us.”

The Death album is mostly slow jams, but not in the way that Lysol is slow jams. It’s more of the less sludgy fare, but it does have a new version of “Euthanasia” which dates back to 1990 and was originally on Dope Guns N Fucking In the Streets Vol. 5. So that track recalls the glory days. The only faster paced number is “What’s Wrong With You?”, which is sung by McDonald (and has the backing vocals by Waronker).

The Love album may as well be Prick Part 2. It does have “Give It To Me”, which is a lo-fi mess, but an enjoyable mess

Pinkus Abortion Technician (2018)

For the next album, Melvins kept Steven McDonald on bass, but also brought back Jeff Pinkus as well. “We’ve never had two bass players.* We’ve had two drummers and two guitar players** so it makes total sense to now have two bass players,” said Osborne. “We’ll be taking this two-prong bass attack on the road as well which should prove to be interesting. We drank a lot of coffee and enjoyed each other’s company. I like Steven and Jeff a great deal. I admire their bass playing and singing and both of them can grill a mean steak.”

The result is an album that’s kind of hard to pin down. The opening track is a cover of both Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida”, and James Gang’s version of “Stop” (which was recorded by soul singer Howard Tate a year earlier, but that’s not really important). I don’t care for it, even though it has some great guitar work.  The album is bookended with another Butthole Surfers’ cover, “Grave Yard”, which is fine, but it doesn’t improve on the original in any way.

Hey, there’s more cover songs. They do a cover of Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, which is pretty good. However, it’s based on The Moving Sidewalks’ cover version, which Crover had obtained a bootleg of one of their shows. The Moving Sidewalks was Billy Gibbons’ pre-ZZ Top band.

“Flamboyant Duck” is not super interesting, but it does have a banjo, which I’m not sure Melvins have used before. “Don’t Forget to Breathe” is weird, but not great, and most of the vocals are done by Pinkus. “Prenup Butter” is probably the most Melvins sounding track.

*I guess Osborne has already forgotten Three Men and a Baby.

** David Scott Stone has been floating around the periphery of this entire series of articles. He began touring with Melvins around the time of Stoner Witch, he contributed a remix to Chicken Switch and played on Honky, Millennium Monsterwork 2000, and Pigs of the Roman Empire. He also has played with Big Business and LCD Soundsystem. In addition to guitar, he also plays a variety of synths as well as building custom instruments.

Matt Cameron – “Down the Middle” (2020)

As pretty much everyone knows, Soundgarden (also Audioslave and Temple of the Dog) vocalist Chris Cornell died just after midnight on May 18, 2017, which was ruled a suicide.

“That was a real surprise to everybody. We’re good friends with the Soundgarden guys and they were just as surprised and shocked as anybody else because nobody saw this coming,” Crover said. “With Chris, there were no signs of anything like that going on. The whole thing is a big mystery. He was in the Melvins documentary recently and he always had good things to say about us and Soundgarden were one of the first bands that I saw from here that I really liked a lot. It’s a bummer, a real bummer and tragic.”

On January 16, 2019, a tribute concert was held that lasted 5 hours. Melvins played “Spoonman” at the concert, which I found surprising, as it was one of their big singles, and we all know how Osborne feels about the mainstream. Osborne also played “The Day I Tried To Live” with Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins on vocals.

Perhaps even more surprising was the announcement after the concert that Osborne, Hawkins, and Soundgarden/Pearl Jam (and former Skin Yard) drummer Matt Cameron were going to work on a new project together. I was elated, as much as I love Crover, I think I like Cameron more. I don’t know if that “project” still exists or what’s going on with that, but on April 15, Cameron released “Down the Middle” as a stand alone single. I heard it and immediately knew it was Osborne playing (it also has McDonald on bass). I’m not sure if this will be on Cameron’s next solo album (the first one is tight, yo), but this song is god damned great, and I needed to include it.

Mark Deutrom – The Blue Bird (2019)

So, after Bellringer, former bassist Mark Deutrom had a couple things that are not really available, and not on the YouTubes.

Deutrom did the B-Side of a split with a group called Dead called Collective Fictions in 2016. It was limited to 200 copies and sold in Australia. Since I do not live in Australia, have never been to Australia, and I’m not one of the 200 people who owns it, I have no idea what this is.

In 2017, Deutrom self-released epmd. The notes on Discogs say: “Abandoned edmd project originally birthed in 1999 via a midi cortex and resurrected in the next century thanks to digital evolution, mutation and reanimation. Music for traveling in metal tubes.”

“It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything for the six years in-between Brief Sensuality and The Blue Bird. Obviously, I put out the Bellringer thing and I did a few splits with people and some other things. Produced some other bands. I was busy during that time,” Deutrom told mxdwn.

“Basically, got to the point where I needed to just get things to another level where there was going to be more exposure. I just started contacting labels again about working with them. I tried a whole lot of different labels. Season of Mist was the only one that indicated any genuine interest… They were the ones who were interested in re-issuing my back catalog and building something on a real-world level, instead of being a highly-niche, alt-music night, trivia question at a bar or something.”

Of the 13 tracks, only 4 have vocals, and it sort straddles stoner rock and shoegaze, but forced through a Melvins filter. “Futurist Manifesto” could’ve fit on any 90s Melvins record, while “O Ye of Little Faith” is straight up stoner rock with doom metal fringes. “Hell Is a City” is a dreamy slow jam with some psychedelic southwestern guitar, and it wouldn’t be out of place as a theme to a quirky murder mystery.

I realize I’ve given more attention to Deutrom than I have any other bassist, it also helps that there were some good sources, he is not shy about giving interviews. But to me, he is the Melvins bassist, I guess because he was who was in it when I discovered them. Someone once said that Melvins let the bassist determine their sound too much, and I’m not sure I agree, but listening to Deutrom’s solo output, he was definitely responsible for his share of the weirdness. No matter how much Osborne wants to take credit for being the sole creator in the band.

Melvins / Mudhoney – White Lazy Boy (2020)

At some point, at some place, at some time, Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Steve Turner teamed up with Osborne, McDonald, and Crover. There aren’t really any other details than that.  It was released on CD by Amphetamine Reptile, and immediately sold out. The 4 song EP, titled White Lazy Boy has two new songs, and covers of Black Flag’s “My War” and Neil Young’s “Drive Back”.

King Buzzo (with Trevor Dunn) – Six pack EP / The Gift of Sacrifice (2020)

Osborne dropped his second solo album, but of course, by adding Trevor Dunn is it still a solo album? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. It’s all semantics anyway.  The good news is that adding Dunn makes an album that’s a lot weirder sounding and adventurous than 2014’s This Machine Kills Artists.

Ahead of the full length, Osborne released Six Pack, which only shares one song with the album proper.

I haven’t really listened to these much, and there isn’t really anything out there about how these came to be, so they get the short shrift.

Melvins 1983 -Mullet (2020)

At the time of this writing (a few months by the time it posts), the band has announced a forthcoming Melvins 1983 EP titled Mullet. The best news, is that of the four songs announced, none of them appear to be “traditional”. Things are looking up!

So, that’s it! Thanks for reading along all this time. I’m sure that by the time this posts, there will be 6 more releases and probably 2 or 3 new bass players. Perhaps a harpsichord, or a cello. Maybe a glockenspiel, who the hell knows?