“He had two Twins, and he smoked both by the end of the night… the guy was on another planet”: Buzz Osborne of the Melvins reveals the loudest guitarist he has ever seen live

King Buzzo and Robin Trower
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Buzz Osborne is no stranger to high-volume electric guitar. The frontman/guitarist of the Melvins has spent the last 40 plus years crafting some of the most uncompromising tones in the underground, and toured with the heaviest bands on the planet. But the loudest guitarist he has ever heard? That’s a player outside of the rock and metal underground.

In a recent interview with Guitar World, in which King Buzzo talks about the players who shaped his sound, he credits the English blues-rock trailblazer Robin Trower as the loudest he has ever heard, admitting that he felt “stomped into the dirt” after seeing the former Procol Harum guitarist live in 1982.

“I’d never heard a Fender Twin, so I was in awe,” says Osborne. “His guitar sound was the loudest I’ve ever heard; it was louder than fucking shit, man. Just saying that isn’t even enough – the guy was on another planet, you know?

Anyone who has experience of a Fender Twin, either playing through one or watching someone who is, will be able to relate. Those are loud tube amps. Osborne had expected as much going in, given that Trower came from the Jimi Hendrix school of Fender Stratocasters, whatever new guitar effects pedals were available to him, and an abundance of stage volume – typically from Marshalls.

But when he saw just a Boss chorus pedal and a wah onstage, his interest was suitably piqued. He had to know more, and asked Trower’s tech what was going on with his live rig.

“He was using a Strat and playing through these insanely hot-rodded Fender Twins into old Marshall 4x12s,” says Osborne. “He had two Twins, and he smoked both by the end of the night.

“I talked to his roadie after the show and said, ‘Dude, what the fuck is he doing?’ The roadie goes, ‘Oh, man, these Twins are hot-rodded beyond belief. Robin blows at least one of these up per week. We have them going back and forth to a shop, and we’re rotating them as he blows them up.’”

That might seem like a lot of effort on Trower and his team’s part. That might seem inefficient. But it’s 2024 now. This was 1982. The Melvins would form a year later and the rest is (a lot of) history, and Osborne still remembers it. Sometimes you’ve got to push your gear into the red zone if you want to make a lasting impression. 

Trower’s approach was one that never left Osborne.

“It’s like when you run your car at 120 miles per hour 24/7; it'll sound amazing, but it’s not gonna work for long,” says Osborne. “Robin was just smoking these amps, but it was unbelievable.”

Melvins have just announced the release of their latest studio album, Tarantula Heart, which is out via Ipecac on 19 April. This is a Melvins record like no other – and there have been a few like that but once more it’s true. The record came out of studio sessions where Osborne would throw some riffs down, with Dale Crover joined by Ministry’s Roy Mayorga on a two-drummer rhythm section rounded out by Steven McDonald (Red Kross) on bass guitar.

The drummers would improvise under the riffs, it would all get recorded, and then Osborne composed songs around what the drummers had laid down.

“I’ve never been involved in making a record like this before,” said Mayorga. “One of the best recording experiences I’ve ever had. We would go back-and-forth leading each other to whatever came next. We made several passes like this to create a foundation of different tempos, different colors and different textures, then Buzz wrote the craziest music to all these drum takes. Believe it or not the drum tracks are completely unedited!”

Tarantula Heart also features a guest appearance from Gary Chester of Ed Hall and We Are The Asteroid, who, incidentally, is another player who joins Trower on Osborne’s GOAT list. 

“He’s a great guy and a demon player!” said Osborne. “Once the songs were basically done we brought in Gary to add his wildly creative brand of true Texas weirdness. It was a great idea.”

You can read the full interview with Osborne at Guitar World and preorder Tarantula Heart here.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.