Buzz Osborne (the Melvins) Talks the Stooges’ Ready to Die

Once, the Melvins were playing a festival, and the powers that be wanted us to perform right after Iggy and the Stooges. I told them I would rather...

Once, the Melvins were playing a festival and the powers that be wanted us to perform right after Iggy and the Stooges. I told them I would rather cancel than do something that stupid, and as it turned out, we had a hard enough time going on right before they did, let alone headlining! Fuck that. Since they’ve reformed I’ve watched them, on more than one occasion, stomp the living shit out of lesser bands who thought it was a good idea to go on after the Stooges.

Now the Stooges are in the difficult position of following themselves — the line-up that made the classic 1973 album Raw Power has reformed (minus late bassist Ron Asheton and plus former Minuteman Mike Watt) and they’ve made an album.  Bands that have been around for even ten years almost always put out crappy new albums, although one exception recently would be the Bad as Me album by Tom Waits, which is one of his best. But a band that’s been broken up for 40 years?  Unlikely. But Ready to Die is great.  The performances are all top-notch and Iggy sings like a goddamn electric demon.  The production is sharp and gutsy and every song is a keeper. The Stooges have managed to retain what was good about them to begin with and they seemed to have learned a hell of a lot along the way. One lesson is that instead of worrying about what the kids will like or what could possibly be a contemporary success they instead concentrated on making an album they like. In this case it’s nice to sit back and let Iggy and the Stooges do the driving. It’s an exciting listen in a boring world of mind-numbing mediocrity.

How is this possible? I think it’s a result of a crawling, alive chemistry that emerges when you combine this voice with this guitar. James Williamson’s guitar playing reminds me of why I loved the Raw Power album in the first place. He’s a great player with the kind of primal musical instinct you can’t learn in a book. He has the whole package: noise, attitude and a take-no-prisoners attack that gives me chills. His no-bullshit style is perfect on Ready to Die. You can hear it dripping off the strings. It’s unmistakable and supreme. The solo he plays at the end of “Beat That Guy” is beautiful and scary, which is what you want in a real rock & roll guitar solo.

It’s also now clearly obvious how much Williamson had to do with Raw Power being such a great album. Whatever the songwriting process is with these guys, it’s obvious that having James play guitar and produce has made all the difference in the world.  Most of the songs on Ready to Die sound like they could have been on Raw Power. Let us all thank the rock & roll gods for that!

I’ve always thought Iggy is one of the best singers I’ve ever heard and his influence alone is beyond anything anyone could ever lay out in simple words. I’ve pretty much loved most of his albums, be they with the Stooges or solo. The guy has a thrilling voice and it’s really great on Ready to Die — he can really sing if he wants to or he can spit out the lyrics like they are about to kill him if he doesn’t get them out of his body fast enough. It’s all in his delivery — I mean, the man could sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and it would still work!

The main thing with Iggy’s singing is that you believe him. This is important because, after all, we’re talking about music here, not brain surgery.  Music has been around so long, it’s ordinary — so in order to make something ordinary into something extraordinary you have to have the ability to perform magic. That’s just what Iggy does.  It’s a joy to hear, feel and behold. I honestly believe I’m a better person as a result of being a fan of his. He’s given me so much that I can’t even measure it.

Ready to Die proves to a guy like me, who’s been playing and writing music for over 30 years, that my original instincts were correct. You follow your heart and trust that you’ve got the ability to create something that matters. You dig it out of the dirt.

This is the kind of album that makes me want to write my own music!

Buzz Osborne is a founding member of “rock” band the Melvins. Over the past 30 years, he’s played on more than 50 recordings on various major and minor labels, and performed over 2000 shows. In 2012 the Melvins became the first band to release three different records in the same year with three different lineups of the band, and did a spring tour of the U.S., a Canadian tour, and a London show with Slayer to 10,000 people, then played shows in all 50 states, plus DC, in a record-setting 51 days. You can follow the Melvins on Twitter here.