meta-scriptReunited Shoegaze Legends Slowdive Prove 'Everything Is Alive' | GRAMMY.com
Slowdive
Slowdive (L-R: Christian Savill, Nick Chaplin, Rachel Goswell, Simon Scott, Neil Halstead)

Photo: Ingrid Pop

interview

Reunited Shoegaze Legends Slowdive Prove 'Everything Is Alive'

When Slowdive returned almost a decade ago, they were in the awkward position of "heritage band." Their new album 'everything is alive' proves they remain a fruitful creative enterprise.

GRAMMYs/Sep 6, 2023 - 01:00 pm

Slowdive may occupy an odd zone in the music industry, but they're in good company. Like Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies, Slowdive arrived during the golden age of alternative music, semi-chaotically broke up, reunited in the 21st century, and then stayed together.

During their time away, Slowdive's celestial, tempestuous brand of rock music had been codified as a genre unto itself: shoegaze. Which used to be a pejorative, and was now a badge of honor.

When they returned to the game in 2014 — thinking they'd play a festival or two — they realized the world was more primed than ever to embrace them.

"I think it took us a moment to feel like we're not just the heritage band," their founding guitarist and vocalist, Neil Halstead, admits to GRAMMY.com. "We felt a bit awkward... people wanted to hear songs that we wrote 20 years ago."

For a minute, Slowdive gracefully assumed the "heritage band" role, playing beloved oldies like "Catch the Breeze," "Machine Gun" and "Dagger" for old heads and a zealous new generation. Soon, they realized their creative synergy was intact: they could be not only back, but here.

In 2017, they dropped the acclaimed Slowdive; now, they're out with everything is alive, a continuation of their long-delayed evolution that hews closely to what made them special, with a few aesthetic twists.

Diaphanous tracks like "prayer remembered," "kisses" and "the slab" could have been released in 1993, but they sound right at home in 2023.

Read on for a full interview with Halstead about the journey to everything is alive and his ripening dynamic with vocalist Rachel Goswell, guitarist Christian Savill, bassist Nick Chaplin, and drummer Simon Scott.

Slowdive

*Slowdive (L-R, clockwise from bottom left: Neil Halstead, Simon Scott, Nick Chaplin, Christian Savill, Rachel Goswell)*

This interview has been edited for clarity.

**What was the germ of everything is alive? What did the band primarily wish to communicate?**

Approaching any record, I think you  just want to enjoy the creative process. You always hope that you're gonna try and do something a little different than maybe what you've done before.

When we decided we were going to do this record I brought a bunch of stuff in for the band — electronic music I'd been working on for a couple of years;' it was no guitars — just sort of modular and kind of synth bass, minimal electronic music.

The most important thing for me is that it's a valid creative exercise. That it's fun and it's enjoyable. I never really think about where it's going to end.

What's your relationship with electronic music been like over the years?

I suppose my interest in electronic music dates back to when we were doing [1995's] Pygmalion. Up to that point, I was an indie kid, into my guitar music and stuff.

I sort of started getting into more sort of techno — Aphex Twin, Warp Records, bands like LFO. Exploring stuff like John Cage, and Stockhausen, and that more experimental side of music, opens up all those areas.

In the last, I guess, 10 years, I've sort of got much more into modular kinds of systems. Which is just really good fun. I make a lot of music that doesn't really have any outlet, you know. I really just enjoy making it. It doesn't really involve guitars.

Slowdive's drummer, Simon [Scott], is in the U.S.; all his solo stuff is sort of field music, and much more ambient kind of bass music. It's kind of granular. He likes to really explore different textures.

I think there's always been a side side of Slowdive that is more interested in the instrumentals, rather than making songs — the side that enjoys just creating textures.

After Pygmalion, certainly, my interest was more electronic music, and then it reverted to acoustic music and folk music. [Electronic music] is certainly where my head's at these days. 

[everything is alive] was really enjoyable because it kind of brought those electronic things into Slowdive world as well.

Regarding modular synths, what are you nerding out about lately? It seems like it could be a bottomless rabbit hole.

Yeah, it's a bit like guitar pedals, because you can collect these things and continue to collect them. There are always new modules coming out.

It is a massive rabbit hole and a massive waste of money, but it keeps me entertained and happy. I can lose so much time just messing around with them, and then realize I haven't actually recorded anything.

But there's something quite nice about that as well. It's very in the moment; it's very present working with that kind of technology.

Souvlaki was released when I was a year old; you guys were barely in your twenties. How would you characterize your working relationship with Slowdive as grown-ups, without the rough edges of youth? It seems like it'd be much saner.

It's definitely less hysterical. You got it right with the rough edges of youth, but some of that angst was really helpful in creating music. Souvlaki, Just For a Day — it's kind of teenage music.

That was an important part of what we did. We wouldn't have made those records if we'd not been teenagers. So, it's a different thing now, trying to make Slowdive records.

I don't know if it's a more sane experience, but it's more measured. I couldn't really conceive of making a record like Pygmalion now, because to make that record, I almost had to alienate the rest of the band. No one else was really into electronic music; I had to force my hand with that.


To their credit, they let me do it, but I think it probably broke the band up; we split up after that record. I wouldn't want to put everyone in that position. Now, I'm much more willing to compromise, and they're much more willing to find a way through, where everyone's happy with the record.

Which is probably a better way to make Slowdive records, but it does mean it takes longer to make them.For it to go on a Slowdive record, everyone has to love it. That means you lose a lot of material [chuckles] but that's just the process.

How did the material germinate past the point of electronic experiments, and bloom into a proper Slowdive album?

Purely by just taking them to the band. A lot of them we would use as the basis for a track, so we'd literally have the band play along to what was there.

Then, we started taking bits and pieces out, and seeing what we were left with — thinking Well, maybe we can record this in a different way, you know. With every track, we would approach it quite organically and just see where it went.

Maybe we would try adding a few guitars, or maybe I'd just say to Simon, "Can you try drumming along to this one." And things started to take shape, where we were kind of like, OK, that sounds cool. That's kind of interesting.

For my part, I remained really detached from the original ideas, because it had to be a Slowdive record. So, everyone had to feel like they were part of the process.

Tell me about a part of everything is alive that benefited greatly from your bandmates' touch.

There are so many moments like that. "prayer remembered" was a really nice one. It was literally just this one arpeggiating synth that I played, that created the melody and the tune. I had Simon and [guitarist] Christian [Savill] play along to this thing.

Then, we took the original modular away from the track, which sort of left this space. Simon ended up taking some of Christian's guitars and feeding them through a Max patch system — you can granulate and change the sounds.

There's this kind of choral component that flips in and out, which is this Match patch stuff that Simon worked from. It's really lovely, and it adds so much to the track. 

When Simon figured out the drums for "the slab," that was a big moment for us. I think with the track "chained to a cloud," that was a big moment as well, because originally, that had a load of choruses. Once we took the choruses away, it really simplified the whole thing, and it became this very linear journey.

It's just little moments where suddenly, things start to make sense. You start to feel like the tracks are creating their own endpoints, as they go into their own special places.

Can you speak to the production aesthetic — how you wanted the sound to impact people?

We had Shawn Everett mix the record; I went out to L.A. to mix the record with Shawn. Having him take raw stems and make them fit together really well was a big moment for us.

It definitely brought a lot of attitude to the records, particularly in terms of the drums. Making them a bit dirtier sounding and stuff like that was really important to the finished record.

When Slowdive reunited in the 2010s, what was it like to see the aesthetic of Slowdive and your contemporaries become a lodestar to aspire to?

To be honest, I wasn't really aware that shoegaze had kind of become a thing. 

There was a moment in the early 2000s, when a German label did a compilation where they had all their bands do cover versions of Slowdive songs; it was an electronic label that you really wouldn't associate with guitar music at all. 

I remember hearing that and being like, Oh, this is kind of interesting! It was weird that they'd even heard of us, let alone decided to do a whole record of Slowdive songs, coming from a completely different genre.

But it wasn't until we got back together in 2014 [to play Primavera Sound in Barcelona that] we were like, "OK, maybe we could do that." We'd been seeing each other a little bit. It was quite good timing, in terms of people feeling like they could put in a bit of time and do a festival or two.

But once we started doing the festivals, and then a few shows of our own, we realized that this shoegaze thing had taken on its own life; a whole generation of kids had found this music through the internet. I wasn't aware of that until that point. I don't think anyone else in the band was either.

It's great that shoegaze has taken ahold of its own name, and affirmed that, in a way. When the term was coined, it was obviously not meant in a particularly nice way. It's great that that term has been regained, and it's a proper genre now, which I think is kind of cool.

My hunch is that neither Slowdive nor your contemporaries thought you were making any codified style of music. Rather, it seems like you all were just trying to make rock music with dreaminess and beauty to it.

I think you're right. Originally, it was just a bunch of bands that wanted to make guitar music that sounded different — that wasn't necessarily going to sound right on the radio.

That wasn't the thing anyone was really thinking about. It was more like, I want to make a record as beautiful as Cocteau Twins, or as massive-sounding as My Bloody Valentine, or as ridiculous as Loop.

I think they didn't just want to make a pop song that sounds decent on the radio. There was something else going on there.

Bobbie Gentry

Bobbie Gentry

Photo: NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

news

Lady Legends And Newcomers Join Mercury Rev On Bobbie Gentry Tribute Album

Mercury Rev revisits Gentry's classic sophomore album with female guest vocalists who shine. Catch the album out Feb. 8

GRAMMYs/Nov 15, 2018 - 05:34 am

Indie band Mercury Rev have announced their next album, a tribute to Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited, will be available on Feb. 8.

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The album features an array of guest voices. Mercury Rev's incredible selection of guest vocalists on the tracks kicks off with Norah Jones performing "Okolona River Bottom Band." Others lending their voices to the effort are Phoebe Bridgers, Vashti Bunyan, Rachel Goswell, Marissa Nadler, Beth Orton, Lætitia Sadier, Hope Sandoval, Kaela Sinclair, Susanne Sundfør, Carice van Houten, and Lucinda Williams, whose rendition of "Ode To Billie Joe" was added to the original album's tracklist.

"Bobbie is iconic, original, eloquent and timeless," said singer Margo Price, whose guest vocals are featured on "Sermon." "She has remained a strong voice and an eternal spirit of the delta, wrapped in mystery, yet forever here."

The Delta Sweete was Gentry's 1968 follow up to her debut Ode To Billie Joe, for which she won three GRAMMYs at the 10th GRAMMY Awards.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">NEWS: <a href="https://twitter.com/mercuryrevvd?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mercuryrevvd</a> have announced the release of Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited! The album is a re-imagining of Bobbie Gentry’s forgotten masterpiece and features an incredible cast list of guest vocalists. More info here... <a href="https://t.co/ctfOtZ9kGb">https://t.co/ctfOtZ9kGb</a> <a href="https://t.co/TFfyaYdSVa">pic.twitter.com/TFfyaYdSVa</a></p>&mdash; bella union (@bellaunion) <a href="https://twitter.com/bellaunion/status/1062726053943300096?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 14, 2018</a></blockquote>

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For the full track list and additional details see Bella Union's announcement and Pitchfork. Mercury Rev recently concluded their 2018 U.S. tour and will be playing across Britain in Dec.

Lucinda Williams Plots 'Car Wheels On A Gravel Road' 20th Anniversary Tour

Robert Smith of the Cure on stage

Robert Smith

Photo: Scott Legato/Getty Images

news

The Cure Announce All-Star Lineup For 40th-Anniversary Celebration

Interpol, Goldfrapp, Slowdive, and more to join the British dream-rockers in London next July celebrating four decades as a band

GRAMMYs/Dec 13, 2017 - 06:29 am

Next year, the Cure will celebrate 40 years as a band with a celebration concert at London's BST Hyde Park on July 7, 2018, and they're bringing along some very talented friends.

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Interpol, Goldfrapp, Slowdive, Editors, Twilight Sad, and Ride will join the Cure, along with additional performers to be announced at a later date, according to Rolling Stone.

Led by emotive frontman Robert Smith, the Cure have provided the soundtrack for a generation with their dreamy rock sound and impassioned, crafty songwriting. From the refreshingly melancholic anthems of the 1980s on such landmark albums as Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Disintegration, to their chart-topping GRAMMY-nominated 1992 album Wish, to their pair of solid releases in the 2000s, including 2004's The Cure and 2008's 4:13 Dream, the Cure have continued to influence new bands and win new fans. Last year, they played a string of U.S. tour dates and even debuted two new songs live in New Orleans.

Presale for the 40th-anniversary celebration show starts Dec. 12 with tickets going on-sale to the general public starting Dec. 15. More information is available via the Cure's website.

Florence Welch Hosts 40th Anniversary Of David Bowie's "Heroes"

Tanner Adell
Tanner Adell attends the 2024 CMA Awards.

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for CMT

list

12 Must-See Acts At Stagecoach 2024: Tanner Adell, Charley Crockett & More

Before the country music festival returns to the California desert April 26-28, get to know some of the most buzzworthy artists set to take this year's Stagecoach Festival by storm.

GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2024 - 11:28 pm

In a matter of days, some of country music's best and most promising acts will come together in Indio, California for Stagecoach Festival 2024. The annual event has spotlighted an eclectic mix of talent since 2007, but this year's impressive roster of performers helped Stagecoach earn its largest number of ticket sales in the festival's 17-year history.

Held April 28-30 at the Empire Polo Club — the same scenic desert landscape as the long-running Coachella Music and Arts Festival — this year's Stagecoach Festival offers a diverse blend of artists that spans from headliners like Miranda Lambert and Eric Church to surf-pop icons the Beach Boys, hit rockers Nickelback and hip-hop star Post Malone

Along with this diverse roster of superstars, the 2024 Stagecoach lineup is filled with a captivating list of artists on the rise. From a singer/songwriter enjoying a much-deserved comeback to a skillful 25-year-old putting his own spin on the '90s country sound, this year's crop of talent is paving the way for the future of country music.

Stagecoach Festival 2024 is completely sold out, but country fans who didn't snag their ticket in time can still enjoy all the festivities by streaming performances live via Amazon Prime all weekend long. Before you head out into the California sun or get cozy in front of your TV, take a moment to learn more about these 12 must-see acts coming to Stagecoach this year.

Tanner Adell

Since the release of Beyoncé's country-inspired album COWBOY CARTER, singer/songwriter Tanner Adell has become one of the genre's most talked about new artists. Before she was tapped as a guest vocalist on Beyoncé's cover of the Beatles' classic "Blackbird," and original track "AMERIICAN REQUIEM," Adell had already garnered a dedicated fan base online. 

Thanks to viral hits like "Buckle Bunny," the playful title track of her 2023 debut album, the Nashville-based talent has earned praise from both critics and country listeners worldwide. From heartfelt ballads to beat-driven bops made to get you on the dance floor, Adell blends elements of radio-ready modern country and rhythmic hip-hop with ease.

Adell's Saturday performance at Stagecoach promises to be a fiery and fun showcase of her polished pop-country songbook.

Zach Top

While growing up in Washington state, Zach Top forged a deep connection to the sound of traditional country music. From Marty Robbins to Keith Whitley, the influence of the genre's past is deeply entwined in every track of the talented 25-year-old's brand new record, Cold Beer & Country Music

Top's 12-track LP has earned plenty of buzz for its new take on the neo-traditionalist style that dominated country radio in the late 1980s and early '90s. With engaging vocals reminiscent of the late Daryle Singletary and thoughtful lyricism, Zach Top provides a fresh new take on a familiar and formative sound.

Brittney Spencer

Over the past five years, Brittney Spencer has repeatedly proven why she's one of the most important and captivating voices within modern country music. From her acclaimed 2021 single "Sober & Skinny'' to her celebrated collaboration with country supergroup The Highwomen, Spencer's vocals are consistently as emotive as they are effortless.

Spencer's charismatic personality and boundless energy take center stage through every performance, making her live shows a can't-miss event. Her Sunday afternoon set at Stagecoach offers a chance to hear cuts from her stellar debut album, My Stupid Life, which dropped in January.

Vincent Neil Emerson

Texas native Vincent Neil Emerson first earned widespread praise with the 2019 release of his debut album, Fried Chicken and Evil Women, earning him comparisons to influential artists like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. His narrative-driven lyrics and hauntingly raw vocals have won the hearts of country fans far outside the Texas plains.

Over the years, he's collaborated with fellow alt-country favorite Colter Wall and recruited the creative genius of Rodney Crowell, who serves as producer on Emerson's self-titled 2021 LP. With his most recent album, the Shooter Jennings-produced The Golden Crystal Kingdom, Emerson once again channels the old-school magic of the traditional country that only comes from a rare type of Texas troubadour.

Katie Pruitt

Although Katie Pruitt has been locally lauded as among the best of Nashville's modern crop of singer/songwriters for years, her rise into the mainstream is still overdue. The Georgia native's stunning 2020 debut album, Expectations, was hailed for its raw honesty and effortless vocal intricacies. 

When she takes the stage during the final day of Stagecoach 2024, Pruitt will be armed with a brand new batch of awe-inspiring songs. Released on April 5, her sophomore album, Mantras, delivers an unpredictable, genre-bending sound that displays a sense of artistry far beyond her years. Don't miss your chance to see Pruitt's mesmerizing live set, which is guaranteed to have you dancing and maybe even wiping away a few tears.

Carin León

In just a few short years, beloved Mexican singer/songwriter Carin León has evolved from a regional hitmaker to an internationally known talent. His reflective and honest songs have connected with audiences globally, becoming one of Spotify's most streamed modern Mexican artists. 

Earlier this year, the two-time Latin GRAMMY-winner made his Grand Ole Opry debut, and will serve as the opening act for rock legends the Rolling Stones' Hackney Diamonds Tour when it heads to Glendale, Ariz. this May. (And just one week before his Stagecoach debut, he also made his Coachella debut.) Fans who catch his Friday set may be lucky enough to see a live rendition of "It Was Always You (Siempre Fuiste Tú)," his fresh collaboration with fellow Stagecoach 2024 artist Leon Bridges.

Trampled By Turtles 

Thanks to their unique blend of bluegrass, folk, country, and a dash of rock and roll, Minnesota-based outfit Trampled by Turtles has become a music festival staple — and will make their third Stagecoach appearance (and first in 10 years) on Saturday. Their high-energy live sets channel the psychedelic magic of rock's jam band scene, subbing plucky acoustic instrumentation in the place of rolling electric guitar.

The long-running band will treat fans to an array of tracks from their impressive career, which spans 10 albums, including their critically praised 2022 LP, Alpenglow. Even if you aren't already familiar with Trampled by Turtles' extensive list of releases, you're sure to be captivated by their hypnotizing performance style and positive energy that radiates from the live stage.

Charley Crockett

Texas-born talent Charley Crockett is one of few modern artists who have proven worthy enough for the coveted title of "troubadour." The seasoned singer/songwriter's appearance at Stagecoach will coincide with the release of $10 Cowboy, his soulful and synth-tinged 16th studio album.

Crockett's mix of traditional country and thoughtful folk, infused with gritty 1970s pop, creates a nostalgic charm that captivates the live stage. His descriptive story songs and distinctive twang echo the genre's early greats while expanding those classic country themes into new and surprising sonic territory. His Stagecoach 2024 set is sure to deliver a blend of fresh album cuts along with fan favorites from his already-expansive catalog.

Lola Kirke

You may know Lola Kirke as an accomplished actress in both television and film, but the British talent is also one of country music's most surprising new artists. Her stylized mix of traditional country and edgy pop-rock is refreshingly fun and tailor-made for Stagecoach's good-time vibe. 

In recent months, Kirke has shared a string of infectious singles leading up to the release of her latest EP, Country Curious. In March, she dropped a stellar take on the Paula Cole classic "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" featuring Stagecoach 2023 alumni Kaitlin Butts. Make sure you clean off your boots before Kirke's set, because there's a good chance she'll have a very special line dance lesson ready for the crowd.

Willie Jones

For nearly a decade, Louisiana-born talent Willie Jones has captivated country fans with fresh and genre-bending tracks, propelled by deep, rich vocals. Since first making waves with his rendition of Josh Turner's "Your Man" during an audition for "The X-Factor" in 2012, Jones has been paving his own path in the genre. 

He's recorded two full-length records, including his irresistible 2023 LP Something to Dance To. His Stagecoach set will certainly be a boot-stomper, offering concertgoers a chance to experience the magic captured on his latest EP, The Live Sessions, which arrived on April 5.

Sam Barber

Missouri native Sam Barber has evolved from a hopeful musician to a viral sensation with a major-label record deal. While passing the time at college, the gifted 20-year-old began recording covers of his favorite country tracks and shared them on TikTok, quickly garnering thousands of eager listeners. His down-to-earth charm, paired with surprisingly seasoned and gritty vocals, also earned the attention of Atlantic Records. 

In 2023, they shared Barber's debut EP, Million Eyes, which spawned the breakthrough radio single "Straight and Narrow." Now, fresh off the release of Live EP 001 and a string of new singles, Barber will bring his thoughtful yet edgy country sound to Stagecoach, marking another rapidfire career accomplishment.

Luke Grimes

Although you may know him best for his role as the chaotic charmer Kayce Dutton on the acclaimed television series "Yellowstone," Luke Grimes' creative talents expand far outside the small screen. A lifelong musician and lover of country music, Grimes took the stage at Stagecoach 2023 in support of his debut EP, Pain Pills or Pews. The project's raw and honest tracks earned critical acclaim and quickly led Grimes back into the studio, tapping Dave Cobb as producer for his vulnerable new self-titled LP, which arrived on March 8.

Whether you're a longtime fan of his acting or an already devoted listener, Grimes' set marks a pivotal moment in his ever-evolving musical career — and one of many can't-miss moments at this year's Stagecoach Festival.

Why 2024 Is The Year Women In Country Music Will Finally Have Their Moment

The Melvins
The Melvins (L-R: Dale Crover, Steven McDonald, Buzz Osborne)

Photo: Chris Casella

interview

On The Melvins' 'Tarantula Heart,' Buzz Osborne Continues His Idiosyncratic Calling: "I Don't Want To Do Anything Normal"

Kicking out bassists, flipping the script on drummers, beating up drunks: no conversation with the razor-sharp Buzz Osborne is going to be conventional. And the Melvins' gloriously strange new album, 'Tarantula Heart,' is a boon to off-center music fans.

GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2024 - 08:24 pm

"I will answer any and all questions. Just, a lot of times, people don't like my answers."

So goes Buzz Osborne — the long-reigning King Buzzo, of cult heavies the Melvins — halfway through a hair-raising, hour-long interview. He had a catbird seat to the exhilarating rise and tragic fall of the grunge era; for some, his brutal honesty in that regard might be a liability.

"That's just Buzz," said his old friend Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, after Osborne virally disparaged the documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck as "90 percent... bulls—." "He's always been like that, but we love him so we just accept him for that. He's always had these opinions. Like, 'Oh, there goes Buzz again.'"

There he goes again, indeed. But Osborne's honesty is just that — honesty. Go ahead and scour his interviews; try to catch him in a lie, or a half-truth, about anything he's lived through.

"I wasn't wrong then, I'm not wrong now. I was misunderstood then, and I'm going to continue to be misunderstood," Osborne tells GRAMMY.com of the old days, when he watched his friends in Nirvana and Soundgarden grow from nothing to dominate the earth. "But that's OK, it's part of the deal."

Unlike either act, Osborne has always been 100 percent opposed to conventional notions of rock stardom. (Cobain seemed hot and cold on the matter.) He doesn't drink or take drugs. He's been married to the same woman forever. "I live a conservative life, and I let my wildness come out of my art," Osborne explains.

And while Tarantula Heart might not necessarily grow his cult fanbase, it's one of the wildest things Osborne's made — and that alone makes it worth celebrating and cherishing.

The Melvins' 27th studio album (Osborne estimates the total to be over 30, so perhaps it depends on how you count) is rife with off-kilter, pummeling tracks like "Working the Ditch," "She's Got Weird Arms" and "Smiler."

Therein, Osborne shows he can still throw a wrench in the works when things threaten to become predictable, and come up with profoundly idiosyncratic and ineffably satisfying art. (How he recorded the drums alone is fascinating — and by some standards, backwards.)

Read on to learn how Tarantula Heart was made, living with Kurt Cobain's distorted public shadow, which of his grunge-era contemporaries he still talks to, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

I'll admit that I haven't heard every Melvins album. But Tarantula Heart still strikes me as a high watermark in the discography.

Well, I don't think anybody has heard our entire catalog.

I probably have. I would say that I guarantee you Steven [Shane McDonald]'s never listened to all of our records. The guy who plays bass for us. I really, seriously doubt it. I doubt that [former bassist] Kevin Rutmanis has ever listened to all of our records. I can't imagine that the Big Business guys listened to all our records. It's too much for anybody to take in. I don't expect people to do that.

At any rate, how do you keep your artistry so fresh and inspired?

I stay inspired by thinking — moving my feet. After 30-plus albums, I am always looking for something that's going to inspire me in a new way. I don't really have much interest in going back and making records the way that I did 30 years ago, or 15 years ago.

There's really no template for how you guys do things, is there?

No, there's no template. I don't want to do anything normal. Nothing. I'm an accidentalist, I'd say, by 50 percent. And the other 50 percent is making sure that you are not throwing out the good stuff with the bad stuff. 

Also, as time has gone on, I've realized that my tolerance for lots of stuff is a lot higher than most people are capable of dealing with. I can listen to long, drawn-out stuff, and I always could, but I realized in my music, I always held back a little bit on it. Then, I realized, Well, I don't need to do that. I can do whatever I want. I can view albums the way that I want to.

Do go on.

One of my favorite albums for that kind of thing is Heathen Earth by Throbbing Gristle. That's been a huge inspiration on what I've done for a long time. Or early Swans. I mean, we were never going to sell millions of records. All we were going to do was make music that, because I felt like I had good taste, there'd be other people that would like it. It probably won't be millions, but it'll be enough.

Those kinds of inspirations [are] very exciting for me. And I expect people not to understand it, but that's the way it's always been.

We did this record in such a weird fashion. I knew that I needed to tell people how we did it, but…once they knew, they would say, "That's what it sounds like." They'd piss all over it.

You know how many times I have been told what I should do in the last 41 years? It's like if I listened to all this good advice, I'd be sitting here with nothing.

You characterized yourself as an "accidentalist." Give me a couple of great accidents on Tarantula Heart.

Well, one of them was accidentally figuring out how we were going to do this record. Because that's not how we recorded the drums originally. I didn't know that's what we were going to do. I just accidentally stumbled on it while listening to the demos or the rough mixes of all the jams that we made.

So, we would have a basic riff that we could jam to with the drummers. We recorded for about 15 minutes, 20 minutes, maybe a few minutes into it, the drummers would lock up into something. And I realized when I was listening back to [the demos] that they did something interesting for this little six-minute section or eight-minute section, and then they kind of lost it.

Then, I would take that section, and write a riff to it that had nothing to do with the original riff that was on it. The first one I did was "Allergic to Food," I think. And then I put vocals on it and then I realized I could do the whole record like this. The drums are playing along with stuff that's not now on there. So, all their accents and all the way that they're playing isn't the way they would've done it, had we rehearsed it or something like this.

So, I got something out of it that's brand new.

That's the epitome of a happy accident.

I just accidentally stumbled upon this thing that might work, let me try doing the whole record like that. And it worked. But I don't know, I couldn't do it again, because now they'd be suspicious of it and they might play in a way that wasn't as free as the way they played. So, it's probably a one-time-only.

There's a song we did a long time ago called "The Bloated Pope," and there's a stumbly-sounding drum intro. Dale [Crover] made a mistake. I went, "Leave that in there. That's really cool." Now, that's the intro. It sounds intentional. That's how we play it now. But it was a mistake.

You mentioned Kevin Rutmanis. Do you keep in touch with old members of the Melvins?

I'm still really good friends with Kevin. Let me think. Mark [Deutrom], no. Lori [Black], no. Jeff Pinkus… I'm going to do a big acoustic tour starting in August with Trevor Dunn, who's also played with us. Jeff Pinkus is doing all the U.S. touring, and we're trying to get him on the European end of it. So, I talk to both Trevor and him a lot.

Matt [Lukin] from Mudhoney — no, not in the least.

I didn't know stuff wasn't cool with Matt. I just knew he played on the first Melvins album, Gluey Porch Treatments.

Oh, no, I don't get along with him at all. I haven't liked him since I was in high school. He's a very toxic human being. He wasn't a very good player, and I just found him irritating and counterproductive. I've not looked back one minute, nor have I regretted any part of not having him in my life.

He can do or say whatever he wants. I don't give a s—. That's nothing new. It's not like that's a new revelation. Look, hardly anybody in the world even knows who he is. You're one of the first people that's even brought him up.

That's surprising, as Pearl Jam named a song after him. It's not a hit, but fans know it.

Yeah, well, if Eddie wants to think he's a great guy, then so be it. Better him than me.

How about your other contemporaries, like the other members of Mudhoney?

Oh, I get along with those guys great. I would love to do a recording with all the Mudhoney guys.

Mark [Arm], especially, is someone I've known since the very early '80s. I learned a lot of stuff about bands and music that I never knew before. He turned me on to lots of stuff that I was very excited about, like Foetus and the Birthday Party — just a host of bands.

I always viewed him as somebody who was really smart — really fun to be around. He and Steve Turner know more about music than anyone I've ever been around.

I’d like to broach this as sensitively as possible: April 5 marked the 30th anniversary of your old friend Kurt's passing. How have you dealt with the endless flattening and deification of a person you knew as flesh and blood?

It's very weird. It's not the kind of thing you get over. People tend to want me to look at it like the good old days, but to me, heroin addiction and death, it's hard to romanticize that. I'm not going to get over it anytime soon. I don't know that I ever will.

Part of me also thinks that, yeah, I turned him onto music and got him interested in all this stuff, and it's like maybe if I hadn't, he wouldn't be dead. So it's a weird position to be in.

I hope that doesn't bedevil you too much. That's a massive weight to carry — one that you didn't ask for.

I mean, at some point, you just have to move on. And musical ideas that I had, other people took, and it changed music on a global level. So I wasn't wrong about what I originally thought, and I'm happy to have that be the case, and I'll just move forward with the same attitude I did then.

I wasn't wrong then, I'm not wrong now. I was misunderstood then, and I'm going to continue to be misunderstood, but that's OK, it's part of the deal. I'm OK with that.

It's your lot in life.

That's all right. I mean, I make my living as a musician. That's all I ever wanted. So no one could have guessed any of that stuff would happen.

I mean, the Nirvana guys and the Soundgarden guys — those are rags-to-riches stories.Those guys, especially the Nirvana guys, had nothing. And if you look at the guys in Soundgarden, those people all come from nothing. Zero.

So, it's been exciting to watch people you're so fond of become successful and have that kind of thing happen and say that you were an influence on what they were doing. Great.

But when you're handed that kind of responsibility and those kinds of keys, you need to work harder than you ever have. You just need to keep doing this good work. And that's what I've tried to do for the next 35, 40 years.

The Melvins

*The Melvins in 1991 (L-R: Dale Crover, Buzz Osborne, then-bassist Lori Black). Photo: David Corio/Redferns*

It feels so unfair what happened to you guys. You were kids from the sticks — and to varying degrees, you were all thrown into this ruthless celebrity grinder.

Oh, yeah. It's easy to avoid that stuff. I'm not going to any industry parties. I never have. I don't want to do that kind of stuff. I've always shied away from it, because I'm not comfortable there.

I don't think it's wrong for everyone, but it's wrong for me. I'd rather just do my work and let that be the end of it. I'm not good at networking. I'm not good at outselling myself to people who may not give a s—.

I've been in L.A. for 30-plus years and most people in the industry don't even know I'm there. They still say, "Oh, so you live in the Northwest?" I go, "Well, I left there in '86, '87." And in L.A., you're far more likely to see me at a municipal golf course than at a rock and roll show.

At this point, I only go to rock and roll shows if I'm getting paid to be there. They're not fun for me. I end up in the audience talking to a bunch of drunks. That's not fun for me. Drunks are only fun if you're drunk.

And I appreciate everybody who comes to our shows, but I don't have fun at live shows myself as an audience member. I'm in those places all the time, and I don't want to put myself in a position where I'm going to have to punch someone in the mouth. It's not a good place for me to be, so I avoid it.

That's unfortunate, but I know exactly how I am. If you push me far enough. I'll beat the living f—ing s— out of you. And I don't fight fair. I don't. I grew up in a redneck town. I fought all the time. I'll kick you right in the nuts and then lay your head open.

I get to see enough shows. We did a tour last year with Boris, and we played some shows with We Are the Asteroid and Taipei Houston, who are really good. On stage, I'll get to watch Trevor Dunn play every night. I'm not feeling unfulfilled in a live music type of way at all.

I'm sure your intense work ethic also stems from your upbringing.

Suffering and working a s— job and all those kinds of things — I don't know that that ever made my music better, but it did give me an understanding of how important things like hard work are.

I think it's kind of a tragedy that teenagers don't work more. I always enjoyed working when I was a teenager. I wanted a job. I wanted to do things like that. I think that working hard is something that people should do. I couldn't wait to get a car. I couldn't wait to be mobile, and be my own person.

I've only ever been around my family situation, around people who had to work, so I don't know anything else. I don't know what it's like to live some bourgeois life where work is just not important. Unless you plan on inheriting a lot of money, I don't know how else it's going to work out for you.

I went to school and went to a job after school, got home by about 9 or 10 at night, and went and did the whole thing over again. I never had a problem with that. You don't do the work, you don't get the money. That's just how it works. So this whole idea that teenagers don't work anymore hardly in the US anyway, I think is just kind of absurd.

Before we go, give me a line from the album that you believe in with your whole heart.

"I'm about to make you happy."

What's that mean to you?

It could be the truth. It could be a lie.

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