The Melvins | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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The Melvins

Shit Their Dad Said: SLC taught The Melvins a thing or two about rock.


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It might’ve been 1985 or ’86, reckons Buzz Osborne, “or ’84—somewhere around there.” The Melvins played Salt Lake City, “some warehouse, like a punk rock thing. I can’t remember the name for the life of me.” The description and the period make it logical to assume it was at the Speedway Cafe that Osborne learned his exact value—or rather, utter worthlessness.

The Melvins rolled into SLC three days early for the gig and hooked up a crash pad, a “punk-rock dive house,” through the promoter.

At the time, the Melvins were rock toddlers, together a year or two, and a good seven or eight years away from when their Kurt Cobain association paid off in a deal with Atlantic Records. Their music had a little more hardcore punk in among the sludgy grunge that would later define the band—but it always had that special something, a quality that made it sound primitive, almost Neanderthal.

So, the Melvins played their Salt Lake show, “and there’s 20 people there—maybe.” One of the guests was the father of either the crash-pad provider or promoter.

“After the set, we were in some filthy side room, a dressing room-type place, just like another warehouse, almost as big as the club itself.” Dad pulled Osborne aside for a rap session. Like dads do, this dude had concerns about Osborne’s future. Hopefully, the scamp with the frizzy ’fro had a plan because, in Dad’s opinion, music wasn’t working out for the Melvins.

“He explained to me exactly why what we were doin’ was terrible—and that I should quit music,” Osborne recalls. “He said we were just awful, and that I should just really do some soul searching and come to the understanding that what I’m doing is just no good and I’m no good. Our music is no good, I can’t play guitar, I can’t sing. Just a heart-to-heart talk, like he’s letting me in on a big secret.”

Gobsmacked, Osborne stared back at his surrogate pop. “I didn’t really argue with him. I was just like, ‘Thanks.’ And I thought, ‘You’re the adult here, talking to some kid at a club. What are you doing that’s so great?’”

Henceforth, Salt Lake City, for the Melvins, “has always been a mystery to us. It’s a very strange place, I think.”

Osborne explains it’s because of the effect a repressed culture has on its kids. This time, he’s the Dad—a childless one, yet with loads more perspective. “It’s one of those deals where the kids of the cops or the churchgoers are the wildest hellraisers. Like, man, if you were in high school and you could go out with a Catholic girl, you had it made. I’m sure there’s some amount of that there because the kids actually have something to rebel against.”

He pauses, reconsidering his words.

“But I don’t know what you’d have to rebel against in Salt Lake City. It seems oppressive, but in a lot of ways I would agree with most of the things the powers that be would say [like when officials prevented Marilyn Manson from opening for Nine Inch Nails in the mid-’90s]. ‘Yeah, let’s ban him.’ It wouldn’t be so much because I thought he was a threat; it’s just because I think he plays horrible music.”

Weird, how we’ve circled back—now Osborne seems judgmental, though not clueless; he has a better case against Manson than Dad did versus the Melvins.

“What a lot of people don’t get,” Osborne explains, “is that rock & rollers like that? They really are no good. If the stories are true … he really is a mess. I would venture a guess that [those types of rockers] are whoremongering drug addicts and little more. You know? What I’ve seen in this amount of time in this music industry, that’s—generally speaking—the case. You know?”

Good talk, Dad. 

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