Headed back to town for what’s become an almost-annual gig at Grumpy’s in downtown Minneapolis, Buzz Osborne couldn’t say enough nice things about the Twin Cities. Except when he faulted us for not saying enough nice things about Tom Hazelmyer.
“You guys don’t give him enough credit,” the underground Seattle area rock hero said of Hazelmyer, who co-owns Grumpy’s as well as the cult-revered noise-punk label Amphetamine Reptile.
“He’s the unheralded king of Minneapolis. He’s such a creative force, doing so many weird, inventive things. It’s almost like people in Minneapolis won’t fully appreciate him until he’s not doing those things anymore.”
Local fans certainly appreciate the parking-lot music festivals Hazelmyer has hosted behind Grumpy’s in recent summers. The latest one, Bash 17, takes place Saturday with a lineup including the Melvins’ Seattle cohorts Mudhoney and Lydia Lunch, both rarely seen of late — unlike the Melvins.
Widely known as the guy who mentored Kurt Cobain and influenced many other musicians in Seattle’s late-’80s heyday, Osborne has kept the guttural, freaky Melvins going nonstop for almost 35 years now, after most of the other bands from that era and scene have either ended or faded.
According to Hazelmyer, the annual Bashes probably wouldn’t happen without the Melvins: “Aside from the massive boost we get from the Melvins participating,” he said, “Buzz has been prompting, cajoling and nudging me to do these all along, especially at times when I was of the ‘[screw] it’ frame of mind.”
Osborne and his bandmates — original drummer Dale Crover and new bassist Steve McDonald (also of Redd Kross) — are on tour again this summer promoting a new double album, “A Walk With Love & Death.” Like most things the Melvins do, the two-disc set is a bit unusual. One LP (“Death”) offers a rather standard dosage of the Melvins’ wholly unconventional, tarry music, while the other album (“Love”) is a mostly instrumental noise-rock collection intended as a score to a movie Osborne has been working on.
Talking by phone from the road last week, here’s some of what Osborne had to say about the band’s various going-ons and ties to Minnesota.
On the Melvins’ decision to always go on as the opening act at the Grumpy’s Bash: “That way, nobody else can argue and bitch about who’s going on first. I have no ego about that sort of thing, really. It’s also a good way to spend more time with [Hazelmyer]. I’m freed up the rest of the day then. I don’t have the opportunity to be in the same room with that guy as often as I’d like, so I take advantage of it.”
On Mudhoney, who seem to play only when they feel like it nowadays: “I have no idea what motivates them when or where to play, and I wouldn’t begin to guess. I’m just glad when they do get out and play. They’re really good guys. I see eye-to-eye with them more than I do most people. They were some of the first people I met when I got into the Seattle scene, and that’s going back like 35 years now. We’re contemporaries and kindred spirits.”
On recently deceased Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, who, like Cobain, toured with and learned from Osborne: “We knew all those guys since the early ’80s. Chris was always a solitary guy, very somber. But I liked him a great deal. I was always happy about their success. I thought they deserved it.
“[His death] really is a complete tragedy. There’s not much more to say about it than that. I just can’t go near their music now. It’s the same thing with Nirvana. I don’t want to listen to Nirvana. I don’t have happy memories about Nirvana anymore, because of what happened. It really ruined the music in my mind.”
On the movie companion to “A Walk With Love and Death,” still in the works: “Let’s just say it’s about a man in trouble. It’s mostly been me working on it with a guy from Atlanta, Jesse Nieminen, using a lot of footage we’ve shot together, and some of my photography. It’s like everything else we do: Some people are going to have a problem with it, but some will like it because it’s so unlike anything else. I don’t think Spielberg is going to call us up or anything, but I think some people will really like it.”
More on Hazelmyer, who has put out various Melvins releases via Amphetamine Reptile over the years and provided artwork for the band: “He was serving in the Marine Corps out by Seattle where we lived, so we’ve probably known him for 30 years now. Honestly, I even recognized back then that he was a massively creative guy. What an amazing output he’s had since then.”
On his band’s long-standing ties to the Twin Cities scene: “We’ve played First Avenue [and 7th Street Entry] so often, but we really never had any complaints or bad experiences there. We played there last year again with Napalm Death, and it felt good to be back.
“From early on, it was always one of the scenes that got us, and it still feels like we’re understood and appreciated there. That means a lot, honestly.”