When the Melvins last played Spokane - opening for White Zombie at the Convention Center a year ago - the band greeted the audience with a sludgy instrumental.
The slow, noisy number failed to kick-start the mosh pit, where fans impatiently awaited the arrival of White Zombie.
Just as the song picked up steam, so did the moshers. But then, suddenly, the Melvins would kill the momentum. They did this for 10 minutes.
It was as if the crowd was a pack of dogs and the Melvins were teasing owners by dangling mouth-watering treats in front of the pit. As soon as the treat was within the crowd’s grasp, the Melvins would swipe it away.
By the time the song ended, the trio - guitarist-vocalist King Buzzo Osborne, drummer Dale Crover and bassist Mark Deutrom - had angered the crowd.
When asked about this incident during a recent phone interview with Atlantic Records’ Beverly Hills office, Deutrom said in a sarcastic tone: “No. People got angry at a Melvins gig?
“It was the song ‘Goggles’ and it’s on our brand new CD (“Stag”),” he says. “That was a case of actually working out a song on stage before we recorded it.”
It was obvious the 5,000 guinea pigs didn’t cling to the song.
“Not everybody is as open-minded as perhaps they should be about music,” Deutrom says, vinegar thick in his voice. (Appropriately, Atlantic Records employees have dubbed Deutrom the “Grumpy Cowboy.”)
If they were more tolerant, perhaps the Melvins would be the biggest band in the world. But at the moment they’re not.
Since they cranked up the distortion more than a decade ago in Aberdeen, Wash., the Melvins have built a sturdy reputation as being a rock ‘n’ roll nuisance, confusing fans and critics ever since.
For example, the band’s most pop-oriented album (which isn’t saying much), 1993’s “Houdini,” was followed by 1994’s “Prick,” an album of noise textures, song snippets and soundbites. And when Nirvana released the radio-ready, MTV-friendly “Nevermind,” the Melvins strayed from pop-grunge and dove deep into sludgy ambience with their three-song LP called “Lysol.”
The Melvins pioneered grunge music, but they never generated the kind of mainstream hoopla their contemporaries did, which was partly by design. The Melvins sustained their appetite for dissonance, and they left Seattle for San Francisco before the scene exploded.
Says bandmate Crover: “People always ask us, ‘Aren’t you guys bitter that Soundgarden and Nirvana have become really big but you guys haven’t?’ No, because those bands are almost pop bands and we’re really not.”
So do band members, who live in San Francisco, L.A. and London, wish the band was embraced more warmly by mainstream rock? “Not really,” says Crover. “We just know that our stuff is really different than mainstream rock.”
“We’re not mainstream rock,” explains Deutrom.
At the same time, the Melvins hope their 10th album “Stag,” which arrives in stores Tuesday, garners some commercial success.
“Everybody wants to be successful; it’s not a competition to be unpopular,”says the Grumpy Cowboy.
According to Osborne, “Stag” marks the Melvins’ most accessible album to date. With the exception of the horn-driven “Hide” and the psychedelic “Black Bock,” it’s not, really. In keeping with the majority of their previous releases, the Melvins flex their brawny experimental muscle, whether it’s through a syrupy sludgefest (“Goggles”) or with an acidic drone (“Sterilized”).
In addition to entertaining on the Lollapalooza second stage on 10 dates this summer, the Melvins will also open five shows for KISS, a band that’s unquestionably made an impact on the Melvins’ music.
Twice the band has recorded KISS songs. The Melvins cover “Goin’ Blind” on “Houdini” and “God of Thunder” on “Hard to Believe: A KISS Cover’s Compilation.” And, band members even released a series of solo albums modeled after the KISS solo albums of the ‘70s, although without the makeup.
Further, after hearing the Melvins’ bottom-heavy rendition of “Goin’ Blind,” KISS guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley asked if he could sit in with the band at an L.A. concert two years ago.
“He actually called us up and said he wanted to come down and play it,” recalls Crover. So he did.
According to Deutrom, following the show, Stanley added “Goin’ Blind,” a song KISS hadn’t played in some time, back into the band’s set.
“So in a bizarre way, the Melvins have actually influenced KISS a little bit.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TWO BANDS WHO MADE A MARK ON THE SEATTLE SOUND Veteran rock bands the Screaming Trees and the Melvins have had a profound impact on modern rock music, helping define the Seattle sound. Yet, neither band has been credited for the influence. The Melvins are considered by many as the Northwest’s original grunge band, packing angst-ridden vocals and mammoth power chords into sluggish songs. The Screaming Trees were grungeby-association, but really, the band brought a psychedelic edge to Seattle. Although both bands have outgrown their early sounds, the Screaming Trees and the Melvins remain two of rock’s most underappreciated bands. Perhaps with their respective new albums - “Dust” by the Screaming Trees and “Stag” by the Melvins - as well as prominent slots on the Lollapalooza tour, which stops at The Gorge July 30, they’ll gain the respect and recognition they sorely deserve.
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.