At first, Buzz "King Buzzo" Osborne of the Melvins seems like one of the least likely candidates for releasing an acoustic album. And yet the guitarist's unplugged solo release This Machine Kills Artists (Woody Guthrie famously etched the words "This Machine Kills Fascists" into his guitar in 1941) starts to make sense considering the path of the Melvins. The musicians have compiled a discography of over 30 live and studio records, plus obscure singles, all of which have shown their absolute dedication to doing whatever the hell they want, damn the consequences. Given the no-rules attitude, it really isn't any surprise that King Buzzo would have a record like this in him. While van-bound en route from LA to Fresno, Osborne took the time to chat about the record, the scourge of mediocre pop and KISS.
The title of the record is a nod toward Woody Guthrie, but that's about where the similarities end. This isn't your dreadlocks, tie-dyed, folkie/populist solo record, right?
Buzz Osborne: I would say I'm trying to drive a stake through the heart of that. That's what I'm trying to do, I'm trying to kill it.
Is that what you mean about the "Kills Artists" part of it?
BO: Maybe, I don't know. I mean, nobody asked Woody Guthrie what he meant, they had no idea what he meant. We don't even know what machine he's talking about. What would Woody think, you know?
If I made a record that sounded like kumbaya bullshit, everyone would hate it. If I made a record that sounded like Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie everyone would hate it. I already know that, so I don't have any misconceptions about that.
Did you ever consider doing a "solo" record where you would play other instruments besides just the guitar?
BO: My intention all along was to do an acoustic album, that was what I wanted to do from top to bottom. That was my goal. And I think it's a success. It's an interesting record all the way through, which is hard to do on an acoustic. If they were Melvins songs they would be much more involved, I'd have a lot more to work with. I was not thinking in terms of drumming or bass playing or anything else. I never would have written songs like that for the Melvins. They might have been parts of songs, but they certainly never would have sounded like that. I have to fill up all that space with one guitar and one voice, which is tough to do.
Do you think you would ever make like Prince and play and record all the instruments yourself?
BO: Well, you know, if I want to be like Prince and make mediocre-sounding pop crap records, sure. That's what he does. For some reason people like that stuff and I've never understood it. He's supposedly an amazing guitarist . . . compared to what, you know? Compared to who? If I was gonna write down a list of guitarists who are my favorites he wouldn't even be in my top thousand ... It's like elevator mall music. My mom could tap her foot to it. I don't want to hear the sound of doves crying, I want to hear the sounds of doves dying.
King Buzzo was shelved at our local music store next to the latest KISS greatest hits compilation. Given your history covering KISS tunes and mimicking album covers, what's your official take on Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer dressing as Ace Frehley and Peter Criss after they left the band?
BO: I couldn't care less. As far as I can tell, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are fucked-up alcoholic junkie guys. So I don't think Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley should let those two fuck-ups ruin them. Why should they? Okay, they chose to be alcoholics and fuck-ups, now in doing that they have to face the consequences. Gene Simmons didn't do it, why should he face the consequences? That's what I think!
I'm with you, man.
BO: I think they should be able to do whatever they want. I don't fault them at all for it. It's bullshit music, no one cares. It's not overly important. No music is. Music is an extra. It's an extra thing you do in your life. It's not really important. So I take stuff like that with a grain of salt.
I was looking at your tour itinerary, and it seems many of the venues you are playing are smaller ones you probably haven't played in a while.
BO: Some of them, yes, that's true. You know I gotta go out and sell this thing! I don't know what's gonna happen, I have no idea. I feel like, in a lot of ways, I'm a new band, just starting out, and I need to go out and get my feet wet. So I'll feel a lot more comfortable about this thing when I've done about 100 shows. When I have 100 shows under my belt I'll feel like I've seen it all. That's what I want.
King Buzzo plays the Palace Mon., June 23, at 9 PM. $17/$15 advance at Rockin Rudy's.