The Melvins – In Conversation with Legendary Drummer Dale Crover
By: Dillon Collins.
Experimental innovators of sludgy, grungy rock, The Melvins continue to thrive three decades into their storied careers. In the wake of their latest album Pinkus Abortion Technician, longtime drummer Dale Crover caught up with Metalheads Forever for an in-depth look into one of the most ground breaking bands in American rock music.
Q: It just dawned on me in the lead up to this interview that 2018 marks 35 years of The Melvins. Quite the accomplishment.
Dale Crover: Yes. We should have played that up but we kind of forgot. We can just talk about it in interviews or whatever.
Q: I’ve always marvelled at your output as a band. You’ve released something like 27 studio albums, which eclipses what most groups do in the extent of their careers.
Dale Crover: We like to keep working. It’s a lot of records for sure. I think we’ve put out roughly a record a year of some sort for each year that we’ve been a band. Not too many in the beginning because we didn’t have anybody to put records out for us.
Q: Not only do you guys continue to release new music three decades into the band, but you continue to mix it up. A prime example would be mixing in two bassists (Steven McDonald and Jeff Pinkus of the Butthole Surfers) on your newest album Pinkus Abortion Technician. Where do you find the inspiration to keep changing the formula after all this time?
Dale Crover: That in itself right there was inspirational. We didn’t plan on having a record with two bass players, in fact what our plan was was that we were going to do an EP with Jeff Pinkus, who had played with us live a few years in the past. When we played with him live we were doing a couple of Butthole Surfers songs. We liked him enough and we were like we’ll record those songs and maybe do an original or two and make an EP. We recorded that at the same time we did our last record, A Walk With Love & Death. We were in the middle of recording that, Jeff came to town and started working on the thing we were going to do with him. And then it was like, why wouldn’t Steven just play along too? It was like, yeah ok. That turned into us writing more songs and just doing a full on record with two bass players.
Q: You guys have really earned that reputation for being out there and pushing the limits of what your music can and should be. Two bass players might be too much for some fans to handle, but I think people accept it and appreciate it when it comes from The Melvins.
Dale Crover: It still weirds people out. How do you do that? Two bass players?! Even the two drummer thing, to some people it was just like how do you do that? Well, have you ever seen bands who have two guitar players? It’s like that, only two drummers or two bass players. With those guys too, once we did that we said we’ll try it and see if it works and play along and record along too. As we were jamming it was like fuck yeah, this will work, because both of those guys have vastly different styles and tones. Steven plays with a pick, Jeff plays with his fingers. If you hear Jeff play you say oh yeah, that sounds like Butthole Surfers’ bass player, which is great. Steven has his own style too, he’s an amazing bass player. Having those two guys, they really compliment each other. I think people would be surprised by it.
Q: It’s no secret that much of the new album is a nod to Butthole Surfers – from the album title to cover tracks. How much would a band like Butthole Surfers have impacted The Melvins throughout the years?
Dale Crover: Not only that, but Steven’s band Red Kross. Both Butthole Surfers and Red Kross we were big fans of. Those bands are definitely inspirational. It’s funny because I think most people would consider them to be our contemporaries, you know? Always like competition amongst bands like that where those bands wouldn’t think to cover some of their songs. Most bands wouldn’t think to do that, but we always have, even way back. We would cover songs by bands we were friends with in Seattle. Both of them are probably two of the best bass players I could think of, not just in this style of music, but period. They’re fucking monster bass players. People are going to shit their pants when they see it. In fact I recommend people buy Melvins brand depends at the merch booth. It’s not that you’re going to, it’s that you will no matter what.
Q: Realistically, yourself and Buzz Osborne have performed together since 1984. That must be a pretty strong bond to carry you guys three-plus decades.
Dale Crover: Yeah, definitely. We realized that it worked a long time ago, and that we should keep it going because it’s a good thing. The band was bigger than the sum of its parts. This is our ticket out of here, and it always has been. It was the golden ticket this whole time, and that’s why we keep doing it. If we were to quit this band what would we do? We’ve seen other bands try to do that. Bands that were big bands and can’t get along for whatever reason, can’t put their differences aside for the good of making a living doing this and then getting big-headed about it, and then they break up their band and try to go solo and it doesn’t work out for them. Then they end up reforming their old band and going back on tour with the old guys. That was our problem, that we never broke up so we could never cash in on that sweet, sweet reunion.
Q: You hear many times how so many artists and bands have been inspired by The Melvins. What’s your thoughts when you get that type of praise?
Dale Crover: It’s a very nice compliment. We’ve heard that from a bunch of different people I guess. It’s great. I’m happy that we’ve been able to inspire them. And we have. We inspired a musical genre that changed the face of pop music. That’s not so humble sounding, but it’s the truth. We’ll take it.
Q: In that vein, what would be some advice you’d hand out to young aspiring artists who want to make it in the industry?
Dale Crover: Just look at what we do as an example and work your ass off. That’s what you should do. We’ve made plenty of examples of how you should do things, in all aspects of the band from making records to touring. Our hands on artwork that we do, the stuff that we do only at shows. We figured out ways to make money in an industry that is basically crumbling. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open and watch what we do and figure it out. Work hard.
Pinkus Abortion Technician is available worldwide now. For tour dates and more visit http://www.themelvins.net
MHF Magazine/Dillon Collins