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more... ArtistsGuitarsDecember 2013Buzz OsborneElectrical Guitar CompanyThe Melvins

Melvins' Buzz Osborne: Tonal Triage


King Buzzo with his trusty black Les Paul Custom at a show in '97 at the infamous club CBGB while supporting the band's 9th album Honky, the band's first after three major releases on Atlantic. Photo by Frank White.

Have you noticed any tonal benefits of that unique construction?
The Plexiglas and aluminum guitars have a more robust low end and a clearer, fuller high range. It blows me away when people tell me that my sound is less impactful and huge onstage. It’s like, “Don’t you think I took the time and resources to A/B my rigs? Geesh!”

There are so many fuzzes on the market these days, some new designs and a lot that try to capture the magic of old, rare pedals. You’re a huge fuzz fan, but you stick with your trusty MXR Blue Box and Boss ODB-3.
I realized a long time ago that gear has to last, especially when you take it on the road. If I’m in Omaha on a Thursday night before a gig and my vintage fuzz box goes to shit, can I go to the Guitar Center and pick up a new rare Big Muff? Probably not. So that’s why I opt for gear that is dependable and obtainable in most markets—and yes, it does have to sound good, too. For live gigs, I’ve gotten used to playing through pedals that you can get anywhere. On top of that, you could have the sweetest boutique rig ever but if you play a shitty club in Albuquerque with bad acoustics and P.A., your platinum rig will sound like dog shit. If my Electrical guitars go to shit, I know I can play a Les Paul and I can get Boss and MXR effects anywhere and still play a superb gig. My philosophy is a poor carpenter blames his tools.

There’s an old saying in golf that says the more I practice the luckier I get [laughs].

And yet you opt for boutique brands like Electrical Guitar Company and Emperor for guitars and cabinets?
Initially, Kevin [Burkett, Electrical Guitar Company founder] didn’t know who I was—he just knew I was into his guitars and he was happy to make me the exact guitar I wanted. It’s a joy to work with him, and I have a feeling people will look at his work in 30 or 40 years and realize his excellence in the same manner that Travis Bean guitars are revered today.

The Emperor guys helped us out before our Melvins Lite tour because bassist Trevor Dunn plays standup and it was a feedback nightmare. They specifically built us a bass cabinet designed for a standup bassist. And because they’re rad dudes, they built me a matching guitar cabinet—and cases—with a 12" and a 15" speaker. And for my standard Melvins rig, I use an additional Emperor 2x15 cabinet.

“Dogs and Cattle Prods” is like a song trilogy in one jam: The first part is punk, with funky parts that warble with your vocals, the second part is a sludge fest, and the finale is an acoustic voyage. How did that come about?
That’s my favorite song on the record.I realized very quickly that the two first parts went together beautifully, and we planned the whole thing out with that in mind. The last part I wrote later as an extension of the second part.For overdubs I usually just dick around with the guitar, trying various things until I find a part and sound that fits in. Sometimes I get that in a matter of minutes, and others it takes a few hours. You never know, but I like searching—that’s what’s so fun about playing guitar!

How did you get that moaning feedback in the background of “American Cow” and “Dr. Mule”?
What I did for that song—and most songs with that type of a guitar overdub—is, once the hard part and the bulk of the guitar tracks are laid down, I’ll go back, listen, and sit around fiddling with my Sunn Beta Lead solid-state amps and guitar to get the appropriate sound or feedback to musically complement the song.

I used to play through a 4x12 and a 2x15, but the last few records I’ve found that just using the 2x15 for overdubs sounds better. The 15" speakers give it a unique tone within the mix. Obviously, it has more low-end oomph, and to my ears, it got rid of the high-end whistling feedback made by my 4x12 cab. Using just the 2x15 cab live doesn’t give me enough bite, but the 4x12-and-2x15 combination is unbeatable.

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