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Here's some trivia. Question: Who was in Kurt Cobain's first band? Who did some kind of Jedi punk shit that influenced the later sounds of both Nirvana and Mudhoney? Who hired Jello Biafra and Shirley Temple's daughter to play in his band? Who has the raddest sideways electro-puff afro? Who started the Melvins, a hilariously under-recognized but truly seminal Washington rock band?
Answer: Buzz Osborne, a.k.a. King Buzzo. Yeah, all of it.
Calling from somewhere between New Orleans and Houston, Buzz reports that 60 shows in, the Melvins' longer-than-normal tour is going well. But who could possibly be attending these shows? It seems unlikely that the sludgey-scawy punk metal of the Melvins is drawing in their graying, first-gen college rock fans, now of an age that isn't as conducive to show-going. "The audience stays the exact same age. They do." Buzz remarks. So how do Spin subscribers find out about the band? Did Kurt wear a Melvins shirt on national television or something? "The Internet, probably. That's how everybody finds out about everything. Me included."
The Melvins might be just as famous for getting shafted by the media after the Seattle grunge-splosion as they are for their influence. Unsurprisingly for an alt icon worth his salt, Buzz doesn't seem to care. "Our stuff's not anywhere near that commercial-sounding. It doesn't surprise me. [The other bands] cited us as influences; I don't really hear it, personally. I guess maybe to some degree, but we're not a hit singles band. Even if we wanted to be, it wouldn't work out. We have too much sense. Too much musical sense to let something like that happen."
To let what happen, exactly? "If I set out to write some hit single, I wouldn't be able to do it. I can't write stuff that sounds stupid, generally. Even if I wanted to do it, I wouldn't be able to."
King Buzzo's laid-the-fuck-back drawl betrays his apparent enthusiasm for the current incarnation of the band. "We have a whole new lineup. Well, half the band is new. It's going good so far." The new half consists of Coady Willis and Jared Warren of Big Business, who also serve as the tour openers.
Like a lot of veteran rock bands with profuse output (the new album, A Senile Animal, is the latest in a loooong line of releases), the Melvins, or at least Buzz, see the new record as just another star in the band's constellation. Buzz says, "You try to do something that is interesting to you at the moment, in conjunction with everything else you've done. That's kind of what we've always thought." No mission statements or new aesthetics, then. But what use could those be to an essential progenitor of grunge and alternative rock? Exactly.
The Melvins with Big Business at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com. Sat., 9 p.m. $13. 21+.