photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
when you consider the longevity and wildly EXPERIMENTAL nature of the music, it is hard not to be impressed by the career of seminal SLUDGE / ALTERNATIVE ROCK / PUNK ROCK band MELVINS. as the documentary THE COLOSSUS OF DESTINY: A MELVINS TALE (HELLSMORE MEDIA, 2016) attests, the narrative of the group is very much centered around the enduring friendship and artistic alchemy between BUZZ OSBOURNE and DALE CROVER. and its interesting that the film uses said friendship as its defining unifying structure as OSBOURNE is renowned for his UNCOMPROMISING, often BRISTLY public persona. the dude no doubt comes off like a born contrarian in interviews. but in a sense that distance to public perception or press critiques is what keeps his band free to chart their own course.
as a business man, OSBOURNE goes on in great detail about how producing limited run in-house publications and vinyl re-pressings is their core strategy for long-term SURVIVAL as a business venture. they acknowledge that their music is available for all in this modern digital world of streaming services and video sharing social media platforms. and that is alright. the free widespread distribution of their music is a mute point, so their focus is on artistic extensions and hands-on limited pieces for their hardcore fanbase. OSBOURNE at length defends this practice, which seems entirely reasonable to me. i cant imagine what PUNK purist would see such as beyond reproach, the dude needs to make a living.
its funny that for a band that defends their art and need for control with a ZEALOUS fervor matched by few, the first thing i think of when i consider the band themselves is their unique ability to seek out collaborations. the nearest analogue to this well outside of the rock world in that id very much liken it to the NON-PRECIOUS, IMPROVISATIONAL and highly COLLABORATIVE realm of JAZZ. the documentary goes into the bands various lineups and incarnations that has included members of CLOWN ALLEY, LUSTMORD, RED KROSS, BIG BUSINESS, MR. BUNGLE and THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS as well as collaborations with everyone from JELLO BIAFRA to LEIF GARRETT. whatever incarnation, whether expanded or contracted in terms of instrumentation, it is that core musical identity of OSBOURNE and CROVER that prevails. and they are UNIQUE in that they are fearless in their ability to try anything.
for me it is that dichotomy of extreme control of their product and their RELENTLESS devotion to the COLLABORATIVE nature of music that defines their cultural significance 30 years into their career at the time of filming. its pretty ridiculous that a truly exhaustive list with the likes of JELLO BIAFRA (DEAD KENNEDYS), SCOTT KELLY (NEUROSIS), DAVID YOW (THE JESUS LIZARD), GENE SIMMONS (KISS), MIKE PATTON (FAITH NO MORE, MR. BUNGLE, FANTOMAS), J MASCIS (DINOSAUR JR), MARK ARM (MUDHONEY), JG THIRLWELL (FOETUS), CHRIS CORNELL & KIM THAYIL (SOUNDGARDEN), MATT PIKE (SLEEP, HIGH ON FIRE), KRIST NOVOSELIC (NIRVANA), PAUL LEARY & JEFF PINKUS (THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS), JOSH HOMME (QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE), KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG, CIRCLE JERKS, OFF!), SCOTT "WINO" WEINRICH (THE OBSESSED, SAINT VITUS), BRENT HINDS & BRANN DAILOR (MASTODON), LOU BARLOW (DINOSAUR JR, SEBADOH), DONITA SPARKS (L7), KID CONGO POWERS (THE GUN CLUB, THE CRAMPS, THE BAD SEEDS), COREY TAYLOR (SLIPKNOT) and countless producers, artists and former band members who all agreed to testify to such artistic and cultural relevance in interviewed segments. it seems the secret to success is surrounding yourself like-minded people with similar values and treating your business like an extended family. despite being dropped by a major label (ATLANTIC RECORDS) after three stellar records (HOUDINI, STONER WITCH and STAG), the band had advocates and friends with independent labels (AMPHETAMINE REPTILE, IPECAC) which helped support their long-term artistic endeavors.
THE COLOSSUS OF DESTINY: A MELVINS TALE is most definitely worth checking out if you have any interest in the music of the MELVINS or their philosophy of making it in the music industry as currently constructed. their example is a powerful one, both in business and in terms of building a community.