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Melvins Drummer Dale Crover Discusses Bonham, Kiss and the Beatles

Melvins
Mackie Osborne

Drummer Dale Crover has been recording incredibly creative hard rock music as a member of the Melvins since 1984. In that time, Crover and founding guitarist/singer Buzz Osborne have consistently shown their love of classic rock by covering songs from a wide range of artists, including Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, the Cars and Kiss.

This summer the band took a look back at their own legacy by performing a series of two-night events across America which featured them playing five of their most beloved albums from start to finish. An amazing-looking eight album box set from this tour, ‘Endless Residency,’ will soon be available from RockIsHell.

They also just released a powerful single-disc live album, ‘Sugar Daddy,’ focusing on songs from their more recent albums, which found the group expanding from a power trio to a foursome with the addition of a new bassist and second drummer (Jared Warren and Coady Willis, who also form the core of the awesome Big Business.)

We talked to Crover about adjusting to a two-drummer lineup, looking back on the band’s musical legacy with these special concerts, and of course, the classic rock musicians that influenced his own work:

So how do you prepare for shows like this? How’s it been for the new guys?

It’s a pretty big undertaking that we’re doing, playing five different records.  There’s a lot of material to learn at one time. It’s harder on them, because they don’t know the songs, you know?  Actually, some of the songs we’ve never even played live, especially some of the stuff off ‘Stoner Witch.’ But, you know, I’m familiar enough. It’s funny, cause our other drummer, Coady, he was really excited to play that record, and he said ‘Yeah, I know that pretty well.’ But then, when we were actually figuring out the songs, he said ‘Man, this stuff’s a lot weirder than I thought.’

Has it been hard to re-do those songs for two drummers?

No, I just have to show him what I’m doing. There’s certain key parts where he needs to play the same rhythm more or less, but otherwise I kind of let him do his thing. We’ve been playing together for about five years, so we’ve kinda got it down.  Sometimes we do the exact same thing, but most of the time I go, here’s what I’m doing, come up with something that goes along with it. Some of these records we’re playing, like (1991 EP) ‘Eggnog,’ is kind of a noisy record to begin with, it’s supposed to sound like it’s breaking apart, so it doesn’t matter too much.

For the new records, do you write two drum parts for everything?

It depends. On our last record (2010’s ‘The Bride Screamed Murder’), there’s a song where we wanted to emulate a marching band (‘The Water Glass’), so we’re doubling, tripling and more on parts, making it big and huge. But then there’s other songs on there where it’s two completely different parts.  We do a lot of rehearsing on those, make sure everything is the way we want it.

So you like being in the two-drum setup?

Absolutely, it’s great. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Were there any bands you liked previously that had two drummers?

Well, I always liked the Allman Brothers stuff.  But even bands like the Beatles and the Who, lots of bands like that, even though they had one drummer, there’s two drum parts on a lot of those records. Especially on the Beatles stuff, there are tons of their records where you can totally tell they overdubbed whole new parts. If you listen, and God knows I’ve listened to those records a billion times, you’ll always hear something new.

What’s a good example of a Beatles drum overdub?

Glass Onion,’ they recorded a bunch of different drum stuff on that, a bunch of extra snare drums. Or, ‘I Can See for Miles,’ by the Who. There’s two different drum parts on there. You can check that out easily enough. We’d done that as well, before we had two drummers, dating back to some of the Atlantic records (1993’s ‘Houdini,’ 1994’s ‘Stoner Witch,’ 1996’s ‘Stag’), because on those records we definitely had more time to mess around with stuff like that.

Do you miss having more studio time?

I think we still do (mess around), we’re just used to making records pretty quick.  Our first couple of records were done in a couple of days, top to bottom. The last three records we did, I think we did them all in roughly two weeks. Which for us is plenty of time. I can’t figure out how bands – and they probably don’t do this much anymore, cause there certainly isn’t enough money to do it – how bands can sit in the studio and work on stuff for six months. Actually, they probably get in around 5:00 and have a couple of beers before they even think about recording.

I would think you’d lose your train of thought.

Yeah, I’m sure you’ve seen that Metallica movie, ‘Some Kind of Monster?’  Where they’re just sitting there for a year, not doing anything? Man, that would drive me crazy. We did ‘The Bride Screamed Murder’ in a couple of weeks, and we still had plenty of time to mess around. We had a cover song that we worked on then, with Clem Burke, the drummer from Blondie. We did a Kinks song, ‘Attitude.’  We haven’t finished that yet, actually.

Who was your first big rock discovery?

Probably the Beatles, you know? If you want to consider them classic rock. The first concert I ever went to was Kiss, the ‘Dynasty’ tour in 1979. They were kind of done by then, but, you know, I’m certainly glad I got to see them. We got to open for them years later on their first makeup-reunion tour. That was pretty crazy.  They were super nice to us. They knew all about us doing our own (versions of Kiss’ famous 1978) solo records and all that. Before that, we’d played with Gene live. He came to a show in Los Angeles and played ‘Goin’ Blind’ with us.

That song creeped me out big-time as a child…

Yeah, I read in Goldmine, he said that that song actually was inspired by a Mountain song, ‘Theme from an Imaginary Western.’ Now, if you hear that, you can say ‘oh yeah, that totally makes sense.’ Also, you can tell that those guys were super into Humble Pie. It dawned on me when we were doing that tour with them. Paul Stanley’s whole singing stage rap is just like Steve Marriott’s, you can totally tell they listen to Humble Pie religiously.

You do a lot of covers, and a lot of Kiss songs – are you all big fans of theirs?

Yeah, we’ve done a lot. As for Kiss, I think as the band stands now, three of us are fans; me and Buzz and Coady. (Bassist) Jared doesn’t know too much about them, but at the same time, he had no trouble learning the ‘Detroit Rock City’ parts, which are pretty insane. Gene’s a really great bass player, he’s got kind of a “ooom-pah” style, kind of like Paul McCartney.  My favorite record from them is ‘Alive,’ they were just so on top of their game then. Peter Criss was once a really great drummer. I still really like that stuff a lot. I can still listen to Kiss and really enjoy it, even after seeing the other side of things by playing with them, seeing the man behind the curtain.

Yeah, it’s much better when Gene is  just ‘the Demon,’ right?

Well, when we toured with them, Gene walked into our dressing room in full makeup, and was talking normal, ‘How are you guys doing here, it looks like they’re treating you pretty good.’ We said, ‘No, look, you gotta talk like the Demon when you come in here, Gene.’

Any classic rock bands you don’t like?

I suppose there’s a lot of stuff I don’t like. Some of it kind of seems silly now. I can’t stand Journey.  That’s because I go to baseball games, and they always sing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ and I think, ‘God, that’s horrible.’ But, I always liked heavier stuff.  For me it’s hard to determine what is classic rock and what is not. There’s certainly a lot of stuff that I like from that era. I love Cheap Trick, and Ted Nugent was one of the first concerts I ever saw.

He’s still amazing live.

Yeah, I haven’t seen him in a while, but I believe it. He was never taken down by drugs, so he’s probably got all his wits about him, all his skill.

You’re often considered a druggie band, but that’s not really accurate, right?

Yeah, certainly there’s been times where that’s been around. But we’re not teenagers anymore, so, we’re not a big druggie band, although people think we are. From our music, they think (comic stoner voice) ‘Man, when it’s 4:20, man, those dudes are bongin’ out every day!’ Nah… about 4:20, I’m changing a diaper.

You’ve got two kids, right? Are they listening to music yet?

It’s always around, so yeah. My youngest one, he’s a big fan of ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen right now. We’re constantly listening to music. Kids love the Beatles, that’s for sure, and kinda cool Beatles too. My daughter was really stuck on ‘Hey Bulldog.’ I thought, that’s a really good one to like. Of course they all like ‘Yellow Submarine.’

Do you think your band will ever be considered classic rock?

Gosh, I don’t know. I think we’re definitely in a weird category. We were never a big radio band, and certainly, we have roots in punk rock. It’s funny, cause even when I joined the band, those guys would listen to Black Flag and say, Lynyrd Skynyrd at the same time, whatever. We’ve always liked Led Zeppelin as well as Throbbing Gristle. ZZ Top is definitely a big influence on us. And we’ve played with Rush, too.

Who are your all-time favorite drummers?

Bonham, and Keith Moon absolutely. It’s funny, cause a lot of guys I know now, who are big drummers, Dave Lombardo, Terry Bozzio, and John from Helmet, all for some reason don’t like Keith Moon (9/6/11 author’s note: We misheard this and listed John Bonham before, sorry, Dale!). It’s like, ‘What the f—- are you talking about? How can you not like him?’ They say, ‘Oh, he’s sloppy…’ Bulls—! He’s great, he doesn’t play drums like anybody else, and you can tell that they wrote around his style of drumming. I like a lot of those guys. That era of drummer, I think, they’re all really really good. Mitch Mitchell and them, they all had their own individual style and it kind of all stemmed from jazz drumming. I’ll tell you right now, the best drummer I’ve ever seen was Buddy Rich. I’m not a big fan of that style of music that he plays, you know, big band, be-bop, whatever, but he could play in any kind of band and be amazing.

So what are your future plans?

Well, there’s the live album, ‘Sugar Daddy,’ the box set, lots more 7” singles I’m sure, and gosh, yeah, pretty soon we’ll hopefully start think about recording some new stuff.  We’re itching to go back and do something, while we can, before the whole music industry takes a dump.

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