Slayer, Maiden & Metallica: Buzz Osborne Remembers 1983

photo: Chris Casella

On February 26, the Melvins will unleash their new record, Working With God. It’s the second album from the “Melvins 1983” lineup, featuring Buzz Osborne on guitar and vocals, original drummer Mike Dillard and current drummer Dale Crover on bass. Which essentially makes it the follow-up to 2013’s Tres Cabrones—note the ZZ Top reference—even though there have been four Melvins albums in between. Make sense? No? That’s okay. It doesn’t have to. The only thing you need to know is this: Working With God is both awesome and hilarious. And because it’s a throwback to the 1983 version of the Melvins, we visited our man Buzz—fully masked and socially distanced—at the band’s studio to get his take on some key events from 1983.

KISS took off their makeup in 1983. They held a press conference on MTV. Do you remember that?
Buzz: I didn’t have MTV. Right around then, I stopped watching TV at all. I’d already graduated from high school and pretty much divorced myself from anything like that. Watching TV was an event that happened at my parents’ house, so I just didn’t do it anymore. That goes on to this day—I don’t have any clue what’s on TV. And I’ve never watched MTV. I’ve been on MTV, to some degree, but I don’t really know what’s on it. I know there’s not much ‘M’ these days.

You’re a KISS fan, though. How did you feel about them taking their makeup off?
That didn’t bother me. I never hated KISS, but I’d stopped listening to them by then. I never bought Dynasty, but I saw them on that tour. It was good. I enjoyed it. I think Alive II was the last one of theirs I bought. I didn’t enjoy it very much, and I didn’t enjoy Love Gun, so that was it. I was kinda done. But those records up to then, that was enough. I never stopped enjoying that stuff.

People can say what they want about KISS, but they’ve been nothing but nice to me anytime I see them. They always remember me, and they’ve treated me with nothing but respect. They’ve treated me a hell of a lot better than much lower-tiered asshole rock people have, so I’ll never forgot that. I think they’re super nice people and real rock stars. They’re a great band, and they’ve written way more really good songs than most bands.

The first Metallica album came out in ’83…
I liked Metallica. I saw them quite a few times on that record and the next record, and I thought they were pretty good. I saw them many times before Cliff Burton died. I think the last time was a New Year’s Eve show, not long before he was killed. I went down to San Francisco with a buddy of mine who was driving down to see that show. I believe Exodus and maybe Megadeth were on the bill. That was a crazy trip.

How so?
All I can say is that I was up for a lot of adventure at that time. We had a lot of wild adventures in Seattle back then, too. We were kind of rudderless. Anything could happen at that point, in ’83. I was out of high school and didn’t really care too much about where I slept or what happened. [Laughs] I drank at this point: “Whaddaya got?” I was ready for action. But Seattle was a weird place then. It was much more dangerous than it is now. It was not the yuppie-ville that it ended up being. It was much dirtier. Portland was the same way. It was not a happy place.

Iron Maiden put out Piece of Mind in ’83.
I saw Iron Maiden before that, with Clive Burr on drums—who was really fucking good—right after they got the new singer. And they were really good. I saw them at a small auditorium in Seattle with Girlschool, who sounded like amplified motocross. I’ve never understood why they didn’t do better. They were cool. I wish I’d met them. I also wish I’d seen Iron Maiden with the original singer. I think Paul Di’Anno was a much cooler singer. I like his vocals better. And from the videos I’ve seen, I think he had a better stage presence.

Slayer released their first album in ’83.
I saw Slayer on that tour in Olympia with about 20 people in the audience. But I actually didn’t meet Lombardo until Patton introduced us for Fantômas many, many years later. I’m terrible at networking and that kind of stuff. Grammy parties and that kind of thing—I’ve never been to anything like that. I don’t have anything against them—I just don’t feel comfortable. I’m too shy for that kind of thing, as weird as that might sound. I know I walk around looking like a weirdo, but I’m relatively shy when it comes to that sort of thing.

The Wah Mee Massacre happened in Seattle in 1983. 13 people were killed in a botched robbery, and apparently it’s still the deadliest mass murder in Washington state history.
I was in Seattle the night that happened, at a punk rock show. I can’t remember the show. The massacre wasn’t too far from a club called Gorilla Gardens, but I wasn’t at that club. I was at a club called Graven Image. I remember the Wah Mee was an illegal gambling club. These guys stole like $20 or $30,000 dollars and they killed a bunch of people. They either got life sentences or the death penalty, I can’t remember. My brother, who works in the prison industry, was around those guys when they were in Walla Walla. He was a prison guard when one of those guys was there.

So, yeah, I remember we got home and found out there was this huge massacre in Seattle not far from where we had been. Later, some people were talking about opening up a punk rock club in that spot. They were gonna call it the Why Me? Club. That was always the big joke.