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An Interview With Dale Crover (Melvins)

For fans of heavy rock music, The Melvins need no introduction. For the rest of you, the Montesano, Washington band has been active since 1983 and has been influencing your favorite sludge metal, grunge, and punk bands ever since. Their most recent album, "Pinkus Abortion Technician," features two bass players -- Steven McDonald and Jeff Pinkus -- on every track, and they're taking both of them on the road. I recently jumped on a call with drummer Dale Crover to talk about the band's ever-shifting lineup, the process of wrangling two bass players, the new record, and more ahead of tonight's show in Kansas City.

Since you guys just recorded with Jeff Pinkus and have him on tour with you right now, I figured now would be a good time to ask if there's a particular lineup of the band from throughout the years that really sticks out to you or was more enjoyable than the others. Maybe when you guys were playing with Big Business?
Doing the double drummer thing was very cool. It helped us to reinvent our band. We've kind of almost done the same thing with adding another bass player. But yeah, any of the people we've played with in the past we've enjoyed playing with. The only reason we've gone through so many bass players has nothing to do with their playing and is more on a personal level, just being able to get along with somebody or whatever.

We've enjoyed pretty much everybody before, but now we've got two really super talented amazing bass players -- two of my favorite bass players, guys I've followed for a really long time. Steve McDonald is actually from Redd Kross. I've always loved those guys for a long time and he's an amazing bass player, almost underrated in a way, because I think he's one of the best. I know some of the bands he's tried out for in the past and I'm surprised he didn't get the job. He's actually played with some really good bands in the past. He's played with Beck and Sparks and I think he even played with Tenacious D, but I know that he tried out for Weezer when he didn't have a gig and he didn't get picked and I think maybe Billy Corgan's project and he didn't get picked for it, which seems silly to me because [he's] one of the best bass players ever.

And then there's Jeff Pinkus who also is totally amazing. He's somebody that we've played with in the past and we did some touring with him and we'd done a record with him and his partner in Butthole Surfers, Paul Leary. We've toured with Jeff in the past and the last couple years we've been working with Steve just because with our situation. Having worked with so many people in the past and having to fire them, we never wanna be attached to one person. I'd done some playing with Steve in his band OFF! and I thought he'd be really fun to play with in the Melvins, so that's how we got him.

You mentioned that adding a second drummer for the first time helped you reinvent the band. Was it a matter of becoming bored with the normal format?
No, not at all. We basically had to start over with another bass player. We'd lost our bass player Kevin [Rutmanis], he'd kinda went out on the deep end doing pills and stuff. He was just in no condition to play with us and it was really kind of a bummer, 'cause we really liked Kevin a lot, but we had to let him go. In the end, he understood the whole thing and had come to us later and it was a really super hard thing to do for us, to fire somebody like that, somebody you're invested in, that you're good friends with and have this business with and make music with. To have to get rid of somebody like that because of their behavior was really, really hard, so it really hurt us and we had to do something to completely reinvent the band.

What happened was I had known Jared [Warren] through my wife. She was friends with his old bands Karp and Tight Bros From Way Back When, so I had known Jared through her and I knew he had this new band with Coady [Willis] and my wife was like, "You should think about asking Jared, he's a really good bass player," and I'm like, "That's a good idea," and I mentioned it to Buzz and he was like, "Why don't we just get both of those guys and have two drummers?" and I'm like, "That's a great fucking idea."

We'd actually played with Big Business in the past, having them open for us, so I called them up and asked if they'd be interested and sure enough, those guys were thinking about moving from Seattle to Los Angeles to begin with, so it worked out great. For the time that those guys were playing with us, it was really good. But it was because of Kevin we decided we would never have anyone else as a completely permanent member, and if we wanted to change it up and do something different, there wouldn't be any hard feelings if we wanted to do that. That's the understanding we've had with everybody that we've played with since then. That includes those two guys, it includes Jeff, it includes Steve and it includes Trevor Dunn, who we've played with in the past, too. And all these guys, I know eventually we'll play with again.

You guys must be pretty principled to have these type of rules and to follow them so strictly.
Well, they're pretty casual. Nothing is set in stone. We don't have to follow any one thing necessarily, and that's been the good thing about the band and one thing that's helped the longevity of the band. We've never gotten stuck into one rut or making the same record over and over again. We've always wanted to progress and grow.

I was curious if there are any other bands you've been impressed by over the years that've pulled off two drummers or two bassists. I know Thee Oh Sees have done a good job of that.
Yeah, I think they still have two drummers. I only saw those guys once and I saw them in a really small place and it was hard for me to see the drummers, but I liked them a lot. There's probably a few others. Probably one of the first bands that I saw that had the two drummer thing going on was this band from North Carolina called The Cherry Valence. One of the guys from the band was kind of like the singer, but he would also go and play drums and it was cool. The one that I saw first would actually not be those guys, it was Butthole Surfers now that I think about it. They had two standup drummers.

On the new album you guys have the Beatles cover and I'd read about your interest in them before. Was that your pick?
No, actually, I don't think it was. That was one we were playing live with Jeff and it's actually a cover of a cover. Our version is a take on the version by The Moving Sidewalks who were a band from Texas in the sixties whose guitar player was Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. It was more of a psychedelic band. That song to me sounds like they're trying to take the Beatles song and play it sort of how Hendrix would play it. And there's also another cover of a cover on the record, which is the James Gang song, "Stop," which wasn't written by them. I can't remember who wrote it, but our version was a take on their live version of that song. And then we just chopped it together with a Butthole Surfers song, because who would ever think of doing a James Gang/Butthole Surfers medley, besides us? [laughing]

As far as the tour goes, has it been a strange process incorporating two bass parts into the material that doesn't already have them?
We worked on that really hard before we went on tour and kinda left it up to those guys. We gave them a little bit of direction. While we were playing, if we heard them stumble on something we would encourage that or whatever, but it's cool.

Which older songs are you most excited to hear two bass parts on?
In this set we're playing a song called "At A Crawl" that we haven't played in I don't know how long, 15, 20 years probably. It's on our first record and our very first seven-inch as well. They do a little bit with that, but there are some older songs they do stuff with like "Eye Flys" is pretty incredible since it's all based around a bass line anyway, so it's pretty massive with these guys. It's a little different since there's more gear on stage, but it's pretty cool. It's pretty massive -- like driving a big tank. [laughing]

Are there any other projects or pieces of solo work that you've been working on lately?
Yeah, before we go to Europe, I've been playing with Redd Kross the last year or so and we're gonna do a little West Coast tour. I also put a solo record out last year and I haven't ever done any shows. I guess when I first did it I didn't really think of putting a live band together. Now I have, and we're opening for that. Basically, the live band is me, Steve McDonald, Toshi Kasai -- who engineers all the Melvins stuff -- and this girl I know Mindy [?] is gonna play drums. I'm also gonna sing and play guitar and play drums, too.

Also, there's gonna be "A Walk With Love & Death" movie coming out pretty soon. I just saw the final cut last night and it's something [laughing].

The Melvins play tonight (Friday, May 25, 2018) at recordBar in Kansas City.

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