King Buzzo's Solo Acoustic Project Is the Work of a Devilish Dylan
If Buzz Osborne's solo debut, This Machine Kills Artists, sounds unlike any other acoustic record in existence, that's because it is. The 17-track album (released under Osborne's stage name, King Buzzo) incorporates a dark, brooding ambiance reminiscent of early Delta blues records blended with the sort of heavy riffs associated with Osborne's band the Melvins. That said, the disc isn't merely a drummer-less Melvins album because the material was written as a solo acoustic EP that soon grew into an LP.
Osborne plays June 12 at The Constellation Room. I caught up with the 50-year-old to inquire about how his solo set will differ from a Melvins show. He answered my questions and then some. Here is the result.
OC Weekly (Ryan Ritchie): A lot of solo acoustic music is boring, repetitive and uninteresting after two minutes. Your record is none of these. Why?
Buzz Osbourne: Thank you. I tried hard to make it something that wasn't a normal acoustic record. I approached it differently. Most of them sound like a cross between a half-assed Woody Guthrie and "Kumbaya," which I'm so not into. I wanted it to be as threatening and powerful as anything I've ever done. I don't think there's another acoustic record like it.
It's not like singer/songwriter stuff. It's intense and heavy.
I was adamantly opposed to that. Bob Dylan and David Bowie have done really amazing acoustic stuff that doesn't sound like that. What was good about Dylan was he was mean-spirited, and in the singer/songwriter thing, that rarely happens unless they're talking about some chick. Then, it's like, "Who cares? Nerd gets his heart broke. That's the oldest story in the book. Let's try for something else." What made me a fan of Dylan was he took Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and bettered it. He did what they didn't do, which was he was super-mean-spirited and finger-pointing. Mine's a little more introspective. Who knows? I'm not one to lead people by the hand and tell them, "Here's how it all works." The journey is half the battle.
My whole point was like, "I can't gut everything I've ever done." I've had people go, "It sounds too much like the way you play electric." And I go, "Do you tell that to Neil Young? Are you fucking joking? I sound too much like me?" I've received a lot of constructive criticism over the years, and there isn't one piece I've heard from anyone that I could take away and go, "This guy's got a point." To stand there and get dressed down by somebody, even if it's in a polite way, is super-unnerving. Like, I want to go, "I don't know anything about you, but I think your girlfriend's ugly."
From a musical standpoint, the songs sound complete, even though it's only one person playing.
I worried over that incessantly. I would write songs, and when I felt like they were finished, I'd go to the studio and record two or three songs at a time. We'd record the guitar in vastly different ways. There's no direct boxes or amps--it's all just mic'd acoustic guitar. Very few songs are the same. We did a lot of doubling the guitar to make it more interesting. That gave it more dynamic range, as opposed to setting up and recording 17 songs with the exact same set-up. That certainly was not the case. Also, I realized what was going to make this record more interesting was the songs needed to be shorter. Only a couple of them breach the four-minute mark.
Was this written as a record or just a bunch of songs?
As a record, certainly. All of them in conjunction with what I had already done. The hard thing was figuring out what was going to work as a complete song with an acoustic song. Like, I wrote these Melvins songs, so about half the set is Melvins songs, so I had to find ones that would work on the acoustic, which is a lot of fun.