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(Credit: Andy Witchger)

Music

Buzz Osborne's discusses how Melvins inspired Nirvana and Soundgarden

I don’t think anybody in the right mind would doubt the impact of Melvins on the development of alternative culture. Led by their frontman and guitar wizard Buzz Osborne, the band have had a defining impact on the proliferation of grunge and sludge metal, as well as other cultish yet potent forms of metal such as stoner and doom.

Packing a real punch, their music is some of the most visceral out there, and from ‘Honey Bucket’ to ‘A History of Bad Men’, they’ve given fans many moments over the years that tap into a primal need to want to put the nearest window through and exorcise your inner demons. 

Formed in 1983, the band have been an everpresent fixture in the music scene since, and duly, Osborne is one of the industry’s resident oracles on all things rock ‘n’ roll. Notably, Melvins were one of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s favourite bands, which resulted in his disastrous attempt at producing their classic 1993 record Houdini, which he still received credit for despite being in ill health. 

Regardless, Melvins are directly linked to the grunge movement because of the countless times Seattle’s most prominent bands, such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Green River, citing them as a major influence, and when speaking to Listen Next back in March, Osborne discussed the impact they had on grunge and their place in the overall development of rock.

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Asked about the bands he’s most proud of influencing, Osborne expressed: “Oh, Nirvana, Soundgarden, for sure,” he said. “Those are the two biggest. There’s a lot of other bands that were influenced by those bands -that got big – that probably don’t even like our band. So I would never take credit for any of that, even though they’re indirectly linked to us.”

Comparing the different commercial successes of Melvins and Nirvana, Osborne revealed that he’s satisfied with how his career has played out. He explained that in the ’80s, Melvins made music that they believed was necessary because they felt it was missing from the industry. By proxy, through the likes of Nirvana and Soundgarden, their ideas ended up changing the direction of music forevermore. 

“What’s funny to me is it really shows you what little understanding those people have of Soundgarden and Nirvana. They don’t really get where that’s coming from for them either, which is OK. I mean, I just don’t concern myself a whole lot about that kind of thing,” he said. “I like the idea that our stuff, our ideas and my ideas about how music should be – what was missing from music that I thought of in the mid-80s – were all things that then ended up through other bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden changed music on a global level.”

Even though he’s acutely aware of the role Melvins had in the emergence of the grunge scene, Osborne maintained that personally, the music was always what came first, and everything else is just additional. Although, he did admit that he feels artistically validated through the monumental successes of those he inspired. 

Espousing his trademark self-awareness, Osborne continued: “I mean, without me that stuff doesn’t sound exactly the same as that. So that in and of itself is good, because it just makes me realise – they’ve made me realise a long time ago – [that] I wasn’t wrong, ‘You’re right! Your musical instincts are correct’. Just keep doing that, and you’ll be fine.” 

He added: “Don’t try to now go, ‘Well, I’m going to try to do this and make people like me’, just don’t worry about that. Just do what you do. Let them decide whether they like it or not, you do what you think is right, that you like it, and then that’s good enough.” 

Concluding his account of the effects of Melvins‘ work, he said: “And you’re not perversely making things that people aren’t gonna like, I’m really operating in the way that I wanted the bands to operate, that I would appreciate as a fan, what would I like to see a band do? And that’s really it. You know, that’s the whole – all of it together, you know?”

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