For a guy whose riffs have influenced generations of musicians and helped spawn several genres, namely grunge and sludge metal, King Buzzo aka Buzz Osborne doesn’t spend too much time thinking about his legacy. Instead, Osborne is too busy continuing to churn out material at a truly impressive rate. Just last year, his band, Melvins, released their 27th studio album Bad Mood Rising and, according to Osbourne, they just finished up number 28. 

Melvins just hit their 40-year mark as a band and are celebrating the milestone with a co-headlining tour alongside legendary Japanese rock band Boris. It’s a fitting match, as Boris took their name from a song off Melvins’ 1991 album Bullhead. The tour arrives in Seattle Friday, September 1, at the Showbox—it will be a night of loud amps to the face.

Instead of soaking up the glory and basking in the anniversary limelight, Osborne has a much more practical, down-to-earth take on Melvins' ability to stand the test of time. When I bring up the idea of being a band for four decades, he practically laughs it off. 

“It's a big deal, I guess,” Osborne said. “I'm glad I'm still able to make a living at doing what I'm doing. And nobody's buying me out and firing me. So that's good.”

Melvins will be playing this tour without their longtime drummer Dale Crover, who joined the band back in 1984, just one year after they got their start. On August 23, Melvins posted an update to social media announcing Crover would be sitting out the tour to undergo immediate emergency spinal surgery. In his place will be Big Business and High on Fire drummer Coady Willis. A good majority of these songs won’t be anything new for Willis, as he played with Melvins for a number of years when they had two drummers.

Though Osborne has spent the majority of his music career outside Washington, he has strong ties to the Northwest—he grew up in the small town of Montesano and honed his craft practicing in an Aberdeen basement, the same town where Nirvana would later blossom. Kurt Cobain often praised Melvins as one of his main musical influences. 

“Ideas we had and influence we had changed music on a global level. I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about that kind of stuff, but it's the truth. People can rewrite history any way they want to, but just wouldn't be true. They think that since we haven't had gold albums and played arenas that what we did doesn't matter. But you know, for the vast majority of people that buy records by the millions, they wouldn't like our stuff.”

There was a period there where Melvins flirted with mainstream success. Back in 1993, Atlantic signed the band and released three of their albums Houdini, Stoner Witch, and Stag

“I didn't think it would work,” Osborne said. “I thought they would do one album and we would be done. I didn't view it as our shot and then that's it. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as just a little side road we were gonna go on for a little while. But surprisingly, they did three albums. No one was more surprised about that than me. I think they used us as, like, a kind of a badge of legitimacy. ‘Look, we're cool. We have this band.’ But I liked to be on the same label as the Stones and Zeppelin and Aretha Franklin. It was kind of nice.”

For most of their career, Melvins have done things their own way. Of course, with every band that’s been around for this long, there are bound to be a few exceptions. For Osborne, one of those exceptions, which he looks back on with nothing but disgust, was playing the 1998 Ozzfest. 

“It was hideous. The people surrounding it and the people running it were a bunch of fucking assholes. I couldn't have felt less welcome by the powers that be on that thing. I would rather deal with dickheads at a country club golf course than have to deal with the bigger dickheads who work for gigantic rock and roll extravaganza stuff. They're there some of the worst people in the world.”

Osborne admitted this was back in a time when Melvins were trying something new and attempting to play in front of different crowds. He assured me he would never put up with something like that again. 

“I write my own ticket now, as far as that's concerned, and have for a very long time,” he said. “You're not paying me enough to put up with this crap. Life's too short. Fuck you. Shove all your shit right up your ass. Punk rock taught me a long time ago to not have much patience for that sort of thing. You treat me right, I'll be your best friend. You treat me wrong and as far as I'm concerned, I would drown you in the bathtub.”

With such an immense body of work, it would be damn near impossible to break down every single song with Osborne, so I picked eight tracks from the past 40 years—some hits, some deeper cuts—to learn more about the stories behind the songs.

“At a Crawl,” Ozma (1989)

“I know I wanted to have a song that started with the drums. It was a fun one to do. We play it live once in a while. It’s fairly grinding. It's kind of the way I envision heavy metal should be, to some degree. It’s a really, really fun riff. Interesting. I look back on that stuff and I’m like, ‘Wow, I like that stuff a lot.’ That's a fun one. That's a good early song of ours that I probably will always enjoy playing.”

“Zodiac,” Bullhead (1991)

“I centered that song around the sound effect that I came up with by bending the string over the top edge of the neck of the guitar. And it makes this ‘reeeeeee’ weird sound. It's a fairly fast song, which is fun. I really dug the ending of the song, the riff I came up with for that was a lot of fun. I think I wrote that one fairly quickly. I remember I wrote that in San Francisco in my bedroom. I had a little guitar amp that I played stuff through and put it all on cassette tapes. I know I wanted to switch gears halfway through. It has a linear factor that doesn't really repeat much. The beginning and the ending don't have much to do with each other, which I kind of hear that in a way like Captain Beefheart… I've read that he has said stuff like, ‘If you repeat stuff too much it becomes corny.’ I don’t always do that, but I kind of understand what he means.”

“Goin' Blind” (KISS cover), Houdini (1993)

“I always thought that song was really creepy sounding. I think Gene Simmons… because of the odd way that he looks and how he acts onstage in his costumes… I think people have kind of not taken seriously what a talent he really is. He's a great bass player and he's an exceptionally good singer. You never hear anybody say that. I think he's got one of the best rock and roll voices that there's ever been. He's a fantastic singer and a really great player. All those guys are good players. Unfortunately, people don't see that, but he's far better than people imagine. Just on a musician level.”

“Revolve,” Stoner Witch (1994)

“Well we never really had any hits, but KISW tried to play it a bit, but I don’t know what it takes to get songs played on there. And the label obviously didn’t know what it takes to get songs played on there either. There's somebody there that played it for a minute. Then I saw it had this many plays. Then I saw the other bands that they were playing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times more than us and I was like, ‘Okay, it's not going to work out.' (Laughs) Thanks for the push. But that song was really fun. I came up with a guitar riff and the whole aspect of the song in San Francisco in a hotel. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed in a hotel that was near the San Francisco Zoo. I could hear the monkeys going crazy in their cages. That was kind of the backdrop. I'll never forget that. So, I wrote that weird riff to begin at the beginning and then go to a really long descending riff that kind of circled itself. It took me a couple passes to kind of figure out how to get it all melded together. But in the end, it came out pretty cool. I really liked that song. It's always fun to play and worked out really good. That's one of the better ones. But it's a little more conventional than what we normally do. So, I have to live with that.”

“Yuppie Cadillac,” Never Breathe What You Can’t See, Jello Biafra with the Melvins (2004)

“I wanted to work with Jello, as a fan. I always felt the music industry in general, whether people understood it or not, owed him a great deal just for his dealings with the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center). I thought he had kind of taken one for the team, which was cool. The way I looked at it was kind of a payback for everything he'd done for everybody else. We ended up doing two albums with him. But with 'Yuppie Cadillac,' I was like, ‘Jello, that's kind of corny. Can't we just can't do something like 'I Kill Children,' or 'Chemical Warfare’? If you work with somebody like that, you gotta expect them to do that. But he always wrote goofy songs. You know, like 'Winnebago Warrior' and stuff like that. So, I just went along with it. I haven't heard that one in a long time. If you work with somebody it's a lot of give and take."

“A History Of Bad Men,” (A) Senile Animal (2006)

“Yeah, that's a great riff that I wrote when I was working with Kat (Bjelland) from Babes in Toyland on a soundtrack. Some ill-fated soundtrack. That riff got used, but I didn't think it got used in a good way so I just recycled it into my own song. And Jared (Warren), when he was in the band, he played bass and he wrote the vocal melody which came out really good. I wrote the music. It's a really good one and a fun one to play live. We've been playing that live recently.”

“The Smiling Cobra,” Nude With Boots (2008)

“That's a fairly complex and complicated song. A lot of our stuff is far more complicated than people think. It's tough to play. We haven’t played that in eight years, probably. But it's complicated metal. I would say that song was like what Captain Beefheart would sound like if he had been playing heavy metal.”

“Evil New War God,” The Bride Screamed Murder (2010) 

“Evil New War God is one we still play. I wanted to do something that had a big drum solo at the end. At the time we had two drummers and they were trading off drum solos. But our drummer now, Dale (Crover), he just does them all in a row, which is really fun. That's always really good. I've always thought in terms of how the drums work when I write songs. That one is I think one of our best songs. People go ‘Why do you guys always play that?’ I don't know. Why did the Who always play 'Won't Get Fooled Again'? Why? I don't know. It's a good song. I would say it's certainly in the top 10 of songs I've written.”

Melvins and Boris play the Showbox Friday, September 1 at 8 pm, $35-$40, 21+.