(photo credit: Jessie Rose)
I read a couple of things recently that I thought were worth passing on. One is funny, one is thought-provoking and a bit surprising. One is about a band who unexpectedly broke up, one is about a band who just keep going and going. We’ll start with the latter one first.
This piece is the funny one. Melvins were formed way back in 1983 by guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne, bass-player Matt Lukin, and drummer Mike Dillard, who were all schoolmates in Montesano, Washington. Dale Crover came on board in place of Mike Dillard in ’84, though Dillard came back to the band more than 20 years later and he will be appearing on their 30th anniversary album Tres Cabrones, which is due in November (with Crover moving over to bass for that record).
The band have had a changing cast of bass players. I count six since the band performed, with Jared Warren being the most recent, and that’s not counting about six more who have toured with the band but weren’t present on recordings. Yet with Osborne and Crover in place for nearly 30 years, Melvins are one of those rare bands who’ve stayed the course through life’s ups and downs.
A few days ago Dale Crover revealed the secrets of Melvins’ longevity for a Portland (Oregon) publication called Willamette Week. “Top Five Tips For Keeping A Band Together 30 Years” is a short read, so I’m going to paste it right here:
Never have a hit song.
As long as you never have a hit, you can’t be considered has-beens. We consider ourselves never-had-beens.
Stay away from weasel dust.
You’ve no doubt heard of bands having to cancel tours because of “exhaustion.” What a pant-load! Touring is not hard. You spend most of the time sitting around doing jack. You’re exhausted because you’ve been up for a week straight doing blow with hookers. A sure way to have a heart attack and cut your career short.
Kick someone out.
We’ve watched lots of successful bands at the top of their game break up because they can’t get along with each other (Soundgarden, I’m looking at you). Usually it’s one member of the band causing all the problems. Most likely it’s the bass player. Just kick them out and start fresh. We’ve done it numerous times.
Flood the market.
It seems we have a new release every other week. People won’t forget you if your name is always in the papers. Look how well it’s worked for Dave Grohl. He’s all over the place, either jamming with the Beatles, or having tea with the Obamas. He’s everywhere at once—kinda like God.
Just don’t break up.
We realized years ago that this is it. We don’t have anything to fall back on if this doesn’t work out. I’d have a hard time getting a straight job anywhere nowadays. “So, your last job was 20-plus years ago making pizza, Mr. Crover?”
Now, on to the second piece. Weapon were a band with a shorter lifespan than Melvins, one measured in the space of a decade. They were formed around 2003 by frontman and songwriter Vetis Monarch while still living in Bangladesh, though he later relocated to Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. After recording a demo and a couple of EPs, Weapon released their debut album in 2009 (Drakonian Paradigm) and followed it in November of the next year with a second full-length, From the Devil’s Tomb. I discovered them when that second album came out and wrote about them for the first of many times in December 2010.
Weapon hit the big time (which of course is a relative term since we’re talking about extreme metal) when they signed with Relapse in 2011. Their third album was a 2012 Relapse release entitled Embers and Revelations. It’s an excellent album, and one I strongly recommend if you’ve never listened to this band — at least if you have a taste for blackened death metal. They followed that with a North American tour along with Marduk and 1349. You’d have to say the future looked bright.
Unfortunately, Weapon dissolved this past June because Vetis Monarch had his fill of being in a metal band. The day before that Melvins piece appeared, an interview of Vetis Monarch (conducted by Kim Kelly) appeared at DECIBEL’s on-line site. I thought it was a very interesting read, though too long for me to paste the whole thing here.
In the interview, Vetis Monarch reveals that he has entered the world of corporate business: “Instead of flying Vs and occult literature, now I dwell in KPIs and profit margins. It’s new and exciting.” He doesn’t have many good things to say about the world of metal. When asked, once and for all, to explain why he ended Weapon, this was his answer:
“For two reasons: First of all, because I felt myself stagnating. I could sit down today and write a new album, but it would just be a black/death metal record by the numbers. As long as I have been involved in metal, I have vehemently chastised bands that lost the edge but kept shitting out albums because it’s pretty fucking easy to make formulaic records. If I’m going to starve and be broke, I’ll at least do it while I can be proud of the music I make. So, continuing to release sub-par music under the banner of Weapon would have been grossly hypocritical, and I’m not comfortable with that. Believe me, it was not an easy decision to make. It took about six months to wrap my head around this.
“Second reason (and less importantly) – in my experience, 90 percent of metalheads have been some of the dumbest and most ignorant people I have ever met. I no longer wish to be even remotely associated with that brain-dead, gasmasked goat culture in any way shape or form. Not that Weapon ever pandered to that specific bottom-feeding niche, but they’re around, and I felt myself being dumbed down by even hearing these so called “elitists” have conversations about their patch vests, the latest third rate war metal franchise or the newest oxymoronic “anticosmic” band ripping off Thomas Karlsson’s words and book cover.”
Black metal fans, in particular, come in for more lambasting later in the interview. Yet I don’t want to give the impression that Vetis is just a ball of bitterness. There are nuances in his reflections that you’d need to read the full interview to appreciate — and you can do that here.
So, two very different perspectives on making music from people who undeniably have a lot of talent but whose careers have taken very different courses. Of course, you have to have the talent to make the choice to stay or go in the first place. Without the talent (and lots of good fortune) you don’t get to make that choice, because it gets made for you. I suppose the difference in these two stories boils down to personal fulfillment — the guys in Melvins still seem like they really enjoy what they’re doing, Vetis Monarch clearly did not.
If you’ve got any thoughts about any of this, sound off in the comments. Here’s a bit of music: