"You're in Knoxville? Never heard of it," says the voice over the phone.
The voice is Buzz Osbourne, better known as "King Buzzo," the guitar and voice of the band The Melvins. Osbourne and his band mates are in the midst of a tour in which the group will perform 51 shows in 51 days in 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. It's an unprecedented, at least as far as anyone knows, feat.
"It was my idea," says Osbourne while traveling through Kansas, enroute to Columbia, Mo. "I'm always looking for weird things to do. The other thing I like about it is that at the 30-year point in our career we decided to do something this stupid. We're doing 51 shows because we're all almost 51 years old. Yeah, however old you are, play that many shows in a row and you're alright! I'm not quite 51, but I'm getting there."
This tour is The Melvins Lite — Osbourne, Crover and bassist Trevor Dunn — not the regular Melvins lineup with Big Business members Coady Wills and Jared Warren. So far, says Osbourne, he has "no complaints."
"No one is dead. No one is in jail. No one's gone completely crazy. We're all a little nuts. You have to be kinda off your rocker to be a musician and if you're not you're probably on drugs!"
It should be noted that the only thing that's an absolute certainty in Osbourne's answers is that the band really IS on this tour. Osbourne very happily mixes the truth with what sounds good at the time.
"The truth is not gonna set me free," he says with a chuckle. "I'm an entertainer. I'm not writing history books!"
The Melvins' history begins in 1983, when Osbourne and two friends began the group in Montesano, Wash. It wasn't until drummer Dale Crover replaced the trio's original drummer shortly after the the group's formation that it truly became what fans think of as The Melvins.
The group recorded an EP with independent label C/Z Records and began inspirations for some fellow musicians on the Seattle rock scene, including future Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain, who became friends with the group. Crover, in fact, played drums on Nirvana's first recordings, prior to Dave Grohl joining the band.
Of course, The Melvins were unlike just about anything else on any scene. Their brand of rock could be dark and droning. The band gave nods to classic rock and punk, but the group's music was more avant garde. The success of Nirvana and some kind references by Cobain led to major labels offering The Melvins recording contracts. The band signed with Atlantic. Osbourne says he felt no pressure then or now to conform to expectations.
"We've always been able to do what we wanted," he says. "Even when we were at Atlantic, we made the exact kind of records we wanted. If I could sign the exact same kind of contract today, I would. No question. Those records were exactly how we wanted them. Great records and if that's record company meddling more power to them. We wisely had a contract that said we had 100 percent artistic control. They didn't even know where we were recording them. We turned them in mastered and mixed with the artwork."
The partnership lasted for three albums, which helped establish the band internationally, but, considering The Melvins weren't turning out hit records, didn't last. Osbourne has no hard feelings and thinks overall major labels are less corrupt than independent ones.
The current tour was booked a year in advance in order to make sure the trek could be accomplished.
"In Tennessee, it was better to play Knoxville than Memphis, so Knoxville it is! If it would've been better for us to play Nashville, then it would be Nashville, but at this particular point it's Knoxville."
He acknowledges the Sunshpere, which was featured in an episode of "The Simpsons." He says maybe he saw it on DVD.
"I am way too busy to watch TV. Maybe if I smoked weed. Maybe that would make it better. A TV with a refrigerator in it!"
Overall, Osbourne says he has a lot to be thankful for.
"I'm happy I have a stable life and that I didn't wind up in prison. That's a good place to start. I have a good way of looking at things, which is just pray you never get what you deserve! As long as I don't really get what I deserve everything will be alright. Don't for pray anyone's downfall, just pray they get what they deserve! I hope you get everything that you deserve!"
The Melvins Lite
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11
Where: The Square Room, 4 Market Square
Tickets: $15, advance, $18 day of the show, available at www.thesquareroom.com
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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