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“I’m a Groucho-Marxist”: Buzz Osborne of Melvins

FROM THE ARCHIVES. King Buzzo lays down the law for us after touring behind the Chicken Switch remix album. More law comes when they play Volksbühne on Oct 16.

With the 20th anniversary of Nevermind fast approaching, let us not forget one of Kurt’s primary influences, the Melvins.

Born over a quarter-century ago in pre-grunge Washington State, they’re the inspiration behind the sludge-pace doomcore that currently permeates the indie metal scene, but have delved into all sorts of situations, from drone electronics to Japanese-style spazz.

Melvins leader Buzz Osborne, aka King Buzzo, was quite the contrarian libertarian when he laid down the law for us. More law comes when they play Volksbühne on Oct 16.

On Chicken Switch a lot of the remixers, such as Christoph Heemann and The Panacea, are German so I guess you must have made some friends here.

Yeah, that was the whole point. All we wanted was to make friends in Germany.

You can never tell if a German is actually your friend, though.

Uhh, no. They’re not very good at lying. And they have no sense of humor. I don’t know what motivates the Germans at this point. I don’t know what they’re doing, or where they’re going, or where they think life is taking them. I’m not buying it. I think that they are stagnating, essentially. Correct me if I’m wrong.

They will see to it that nothing amazing will happen. They will regulate it out of existence. All of that has to do with their stick up the ass, rule-crazy insanity. Everything is possible except crossing against the light: they’re automatons.

Pregnant mothers will push you in front of moving cars if they see you crossing against the light.

There’s nothing coming! I can see so with my eyes! The first words I learned in Germany were “Das ist Verboten”.

Is that true?

Pretty much. [laughs] I once got yelled at in a German museum for pointing at a painting. Europe’s a weird place, you know. It’s like if every state in the US had its own language.

They do have their own customs. Their own state pies.

It’s different, though: we’re all Americans. Look, a city like Paris, if it was trying to survive like L.A. – with a 40-plus percent Hispanic population – it would never work, you know. The Germans and the French and the English and everybody, they can’t even get along with each other.

And they can’t stand the fact that their offspring – which is the United States – has something that they don’t have. Which is strength in our unity, which they’re not interested in. The Europeans could be dictating world policy if they could just get it together. You know, there’s a reason why our ancestors left Europe and moved over here to fight Indians and live in sod houses.

If you choose a sod house over civilization, that’s telling.

You better believe it. That was the best and the brightest, the highest-skilled labor people – all those people came to the U.S. To start over. To get away from those things, and be able to do their own thing.

I’m vastly independent. I’m against being part of anything: I’m a Groucho Marxist. I don’t want to be involved in any club that will have me as a member. And you have an intense work ethic.

Some of the most famous guys wouldn’t work for two months for two million dollars. How can people like us learn from somebody like that? You think Brad Pitt would work on a movie for two months for two million dollars? No way. Yet, I’m supposed to listen to him when it comes to things about Africa or raising children?

A long time ago people in Hollywood, like Jimmy Stewart, actually joined the service when America was in trouble. These days are over. They’re over. I don’t listen to guys like Bono. Bono did a bunch of blow and decided he could save the world. The president talks to Bono? I wouldn’t let that guy in my house. If I was in charge of any country, do you think I would have fucking time to talk to the singer from U2? That’s insanity.

I hear he can be very persistent.

Fuck him: so can my security guard. Get the fuck away from me, you whore-mongering drug addict! They’re believing in their own bullshit. The political leaders, they shouldn’t be talking to people like that. That’s like with the Dalai Lama mixing himself up with the Beastie Boys. What does that say about the Dalai Lama? If he’s got time to hobnob with those guys, then fuck him, and fuck Tibet. One thing I do know is that if the Dalai Lama has any interest in them, then I don’t have any interest in the Dalai Lama. He must be a total moron. A charlatan.

It got the Free Tibet movement some press. You’ve never had to slum a little?

I’ve never compromised. On anything. And I’ve always been right. Every step of the way, you know. One is always making little negotiations to get through. To a certain extent. But the thing is, I’ve always trusted my judgement. I’ve always felt I’ve had good instincts when it came to music. And if I have good taste and good instincts, then other people will like it as well.

So, like Bono, you think of yourself as a role model.

Ah, well, you could have a worse role model. Lead by example, that’s what I say.

Originally published in December 2009

Melvins, Oct 16, 20:00 | Volksbühne, Linienstraße 227, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosa-Luxemborg-Platz