Bang the Drum Loudly: An Interview with The Melvins’ Dale Crover

"When I joined the Melvins, they wanted someone who really pounded the drums ... (I)t was a perfect fit." Dale Crover. Photo: Mackie Osborne

For almost thirty years—and roughly as many bassists—The Melvins have been disgusting mainstream music listeners and blowing the faces off of their fanbase, combining the best elements of punk rock, doom/heavy metal and noise into one sonic haymaker.  Drummer Dale Crover, with the band since 1984, handled a telephone call from yours truly in anticipation of the band’s Oct. 4 show in Salt Lake City.

SLUG: How long have you been playing, and what initially inspired you to pick the drums?
Dale Crover: I started playing in 1978, I think. I was friends with a guy who played guitar—he went on to play in Metal Church—and he talked me into buying a drum set. It was a “Hey, you should buy a drum set so we can jam” type of a thing. I was already interested in drums, and music as a whole, but that kind of sealed it for me.

SLUG: Was the Melvins the first full-time band you played in?
Crover: I actually was in a band that played a radio show with the Melvins. It was a Christmas time fundraiser-type show for mentally handicapped kids in the Aberdeen, Washington area, and it was open for bands to come down and donate their time. We showed up, and the Melvins were there. I thought they were amazing. They were doing their own original stuff, which most bands in the area weren’t doing at the time. I’d never really heard much punk rock back then. I knew about the Mentors, but I was more into the whole NWOBHM [New Wave of British Heavy Metal] movement—things like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motörhead.

SLUG: How did you develop your drumming style?
Crover: When I joined the Melvins, they wanted someone who really pounded the drums. The other bands I had been in always complained that I played too fast, so when I joined the Melvins, it was a perfect fit, and my style just developed naturally with them. All the NWOBHM drummers were already pretty heavy, and then when I heard bands like Black Flag—bands whose drummers were more metal in style but who played punk rock—it helped me refine my playing. We liked playing loud like most metal bands, but we didn’t like all the guitar solos and such.

SLUG: Going back to 2006, why was the decision made to have two drummers in the band?
Crover: We decided to use two drummers because we didn’t need two drummers, plain and simple. We had talked about it for quite a while, and we were talking to Jared Warren from Big Business about playing bass with us. As it turned out, he and Coady Willis (the drummer, and second  half of Big Business), were thinking about moving to Los Angeles anyway, so we thought that would be a great opportunity to see if we could work with two drummers. We flew them down, and we knew right away that it’d be amazing. Coady’s an excellent drummer, and because he’s left-handed, we thought it would look cool. Lord knows we go by looks first … people may actually think that when they see Buzz’s hair.

: Was it hard to become accustomed to having two drummers?
Crover: Not really. It just required, and still requires, practice. We both write our own parts, but we also write things together. It’s great, really. He comes up with patterns and parts that I would never think of, and we bounce ideas off of each other all the time. We had done the two-drummer thing before, when we did the Fantomas/Melvins Big Band, so we knew it could work. We had also done tours before where we would have the opening band’s drummer play the song “Amazon” with us, because I had written and recorded two drum parts for that song. We’ve both gotten really comfortable with each other and our playing styles, so it’s become second nature, really.

SLUG: What do you attribute the Melvins’ longevity to?
Crover: Well, look at the alternative: If we quit, what would we do? I don’t even have a full high school education, so I couldn’t get a job anywhere. I don’t even remember what it’s like to have a “real” job. We love what we’re doing, so why would we quit, you know?

: Do you have any memories, fond or otherwise, of Salt Lake City?
Crover: It seems like almost every time we’ve played there, we’ve played in different places. The first time we played there, in 1986, I think, we played in some warehouse that some hippy guy owned. We played and people really didn’t like us, and we ended up staying in the warehouse. I remember waking up in the morning to the owner blasting some terrible music, and telling us, “You know, you guys just aren’t very good. You should really just break up.” We got the last laugh, though. We’re still around and he’s not.

Check out the Melvins at the In The Venue in Salt Lake City on Monday, October 4.