Just Buzzo and his Guitar — an interview with the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne

July 1, 2014
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It’s incredibly difficult to start a band and make a career out of it, let alone keep that band productive and relevant for thirty straight years, but somehow Buzz Osborne has been able to do that with Melvins. The ever productive King Buzzo recently released This Machine Kills Artists, his first solo acoustic album, on Ipecac Records. As innovative and bold as you’d expect from the Melvins bandleader, this batch of songs sounds unlike any acoustic LP you’ve ever heard.

To support the record, Osborne is touring the country, playing venues with nothing but a microphone and an acoustic guitar in order to replicate the intimate mood of This Machine… Listening to Buzz talk about the album and the subsequent tour, it’s obvious that he is a man willing to push himself and his art. King Buzzo performs at Small’s on Wednesday, July 2.

MT: Do you have any specific memories of playing Detroit?

Buzz Osborne: We’ve played so many shows there, it’s hard to say. We love it there. It’s great and it’ll be a lot of fun. The fans are always great. Everyone is really cool.

MT: How is the tour going?

Buzz Orborne: So far, so good! I mean, it’s a hard sell. I have an acoustic guitar and I expect people to come and see me play it. I know that’s a lot to ask of people. I’m really happy that people are showing up. I’m sure Detroit will be no different. It’ll be great. It’ll be a blast.

MT: How have the crowds been as far as interaction?

Buzz Osborne: I haven’t had any troubles. I appreciate all the input I can get from people. It’s a brand new thing for me. So, it’s all been good. No worries.

MT: How does performing alone compare to with a band?

Buzz Osborne: Oh… Well, I don’t have anything to hide behind. You know? I’m out there by myself. I’ve got to make it work! I’m up to the challenge. I’m not afraid.

MT: Not to mention the sonic differences…

Buzz Osborne: Oh… You better believe it! It’s a lot different. I’ll do my best, you know, but I’m still learning

MT: Are all the venues more intimate on this tour?

Buzz Osborne: Well, I’m playing the same place the Melvins play in Detroit, you know, Small’s. I played the Hawthorne Theatre. I played the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, where the Melvins play, so some. If you go to a city like Bozeman or Billings, Montana or Missoula, you pretty much take what you can get. I’m playing Dover, New Hampshire. What do you imagine that’s going to be like?

MT: I think Small’s is a good fit for this tour.

Buzz Osborne: It’ll be great. We always have a great time in Detroit. I have no fear of playing in Detroit.

MT: The album has an intimate mood but still feels as confrontational as the Melvins. Were you going for any specific feeling in the recording process?

Buzz Osborne: No, I really wanted it to be if you like the Melvins, you’ll like this equally because I write all the Melvins songs. It was a lot of fun. I wanted it to be a powerful record, which is hard to do with just acoustic guitar and vocals. I worked on it really hard and I think it came out great. For my first acoustic record, I’m very proud of it.

MT: The music on the album has droning qualities as well as layers of melody and aggression…

Buzz Osborne: As all good music should! (Laughs)

MT: Did you draw from different influences than you would writing Melvins songs?

Buzz Osborne: No, not really. My main focus on this was to make it work with way less instrumentation. That was the hard part. That was the biggest thing. My influences are the same as they’ve ever been and it’s endless. There’s no way to even know what you’re pulling from. It could be just every day, normal sounds or what you had for lunch.

MT: What are your plans for after the tour?

Buzz Osborne: There’s a Melvins album that comes out in early October, and we’re going to do some shows starting October 15, but we’re not coming to Detroit. We will soon though!

King Buzzo plays at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 2 at Small’s, 10339 Conant, Hamtramck, 313-873-1117; $16.

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