Buzz Osborne on Love and Death (and dogs!)
by Interviews

The Melvins are on a deep trip this year. The band just released their new double disc album A Walk With Love and Death (Ipecac), and no doubt, those are two of the biggest subjects that weighs on mankind's furrowed brow. On top of that, this is the band's fourth album in two years showing that their creative fire is as hot as ever. And, as Love and Death shows, they are getting freakier and freakier. One disc is rumbling, roaring, Melvins might and the other is an abstract sound collage to be used as a soundtrack for their upcoming film!

So, in an attempt to get inside Buzz's heavy headspace, Punknews' John Gentile spoke to him about surviving earthquakes, romance, the resurrection, and why dogs are cool. Check it out below.

The title of the new album is A Walk with Love and Death, so let’s talk about love and death. I believe you were in a near fatal situation when you were inside a venue when Japan had those terrible earthquakes in 2011. Yeah, weirdly enough, two weeks before that, we were in the big earthquake in Christ Church, New Zealand. We also live in California and have had big earthquakes there. I think that’s a record- three massive earthquakes on three continents.

When you’re in something like that, what is going through your mind? You are just scared- trying to get through it. You don’t know what’s going to happen. A piece of pipe could fall off and hit you. You are just trying to get outside.

Does something like that affect you later on? Oh, clearly. It totally, totally does. You can’t have something like that happen and not be affected by it. It’s horrible.

How did it affect you personally? Well, you just have a pretty big level of stress that just continues. That’s not logical- you just have unbridled stress that fucks with you. I don’t know how else to put it. For me, it manifests itself in that I like routines- I keep to a strict routine. I don’t know how else to put it. It makes me feel better.

In general, do you think you are a stressed out person or- Yes. Yes in general

Why? Who knows. Like I said, it’s not logical. It’s not a logical thing. It’s a mess- along those lines. I dunno. It’s difficult to register. I don’t know how to describe it- it manifests in a way that is difficult to describe.

I know you like to golf. Is golfing how you deal with stress? Oh… well, like I said. I like routine. I like physical exercise. Golf is a good way to do that. All those things get me out of myself and get me to where I am not dwelling on the present.

There’s a great video from the LA Weekly where you said that you thought that you would never get to 53. Is that really true? I didn’t really care [when I was young]. You know? I didn’t really care what happened. I didn’t see much future in what I was doing. I knew that I didn’t want a regular job. I knew that I didn’t want to go to college. I knew I was not career minded in any traditional form. I didn’t see any point in worrying about things like that. I still don’t to some degree.

Really?! Was there a point where you said “Now is the time when stuff matters and I want to make this band achieve something!” I don’t have the ability to work in a traditional environment. I’ve done it. All I’ve ever had was crap jobs before I could make a living as a musician and I didn’t do a good job at it. I mean, I could do a good job at it because I’m a really good worker, but it's not for me. That kind of thing is not in my makeup- to work in a traditional form. I’m very much in the idea that “I didn’t know that I didn’t want to do that until you told me that I had to.” I’m my own boss and I’m willing to work five times as hard as anybody else in order to stay that way.

I think that in life, the traditional form that people do, 40 hours a week, I don’t get it. It’s impossible to become successful working 40 hours a week. It’s just not possible. You can’t do it. That’s the road to mediocrity. If you think someone owes you a living and you get everything that everyone else gets working forty hours a week- you’re in for a rude awakening. I’m willing to work as hard as I do, to get what I want. You are the master of your own destiny and that’s what I’ve used to keep afloat.

Somewhat along those lines, I once talked to Mike Halichuk of Fucked Up and asked him if he was having fun with Fucked Up, and his reply was he was having a “version” of fun or more accurately, was having accomplishments. Are you having fun with the Melvins? Oh yeah. Always. Some aspects of what we do is not fun. Not every single minute is fun, and not every show is fun, but that’s life. That’s the roll of the dice. You go out and put your ass on the line and see what happens. I am going to win a war of attrition- that’s how I’m going to get what I want. I am going to wait. I am going to work harder than anyone else. No one is going to out think me. No one is going to out practice me. It’s not going to happen.

How often do you think about death? I think everyone does a lot of the time. I’m not a believer in the afterlife or those sorts of things. I think your hell is on earth and so is your heaven and we have to make the best of it. I’m up for it. I’m up for the challenge. I don’t really care about legacy. I don’t give a rat’s ass about what people think about me after I’m dead. I don’t particularly care what people think about me now. I operate the band in a way that I would like people to operate and were I fan, how I would ant us to operate.

You said your hell is on earth and your heaven is on earth. Where are you right now? Somewhere between both of them. You have to be willing to understand what life is. It is a series of compromises. There is no perfectness of any of it. In that compromise, you have to be willing to accpet what it is that makes you happy. If you set your goals like “I’ll only be happy if I’m making five million dollars a year” you will be disappointed. If that’s what you want, you should go after it, but life is what you make it at the end of the day.

My problem is when I see people working and then bitching. If you don’t like what you’re doing, then stop bitching and change what you are doing. Life is not fair. I understand that I am never going to be happier than when I am laying on the bed with my wife and our two dogs and watching a movie. That’s it. That’s all I need for total happiness. My life is not going to get better than that. It doesn’t matter where you are at economically or other things- what is happiness? What is success? It’s a multifaceted nightmares in a number of ways.

Well, now it looks like we are talking about love. You’ve been with Mackie, your wife, for nearly 25 years and still seem to have a great relationship. Two and a half decades! Buzz, what is the secret? Well, you don’t live in each other’s pockets. You embrace each other’s individualities while cohesively living together to form a stronger union. Without each of us being individuals, we have nothing. I firmly believe that the “individual” in the world is the biggest minority there is. That’s a tragic thing. That’s the tragedy of life. The world does not embrace individuality.

You once said to me that as a younger man, you were frustrated that people could not see things on the level that you saw them. Is that still the case or has that aspect gotten better for you? I don’t really care what people think, honestly. I don’t know that I ever did.

In that LA Weekly video, Mackie said that you moved in after about three days and have been there ever since. Buzz, you are quite the Romeo! How did you pull that off? You just have to your eyes open for Mrs. Right and so does she. Men and women walk by the right partner all day long because they are looking for something different than what would be perfect for them. So, they end up being miserable. I don’t know why. I’m not perfect. My wife is not perfect. But, we’re perfect for each other. We are eccentric people. We are very conservative in our life- we believe in marriage and all that stuff- but beyond that, we are not conservative at all. I have odd ideas about everything- how the world works. How to deal with things. They all work, so I’m not changing it.

Along the idea of odd ideas that work- I think the perception of Buzz Osborne is that he always “wins.” He says he’s going to tour 50 states plus DC in 51 days and does it. He says I’m going to continue this band and does it. He says I’m going to do a solo tour and does it. Do you always win or do you have failures? Like I said, it’s a war of attrition. What is perceived by some people as a loss is actually a win. There are lots of ways at looking at stuff. I see things different than anyone else. If everyone is already doing something, it isn’t going to work. It’s too late. If everyone else is already buying a stock, it’s too late. You just have to be sure of yourself. As long as you are not being weird for weirdness sake, it is going to work because you believe in it. You have to solidly interested in it and behind it. If you worry about what people will like and what they will think you are in it for the wrong reasons.

Buzz, you are a big fan of dogs. Yes!

Why are dogs man’s best friend? Dogs have been with us for thousands and thousands and thousands of years and they have been our main sources to be able to look beyond stone tools and bear skins. they helped us hunt and were really good burglar alarms. Now you don’t have to worry about the saber tooth tiger killing you and that was really useful. So it was worthwhile to have a cohesive union between the two. Now they are domesticated so they are a part of us. They’re in everything we do, you just don’t see it. That’s why when there is something like dog fighting and people say “oh, they’re just animals.” No, they’re not just animals. They are amazing tools and companions of unconditional love beyond what people give in their normal lives. That’s why I hate when people put them on that level. They are much smarter than people think, far more intuitive into what you think, and that’s why I hate it when people put them on that level.

Do you think the human-dog connection is due to thousands of years of breeding and domestication or it is some random cosmic chance? Domestication and breeding. To me, science and religion are the same thing. They are hand in hand. That will be the big change. And when that happens, it will open a lot of doors. See, right now people are polarized- it’s either science or religion, instead of looking at it the way I look at it- you are looking at the same fucking thing.

Look at the resurrection. Well, on a molecular level, everyone that has been here is still here. You cannot get rid of matter. It is impossible. Therefore, the molecular makeup of everyone is still here. It never went anywhere. All we have to do is figure out the way to gain the ability to turn them back into humans, there on the same molecular level, and there you go, the resurrection. It’s the same thing. We’re talking about the same fucking thing.

That’s what people like Joseph Campbell worte about the similarities in religion. There are much more similarities in religions than differences. So, they’re all talking about the same thing. Once we get on the same page, I think everything is gonna change.

I think back to some of my favorite artists like Bowie, Judas Priest, and Queen. In the mid 70s, those bands were putting out a new album every six to eight months and perhaps the fear was that those bands would burn out- but to me, that’s when those bands had their creative peak. It seemed that the rapid output as fueling the band’s creativity. Does that correlate to the Melvins current, extremely rapid output? Bob Dylan said something that I agreed with- “I work so hard because I’ve been holding up my end of the bargain. I’ve been given the opportunity to make a living doing music and I don’t take that lightly. So I will work hard, and make records and tour, so it can continue to happen. So, thank you for coming to the show and here is what I will do to show my appreciation. Once we’re done, we are done. It’s not going to last forever. Nothing does. So, you leave it at that. I try to put as much energy and thought into something so it is interesting every time. And not everybody is going to always like it. That’s fine. No one likes everything. Some people just move on with their lives and have nothing with music anymore. I can’t concern myself with that. I have a job to do and I will do it. I will hold up my end of the bargain as long as I am able to do it.