Exclusive: The Melvins’ Buzz Osborne Addresses the Controversy Surrounding His 2018 Interview With Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes
If you’re a Melvins fan who has spent any time on social media recently, chances are you’ve seen a whole lotta brouhaha surrounding frontman Buzz Osborne and a 2018 interview he did with Gavin McInnes.
McInnes is one of the co-founders of Vice Media (he left that company in 2008) and, far more disturbingly, a co-founder of the militant all-male hate group The Proud Boys. Fans are understandably alarmed that Osborne would even participate in an interview with McInnes, with some re-evaluating the band’s past use of provocative Nazi imagery in light of his discussion with a known far-right agitator.
But many have also taken offense at statements made during that interview. Others allege that any comments regarding the interview left on the band’s social media pages have been deleted:
Yet other fans have accused Buzz and/or the Melvins of having a McInnes clip someone posted to YouTube removed. But a representative for the band points out that “That’s actually not possible, you cannot have a [YouTube] clip removed just because you’d like it to disappear. It was automatically removed due to a copyright violation because an Atlantic-era song was played in the intro.”
We spoke to Osborne about the controversy yesterday (August 13), and while you may not like the man’s politics, it is difficult to argue that he’s a hate-monger.
First, some context.
The interview with McInnes, which MetalSucks has viewed in full, covers a wide range of topics.
During the discussion with McInnes, Osborne identifies himself as a “classical liberal” and “reactionary libertarian” who is “pro-death penalty, pro-abortion.” When McInnes suggests that being right wing is, in the view of the left, “worse than being a pedophile,” Osborne agrees, “Yeah, probably.” He also concurs with McInnes’ assertion that “concerned citizens” are like “the Gestapo” with regards to the suppression of free speech (a popular claim which relies upon a basic misunderstanding of what free speech is).
Elsewhere in the interview, Osborne asserts (incorrectly) that Nazis are socialists:
“You know how many people don’t know that the word ‘Nazi’ has ‘socialist’ in it? ‘The National Socialist Party.’ [People say] ‘Well that’s a different kind of socialism.’ Well you don’t just get to change the rules… Nazis are socialists… ‘right-wing Nazis’ is an oxymoron.”
The guitarist/vocalist goes on to bemoan the Hollywood movie industry’s ever-increasing dedication to diversification and representation:
“We just went and saw A Wrinkle in Time, which is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. And their main focus in that movie was that they were diverse. They were diverse in every single way from the crew down to the people [in the movie]… and what happened? The movie was crap, because what they forgot was there’s a reason why original Hollywood, [which] was all based in wanting to make money, hired people that knew what they were doing — because they would make good movies… I appreciate Hollywood when it was more cutthroat and only interested in profits, because the work was better. ‘Oh look, I get a really diverse movie.’ Who cares about that?”
Osborne then argues that “diversity has never been proven to make anything better as far as art’s concerned,” and says he will not let critics “paint me with your collective guilt.”
He also expresses distaste for Barack Obama and seems to defend George W. Bush:
“Oh, you hated George Bush Jr., you hated his guts, you wanted him out of office, you’re freaking out you’re freaking out you’re freaking out. So what do we get? We get a do-nothing stiff for eight years. And then after that what do we get? Trump. Okay, so if you hate Trump, why don’t you apologize to the American people for being such an idiot when George Bush was president?”
Additionally, Osborne takes time out of the chat to sing the praises of Thomas Sowell, an African-American, pro-Trump economist who is a member of the right wing think tank Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. This is not the first time Osborne has expressed admiration for Sowell; the same year he did the interview with McInnes, he appeared on Fox News’ The One with Greg Gutfeld (below) to discuss Sowell’s 2008 book, Economic Facts and Fallacies, in which the author argues that economic disparities between women and minorities and white males are not the result of systematic discrimination.
For some fans, Osborne’s comments put the Melvins’ past work in a new light.
In 2000, they released The Trilogy Vinyl — a compilation of their albums The Maggot, The Bootlicker, and The Crybaby — which included picture discs on which sides A and B of each album featured contrasting images: a swastika and a Star of David, the Black Panthers emblem and the KKK’s logo, and a crucifix and pentagram.
Meanwhile, the cover of their 2011 live box set, Endless Residency, features a Totenkopf, or “Death’s Head” — the skull image utilized by the Nazis. The symbol is still used by many modern groups.
Original CD pressings of the Melvins’ 2001 album, Electroretard, also included an image of a rabbit in a Nazi uniform with a Hitler-style mustache, as well as a special thanks to “A. Hilter” in the liner notes. In a 2002 interview with Thrasher, Osborne called the inclusion of the deliberately-misspelled name “a dumb joke,” while bassist Kevin Rutmanis pointed out that it was a reference to an old Monty Python sketch.
Then there’s this vintage promo photo, which has also been making the rounds online:
Which brings us back to Osborne himself. When we spoke to him yesterday, he was fairly even-handed about all the drama. Here are some excerpts from our chat:
On fans’ comments about the interview being deleted from their social media account:
First off, it’s not just comments, it’s people who are saying all kinds of horseshit — nasty stuff that isn’t true. That stuff that gets deleted… it’s our site, we don’t allow people to come on there and spout a bunch of slanderous shit that isn’t true. We don’t allow it. Other people might think that’s okay, I don’t think that’s okay. I would assume if I went on MetalSucks and started talking a bunch of fucking stuff that isn’t true at all, saying this kinda stuff about you guys, you wouldn’t dig it.
We are running a business here. And to have people come on it and say that kind of stuff… I mean, if you wanna say our stuff sucks, that’s fine. You wanna come on there and say that I’m a fucking Nazi, you can kiss my ass. That’s it. Because that is absolutely not true. None of it’s true. To me, that is slanderous bullshit. If I did that to somebody, I’d expect them to be completely fucking insanely mad about it, especially if it’s not true. I think I’ve acted relatively with restraint.
You go [online] and accuse people of shit and then expect nothing back? That’s some fucking balls. That’s crazy… that’s where we’re at right now. People can think that they can just do whatever they want, say whatever they want, and there should be no reaction whatsoever from people. That’s not me. I hear this stuff, and I’m like an elephant, I never forget.
On his relationship with Gavin McInnes:
I have zero relationship with Gavin McInnes. I never talked to him prior to the interview, I did the interview, I have never spoken to him since. I have no idea [about] anything about him… as a matter of fact, if you had him in front of me with five other guys, I couldn’t pick him out of a line-up.
Did he know about McInnes’ association with The Proud Boys prior to the interview?
I didn’t know about The Proud Boys until last week. I’d never even heard of them until this stuff [about his interview] came out. I had no idea what they were, I had never heard of them. No clue. Nothing.
Remember, this interview was two-and-a-half years ago. So the interview itself is one of literally hundreds I’ve done since then. And believe it or not, not one single time do I ever do background checks on anyone I was doing an interview with. Like, I didn’t do a background check on you. I have no idea where you stand politically, if you’ve been arrested… I have no idea. I don’t do that kinda stuff. Nor will I ever do that kinda stuff. When I do an interview, I am solely there to promote myself and my band. That’s it.
On how he ended up doing the interview:
I don’t even really know how it came up, but I thought this was some dude from Vice Magazine. At the time, I think he [had already left Vice], but I didn’t know that. So when it came across to me, it was, “Oh okay, some guy that started Vice.” I was vaguely aware of Vice… I still to this day am not really aware of Vice too much, I’ve never really paid attention to their magazine. Not that I think it’s bad or good, I just haven’t — there’s not a lot of those kinds of publication that I do pay a lot of attention to.
For instance, let’s say something like, “Oh some guy from Rolling Stone wants to do an interview with you on his podcast.” I would say, “Okay, sounds great.” I wouldn’t go, “Well what’s his deal?”
As it turns out, McInnes didn’t have anything to do with Vice at that point, but that never occurred to me, nor did I know it.
And if you listen to [the interview]… Well, I actually haven’t listened to it or watched it, but I know I didn’t say anything inflammatory. Nor would I. I’m not in favor of Nazis. I’m not in favor of white supremacy. I’m not in favor of hate groups. I’m not in favor of any form of political violence along those lines whatsoever. I could not be less for that. I hate that kinda stuff.
On his feelings regarding violent, militant hate groups like The Proud Boys:
I am not in support of any kind of extremist hate group in any way. Nothing. I have zero support for any of that stuff. I do not like that kinda stuff…. I don’t care what side you’re on — if you are involved in a group that promotes hatred or violence or looting or anything of that nature, I am against it.
In the current climate we’re in, I am against the police. I am also against looting and rioting. I don’t believe in that sort of thing. I think it’s a horrible thing to do. I think there’s other ways you can accomplish the same types of thing. If what you wanna do is go out and burn and loot and riot or terrorize someone, you’ve lost me.
Black Lives Matter and all those people had me with fucking over the cops. They lost me with the rioting and the looting and the terrible stuff that’s going on. I’m not into that at all. I think if you go out and destroy someone’s property or wreck a business, you’ve lost me. Whatever your purpose was, I don’t hear it — all I see is someone who’s just acting out in a way that I think is absolutely atrocious, and I have no interest in it. I don’t care if I agree them… I don’t like that sort of stuff. I could not be less in favor of that.
On the promotional photo in which the band is giving the Nazi salute:
You gotta remember with that picture, that’s really taken out of context… I don’t really remember exactly what we were doing, but I think that we were imitating [British comedian] Benny Hill.
You gotta remember, with press — you guys should know this — if I go out and take bunch of pictures of you doing who knows what all day long, I can find one that makes you like you’re doing something bad. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s a joke or not a joke. People like Monthy Python and Benny Hill [did] that same exact kinda thing for years.
The other thing is, remember, I am English, Italian, and Jewish. What part of me would be Nazi? Where do you think the Jew ‘fro comes from? The idea that I would be involved with white supremacy is absurd.
On the cover of Endless Residency:
There’s no swastikas, there’s nothing like that on there, there’s nothing promoting [Nazism]. It’s just a skull. That’s it. If people wanna associate that with Nazism, every skull could be. I like skull imagery. I like all that stuff. It doesn’t scare me.
And then the fact that I’m a Jew anyway, even if that was the angle we were going through, ironic and weird… that’s a part of our whole deal. We’re a band called the Melvins. [laughs] It’s like, C’MON, y’know? We’re not called Satanic Death. We’re the Melvins. That’s by design. We wanna make you think. We don’t sound like what our name sounds like. That’s on purpose.
On the importance of talking to people with whom you disagree:
With Gavin McInnes… I didn’t know any of that stuff when I went in, nothing. But let’s say I did know about it. Well, that would have given me something to talk to him about. There’s no reason to believe that I wouldn’t be an influence on him. When I’m talking to someone straight across… like right now, I’m influencing your opinion of what I did by talking to you about it. Because I went on that show doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It doesn’t mean anything. I didn’t know any of that stuff. Had I known it, I would have conducted myself differently during the interview, but I probably still would have done it. Because it’s like… my opinion needs to be heard on these sorts of things.