Grunge History 101

"I think you can hear a progression in our work," Osbourne says of the band's oeuvre. "I don't think any of our albums sound the same, but you can tell it's the same band. We've managed each time to do stuff we've never done before on each of the records." And they've taken heat for the experimentation: Osbourne complains that Prick was greeted by Melvins diehards as a noisy indulgence, not unlike Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, his widely loathed white-noise opus from 1975. "A lot of people got real pissed off," Osbourne says bitterly. "They thought we were ripping them off because it wasn't a regular Melvins record -- that it was all experimental and weird. I'm not saying I disagree, but [the audience] looked at it like they were fucked. Well, I'm sorry, we're not making cookie-cutter music like they want. I'm sorry they have these expectations of us that we're not living up to. Just keep it to yourself," he adds.

Similarly, the Melvins were slagged by indie-rock purists when the band inked a deal in 1993 with the major-label Atlantic, a career move that bordered on sacrilege to staunch underground standard-bearers. And like the hubbub surrounding Prick, Osbourne has no time for the complaints. "There are always dopes who are going to think that way. Fortunately, in my own life, I don't let a label determine what music I listen to. If I'm stupid enough to let that sway me one way or another, then I'm an idiot. And if you're only interested in music that's on an indie label, then you're not really into music. You're just a dumb-ass."

Besides, he counters, being on a major has its advantages. "I can complain about any situation I'm in, but I like being on a major," Osbourne admits. "I've never understood why people bitch about major labels. Independent labels are a way bigger ripoff. We're probably owed between $30,000 and $60,000 from indie labels. The big difference between an indie and a major like Atlantic is that Atlantic pays their bills. They give us money to make records and their checks don't bounce."

And, Osbourne adds, major labels have the promotion clout to expand their artists' fan bases. He says both Houdini and Stoner Witch have sold upward of 50,000 copies, whereas their best-selling albums for Boner Records never broke the 25,000 mark. "We doubled our audience with our first Atlantic record," he claims proudly. "Granted, our audience isn't that big, but still that's not bad. I don't think we've made Atlantic a single dollar. I'm sure we owe them money. But we've sold enough records that we haven't lost them any money, and they're willing to keep taking chances with us and we're still trying to sell the band. I wish for our music to be heard."

The Melvins are among the slew of bands performing today, Thursday, July 18, at Lollapalooza, South Florida Fairgrounds, 601 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach; 407-795-8883. Showtime is 1:30 p.m. Tickets cost $38.

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