The Return of King Buzzo
by Rodney Lotter
Apparently, Bellingham is officially on The Melvins’ map. I have no idea what it was like before, but I know I have seen The Melvins at least three or four times in just as many years. Over that span, I have seen them play in many incarnations: the full line-up with two drummers, the normal lineup and the normal lineup BUT with an acoustic bassist (who happened to be Trevor Dunn from Mr. Bungle, Fantomas and Tomahawk! nbd.) So, it comes as no surprise that this time around it won’t be The Melvins playing at all, but rather an acoustic performance by frontman Buzz Osborne, aka King Buzzo.
In short, King Buzzo is a rock legend who holds a revered status amongst the crustiest of punks and the macho-ist of metalheads. In the metal/punk world, he rightfully holds court with the likes of Glenn Danzig, Lemmy Kilmister and few others. King Buzzo is known for creating some of the gnarliest, loudest, heaviest riffs in Pacific Northwest rock history. So, the fact that the King is stashing away the stacks, kicking aside the effects pedals and dusting off the acoustic guitar may come as a surprise to some, but given Buzzo’s penchant for throwing his fans for a loop, this comes as no surprise at all.
“Well, [playing acoustic on stage] is definitely different from what I’m used to, and of course different from what the audience is used to,” Buzzo said. “But, I have always been open-minded about music and I’m a hard worker, so I am up to the challenge.”
When asked what is the most challenging aspect of playing alone onstage, King Buzzo said it was the fact that he can’t just hide behind the drums the whole time. Indeed, when one is constantly playing with two drummers (two of the best and loudest drummers alive, by the way,) it would make sense that just a voice and an acoustic guitar could be intimidating, to say the least.
But, let’s not get it twisted, this is King Buzzo we are talking about here! One listen to “Dark Brown Teeth” from his new acoustic solo album This Machine Kills Artists should put that notion to rest. The songs are still brooding and dark, the riffs are still heavy (albeit taken down a notch,) and it still sounds like The Melvins.
“I’ve always played acoustic guitar at home, and have written most of The Melvins’ songs on an acoustic, so the whole writing and playing part isn’t very foreign to me,” Buzzo said. “But, it was a challenge to make a full-length album of just acoustic songs. It’s been an idea I have kicked around, so I just decided to trust my instincts and try to open up some new doors in the process.”
This Machine Kills Artists is the first solo album recorded by King Buzzo, and it is set to be released on June 3 via Ipecac Records. The name of the album is a tongue-in-cheek nod to acoustic guitar wielding badass Woody Guthrie, who famously played an acoustic guitar with the message “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on it in bold, black letters. The album features 17 tracks, which Buzzo said the crowd can expect to hear the bulk of, as well as some of The Melvins’ tunes thrown into the mix. Some can say that King Buzzo is doing the whole Bob Dylan trip, but in reverse, starting out electric and then going acoustic.
King Buzzo has been on an extensive tour for the solo album, which began last fall and will wrap up at the end of July. Buzzo said the tour has been going smoothly, and he has become much more comfortable on stage, receiving nothing but love from the crowds.
“Our fans seem to be really open to the idea,” Buzzo said. “We typically don’t have the head-banging, mosh pit, Slayer-type of fans, so I didn’t think they would be disappointed in any way with the show. So far, I have had nothing but a positive experience.”
When asked if he would consider releasing more solo acoustic albums, all he said was “Who knows? I hope so!” (Oh, and he also said THE MELVINS ARE WORKING ON A NEW ALBUM AS WE SPEAK! All indications is it will probably come out some time in the fall, barring any setbacks.)
Catch King Buzzo at the Shakedown on June 21. Get tickets while you can, if there are even any left by the time you have finished reading this. Tickets are $13 and can be purchased at The Shakedown or online at theshakedownbellingham.com. Adam Faucett opens the show.