10 questions for Melvins' Buzz Osborne

(Image credit: Rob Monk/Future)

Buzz Osborne is a man who needs little introduction, but Basses Loaded, his latest album with rock misfits Melvins, warrants some explanation.

The concept is thus: six bass players feature across the album - Nirvana's Krist Novoselic, Butthole Surfers' J.D. Pinkus and Mr. Bungle/Fantomas's Trevor Dunn among them - each contributing their own musical two cents to the record's 12 tracks (which include a cover of Take Me Out To The Ballgame, naturally).

Before the band head out on a European trek in June, Buzz sat down with MusicRadar to share his thoughts on the wonders of automatic playing and his long-lost Rickenbacker, not to mention an almighty helping of sage advice for his younger self…

1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

"My first guitar was some chunk-of-shit nylon-string acoustic that cost about $30, which I bought in 11th grade. I didn't get an electric guitar until I was out of high school. That was an eye-opener.

"The first real electric guitar I ever had was a 1969 Les Paul Custom I bought in 1982 for $400, and it almost killed me to pay that much money for a guitar. I still have it and have recently rebuilt it to as close to original as I could get it. It's the only Les Paul I have that hasn't had the neck broken on it."

I didn't get an electric guitar until I was out of high school. That was an eye-opener

2. The building's burning down - what one guitar do you save?

"Fuck the guitars, I'd save my dogs! Ha! Actually I'd probably save that Les Paul. It's been with me this long…"

3. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?

"Around 1984, I had a Rickenbacker solidbody 481 that I really liked, but unfortunately I sold it to our bass player at the time, Matt Lukin, when I was short of cash. I figured I would buy it back from him at some point, but he turned around and immediately sold it. I never forgave him for that. Ha!

"I should go buy another one now that I think about it… I think I will. Actually, it was stupid shit like that that contributed to me not feeling bad about booting his ass out of the band and not regretting it one bit. He did a lot of that sort of stupid shit that, of course, he doesn't remember, but I do. I tend to have a long memory."

4. And what's the next piece of gear you'd like to acquire?

"A Rickenbacker 481 electric guitar. Ha!"

5. Is there an aspect of guitar playing that you'd like to be better at?

"Playing without thinking at all. Automatic playing is almost like magic, and I love it when it happens. We view our live sets the same way. If it's an hour, then the entire hour is important, including the space between the songs. It's more performance art than some bullshit rock show. If you want a bullshit rock show, why look to us for that?"

Our live sets are more performance art than some bulls**t rock show

6. When did you last practise and what did you play?

"For practising, I usually run through a series of agility exercises I've developed over the years, which helps a great deal in keeping you on your toes guitar-wise, then I play the same exercises with my eyes closed for as long as I can stand it.

"Finally, I'll run through a bunch of cover songs I like to play that are pretty tough until I feel I have them down good enough to move on, then I'll start working on new material."

7. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be?

"Maybe Hendrix, but I don't know - that's a tough one."

8. What gear would you take with you to a desert island?

"One of my aluminium Electrical guitars, a decent combo amp and a compressor. Compressors rule."

9. What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you onstage?

"Gear taking a shit mid-show. PAs going out, lights going out or just having all the power go out. That's never good. There's nothing you can do. You stand there like an idiot."

10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?

The show must go on, so don't get all upset if your amp sounds weird in some dumpy club in Idaho

"Keep practising, but try not to sound too much like someone else. Don't waste time learning things you'll never do such as weedily Van Halen-style guitar solos. I never wanted to play those, so I never learned how. Seems simple enough. Also, don't be afraid to be different.

"Don't be a fucking baby about your gear. The show must go on, so don't get all upset if your amp sounds weird in some dumpy club in Idaho. Don't worry, everything will sound different every night, so suck it up and stop being a crybaby.

"Whenever you start thinking your gear sucks, just hand your guitar to someone who plays a lot better than you do and watch them cook your boots through your crappy gear. All of a sudden, your shitty equipment will start to sound not so bad. Ha! Remember, it's the Indian, not the arrow."

Basses Loaded is out on 3 June. Melvins tour Europe in June:

5 June - Kortrijk, Belgium - De Kreun
6 June - Amsterdam, Netherlands - Paradiso Frote Zaal
7 June - Hamburg, Germany - Logo
8 June - Copenhagen, Denmark - Jazzhouse
9 June - Gothenburg, Sweden - Truckstop Alaska
10 June - Oslo, Norway - BLA
11 June - Malmo, Sweden - Babel
13 June - Berlin, Germany - Postbahnof
14 June - Leipzig, Germany - UT Connewitz
15 June - Koln, Germany - Underground
17 June - Clisson, France - Hellfest
19 June - London, UK - Koko
20 June - Leeds, UK - Brudenell Social Club
21 June - Glasgow, UK - Art School
22 June - Birmingham, UK The Rainbow - Warehouse

Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as a decade-and-a-half performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.