Fear, Emptiness, Decibel: the Melvins’ Stoner Witch Inducted Into The Hall of Fame!
Before there were blogs there were these things called magazines, and the only metal magazine we still get excited about reading every month is Decibel. Here’s managing editor Andrew Bonazelli…
We’ve interviewed Buzz Osborne about toys, golf, baseball and his legendarily sprawling and idiosyncratic Melvins discography. He is a man who does not revert to the company line, always offering original, honest and occasionally hilariously caustic observations. And there are plenty to choose in the Stoner Witch Hall of Fame that anchors August’s “Noise” issue. I prefer the following passage (bear in mind that the record came out in the middle of the band’s bizarre mid-’90s major label tenure on Atlantic):
“The guy in the radio department at Atlantic basically told us that we could just forget about getting a single on the radio, because the label wasn’t prepared to line a lot of pockets, and the only chance we’d have was to do an edit for radio. I never had any faith in the idea that cutting a few seconds out of a song would make it more appealing for radio. Of course, it didn’t do anything. Think about it for a second. If you’re working in the radio department at Atlantic and you had a Stone Temple Pilots record and a Melvins record, which one would you put money into? The Stone Temple Pilots made a record that sounded exactly like Pearl Jam, who had already sold millions of records. If you’re just going from a strict business standpoint, you spend the money on the radio-friendly wounded junkie band.”
See, that’s what makes Buzz so much fun. He doesn’t traffic in bitterness or spite, although his candor is often misconstrued as that—he just presents a logical appraisal: you always invest in the “wounded junkie” band. As for Stoner Witch itself, it’s more recognizably “rock” than the average Melvins record—triumphantly so—but never at the expense of shedding the band’s willful eccentricity. Back in 1995, the band settled into A&M Studios in Hollywood alongside Garth “GGGarth” Richardson and Joe Barresi to capture most of the record’s tracks in single takes. All haste, no waste. It was the closest Melvins came to a brass ring they had no interest whatsoever in grasping. Come on ride the Goose Freight Train, hey, ride it. In the meantime, a few words about the HOF from the piece’s author, Nick Green.
Ten years ago, I got to work on an oral history of Melvins for Decibel, spanning the first two decades of the band’s existence, and spent something like 20 hours on the phone talking to Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover, as many bassists as I could track down (Joe Preston, Mark Deutrom, Kevin Rutmanis, David Scott Stone), and a who’s who of musicians and artists closely associated with the band’s career. That piece ran in Decibel #003 (!), back when we really didn’t know what we were doing. Fun facts about that feature: Albert Mudrian pinch-hit interviewing Jello Biafra, which he still remembers fondly as one of the WORST experiences in his life, and Decibel All-Star Zach Smith transcribed half of the cassettes when he was acting as the magazine’s first intern.
Almost instantly, we started getting requests from readers for a Melvins HOF. For years, the company policy was always to just say, “That’s a good idea, but check out the Melvins oral history we did in 2004!” I would venture to say that a Melvins Hall of Fame is actually the most requested feature ever—we have been fielding (and ignoring) a steady stream of requests for almost TEN FUCKING YEARS in person and on every form of social media known to man. The tipping point was when Albert and Andrew did an AMA on Reddit last fall and someone wrote in to request—wait for it—a Stoner Witch Hall of Fame. The next day, I was furloughed from my day job and I emailed Albert and said, “Fuck it, we’re doing this.” The whole thing came together really quickly. Mark D. required a little convincing, but all three of these guys are charmers. Their chemistry is especially evident in Stoner Witch.
One last question everyone keeps asking: “Why not some other Melvins record?” One thing I learned while putting together the Melvins oral history in Decibel #003 is that Lori Black has not done any interviews since her departure from the Melvins, and isn’t interested in revisiting that difficult chapter in her life. She declined very politely when asked. So, that knocked stuff like Gluey Porch Treatments, Eggnog and my own favorite, Bullhead, off the list. Contrary to popular opinion, Lori really didn’t play on Houdini—it’s basically a Buzz and Dale affair—but guys, that album is not that great. Lysol? Also a good choice, but former dB contributor Chris Weingarten already wrote a long piece on that for the Village Voice (Google it). Which brings us back to Stoner Witch. Those requests for a Melvins HOF we got bombarded with? 95 percent of them were for Stoner Witch. The people have spoken, and we listen when you tell us to do things. Sometimes it just takes us, like, a decade to come around.