Melvins' Buzz Osbourne: My Life in 10 Songs

Buzz Osbourne 2023
(Image credit: Chris Casella)

It's been 40 years since Buzz Osbourne formed Melvins in high school, but their impact can be found across the rock, punk and metal spectrum. Cited as an influence by everyone from Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain - who tried to join the band early in his career - to bands including Tool, Faith No More, Mastodon and beyond, their career has seen them broadly fall under everything from punk and grunge to sludge metal and stoner. 

While they may have had flirtations with major labels in the post-Nirvana grunge boom of the early 90s, Buzz has no regrets on how his career has shaped up. "I'm very happy with what I've got, rather than what I've should have gotten," the singer explains. With 26 albums under their belt, there's no shortage of material for Buzz to pick from when it comes to telling their incredible story, but these are the 10 songs he feels tell it best. "I think if you combine all these things together and play these 10 tracks, you get a good sense of where we're coming from."

Metal Hammer line break

1. Night Goat (Night Goat 7-inch, 1992)

"We recorded Night Goat as a seven inch before we released it on Houdini, and people actually argue about which version is better, which is kinda arbitary. We were already making a living playing music long before the grunge explosion and we got signed to Atlantic - I haven't had another job since 1988. We never felt like 'well this is it' though, I figured it was a one album thing and they'd be done with us, but we ended up doing three albums. The whole thing was a very strange experience. I was told we were signed to Atlantic to entice other cool bands, but I couldn't tell you who that would be for. I just thought it was ironic having a band like us on Atlantic with bands like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Aretha Franklin. 

I actually remember exactly where I was when I wrote that song; it was the early 90s in San Francisco.  I was staring at the fish tank on the edge of my bed listening to music, and the riff just popped straight into my head. I used to record them onto this casette deck and I knew right away it was a great riff. More recently, Rolling Stone named it number 46 on the Greatest Metal Songs of all time, so that's pretty interesting - I mean, I didn't know Rolling Stone still listened to music!"

2. Revolve (Stoner Witch, 1994)

"I was in a hotel in San Francisco near the zoo when I wrote Revovle. We were there for a few days and I could hear the monkeys in the monkey house freaking out. I was sat there listening and wrote this riff. Mark Deutrom [Melvins bassist from 1993 to 1998] helped with the last riff and it came out really good. It was probably as close to something we could give Atlantic that they could sell, and it just didn't work. It was like, 'well there's not much more for you'. 

But most bands in that position will go, 'well what do we need to do to sell a bunch of records?' and they'll tell you. But that's never been us. I don't do too well with dictation, there's this thing Johnny Rotten said about Public Image once - 'when they dictate, we cease to function' and that's pretty much it. I don't wanna ask what we have to do to make this work - I just want to work!"

3. Youth Of America (Electroretard, 2001)

"Wipers were a big deal for me. I saw them quite a few times on the Youth Of America album and On The Edge. I think they're one of the most underrated and under-heralded bands out there ever. Wipers is not good time music, but at that point, if you saw them live they were one of the most powerful and devastating bands I ever saw. 

We took on that song and wanted to cover it, played it a lot for a long time, and it became a fun song to play. Part of their problem, without knowing, is that their singer could be a bit... wacky, to put it politely, and nobody knew how to deal with that. Nevertheless, those records are incredibly important to me. " 

4. Melvins & Lustmord - Bloated Pope (Pigs Of The Roman Empire, 2004)

"We were recording the Jello Biafra record [2004's Never Breathe What You Can't See] but he never gets to the studio until late afternoon. We'd got that studio booked, so it became like 'well, we can work on Melvins stuff before he gets there'. We recorded the whole record before Jello got there, basically! It was just me and Dale [Crover, drums], because Kevin [Rutmanis, bassist from 1998 to 2005] hadn't arrived yet either. We had the whole thing written, learned and recorded between the hours of nine in the morning and two in the afternoon. When Kevin came in we showed him and he was like 'oh man, I wish I played on this one!' 

I think it's pretty incredible. Dale does this staggered drum thing at the start by mistake and I was like 'leave it in!' and it came out so fast. Sometimes you get a better performance if you don't flog it to death in a rehearsal studio. It's usually my idea to work with other artists - the more you can do, the better. Pearl Jam did a Neil Young record... they should do more!"

5. Melvins & Jello Biafra - Halo of Flies (Sieg Howdy!, 2005)

"We've actually done a new version of Halo Of Flies on our acoustic album, Five Legged Dog. What actually got Jello interested in us in the first place was seeing us live, because before that he didn't like us, but then we did a cover of Halo Of Flies live and he couldn't believe it, like, 'the fact you even played the whole song!', because it's a really complicated song to play. 

The first five or six Alice Cooper records are among my favourite rock music ever made, and that song in particular was one of their best. They're highly sophisticated musically, very clever, but its just wonderful music. As a kid at 12, I was intrigued by that whole scary outlook, but it wouldn't have made an impact like it did if they didn't have the songs, and thankfully they did. Plus they drove a steak through the heart of the peace and love generation. He's a hate hippy! 

When we were figuring out what songs to do on the acoustic record, it was like 'we should do Halo Of Flies' and I think it came out really, really good. Now I wanna play an acoustic version of it live!"

6. Blood Witch ((A) Senile Animal, 2006)

"Blood Witch was a super complicated song, it might even be my favourite song on (A) Senile Animal. I was very happy those guys were able to play it, because it took a long time to figure out the odd time signatures and odd things we had the drummers [Dale Crover and Coady Willis] doing. It came out really good and we got to play it live, but I think that's my proudest moment on that record."

7. Civilised Worm ((A) Senile Animal, 2006)

"Civilised Worm was an interesting one, because it got this reaction from Jared [Warren, Big Business vocalist who was then recording bass and guitars with Melvins] that no other song got. We took it to him and he was like 'that's a really good song!', real excited. There's odd time signatures again and the music under the vocals are really weird to play, like it feels like it shouldn't work but it does. 

It came out great. I loved everything about that song, and we played it on tour a couple years back. It's an odd rock song, if I had to describe it. I grew up isolated in a very small town with nobody showing me music, so when I discovered punk music I never knew that liking the Damned, Sex Pistols and The Clash alongside Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones was a bad idea! We've never lost that."

8. We Are Doomed (The Bulls & Bees, 2012)

"We Are Doomed is an odd arrangement - it'd definitely be in the top ten songs I've ever written. I really like the lyrics, they're very self depreciative, which is fun. I don't know if people really noticed this song, but I really did and it was a big deal for me at the time. I think it's a sad song in many ways too."

9. Sway (Five Legged Dog, 2021)

"I'm a huge Rolling Stones fan, which a lot of people can't figure out. To me it's just like, 'you need to come down off your high horse'. The Who, Stones and Throbbing Gristle all fit together! Sway is an odd cover, coming off Sticky Fingers. I knew Steven [Shane McDonald, current Melvins bassist] would be able to sing it good, so we did it a bunch live before we recorded the acoustic version and I think we'll put it in the set again some time.

Most people don't even realise it's a Stones song, because it's not a big hit. But I think personally, Sticky Fingers is one of the best rock records ever made - there's no duds and it's got a tonne of dynamics on the whole thing. That song on the mid-tempo, it's kind of sad too about horrible stuff happening to people. 'Demon Life, got you in its sway' you know? I love the Stones; if you don't like that record, you just don't like rock music! Open your mind."

10. Never Say You're Sorry (Bad Mood Rising, 2022)

"We played Never Say You're Sorry before Bad Mood Rising had even come out and it went over really well. It's a great song and I can see it being in our sets for a long time. There are odd tunings, and me and Steven did demos for all of that before we recorded it, which is odd because we don't usually do that. I really like the way it came out, and it was a really challenging vocal part, especially live, which felt pretty good. I really like the guitar solo too, which has an excessive amount of wah wah on." 

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.