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A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.

June 17, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Buzz Osborne of the Melvins — unplugged? | Concert preview

While most musicians — most people — are dead asleep, Buzz Osborne, who plays Neumos Friday, is already wide awake.

“Most days, I leave before the sun [comes up] and go play 18 holes of golf with the working-class people at the municipal courses around Los Angeles,” he says via telephone from his house in Hollywood. “They just think I’m some weirdo. It’s funny.”

Golf?

Can this be the same musician who taught a young Kurt Cobain his first few guitar chords and introduced Dave Grohl to his eventual Nirvana bandmates? Never mind practically inventing the sludge and stoner metal subgenres on 1991’s seminal “Bullhead” and ’93’s “Houdini” — to name just two of 19 Melvins LPs.

Yes, it is. And on his new solo album, “This Machine Kills Artists,” (an allusion to Woody Guthrie) he plays acoustic guitar.

Has King Buzzo gone soft?

Nope.

“I can’t think of any punk who’s put on an acoustic and hasn’t just tried to sound like James Taylor,” he says. “No thanks.”

Made entirely on an original red, white and blue Buck Owens American guitar — one of eight in existence, according to Osborne — the 17-track set, however sparse, simmers with clenched-teeth aggression to satisfy headbangers everywhere.

The brooding, minor-key “Rough Democracy” and “Instrument of God,” for instance, could easily translate to an electric and become Melvins songs.

But coming from an artist whose music few would call pretty, material like the raga-tinged “How I Became Offensive” also shows surprising poise, leaving room for subtleties in Osborne’s playing sure to be lost at 300 watts.

Solo touring, says the 50-year-old rocker, offers respite from decades spent lugging back-breaking amplifiers around the world.

“It’s just me and one other person — my sound guy and road manager. I drive the van, which is great because I love driving, hate flying and hate buses. To me, traveling by bus is like climbing into a closet and watching ‘Das Boot.’”

Come fall, he’ll hook back up with drummer Dale Crover for the next Melvins record, “Hold It In.”

Does Crover, or any other band member, ever join him on the links?

“Not one person from the music world has ever come with — as if I could get a rock’n’roller up at four in the morning to play golf — but that’s fine,” he answered. “I have way too much going on to sit around waiting for tee time at two in the afternoon.”

Buzz Osborne

8 p.m. Friday, June 20 at Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $15 advance (206-709-9467 or www.neumos.com)

Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: Buzz Osborne, Concert Preview, Melvins

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