The Road Warriors Return

A chat with Melvins frontman King Buzzo ahead of the veteran rockers’ Psycho Las Vegas show

Photo by Tony Tran

With a career that spans more than three decades and some 25-odd (very odd) releases, the Melvins have seen rock ’n’ roll on all sides, from indie release to major label, next big thing to legendary lifers. The band has been credited as progenitors of grunge and sludge rock, but the Melvins’ sound is hard to categorize—it’s dense and heavy, but plays with genre and instrumentation, style and tempo. The Melvins are also renowned road warriors: Several years ago, they played dates in all 50 states in 51 days. Frontman King Buzzo spoke to Vegas Seven about choosing a set, not choosing a bass player and how he feels about being the center of attention.

You’re playing Psycho Las Vegas this weekend. Do you try to catch other bands at festivals or check out the scene?

It depends on who’s playing and if we can, if it’s possible. A lot of times at the festivals you’re playing five and a half miles away from a band who you want to see play or want to see you play, and it doesn’t really work out. But other than being onstage, I’m not super-excited about being the center of attention. So I usually don’t venture out into the audience and then talk to lots of people. I find it so nice to be on a platform, but I’m not walking around [saying], “Hey, everybody, here I am.” That’s not me, you know?

The Melvins have been through a number of bass players over the years…

Our last one, who was a permanent member, was in the band for over seven years. We had to get rid of him because of personal issues—you can fill in the blanks there. At that point, we were pretty discouraged. We weren’t looking forward to jumping in bed with another guy or girl and having it be something that doesn’t work out. I get too emotionally attached to it and then when it doesn’t work, it’s really difficult to deal with. So we said that we’re never gonna do that again.

We’re going to play with whoever we want, with the idea that it isn’t permanent. Sometimes we play with Trevor Dunn, sometimes we play with the Big Business guys, sometimes it’s Steven McDonald, sometimes we’ll play with Jeff Pinkus. They’re all extraordinarily talented people, and they all add something that the other people don’t add. I think we’re incredibly blessed to have been able to play with such a wide plethora of amazing musicians. That is what’s important. All of them have something incredible. All of them are important to me.  

You have a very deep catalog. How do you choose what to play live?

We usually make our live sets more along the lines of like performance art more than like a rock band. That’s a better way to describe it. We really, really, really, really worry over the set before we leave. To us, it’s not just “Here’s another little song, and then here’s another song.” Let’s say we were gonna play a 75-minute set: the whole 75 minutes, to me, has to go somewhere. It has to be a journey. You have to have ups and downs and all kinds of things. And those songs only fit together a few ways to make sense.

I’ve had people go, “Isn’t it boring playing the same set every night?” And so I go, “Well, wouldn’t it really be boring if I picked out a really terrible set to play for you that night?” Berlin will get the same show as Fargo, North Dakota. I think that’s cool.

You’ve played Las Vegas quite a bit. Anything you like to do in town?

Vegas is a really weird place. It’s one of the weirdest towns I’ve ever been to. But I don’t drink, and I also am not interested in gambling. … Although, last time I was there, I did go see Elton John, which I thought was really exciting.

Want more Psycho Las Vegas? Check out our interview with Swans at 

Psycho Las Vegas

Aug. 18–20, 11 a.m., tickets start at $99, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino,