ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Some bands win Grammys. Others release gold and platinum records, while some top charts or maybe land songs in car commercials.
Not as many set Guinness World Records.
Earlier this year the Flaming Lips broke the record for most shows performed in a 24-hour period, playing eight from Memphis, Tenn., to New Orleans. Now the Melvins are getting in on the act — the band is attempting the fastest-ever tour of each of the United States, playing one show in every state plus the District of Columbia.
The tour starts Wednesday in Alaska and ends 51 days later in Hawaii.
But whether or not the Melvins end up in the record books is secondary to singer and guitarist Buzz Osborne.
“The reason the tour was booked was because we’re trying to sell the ‘Freak Puke’ record,” Osborne said, talking about his band’s latest album. “It’s a publicity stunt, not unlike the way someone like Evel Knievel would jump a building. It’s not because he wanted to do it; it’s because he wanted to generate interest.”
George Thorogood and the Destroyers attempted a similar stunt on their 50/ 50 Tour in 1980, playing all 50 states in 50 days, plus a Washington, D.C., gig the same day as the Maryland one.
“George says he did it — other people say he did it,” said Osborne, who also goes by King Buzzo. “When I was a fan of George Thorogood in 1980 when he tried to do it, I remember him specifically not doing it.
“Also, if George had done it, why isn’t he in the Guinness Book of World Records?” he added.
The Guinness record for the fastest U.S. tour by a solo artist is held by singer-songwriter Adam Brodsky, who played a similar 51-shows-in-51-days itinerary in 2003. There currently isn’t a separate full-band record, which is what the Melvins are attempting to set.
The band’s attempt will also result in the group’s first gigs in Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Delaware, plus Osborne’s first trips to the non-contiguous states, but there won’t be much time for visiting.
“Generally on tour what I do is sit and stare out into the middle distance — that’s about it,” Osborne said. “I’ve done a lot of touristy stuff in the past. Usually on tour I’m busy and just don’t have time for that kind of stuff.
“I don’t particularly care about doing 51 shows in 51 days, but I like the idea of doing something crazy,” he continued. “That’s reason enough as far as I’m concerned.”
If you have even a cursory knowledge of the Melvins, a band that turns 30 years old next year, then the fact that they’d do something crazy for craziness’s sake should come as no surprise.
Started in early ‘80s in Washington, the band concocted a slow and sludgy mixture of punk and metal that proved an inescapable influence on the grunge bands that followed them. But while the Melvins were one of the bands to benefit in the major label race to sign the next Nirvana — Atlantic Records released 1993’s “Houdini,” which featured guest spots by Kurt Cobain — the group was probably never going to be a viable cash cow. This is the same band that later released “Colossus of Destiny,” a live album that featured nearly an hour of noisy samples and synthesizers followed by five seconds of the song “Eye Flys.”
Most of the band’s existence has been as a trio, with King Buzzo and drummer Dale Crover joined by a long list of bassists, but the Melvins have been a four-piece since 2006, with Jared Warren and Coady Willis of fellow sludge-metallers Big Business joining the fold and adding a second drummer.
That lineup released the EP “The Bulls and the Bees” for free in March, but the Big Business pair aren’t vying for Guinness notoriety on this tour. For “Freak Puke,” the band dubbed itself Melvins Lite, with a lineup that finds Osborne and Crover joined by Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Secret Chiefs 3) on upright bass. Released in June, the album veers away from some of the band’s heavier hallmarks and incorporates weirder textures — though maybe not weird by Melvins standards.
The band has a third release planned later this year with yet another incarnation — this time dubbed Melvins 1983. That lineup features the return of original drummer Mike Dillard, with Crover moving to bass duties for a new four-song EP.
But its the Melvins Lite version of the band that’s attempting this elaborate publicity stunt, which was planned a year ago.
“With the Melvins Lite, we don’t need as much set-up time,” Osborne said. “That’s part of the reason we thought, ‘Oh man, we can make this work.’”
The band will drive to 49 of the tour stops, but Dunn’s double bass won’t make the flights to the other two shows.
“(Alaska) and Hawaii are going to get different shows than everywhere else,” Osborne said, explaining that the setlist will still include “Freak Puke” material, plus older songs like “Eye Flys.” (Maybe more than five seconds of it.)
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