The Melvins, often regarded as a seminal grunge influence, stand as a beacon in the alternative music landscape of the late ’80s and early ’90s Seattle scene. However, despite their significant contribution, their journey to commercial success has been a challenging one. Buzz Osbourne, the frontman and creative force behind the Melvins, ponders over the puzzling lack of recognition among certain Nirvana and Soundgarden fans, attributing it to a fundamental misunderstanding of the bands and the grunge ethos.
As a foundational grunge band, the Melvins’ heavy sludge sound, infused with ’70s-inspired elements, laid a crucial groundwork for the grunge movement. Buzz Osbourne, often considered a musical godfather to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, played a vital role in shaping the grunge genre.
However, many casual Nirvana fans remain only vaguely aware of the Melvins, prompting Buzz to speculate on the reasons behind this disconnect. In a recent interview, he highlighted the discrepancy, stating that it stems from an inability to comprehend the essence of these pioneering bands and their shared musical ideologies.
As reported by UG – Buzz Osbourne’s profound admiration for underground music’s transformative influence on Nirvana’s attitude and musical direction further underscores the power of unconventional sounds in shaping the grunge movement. He identifies the raw intensity and heaviness akin to bands like Birthday Party, Throbbing Gristle, and Black Sabbath as critical elements that inspired him to pursue the direction he envisioned for his music.
Buzz mused on the possible reason for this state of affairs, saying (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar):
“With Nirvana, millions and millions of people like their stuff, but millions of those people won’t like our stuff. They can’t understand why [Nirvana] ever liked us, which shows they have no understanding of what these people think in the first place. Same with Soundgarden. A lot of Soundgarden fans can’t understand why they would ever like a band like us — it’s because you can’t understand them at all. They like us; you don’t believe it. You don’t see why, because you don’t understand it.”
He concluded: “There’s nothing I can do about it; that’s just the way it is. I don’t mind that, I’m fine with that. Millions of people won’t like our stuff, but enough will. I’m very grateful for what I have. Underground music changed [Nirvana’s] attitude, to what was possible. I saw music as lacking something — the danger, to some degree; the heaviness that was part Birthday Party, part Throbbing Gristle, and part Black Sabbath. There’s an element in there where I thought, ‘That’s what I wanted to do.'”
Intriguingly, Buzz’s musical influences extend beyond the grunge realm, surprising many with his deep-rooted admiration for KISS. Despite the apparent differences in musical styles between the Melvins and KISS, Buzz emphasizes the allure of KISS’s ability to craft exceptional songs. He acknowledges their contribution in extending the pioneering work of Alice Cooper and praises the artistry in songs like “Goin Blind” and “Strange Ways,” citing them as exemplars of guitar brilliance.
In the grand tapestry of grunge’s evolution, the Melvins remain a pivotal force, whose impact resonates deeply within the music of influential bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden. Buzz Osbourne’s insights shed light on the underappreciated yet transformative role the Melvins played in the grunge movement, leaving a legacy that continues to reverberate through the annals of music history.