Grunge

All posts tagged Grunge

Buzz Osborne. Photo courtesy of metalinjection.net.

Buzz Osborne. Photo courtesy of metalinjection.net.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

Buzz Osborne of the Melvins has been making plenty of headlines in the past month, due in large part to his criticism of the Kurt Cobain documentary, Montage of Heck.

The Raw Alternative talked to King Buzzo last week while he and his band mates were in Columbus, Osborne talked Cobain, new music and vinyl.

Whenever the topic of Nirvana or his late friend comes up, you can always expect the truth and some sarcasm thrown in from the Melvins singer.

This time there was a bit of surprise expressed.

“Getting all of this attention about that documentary has been surprising, I can’t believe people care about what I have to say regarding it,” Osborne said. “I’ve already said everything that’s been needed to say about the shitty documentary. What good is there to say? Kurt was a close friend of ours and he’s dead, tell me what the good part of that is?”

Osborne said the only reason he even watched Montage of Heck was because another outlet asked him to do a review on it.

The singer has been critical of the movie, saying, “90 percent of it is lies, false, made up bullshit.”

Buzz first met Cobain in high school and the two quickly forged a friendship, as the young Cobain became a roadie for the Melvins who heavily influenced the future Nirvana leader.

Fan reactions have been mixed about his comments. Some agree, some do not, while others are claiming Buzz is a “Bitter, old man that is jealous of Nirvana’s success.”

Osborne’s answer to that is priceless.

“Yep, that’s it! They are exactly right, I’m bitter, I’m old and I’m jealous,” Osborne sarcastically quipped. “Whatever people want to think is fine, if they want to assume I’m not successful, that’s great! I could care less.”

“I know what happened and what the documentary portrays is not how it happened, I was there from the beginning all the way to their final show when Kurt walked on stage for the final time.”

The Melvins will be walking onto the Grog Shop’s stage on Thursday as they continue to tour behind their release of the EP The Bulls and the Bee’s and the rerelease of 2001’s Electroretard all on one CD.

Melvins-cover

The main reason behind the rerelease of Electroretard (an album full of reworked songs) is because it was long out of print and Buzz and drummer Dale Crover wanted to give fans a better chance to have a physical copy.

“We felt it was a good time to put it back out there, to give fans a chance to get a copy, I think it was a good idea,” added Osborne.

EPs are something that Osborne says he’s fond of and believes that today’s generation may feel the same way.

“I think it’s an attention span thing, plus I would rather hear five or six really good songs rather than a LP that may be half good and half shitty,” Buzz added.

The vinyl release of “The Bulls and the Bee’s” has been delayed due to delays at factories because of the overwhelming demand for vinyl.

It’s no secret that every hipster imaginable has jumped on the vinyl bandwagon, but Osborne say’s he really doesn’t mind, nor does he care that chain stores such as Barnes and Noble have also jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s cool, I don’t mind it, it give’s more people ways to listen to music. The more opportunities there are for people to listen to my music the better. With so many stores carrying vinyl now, it makes it easier for the consumer to get a hold of music, it’s definitely an industry changer,” Osborne added.

The Melvins, however, are not new to vinyl; they have been releasing albums on the format for many years, often limited runs that fans snatch up quickly at shows.

Not to mention the limited edition posters, pins and other off the wall and rare goodies the band is known to sell at their concerts.

While Buzz admits that he doesn’t collect vinyl, he says he understands the mind of a collector.

“I get the whole mentality of it, I collect stuff too, so I understand how a person can get into collecting vinyl, it’s all pretty similar,” said the 51-year-old.

Though 2015 is half way over, the Melvins still have plenty of plans for the rest of the year as well as 2016.

The Colossus of Destiny: A Melvin’s Tale is a documentary on the more than 30 year history of the band and will be released in early 2016.

Started as a Kickstarter fund, the project raised nearly $100,000 and has plenty of cool extras that fans could snatch up for different dollar amounts during the pledging stage.

Stay tuned, as the Raw Alternative will have all of the latest Melvins news.

Mark Lanegan performing in 2012. Photo courtesy of consequenceofsound.net.

Mark Lanegan performing in 2012. Photo courtesy of consequenceofsound.net.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

Three decades ago, a young Mark Lanegan met Gary and Van Conner and formed the Screaming Trees. 30 years later, he’s still going strong with a solo career and various other projects.

Still, the nearly 50-year-old singer seems to never quite be in the spotlight, but rather lurking in the shadows of the rock world and that’s all right with him.

“I don’t worry about that kind of stuff, I just try to stay in the here and now. Because as far as the past goes, once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Lanegan said.

As the Grunge legend prepares to release his latest offering, Phantom Radio, on Oct. 21 and prepares for a mini U.S. tour, (hitting Cleveland’s Grog Shop on Nov. 5) the singer took time to talk to The Raw Alternative about his recent endeavors.

Having released three studio albums in less than three years (with a few EPs thrown in) and collaborating with such artists as Queens of the Stone Age, Lanegan has been busy, but the singer said he loves being in the studio.

“I love to keep busy and work, writing songs, recording and playing live is what I love the most. I always have something on my plate and I hope to continue that,” said Lanegan.

On Phantom Radio, Lanegan continues to travel the dark, bluesy rode he is accustomed to with rich textures and haunting lyrics.

Songs like “Death Trip to Tulsa” and “Harvest Home” highlight Lanegan’s raspy yet fragile vocals and throughout the album there is a bit of a New Wave aesthetic thrown in.

“I like how the album turned out, if I didn’t like it I honestly wouldn’t have released it. I always try to make every record be complete. I don’t want just two or three good songs, I want it to be a complete experience,” he said.

Lanegan will be debuting much of his new material on his tour that spans from Oct. 29 through Nov. 9, with a more extensive foreign tour starting in January where he will play spots in Europe, South America and Australia.

“I’m really looking forward to touring, I’m only doing a handful of shows here in the states and it’s always fun to play in Cleveland. The bulk of touring will take place next year overseas,” said Lanegan.

Mark Labegan performing live with Queens of the Stone Age circa 2000. Photo courtesy of vh1.com.

Mark Labegan performing live with Queens of the Stone Age, circa 2000. Photo courtesy of vh1.com.

It is no wonder Lanegan will be playing plenty of shows on foreign soil, as he said that his music seems to resonate stronger in other countries.

“I have no idea why, I never really thought about it, but we do get a bigger audience outside of the US, a lot more people seem to show up. Especially over the last few years, it’s just one of those things, but hey, I’m glad people are interested in my work, no matter where it may be,” he explained.

A lot of Lanegan’s past work with his former band the Screaming Trees as well as his collaborations with Queens of the Stone Age and his Leadbelly covers with Kurt Cobain have interested fans throughout the world.

Despite all of his past success, he remains humble.

“Pride can only hurt, it can never help,” Lanegan said. “I just focus on what’s in front of me and concentrate on the present. Thank God I still have stuff left to do.”

“It’s hard to have prospective, on stuff that happened in the past, when you’re in the middle of something, I never think about stuff like where I rank in the realm of the rock universe.”

When Lanegan and the Conner brothers started the Screaming Trees in 1984, it’s easy to assume they never thought that the Seattle scene would become a world phenomenon and eventually become legendary.

It’s also fair to say once bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam hit big that it was only a matter of time until Lanegan and company would score a hit.

In 1992 they did, when they released “Nearly Lost You” which was featured on the Singles motion picture soundtrack.

With the Trees long broken up and Lanegan fully cemented as a solo artist, it appears that there is no end in site for the singer song writer as he says he thinks he will be doing this for a long time.

“I’m always working toward something, after I’m done touring I’m sure I will be working on something new. Nothing is set in concrete, but knowing me, it will probably be another album,” finished Lanegan.

 

King Buzzo

King Buzzo

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

For more than 30 years Buzz Osborne has been the King of everything weird, heavy and sludgy with his highly influential band the Melvins.

Now, King Buzzo is looking toward another outlet as he’s releasing an acoustic solo album titled This Machine Kills Artists set for a June 3 release via Ipecac Recordings.

To the casual fan, this raw, bare bones record may seem strange. But to any hardcore Melvanite, this will come as no surprise.

“Nothing we do is universally accepted, to be honest sometimes I think we drive away as many people as we bring in with every new album,” said Osbourne. “We’re not a band that sells millions of records, I would find it hard pressed to find someone who’s three favorite bands were Nirvana, Green Day and the Melvins, you know?”

Osborne admitted he knows the Melvins aren’t the type of band you would hear played at the prom.

“I can’t imagine any of our songs have ever been played at a prom or anything, but I bet they have proms themed around Green Day or bands like that. I don’t know though because I didn’t go to my prom, I hated teenagers then and I still do now,” said Osbourne.

Osborne’s hatred of some critics also strikes hard within him, as one writer recently bashed his guitar skills by saying, “he needs to listen to Jimmy Page.”

“I thought that was really funny, I mean really, does he think I have never listened to Led Zeppelin?” laughed Osbourne.

On This Machine Kills Artists, the singer shows his knack to make any guitar, acoustic or electric, sound heavy and sludgy. And Buzz’s distinct booming voice sounds heavier than ever overtop of the acoustics. This is something Osborne was aiming for and he nailed it, especially on songs such as “Drunken Baby” and “Instrument of God.”

Folk rock has never sounded so good.

“It certainly works well and I’m happy with how it turned out,” Osbourne said. “Some people have told me how it sounds like the Melvins, well I’m in the Melvins so what the fuck did you expect? (Laughs) But there will always be people bashing my music and bashing music in general, no one is ever 100 percent happy.”

Though undoubtedly countless musicians have influenced King Buzzo, he said that he really can’t pinpoint just a few. He certainly found some inspiration from Woody Guthrie, whom he gave a nod to with the album title, as well as everyday life.

Some things stranger than others.

“I can’t really say I have any particular influence, really anything can influence a person, from a barking dog to a bowl of cereal, I just try to do something different every time I make a record,” said the 50-year-old.

One glaring difference on his upcoming tour will be the fact that Buzz will be up on stage alone, without his drummer and close friend, Dale Crover, or anyone else for that matter.

But when Osborne got into the music business a little over 30 years ago, he knew that sometimes he would have to go on stage prepared to make a complete idiot out of himself.

“If you’re scared to go on stage and look like a complete moron, then you shouldn’t be in this business. I’m up for the challenge and I always look like an idiot on stage anyway,” Osbourne said.

Buzzo will have plenty of opportunities to embarrass himself as he will be playing nearly 70 shows across the US, Europe and Australia.

Touring almost stopped completely for Buzz and side kick Dale 28 years ago after a tour in 1986 took them through the south.

States like Texas and Florida weren’t very accepting of the band, as insults such as “Faggots!” were hurled at the band.

After being roughed up by some skin heads, Buzz and Dale decided not to do a full tour of the states again for a while, it wasn’t until around 1989 that they hit the road on a full out tour again.

While on tour, Buzz unwinds by watching and listening to baseball games. Anyone who follows Buzz knows of his love for the Los Angeles Dodgers and baseball in general. Early on in our conversation Osborne went on about how much he loves the game.

“Baseball is really the only sport I can watch, I mostly enjoy watching it in person. As much as I love the Dodgers I have to say I just enjoy watching the sport no matter who is playing, especially National League ball,” he said.

He even shared a Cleveland Indians story as well.

“Back in the 90’s when Cleveland was a powerhouse we were in town and wanted to see them play, but they were always sold out. So we had the opportunity to buy really shitty tickets for like $60 a piece and at the last minute we decided not to pay that much. But I would love to go to the stadium sometime and see them play,” Osborne said.

Despite the extensive touring behind his new disk, Melvins fans need not worry that their front man is going to focus solely on solo material.

The band will be releasing an album sometime in October (Their fourth in under two years) and are planning a tour and some other surprises.

Stay tuned, as the Raw Alternative will be sure to talk to King Buzzo this fall.

Soundgarden circa 1994. Left to right: Matt Cameron, Chris Cornell, Kim Thyall and Ben Shepard. Photo courtesy of rollingstone.com.

Soundgarden circa 1994. Left to right: Matt Cameron, Chris Cornell, Kim Thyall and Ben Shepard. Photo courtesy of rollingstone.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

What happens when you take the dark sludgy riff of Black Sabbath, combine them with the mystique and high-pitched shrills of Led Zeppelin, add in a pinch of psychedelia before slamming it through a filter of punk? Soundgarden is what happens.

Formed in Seattle in 1984, Soundgarden were among the first of the “grunge” acts. Combining the sounds of early 70’s British heavy metal and early 80’s American punk and alternative, Soundgarden had carved a unique niche in the local underground, quickly attracting the attention of emerging Seattle record label, Sub Pop.

By the late 80’s, Soundgarden were the first of their peers to land a major record label deal, signing with A&M. Their second LP Louder Than Love sold over 250,000 copies and their follow up, 1992’s Badmotorfinger, would go gold.

By the time of Badmotorfinger‘s release, the grunge movement had already begun to sweep American like a plague. The Glam/pop metal of the 80’s had all but disappeared by the early 90’s, as a more cynical, intellectual and anti-establishment musical movement took hold. And ttrailing in the footsteps of breakthrough Seattle acts Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden were poised to soon take the reigns.

By 1994, grunge was at the height of its popularity. So much so, that many of the genre’s pioneers had declared the scene “dead.” However, that wasn’t the case, especially for who was arguably the genre/scene’s founding entity.

Soundgarden took the alternative scene by storm in 1994, releasing their iconic masterpiece, Superunknown. The album was their most concise work to date, with songs that showcased both maturity and a fierceness of a band at the peak of their prime. The sound and production, thanks largely to producer Terry Date, was thick and full, yet the raw primal energy is still very obvious. It’s well-produced without being over-produced. Overall, Superunknown stands as a clear indicator that Soundgarden had grown comfortably into their own skin.

The album kicks off with the droning sludging riff of “Let Me Drown,” a common sentiment of the grunge mentality. However, the second track almost trades the trademark angst for a Zeppelin-esque crooner with a funky, yes funky, bass line on “My Wave.” The single “Fell on Black Days,” follows, with implementations of odd time signatures and Eastern rhythms, the song may be the most diverse grunge radio hit of all time, as it still can be heard all over active rock radio. From there, the heavy and undeniably catchy riffs of “Mailman” and “Superunknown” before leading into the mystically manic depressive “Head Down.”

The next track would prove to be their biggest, perhaps definitive song. “Black Hole Sun,” with its use of the common loud-quiet-loud grunge formula with a psychedelic twist, has become a staple for rock radio and the band’s live set list. The accompanying music video, complete with face-distorting and the death of the planet, became an instant hit, and is widely considered one of the most artistic videos ever produced. Following it is the almost equally-iconic “Spoonman.” Written about a local performer named Artis the Spoonman, he is featured on both the track and music video.

Two of Superunknown‘s darkest tracks, “Limo Wreck” and the single “The Day I Tried to Live,” begin side two with a slower and darker lyrical take. The punkish “Kickstand” breaks the tension before “Fresh Tendrils” and the doom-y “4th of July” encompass the listener. Another Eastrn-style track “Half” leads the album into it’s bleak closer, “Like Suicide.”

Superunknown has been regarding a critical and commercial success, being widely well-received upon its release, selling over nine million albums worldwide. Lyrically, Soundgarden has always flirted with the dark side, and this record is no exception to that. However, despite it’s use of odd time signatures, dark lyrical themes and tendency for not-so-easy listening, the album skyrocketed into the mainstream. By the late 90’s/early 00’s, rock radio was full of acts highly influenced by Soundgarden and Superunknown in particular. From Days of the New’s use of alternate tuning to acts like Staind, Seether, Puddle of Mudd and so on and so forth, the influence of Soundgarden is too obvious at times.

Soundgarden released the slightly less-successful Down On the Upside in 1996 before calling it a day in 1997. Drummer Matt Cameron went on to play with Pearl Jam, where he is a current full-time member, and Chris Cornell went on to release three solo albums and front the supergroup Audioslave from 2002-2007 with ex-members of Rage Against the Machine. High demand for a reunion was asserted by fans and promoters alike and by 2010, Soundgarden announced a reunion tour and performance at the year’s Lollapalooza Festival. They stated that rather than reuniting for money, they waited until the time was right. In 2012 they released King Animal, to positive reviews and reception.

This year, Soundgarden will embark on a 24-date U.S. tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Superunknown alongside Nine Inch Nails (also celebrating a milestone album) and Death Grips.

All in all, the influence of Superunknown is one of the most long-standing of it’s generation. Contemporary post-grunge and metal acts site the album as a key influence, and it’s singles are still heard all over mainstream radio to this day. As a rejuvenated Soundgarden soldiers on into a new decade and new era, Superunknown remains an archetype for what the band can achieve in the future.

 

No AlternativeBy Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

During the early 90’s, many music fans in both England and America felt at a for loss words for identifying what was coming out of their post-punk and/or underground rock music scenes. That music eventually became known as the Alternative genre. College Rock Radio seemed to gather the remnants of music that American kids liked, but it was not very cohesive scene-wise/sound-wise.

Inevitably, a movement was bound to take place. In England, the Northern movement, “Madchester,” developed due to the Joy Division-influenced aftermath with journalist Tony Wilson at the helm.

Similar mass communication mediums such as radio, TV and magazines started to again coin genre names in America shortly thereafter. What was going to be the new “thing?” During the very fevered formation of this new genre, the compilation album, No Alternative, was released in 1993 with a whole host of acts that before didn’t seem related, yet conceptually, they came together on this album and it made sense. Alternative, in the broadest sense, was born out of various sounds of rock and folk (song-writer) genres and on the whole seemed to encompass more thought-provoking lyrics than what was on the radio at the time; similar to their post-punk and folk-punk predecessors.

The most popular offshoot of the genre became Grunge (especially in Seattle), but Art Rock artists from other parts of the country were at first often overlooked in this more broad Alternative genre due to media and playlist regularity. Artists such as Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and Pavement were on the peripheries in the early 90’s, probably due to their more obvious Classic Rock influences, but eventually they enjoyed a steady fan base growth which was more correlated to the aforementioned Northern English music movements such as the “Madchester” movement and of course the ever repeating Brit Rock revivals.

English music show host, Jools Holland, became more influential in a way of picking up where Tony Wilson left off and connected the dots between the American and English scenes throughout the 90’s and the 00’s, reminding us of what and how the term Alternative really came about. An alternative type of music to what was typically played on top 40 rock radio. This is how and when the term became full circle. And now fans expect such artists to almost transcend the induced sub-genres and be beyond a genre, to be something different yet each having THEIR OWN cohesive sounds. Ironically it is NOT about a scene.

Observe.

As well as the aforementioned artists and Picks of the Week leading to this article I know present some wonderful examples that have been often overlooked after the initial Alternative heyday was over. These artists have also really have gone beyond genre and in a way back to what “Alternative” meant, what rock and roll means and what songwriting is. And many of these are from their founding scene giants were from. (Northern England, Seattle.) Just goes to show.

England:

Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught the Train

The Unbelievable Truth – Solved

America:

Jets to Brazil – Chinatown

Pedro the Lion – Live on KEXP

Melvins. Left to right, singer/guitarist Buzz "King Buzzo" Osbourne, bassist Dale Crover and drummer Mike Dillard.

Melvins. Left to right, singer/guitarist Buzz “King Buzzo” Osbourne, bassist Dale Crover and drummer Mike Dillard.

By Rick Pollo (Editor-in-Chief)

In the early 1980s, not many could have predicted that Seattle would be Generation X’s Liverpool in terms of a rock and roll renaissance. Sure, groups like the late-60s garage rockers The Sonics and 70s arena champions Heart call the city home, but a collective scene was yet to put Seattle on the rock and roll map.

By 1984, hardcore punk outfit Black Flag released there slowed down, Black Sabbath-inspired album, My War. The same year, bands like Swans and Flipper began to emerge, also introducing a slower and chunkier approach to aggressive angst-ridden punk rock. This sound was clearly ahead of its time, but left a considerable impression on the likes of Seattle outfits Green River, Soundgarden and the Melvins.

Originally formed as a hardcore punk band, the Melvins quickly emerged as one of Seattle’s most influential and ambitious acts by the mid 80s. Their unique blend of punk rock ethos, sludging heavy riffs and experimental tendencies helped spark a musical movement that would come to be known as “grunge.” Lead singer and guitarist Buzz Osbourne once stated that the band’s sound was “Black Sabbath-meets-Captain Beefheart.” Undoubtedly a perfect summation of Seattle’s perhaps most unsung and influential grunge act.

By the late 80s, the Melvins’ influence among the Seattle scene was blatantly obvious. Groups like Tad, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone and Nirvana all were experimenting with drop tuning and searching for the heaviest and muddiest guitar tones they could find. For a moment, Seattle provided a renaissance in rock and roll, and the paradigm shifted. Over produced balladry was out, and noisy, angry punk and alternative was in. With the success of Nirvana’s Nevermind and several of the Seattle bands finding major label deals and mainstream success, the Melvins were at an epicenter of a movement. However, there break wasn’t easy.

As Seattle bands were getting signed left and right, the Melvins further pursued their musical ambition, shifting deeper into left field and away from what grunge had came to be known as, in the mainstream at least. They went heavier and sludgier, proving to have more in common with doom metal than Lollapalooza. Still, predecessors like Kurt Cobain continued to site their influence and eventually, the mainstream took notice. By 1993, at the height of the grunge scene, the Melvins signed their first major label record deal with Atlantic Records, and recorded their masterpiece, Houdini.

Houdini was unique in several ways. Much to the band’s dismay, it will probably always serve as the go-to starting point for the band. Sure, earlier albums like Bullhead and Lysol are classics in their own right. But Houdini is the first creative peak in an ever-climbing career of innovation.

Originally set to be produced by Kurt Cobain, Houdini is one of the most primal and raw, sophisticated and heavy and underrated alternative releases of the 90’s. Kicking off with droning doom riff of “Hooch,” it is immediately evident that the Melvins were not going for the sounds of Nevermind or Ten, but something more along the lines of the first records from Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath. Signature sludge tracks like “Night Goat,” “Lizzy” and “Honey Bucket” serve as templates for nearly every doom, sludge and stoner rock act that followed, making even Kyuss sound like The Spin Doctors.

Houdini also has it’s share of quark. An unlikely cover of Kiss’ “Goin’ Blind” sounds nothing like the original, yet ultimately caught the eye of Gene Simmons, who often performed the track with the band during the time of its release. Tracks like “Sky Pup,” “Hag Me” and “Copache” are well representations of the band’s experimental side, an aspect of their sound they would also later explore and expand upon.

Commercially, the Melvins were never quite able to top the success of Houdini. Artistically, it was only a launching pad.

As fellow Seattle acts spend the later half of the 90’s and early 00’s dominating rock radio, the Melvins dug deeper into the underground, earning a very loyal following. Despite their lack of commercial exposure, critically acclaimed records like Stoner Witch and Honky resonating hard with their dedicated fan base.

By the late-90’s they were dropped from Atlantic Records but eventually signed to Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings. From there, a golden age of experimentation ensued. In 2003, they collaborated with ambient artist Lustmord for the Pigs of the Roman Empire LP and in 2004-05, they collaborated with Dead Kenndys frontman Jello Biafra and Tool guitarist Adam Jones for the LPs Never Breathe What You Can’t See and Seig Howdy! After a successful period of collaboration, they returned to their roots for the sludgy and trippy Senile Animal in 2007.

This year, the Melvins celebrate two milestones: The 20th anniversary of their landmark Houdini and 30th anniversary together. They chose to celebrate in true Melvins fashion by releasing two artistic achievements within the same year. Earlier this year, they dropped a collection of covers titled Everybody Loves Sausages featuring reworkings of tracks by artists as diverse as Queen, Venom, Throbbing Gristle, The Kinks, David Bowie and Lead Belly. Their latest jaw-dropper, Tres Cabrones, was released in October.

As the Melvins enter their fourth decade, they show no signs of slowing their innovative sound. That innovation has proven very influential, with sound that is impossible to properly categorize. Not only has Kurt Cobain and members of Tool announced their love for the trio, but contemporary players like Mastodon, Crowbar, EYEHATEGOD and The Dillienger Escape Plan have all sworn by the Melvins.

As trends came and went, artists risen and fallen, they continue forward, in a linear but upward direction, blowing minds and provoking thoughts at every peak.