december 2013

Melvins' King Buzzo pounding away on his Electrical Guitars Company Custom DC model during a recent show.

For their 19th album, the genre-bending Melvins bring back an old drummer friend, move their other drummer to bass, and go back to their old-school hardcore-punk roots in the ensuing comic carnage.

The Melvins are not a joke. Don’t be fooled by frontman/guitarist Roger “Buzz” Osborne’s graying Sideshow Bob hairdo. Don’t dismiss the quirkiness of originals with titles like “Sky Pup” and “Rat Faced Granny,” or their haunting cover of Paul McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It” from last year’s Freak Puke, or the new Melvin-ized version of the traditional tune “You’re in the Army Now” off their brand-new album, Tres Cabrones. But if you do happen to laugh at the 30-year doom-grunge vets, just know they’re laughing, too.

“Sure, we want to be funny, but those songs are still very meticulously done when we’re recording them,” says Osborne. “It works because it’s good—it’s not just some joke. It has a melody, it’s well crafted, and they’re catchy as hell.” Therein lies the success of the Melvins—they’ve got the ying of Sabbath-style, oozing-tar riffs mixed with the yang of melodiously delivered, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and wonky song titles.

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Here I am at Linda Perry's studio—Kung Fu Gardens. It's an amazing place with

a virtual treasure trove of gear options to choose from.

Turning off your ego and just rolling with the punches can yield great results.

We guitarists tend to develop a style over time. It's a combination of the musical choices we make and sounds we use, and we all just seem to gravitate towards certain gear appropriate for the style(s) we play. When we think of Stevie Ray Vaughan, a battered '60s Strat, cranked Fender and Dumble amps, and an Ibanez Tube Screamer instantly come to mind. With Hendrix, we think of Strats, Fuzz Faces, a wah, and Marshalls. And for Eddie Van Halen, it's his homemade humbucker-equipped “super strat" with a dimed Marshall plexi.

But even these iconic guitarists sometimes utilized gear that was outside the norm for them, often with outstanding results. Van Halen's use of a nylon-string guitar on “Spanish Fly" comes to mind right away. So this month I'll touch on the interesting possibilities that can come from stepping out of your comfort zone.

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