The Melvins on Cobain film and new tour DVD

The Melvins on Cobain film and new tour DVD

By Ashley Partridge

Nov 11, 2015 11:07

The Melvins are and always will be linked to Kurt Cobain. They knew each other from high school. It is an inescapable and, as I discover, painful part of the band’s history. I’m in Manchester to speak to Buzz Osborne [vocals / guitar] and Dale Crover [drums] about their tour documentary but the subject of a different film inevitably comes up. 'Montage of Heck', a deep look into Cobain’s private life, was released over the summer and The Melvins do not like it.

“It was total crap,” Buzz says, “I know for a fact that the director knew what he was doing was bullshit. What I heard is that he said ‘this is a better story’.”

Dale agrees: “He’s making a documentary but in his eyes he’s making this art piece. If he was saying he’s making an art piece of Kurt’s art then that’s fine but that’s not what he’s saying. It’s misleading”

What really seems to jar with them is an assertion that Kurt wanted to have sex with a learning disabled girl, as Buzz explains: “The one that irritates me the most is him making it look like Kurt was into trying to have sex with a retard. Those are his words. I know that’s not true.”

“The reason I know none of that is true is because Kurt never had any problem getting laid. [laughs] Not at all.”

Dale, quietly, recalls one girl in particular and calls her “gorgeous”.

For a fleeting moment I can see him drift off and picture her face in his mind. I realise that, away from sold-out arenas, Top of the Pops performances and million-selling records, there are people who have grown up remembering the legendary Kurt Cobain as that guy they went out with for a few weeks or sat next to in Maths. It humanises the myth and makes me spare a thought for the people who genuinely miss him.

“That’s somebody’s private world, there’s no reason for any of that stuff to see the light of day,” Buzz concludes.

The pair light up when I ask them about their upcoming DVD, which chronicles a recent tour where the band covered all 51 US states in 51 days. It sounds very atypical for a tour film; they’re usually highlights of live footage interspersed with shots of people in transit. “Across the USA in 51 Days” is, as Buzz says, “a minute for each day with a minute of credits at either end”.

Dale gives an example: “It’s really funny. There’s a part where we ask Trevor [Dunn, bassist and long-term Mike Patton collaborator] if his dad’s job influenced his music. He says his dad did a lot of woodwork in the garage and that it didn’t influence his playing, then it cuts to him playing his bass like bzzzzt, like a table saw.”

“The last thing I want is some boring-ass tour movie. Fuck that. I want people to watch it over and over again. I do!” Buzz adds.

The film-making process was pure 21st Century DIY, with footage shot on handheld devices and edited together on the road. Buzz admits he isn’t in much of the film because he was mostly behind the camera but it’s something he loves.

“I always knew I liked taking pictures. I just had a picture in a magazine, my first one. It was in a magazine called Stackedd and it’s of the singer of Le Butcherettes. I can show you if you want?” he asks.

Naively, I say yes. This leads to 10 minutes of Buzz and Dale taking me through photos on their iPads and iPhones, like a child showing off his drawings to his parents. When Buzz shows me one he likes, Dale counters with a panoramic shot from an Andy Murray vs Roger Federer tennis match. They tell me a story about a recent shoot with a photographer who told them you can’t take good photos using digital cameras.

“So I showed this guy a picture and he said it was really good, so I said ‘well I took that with my iPhone’,” Dale smirks.

Buzz explains his philosophy: “I’m a firm believer in that you work with what you have. You give me a Rolleiflex camera and I can take a shitty picture with it.”

I mention a scene in Martin Scorsese’s epic US gangster flick ‘The Departed’ where Jack Nicholson quotes John Lennon: “I’m an artist. You give me a fucking tuba and I’ll get you something out of it”.

The Melvins agree. “I believe that. You put us in a room with instruments or some kind of creative stuff; me and him are gonna get something out of it. No doubt about it. I don’t care what it is, we’ll make it work. If you give Hendrix the worst guitar in the world, he would still kick your ass,” Buzz asserts.

“A lot of musicians or artists are afraid to get out of their comfort zone. They don’t think they can do it. They think they have to have this guitar pedal. We’ve done fly-in gigs where I get a drum set I’ve never seen before but I have to make it work,” Dale says.

Buzz sums up The Melvins’ ethic: “We’ll do it. We’re not gonna bitch. We’re gonna do our job.”

‘Across The USA in 51 Days: The Movie!’ is out on DVD November 13. An album, ‘Three Men and a Baby’ is due for release in April 2016.
The Departed scene is below. FYI: it is an excellent movie marred only by Ray Winstone’s hilariously bad attempt at an American accent.