ATP Nightmare Before Christmas: The Melvins Interview

The co-curators of the winterval rock-apocalypse, The Melvins give Ned Raggett the low down on their choices for the ATP festival at Minehead.

Buzz Osbourne is known for both forthrightness and not wasting time – good qualities in someone leading a band that’s been around for almost a quarter of a century. Osbourne and Dale Crover, along with newer members Coady Willis and Jared Warren, make up the Melvins, formed by Osbourne and Crover in Washington out of punk-inspired frustration with their surroundings and peers and long since established as an act that is simultaneously pigeonholed and broader in scope than most.

Having long been assumed to be the grunge godfathers – Dave Grohl’s judgment of the early Gluey Porch Treatments as the "heaviest thing ever" is but one anecdote of many – the Melvins have long since disproved that stereotype: from collaborations with Leif Garrett to Lustmord, from near-minute-long songs to an hour plus of arty drone, nearly all of it shot through with a burning, contemptuous humor.

When reached, Osbourne and the band were on an extensive American tour for Nude With Boots, their latest release on their label home for a decade, Ipecac Records, founded by former Bay Area cohort and long time associate Mike Patton. An excellent album in its own right as well as being evidence of the Melvins’ new creative high with the addition of Willis and Warren, Nude With Boots may be the latest product of the Melvins and Patton’s partnership but this year won’t be the biggest – that falls to the newest version of All Tomorrow’s Parties’ year-end festival The Nightmare Before Christmas, which has recently had Kool Keith and Porn added to the stellar and rocktacular line-up.

With the latest incarnations of legendary groups like The Damned appearing, as well as comparatively younger guns including The Locust, Black Heart Procession and Kill Me Tomorrow and approaches ranging from the stand-up-comedy-as-performance-assault of Neil Hamburger (as Osbourne says, "Always a treat – he knows how to handle an audience") to the avant-garde work of White Noise and the late Karlheinz Stockhausen [This sounds intriguing, Editor], the Nightmare Before Christmas looks to be one of the ATP series’ best, with a further highlight coming from a performance of the album The Director’s Cut by Fantomas, a group Patton and Osbourne both belong to.

Osbourne’s familiar with that play-an-album-in-full role, the Melvins having redone their album Houdini for the Don’t Look Back series, and by now the group themselves are veterans of the process from the other side, as he noted:

"Slint had asked us to play at an ATP fest, and Sonic Youth had asked us for another one. Houdini‘s not my favorite Melvins record, don’t know what would be! But I’m not sad about it.

"When it came to picking out the bands and all those things for this one, we made a list, then they got it and we had them take it from there and figure out who’s available. I don’t know much more than that, they have to work out the deal and I honestly have no idea how that happens. I don’t want to know!"

In noting that his group and Patton didn’t check each other off on all the choices – he mentions that he thinks that Mark Lanegan’s a good guy but that the selection of Soulsavers with Lanegan as featured singer was Patton’s idea – Osbourne’s also pretty excited about seeing the Butthole Surfers – "Seen ’em a bunch of times, can’t wait to see them again!" – as well as other acts yet to be confirmed that he declines to mention for now. But perhaps what gratifies him the most about the Nightmare Before Christmas is the whole thing itself as compared to the mega-festival circuit, as he passionately discusses:

"The Melvins really don’t do a lot of special offers like this, and ATP was the most accommodating and most realistic. And they weren’t looking for some big bullshit headliners like Prince or Radiohead! They weren’t going ‘Let’s see if we can get Pearl Jam!’ Total insane nonsense – I don’t know if you’ve been to things like that, totally awful. Here we’ve got a bunch of good bands so far, with a lot of plans."

As for the Melvins’ current work, Osbourne feels that the tour’s been going very well – "People seem to like the new songs, I’m assuming that means they like the album too" – and briefly mentions upcoming shows in South America and Europe before revealing that next year something to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary will be done, though he admits to being unsure as to what. No question it’ll be as idiosyncratic and set to its own standards as he and his group are – anything else just wouldn’t be them.

To buy tickets and see the full line up visit the All Tomorrow’s Parties website.

For a glimpse of some of the treats in store for you have a look at our fabulous gallery. All pictures

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today