DALE CROVER: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
I had to ask about the van. How could I not? The infamous eBay listing cropped up the very same day as my scheduled interview with Dale Crover. After quickly pointing out that the band “got rid of that thing a long time ago” and were in no way involved in this auction, the longtime Melvins drummer indicated that there was more to the ol’ Melvan than Kurt Cobain’s Kiss doodles.
[On] one of our first tours, we were in Florida at this laundromat, and there’s this lady in there with curlers in her hair. She saw us come in, saw the van and said, “Y’all are Kiss?” We said, “YEAH”, she said, “Well I was wondering what y’all looked like with out your makeup on. My little kids are scared of you because you have makeup on, but it’s great you guys are here.” Yeah, Kiss is there doing their laundry. But she believed it.
Throughout the band’s history, their humor and influence have only grown, inadvertently becoming living legends in the hard rock world. Yet talking to Crover, it’s clear the Melvins still see themselves as a working band, never content to rest on their laurels or get too comfortable. The unprompted string of exclusive reveals below regarding the band’s upcoming recording projects–which include new work with Jello Biafra, Scott Kelly, The Cows’ Kevin Rutmanis, and, oh, Dinosaur FUCKING Jr.–shows that, after decades of rocking the fuck out, these guys intend to keep on keepin’ on. In time for this week’s release of a free downloadable EP called The Bulls & The Bees, I got Crover to talk about that, the upcoming Melvins Lite album Freak Puke, side-projects like Shrinebuilder, and his thoughts on… Paul McCartney? Check it out.
You have this rabid collector fan base. What prompts the decision to release something for free?
Other than [Scion] asking us to do it? It seemed like a pretty good deal, we’ve done things with them in the past. They’ve sponsored shows of ours; we did a SXSW show four or five years ago. About a year and a half ago they did a remix of one of our songs off The Bride Screamed Murder. They commissioned us to do a video. They ended up liking the video a lot, we worked with this guy Mark Brooks who’s a guy we’ve known a long time he played in this band called Warlock Pinchers and he did this movie called Little Pimp… We’d been a fan of his for a long time. He actually works on Metalocalypse…
Mark came up with this idea to have a couple of kids play us. Pretty much because we don’t really want to be in a rock video. We really haven’t been able to do videos. There’s no budget for it and who’s going to play it? Besides putting it on YouTube, for us it’s kind of a waste of money. But these guys wanted to do it and since we like Mark a lot, we had him do it. So he came up with this idea to have kids play us in a video and it looks great. It’s really funny. I’m happy they’re at least willing to give us money to do something like that.
You’ve made three really great records with the Big Business guys. What was it like doing Freak Puke without having Coady Willis as a collaborator?
We made a lot of records without him! We really like playing with these guys and by all means we’re going to keep doing it. We always wanted them to continue Big Business even when they joined the band we decided that whenever they’re busy doing something that we would probably do something. So this makes it a bit different. We like to work and we need to. Everybody’s got a mortgage to pay.
I know you’ve worked with Trevor Dunn before in the Fantomas-Melvins Big Band, but how did you come together to do Melvins Lite?
We actually recorded a live record of Houdini with him. We’ve always liked playing with him; he did a tour with us while the Big Business guys were on the road we booked some shows for our 25th anniversary tour. We wound up playing the Houdini record and a whole other bunch of stuff with him. He was somebody we liked playing with and Buzz (Osborne) had seen him play with this guitar player Nels Cline playing stand up bass. Trevor comes from the jazz world. So Buzz saw him doing all this crazy stuff with an upright bass, we were like “God, we got to do something with him. Do a record with him and his stand up bass.” Actually the first thing we did just last summer, all the big business guys were on tour we ended up doing a tour with him as Melvins light. We figured since we had the smaller gear, it wasn’t the big band and he was playing stand up bass that’s what we would bill it as…
Next year we’re doing a tour as Melvins Lite. It’s great, there’s actually three different versions of the band. There’s also the 1983 Melvins with the original drummer [Mike Dillard]. I get to play bass. I get to play the part of Matt Lukin. We just recorded some new stuff with him too that will eventually be out. We just did four songs so it’ll just be an EP. We’ve been doing a ton of recording of various things, doing lots of covers. We’re going to be doing a lot of splits with people. We’re going to be doing some singles where we play with other people as well. We’ve recorded some Venom songs, with Scott Kelly from Neurosis singing and playing guitar. We’ve recorded a Roxy Music song with Jello Biafra with our old bass player Kevin [Rutmanis] playing. We just recorded some Queen songs with a friend of ours Caleb who’s in a band called Tweak Bird. We have a bunch of things planned along those lines. Some are not done yet, I won’t jinx it. We’re doing lots of things like that, lots of releases coming in the next few years.
That’s awesome. Last year you guys released a 7″ cover of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” and the live shows and that’s it.
There’s a live record that came out too, an official live record. The other ones were kind of more a limited edition release. A little over a year ago we did a residency at this club here in town called Spaceland, we did every Friday night for the whole month of January. To make each show different we needed to come up with something to make people come and see us more than just once or whatever. That’s when we decided we could do different records in their entirety. It seemed like it went over really good so that’s when we decided to do that tour and do like, two nights in certain cities. I think its a good idea it’s different than what we would than a regular live show and it makes it to where we can go out and keep playing some of the same places and people won’t get sick of it. People can’t say, “Oh they come here every year so I’m just going to skip it this time.”
Do you really think you have that problem? You have such a rabid fan base.
We usually don’t have problems in big cities like New York, Chicago or San Francisco. Most bands when they tour don’t play that same cities more than once a year. We knew this was going to come up, so that’s one of the reasons why.
It’s great to hear how productive you guys are and hear how much you have lined up in the can. I was pleased to hear you say that you’re working with Jello Biafra again. I asked him two years ago when you would be doing more stuff so I’m thrilled to hear it.
Hopefully we can do more. We really like Jello a lot too. It was fun to play with Kevin again. Hopefully someday we do play with Jello again. It would be a lot of fun playing live shows with him. I’m sure it’d be crazy. Hopefully it happens.
You also brought up Scott Kelly before. What’s going on with Shrinebuilder?
We have some new stuff we’re working on. We actually haven’t been able to get together for quite a while just because everybody’s been busy doing their own thing. Yeah we want to do another record and hopefully do more. That turned out pretty good for us. We really like playing with each other. I hope we can do another record at least. We’re down for it; it’s just a matter of everyone’s schedule.
In contrast to the times I saw you headline this past year, previously you guys opened for Down. That was such an interesting tour, definitely a different vibe.
For sure. A lot of the reasons we did that was because we figured they had an audience we would not normally play to. Certainly some Melvins fans came to that. At the time, we hadn’t really done much opening. It had been a long time. That again is like, we’d been doing headlining tours every year and we figured it was time to try something like that. It worked out really good. Those guys were probably one of the nicest bands that we’ve ever toured with as an opening act. Those guys are big fans of ours. They actually paid us really great. We’ve been in the opening slot before where the band’s crew just isn’t nice and you get attitude from those people, I don’t know why. I guess some of the roadies are frustrated musicians themselves and their band can’t do anything so they get reduced to being the roadie. Everyone in the Down crew were super nice people, it was definitely a pleasure to tour with those guys. Really fun.
I love what you did on the Lou Barlow record Goodnight Unknown.
He’s a friend of mine and we talked about maybe doing something in the future. One of the things we talked about doing one of those singles I mentioned with Dinosaur Jr. I think we’re doing Neil Young songs.
I saw J. Mascis cover “Cortez The Killer” at a Neil Young tribute concert and it was amazing.
Well, I know what songs we’re doing already and that isn’t one of them, only because that one might be hard to do. Also, the way we’re doing it is we’re recording our parts and then sending it to them and they record their parts on it. But we did do something off of Zuma. It’s a cover we used to do, not sure if you’d know that or not. We’ve been longtime Neil Young fans. Whether metal people will care about that or not, I don’t know.
You have been tagged with all these different tags over the years but you’re a rock band. A rock and roll band. Your cover selection have always reflected that, like “Detroit Rock City” or “Let Me Roll It,” the Wings cover on Freak Puke.
We’re certainly fans of all kinds of stuff, especially that kind of rock. We’ve always had a great time doing covers and have never been afraid to do them. That’s how I learned how to play. “Let Me Roll It” is my favorite Wings song. I always liked Lennon and Harrison’s stuff better but that song is great. I really like “Helter Skelter” and I think he’s an amazing bass player. If you listen to the bass on those Beatles records he’s great. That’s someone we’d like to play with. He can play bass in the band.
His last record was pretty poor. I think he’d benefit from having you guys around.
I think he’s doing OK though, unless he gets divorced again. I don’t know if it’ll help him financially but we’d play with him.
If Lou Reed can work with Metallica, why can’t Paul McCartney work with The Melvins?
People were kind of trashing that record but I thought it was one of the cooler things they’ve done in a long time. They don’t really need to do records with Rick Rubin. Those guys are set. They can afford to do something weird. I think it’s really cool.
What’s interesting is that when that record came out, there were people that were completely against it from the start but Metallica were so proud of what they did they put out two discs worth of content.
That’s great. Hooray for those guys.
Speaking as a Lou Reed fan, it’s one of the more interesting things he’s done over the past decade. He needed a backing band like that.
It made them interesting again. I haven’t really been following those guys. They were a band I really liked a lot when I was 16. But yeah, thought it was cool. They did something cool.
Any last words for the MetalSucks readers?
Listen to Neil Young.