Samick Motherlode

December 2014
more... ArtistsGuitarsDecember 2013Buzz OsborneElectrical Guitar CompanyThe Melvins

Melvins' Buzz Osborne: Tonal Triage

A A
melvinsFEAT

Melvins' frontman/guitarist Roger "Buzz" Osbourne "ham-fisting" his Les Paul Custom during the band's set on the second stage at Ozzfest in 1998 at the Blockbuster Center in Camden, New Jersey. Photo by Frank White

Isn’t it kind of mind-boggling to work
that way?

Once you get the ball rolling, it’s easier to do more extra material than break everything down and start over again in a few weeks or months. I feel that creativity welcomes inspiration. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to working on Tres Cabrones. Like, if a song doesn’t fit in that format, we’re going to forget it. To me, that’s a counterintuitive mindset—follow the ideas and you’ll find a spot for them if they’re good.

Do you view recording and live shows differently?
I believe they’re completely different but equally important. I really enjoy and feel special when I go to a show and see a band that has prepared and practiced their set list the same as when they record an album. It should feel and be apparent to the audience that our show is rehearsed … because it is [laughs].

Every minute on a record and every minute onstage is valuable. If you don’t hook the listener at a show or on an album by the first song, you’re screwed—you have to remember that with track listings and set lists.

Let’s switch topics and talk gear a bit. You used to play a Les Paul with the neck pickup torn out. Was that so you could perform kill-switch-style stops and starts more easily?
I actually ruined the bridge pickup, probably doing something dumb or reckless. I didn’t have any extra money, so I took out the neck pickup and put it in the bridge. I still have that ’69 Les Paul Custom—a Fretless Wonder—and it’s all setup and rebuilt, so I still do play it on recordings all the time.

What other guitars do you use in the studio?
I’ll use anything when I’m recording. Most recently I used a Fender Mustang, a PRS, my Electrical Guitar Company models that are either Plexiglas or aluminum ... whatever is lying around in the studio. There’s no way that anyone can tell which guitar I’m using at whatever point in any song, because one song might have two to five different guitars on it [laughs].

Gear

Guitars
Electrical Guitar Company Custom DC models with Gibson 498T humbuckers

Amps & Cabs
Sunn Beta Lead heads (two)
Carver PM 1.5 Power Amps (two)

Effects
Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive
MXR Blue Box Distortion
MXR Dyna Comp
Boss DD-5 Digital Delay
Boss TU-2 Tuner

Strings and Picks
Clayton Acetal Rounded Triangular .63 mm picks
Dunlop Tortex Triangle .60 mm or .73 mm picks
Light Top/Heavy Bottom Strings (various brands) .010–.052
Stylophone

Can you hear the difference?
Vaguely, but I don’t worry about that too much. I’m most concerned with the finished product. Guitars are tools for the artist—that’s it.

I love when people come up to me and say “Your guitar sound was better on Stoner Witch, when you used a Les Paul.” I’m just, like, “What album do you think I only used a Les Paul on? Plus, I used a Fender Mustang reissue on that, dumbass!” [Laughs.]

The band has a dynamic range of sounds and volume levels. How do you manage such big, fast changes in a live environment?
I use my volume controls. I essentially have three volume/distortion levels: Full is with the volume on 10 in the bridge position, middle is with the selector in the middle position and the neck volume rolled off to five, and then the quietest is the neck position with volume at five. I change my tone and volume throughout a set by switching the pickup settings, because almost everything is on, all the time, on full. That’s why I always play a Les Paul-style guitar—or at least one with a similar control setup.

Recently, you’ve been using Electrical Guitar Company Plexiglas and aluminum models a lot live. What do you like about them?
I love the necks, because with it being aluminum, you don’t have to have a tapered neck since it’s so much stronger and stable than wood. It allows me to have a really small neck profile—the thickness is the same at the nut as it is at the neck joint—because I have baby hands [laughs]. I can play faster and more effectively with a thinner aluminum neck than I could ever dream of playing with a wooden neck.

A A