NHC MUSIC Chats To The Melvins - Baz Bakunin / John Pringle

Earlier, on this very website, both Baz and John reviewed the excellent Glasgow show starring the Melvins and Redd Kross (Here is the article link here!), but not only did they grab a review of the night, they got to chat to The Melvins too! So check out what they had to say below;

John: How’s the tour going so far?

Buzz: Yeah, good. Just starting the European end of it and its been good so far.

John : Where have they been?

Buzz: Bristol and Leeds. So far so good.

John: Cool, how’s everyone taking the new record?

Buzz: Oh I dunno, you just gotta make em and send them out into the world and see what happens.

Baz; like having a kid.

Buzz: Yeah, you just hope for the best, its kinda outta my hands y’know.

Baz: When it’s done there is not much you can do about it.

Buzz: The thing is, once you make it you’re done with it, like we were done with this record last December/January and it didn’t come out til July, its new to everyone else but its not new to me.

Baz; You’re already thinking about the next one.

Buzz: Yeah yeah yeah. But that’s normal, by the time everybody hears it you’re well over it.

Baz: Does that get hard to deal with sometimes?

Buzz: You can’t be impatient.

John: How do you approach the song writing process, has it changed from back in the early days to now? Have you become more efficient?.

Buzz: We have recorded over 400 songs and I would say we have wrote 90% of them and we have done it in a wide variety of ways. I’ve written very quickly, I’ve written stuff that has sat for years before it ever got on record so people have this impression that if its on a new record then its brand new, sometimes it is but sometimes its old material that’s never been finished. I’ve said this before but its always interesting when people will say “I’m not sure if I like your new material, I like songs from such and such record”, well some of those songs were from that era. People have strange preconceived ideas about how things work. Often times they’re not right but that’s not for me to try fix.

John: Speaking of older stuff. The new record has euthanasia on it which was originally recorded for a Peel session in 91. Are there any other older songs you would consider bringing back out?

Buzz: Well that one had never been on an album and we started playing it live again and thought maybe we should record it, like a real recording. That’s it, that’s the only reason. Most of our stuff makes it to record but for some reason this didn’t til now, I dunno why, I think this is a better version anyway.

Baz; We are doing this interview on behalf of The New Hellfire Club which is a non profit promotions company dedicated to supporting local and upcoming bands so we were wondering, do you still get involved with your local scene?. Do you still go see bands play when you’re home?.

Buzz: Do I? Well I spend over 100 to 200 nights a year in music venues so not as much as I used too but when I am at home I do try to seek out new bands, and I have found that there are just as many interesting bands (to me) as there ever was. I don’t have a lot of patience for stuff that sounds like other stuff, so sometimes I see bands that are playing exactly like GBH or something a little 82 sounding and I just have no patience for that, but I never did. To me it was like going to see a rockabilly band in 1980 and thinking this was great 30 years ago. Which is fine, I don’t mind that. But I think its important for bands to be as peculiar as they can, be as weird as you can, be as individualistic as you can. Individuals are the biggest minority in the world.

Baz: That leads on to another question we wanted to ask. You are obviously in a position where you can make a living from being individual and are successful doing that. What advice would you give to a band starting out on how to hold on to their original concept without compromise?

Buzz: Well it didn’t happen right away for us. We started in about 83 and I was still having to make a living till the late 80s doing shit jobs until I was able to do music full time, and then when I was full time it just meant I was able to get by it wasn’t, you know, a good living. I had a bank account with enough money in it to pay my expenses for a couple of months, that sort of thing. We decided in 88 that while we had that money in the bank we would see what would happen if we devoted our time to making a living through music and we haven’t had to stop since then so that’s it. It doesn’t always mean you have a lot of money.

Baz: Just like any other job, but you get to do what you love?

Buzz: Yeah its fortunate, and it does get better. You go through, or at least we did, relatively disarming periods where your not overly sure that what you are doing is the right thing, cause not everyone has an understanding opinion of what you do. I just felt that what we were doing was right and I felt that there was not a lot of other things going around like what we were doing and I just felt it was good and if I liked it other people would like it, you know I don’t know what advice I would give to other bands other than that toughens you up. We were playing to relatively riotous crowds who hated us well into the 90s depending on who we were playing with I mean as late as 95, so more than 10 years of that sort of thing. So if you can navigate that sort of thing and not lose sight of what your doing and thats not an easy thing to do

Baz: And I guess stay firm in the belief in what your doing?

Buzz: Yeah there is a good quote in that movie apocalypse now, I don’t know where the quote is from originally but its when Dennis Hopper says when you can keep your head when all around are losing theirs and blaming you, then you know you’re alright. That’s tough to do, we have had lots of bad reviews and lots of horrendous audiences. I mean the music world came around to us, it wasn’t the other way around , but we are not hugely successful. We don’t sell billions of records or play gigantic shows.

Baz, But you are influential which is in a way better?

Buzz: Yeah that’s fine, but there is only so far that goes.

Baz: Influential doesn’t put food on the table?

Buzz: Monetising art is not the easiest thing to do under the present circumstances. Whether you are a painter or a sculpter. If you want to turn your art and turn into money it is not an easy thing. And you might be able to make it happen a few times but to then make it continue you end up pretty cagey.

John: Are there any newer bands that you like at the moment?

Buzz: We just toured with this band called Spotlight from the US that we like a lot and another band called Big Business from LA, who are not exactly new but we’ve played with them a few times and we like them.

Baz: That's two for the check out list, haven’t heard of any of them.

Buzz: Yeah, they are cool.

John: How have you managed to keep creative control? Especially when putting music out on a larger scale? Have you been influenced by anyone higher up in the music business food chain or have you managed to keep as much of your vision as possible?, cause I know a lot of bands who when they start to get the wider releases people start to have a wee word in their ear that maybe they should do this or that so that they are more commercially viable. How have you managed to stick to your own vision?

Buzz: You know I have often heard it said that bands were meant to do one thing or another, but I never really understood how anyone could do something that they didn’t feel right about and I never believed them when they did. I always felt they were lying cause it didn’t work, so its been my experience, certainly from watching other bands that no one does any thing they don’t wanna do. So if somebody says to them “if you do this you will be a big star”, and they’re like that could happen or it might not happen but I’m gonna continue doing this that could mean that you could be sacrificing whatever that they are offering you cause it could be the end of what it is that’s working for you at that moment. So its easy to say I wouldn’t compromise this I wouldn’t compromise that but when you’re in the position of say a guy in his mid 20s who’s got a wife, 2 kids, a house and responsibilities not unlike a normal middle class person would have then idea that he would steadfastly say I’m gonna do what I want to do and it might not work on a financial level, that’s a tough one. I have never been faced with that but you know, I can see why people would make the decision. It’s easy to say, but its a complicated issue and the devil is in the details of all that you know. So if someone was to say to you if you do this I will give you half a million but if you do this I will give you 5 thousand pounds, how many people are in a position or will say well I’m gonna stick with my creative vision, that doesn’t seem realistic to me. We’ve never been in the position where somebody has offered us a way of making a lot of money doing something different than what we are doing, we set out with a pre requisite with Atlantic records but we never thought it would work. We never thought we would sell millions of records so we just made the records we wanted to make with the idea that it wasn’t going to work. There was nothing to lose cause we didn’t have any faith in it anyway. We did the best we could, we did records that we liked and that we could live with. We never had any ideas that we would sell millions of albums, we just thought it would be a little road in what we are doing, a little speed bump and that would be interesting and fun. I wasn’t wrong and it wouldn’t hurt us. But then if its their big shout and they invest in it and its a lie and it doesn’t work out the way they want it to they are pretty devastated and there is no coming back from that. But if a label gave you 20 thousand pounds to do a record and you said well we don’t think it will sell so if we spend 5 thousand on it and we each take a little of the money that seems fine to me. That seems reasonable but most people don’t think along those lines. I’ve always worried where my next meal was gonna come from.

Baz - That’s us done!

Buzz: Thanks very much and thanks for the interest.