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Melvins Make a Different Kind of Movie Soundtrack

Jul. 11, 2017
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Photo Credit: Chris Casella

Reached at the decidedly non-rock star time of 7 a.m., Melvins vocalist/guitarist Buzz Osbourne, aka King Buzzo, is more than excited to talk about A Walk With Love and Death, the band’s recently released double album (“I do a lot of blow,” Osbourne jokes in explaining both his reputation as an early riser and as an animated interviewee). A Walk with Love and Death is the group’s first double album in their 34 years together. Yet the album also serves as another first for the hard-rock pioneers: The “Love” side of the album is the soundtrack to a Melvins-produced, Jesse Nieminen-directed short film. More than 20 albums into their career, a film soundtrack now has a place in their diverse catalog.

For Osbourne, the decision to work with film came easily. “Movies,” he explains, “are one of my passions and when I watch them I listen to the music and think about what I would do.” At the same time, Osbourne has little time for the traditional approach to soundtracks—and believed that the music he makes with the Melvins “is tailor-made for soundtracks.” Yet it wasn’t as if the band was attending red-carpet premieres and hanging out with Hollywood directors. “We didn’t know anyone who wanted us to do a soundtrack,” Osbourne admits. “And we certainly weren’t going to track anyone down.” Faced with such a dilemma, Osbourne, along with band members Dale Crover (drums) and Steven McDonald (bass), did what anyone well versed in the tenets of D.I.Y. would do. They decided to make the movie themselves.

The result is a 33-minute short film that Osbourne, with tongue firmly in cheek, describes as “Holy Mountain meets Mary Poppins.” If the soundtrack is any indicator, the film will be a chaotic affair: The “Love” side is a blur of recorded conversations, electronic blips and guitar noise. Asked if such sounds may turn off old and new Melvins fans alike, Osbourne is insistent that such concerns don’t influence his creative process, particularly when it comes to crafting music meant to speak to the youth market. “I don’t like young people,” Osbourne, who is now 53 years old, explains with a laugh. “I didn’t even like them when I was young.”

This does not mean that the band has gone out of their way to alienate listeners. In fact, the studio album component of A Walk With Love and Death—the “Death” side—is the band’s strongest showing since 2006’s (A) Senile Animal. From the slow burn of album opener “Black Heath” to the raging “Euthanasia,” the nine tracks on “Death” showcase three veteran musicians at the top of their respective games. As Osbourne notes in describing the relationship between “Love” and “Death,” the film soundtrack’s “weird shit is a way of cleansing your palate” while recording a more traditional album. And the band has employed this strategy to strong results before. Prick, the band’s 1994 collection of similarly experimental soundscapes, finds itself sandwiched between two of the band’s most inspired albums, Houdini (1993) and Stoner Witch (1994). A similar dynamic is at play with A Walk With Love and Death.

It is heartening to see a band continuing to look ahead at such a point in their career. “Our [back] catalogue is great,” Osbourne concedes, “but I don’t spend a lot of time revisiting it.” And while the band will continue to play fan favorites, Osbourne sees such songs as reference points, reflective of how he feels about them in the here and now and “how they can sound now, as opposed to how they sounded then.” At the same time, Osbourne is more concerned with what comes next for the band. “I have a plethora of nightmarish ideas on things we can and cannot do,” he concludes. Here’s hoping he’s right.

Melvins play Turner Hall Ballroom on Monday, July 24 at 8 p.m. with opener Spotlights.

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