Whether it’s Buzz delivering an instaquote or the band just plain stating things as they are, Melvins interviews always prove to be funny and thought provoking. Currently touring North America with Napalm Death and Melt Banana, we had a chance to catch up with Dale and Buzz and current bassist Steven McDonald, to talk music and vinyl.
The last time we spoke, you made a point to say that you feel that cds are the best way to experience music.
Buzz: It is. Cds are better.
Dale: I actually read an interview with (legendary session bassist) Carole Kaye, who said the same thing. She was saying that when she heard all of her work on cd, her reaction was “that’s how it sounded! That’s how it sounded in the studio, while we were recording it.”
Buzz: And she’s in the business
Vinyl. Is it a fad? Is it something you think will stick around and does it affect your bottom line, as working musicians?
Buzz: Well, it’s still a boutique item at this point. But yeah, we like making them.
Dale: We like making vinyl but we ultimately don’t care what format people listen to it in. The format I listen to the most is itunes, mostly because I’m in the car when I’m listening to music. With itunes, I search out more stuff that I wouldn’t take a chance on buying. I occasionally buy records, not any new ones though. I don’t have any room for them.
Were you a part of cassette culture, back then?
Buzz: Well, you can’t take your record collection around with you. I used to buy albums and put them on cassette because it was more convenient, you could carry more music around with you that way.
Steve: Especially for tours. Before ipods, that’s what we did. I’d have a lunch pail with a bunch of cassettes, and my walkman.
Buzz: Ipods are amazing, but I don’t trust the icloud. If I buy music and wanted a physical copy, I buy it on cd. I certainly don’t trust it on the computer, no way. Cd is the format I like most, it’s the format I think sounds best and it’s how I wanna store my music.
So the idea of an lp with a gatefold cover isn’t something that appeals to you more?
Buzz: I’m solely interested in the music. I am a collector though and I understand collecting, totally understand it. I can honestly tell you this: I’ve never, ever written music with the idea that I was gonna make this really cool album cover with it.
That’s never crossed my mind, it’s not why I make music.
Steve: No, that would be silly. But I’ve always liked covers, I can appreciate that experience. I don’t follow the (vinyl) trend though, with this rebirth. My life is too complicated for that. Records are really heavy. Once you’ve moved once or twice or three times…
Yet, you’ve always made a point of making most of your catalog available on vinyl, including some limited edition pressings, on Amphetamine Reptile Records. It’s really frustrating to see those get snapped up by flippers and immediately resold.
Dale: But the music is out there, on the internet.
Buzz: This stuff is not as valuable as people imagine it to be. Let’s look at it this way: we’ve had these (War Pussy10”) available at the show, during the entire tour. We’ve been selling them for $40 apiece, cheaper than you’ll find them anywhere else. On this tour, we’ve played to thousands of people and still can’t sell more than a few dozen of these. You can walk up to the merch booth right now and buy as many of these as you’d like.
Dale: And you can flip ‘em (laughs)
It’d be great if the Amrep stuff would be collected on a regular lp format and sold to collectors who’d like to have the music.
Buzz: That (Amrep) stuff is cool, that’s why people want it. But if you made it available to everybody, no one would care anymore. We made 400 of these, and that’s pushing it. If we made 1000, we’d get stuck with them. We don’t make the Amrep stuff for people who can’t afford them, they’re art pieces for people who like to collect cool stuff. Let’s say you make a vinyl record and it’s available for $10. And we put that one (War Pussy 10″) out there for $40. The $40 record is the one they’ll buy, because it’s cooler. As a collector, I want the cool one. I don’t want the crappy one with the shitty cover. That (Amrep) stuff is cool, that’s why people want it.
Many collectors are quite excited about the upcoming vinyl reissues of your Atlantic Records lps. What made you choose Third Man Records?
Dale: Obviously, Jack (White) cares about vinyl. We were very impressed when we went to Third Man and saw what he’s done there.
Buzz: He’s putting his money where his mouth is, that’s for sure
Dale: Just his taste in general. He’s not a guy who’s spending his money on hookers and blow.
Buzz: Well he might be, but he’s also spending it on other things. He seems like he’s super interested in what he’s doing and we appreciate that.
Dale: We’re friends with his nephew, Ben Blackwell, who’s worked at Third Man for as long as we’ve known him. I know that he’s a big part of wanting to release those records. Then we recorded the live 12″ with them, which was a really cool idea.
Buzz: Yeah, that was fun. The show was being cut directly to acetate, while we were playing it. We like anyone who does stuff that’s wacky and out there. It’s that collector mentality and we like all that kind of thing, we get it. If we had access to the kind of funds (Jack White) has, we’d do things that were equally as weird, no question. I don’t know if we’d do the same kinds of things but we would certainly do all kinds of wacky stuff. We already do. Plus, if those guys at Third Man go to Atlantic and say “we wanna reissue these Melvins records”, that’s different than if we do. They’ll say “ok sure” to Jack White. If we approached them, they wouldn’t return our phone calls.
Indies vs. Major record labels. From the artist perspective, are there any differences between the two, from the artist perspective?
Buzz: Well, artists never got paid, indie or major. The joke we always told was that if you took everybody who ever stole the Bo Diddley beat and put them in a big line…artists, record labels…he still wouldn’t get any royalties (both laugh). It irritates me when people complain that you can’t make any money in the record industry. People never made any money; certainly not bands. If we could sign the exact same deal today, that we signed with Atlantic Records back then, we would do it. We had a great deal with Atlantic. , just listen to those records. The only reason it worked is because me and Dale were the only ones on the contract, and we both knew it wouldn’t work. We had fun, we got three great records out of those guys and we made some money. We always kidded ourselves that we were thousandaires.
Dale: We still do.
Buzz: I had no problem with Atlantic. We never thought “oh, this is our big chance to go platinum and become millionaires”. We knew what we were getting into, so we were careful with what we were doing.
Plus, you got to record on the same label as Aretha Franklin…
Dale: Led Zeppelin…
Buzz: Stones…that’s where we belong, baby.