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Interview: Dale Crover (Melvins/Redd Kross)

Dale Crover
21 January 2021

It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that, looking at a year of no touring in 2020, drummer Dale Crover (Melvins / Redd Kross) would fill the time by recording a solo album. The reality is, Crover had already written and recorded Rat-a-Tat-Tat! (Joyful Noise Recordings) by the time the pandemic had shut down the world and he was actually looking forward to hitting the road to support his second full-length solo album, a follow-up to 2017’s The Fickle Finger of Fate. In his drumming day gig, Crover balances his time between the heavy, sludginess of the Melvins and the power-pop stylings of Redd Kross and his own material, not so surprisingly, falls somewhere between the two.

On the day Rat-a-Tat-Tat! was released, Dale hopped onto a Zoom call to talk about the album as well as provide some info about the forthcoming release, Working With God by the Melvins 1983 (the original lineup of the band, not to be confused with the current Melvins).

Is it weird for the focus of interviews to be on you and your solo album rather than on the Melvins?

DALE: I guess so. It’s fun to talk about yourself, rather than the band. It’s definitely easier.

I know Rat-a-Tat-Tat! was written and recorded before all this craziness. What was your approach to releasing an album during a pandemic?

DALE: This was going to be coming out in probably mid-to-late summer, originally. I was going to try to do some touring off of it, as much as I could. For me to want to put another record out, I was hoping to have more material to play live. I wanted to tour, I wanted to headline. Or, even get a good support slot. This was going to come out a few months ago and, you know, we kind of held off. I would have held off longer had the label wanted to, but Joyful Noise was like, “We don’t want to sit on it forever. We want this to come out, we like it. It’s unfortunate, but let’s put it out and then do another one later.”

Because you probably won’t tour on this, at least not any time soon, do you think you might record another album and put it out so you have new material to tour on?

DALE: We’ll see what happens. I don’t know when we’ll be able to tour again. I would like to say in the fall, Dr. Fauci says he thinks live entertainment can come back in the fall, but, it’s going to be hard. Once we can do it again, every band is going to want to do it and then my other concern is the venues. What’s going to be open? Maybe more realistically it’s going to be next spring. God, I hope not, it’s been way too long to be out of work for. Might have to deliver some pizza again or something.

You’ve been touring since you were like nine-years-old! This has got to be the longest you’ve gone without hoping into a van and crisscrossing the country.

DALE: Yeah, for sure. It’s been almost a year now since we’ve even played a show. That’s crazy.

Do you remember when it hit you that you wouldn’t be going out on tour any time soon? Were you still hopeful in March and April that we might get through this quickly and that you’d hit the road?

DALE: Yeah, originally I thought, “This might be all over sooner than we think and it won’t be a big deal.” The first signs of any real trouble was South by Southwest getting canceled. I was supposed to go out there with Redd Kross and play. We were going to do a Third Man Records showcase. That being canceled, it was like, “Wow, this is really, really weird.” It was all Redd Kross last year, it was going to be. We were going to go to Europe and do a decent tour there and then come back to the U.S. and tour as well. Our European tour is rescheduled for the fall, but, we can only cross our fingers and hope.

Do you sit down and plan a record or do you just pull songs together you’ve been working on and say, “I think I’ve got enough to put out an album”?

DALE: I usually will have a batch of songs that I want to do, but nothing complete when I go into the studio. Since I’ve got other stuff going on, I will do stuff when there is time. Like, “Oh, there’s nothing going on between this time and that time so let’s go in and try to record three or four songs.” I’ll just go in by myself with (producer) Toshi (Kasai) and start with guitar first, then do drums, then build on top of that.

This isn’t an entirely solo album. You’ve got other musicians playing on it, right?

DALE: Maybe more than on the last one but even on the last record, I had Steve McDonald play bass on some songs. He’s way better than me. He also ended up being in the live band after that, so, when I was doing this record it was like, “Yeah, I want the guy who is probably one of the best bass players in the world to play bass on it.”

Have you and Steve known each other forever?

DALE: For a long time. I went and saw Redd Kross on the Neurotica tour back in ’87. I’ve loved them forever. They’ve been one of my favorite bands for a long time. But, we met through Bill Bartell, he was in White Flag. He had Gasatanka Records and they had put out (Redd Kross’s) Teen Babes from Monsanto. We met Bill in the early ’90s. He got a hold of us because he was putting out a tribute to the Germs and he wanted us to be on it. We had some mutual friends. We knew who he was for a long time. That’s how we met Steve, through him.

Did Steve join the Melvins first or did you join Redd Kross at the same time?

DALE: It was me filling in for Off! first. I’d already known Steve but being stuck in a van together for hours on end, we got to really know each other. I really liked playing with him, and given the opportunity to play with him in Off!, I was really excited because I always thought he was a great bass player. And then it became incestuous and we started playing in each other’s bands. Now we’re going for the Guinness Book of World Records, how many bands the rhythm section can play in together at one time.

Have some of the songs on the new record been released previously?

DALE: Sort of. With both solo records, what started first was they wanted to do this crazy lathe cut vinyl record that doesn’t look like it’s going to play at all. This one came out, just before this record. It’s a special lathe cut with multiple spindle holes.

Dale Crover
Photo by Adam Harding

Joyful Noise has tried to outdo themselves by what’s the most insane thing they think they can do with vinyl. I’ve always been the guinea pig for that. We did something like that with the first solo record, limited edition because it’s all handmade. Each one is hand cut. So, very time consuming. There’s only 127; for whatever reason, that’s the number.

Did they just quit when they got to 128? “Sorry, my hand hurts, can’t do anymore.”

DALE: Probably. It’s like, “Yeah, that’s enough.” They sold out right away which was great, but people were upset that they couldn’t get it so that’s when I said, “How about if I do a regular full-length solo record and I’ll add songs to it?” They were up for that idea, so we’ve done it again.

There’s so many different styles on Rat-a-Tat-Tat! It goes from experimental, instrumentals with looping drums to some pop stuff to some noisy stuff. It’s really a diverse album. There’s not a consistent thread, which I think is cool.

DALE: I figure anything can happen. I think it all flows together fine. With every record we’ve made, I don’t know how it’s all going to fit together until the end.

Where do your pop influences come from?

DALE: Hmmm.

Dale Crover holding a Beatles coffee mug

I can still listen to the Beatles all the time. Besides them, I was going to say Cheap Trick, but those guys love the Beatles too. I do really like Cheap Trick a lot, especially the lyrics. They write these pop songs that have some dark tone to them. They’re not writing, “She Love You.”

It’s not the most easy accessible song or the one you’d consider a single, but my favorite song on Rat-a-Tat-Tat! is the closer, “Kiss Proof World.”

DALE: That one is weird. That’s the oldest song for sure. It’s something that I wrote a long time ago now that I think about it, probably around the time of (the Melvins 1993 album) Houdini. Just something that I had that I never used or finished. Actually, a friend of mine said he found an old demo, and I think it’s that song. He’s like, “I have this 4-track demo that is unfinished.” It’s possibly 20 or 30 years old. What can I say about it? Toshi had the idea for the backup vocals and it’s kind of T-Rex influenced, I guess.

When you write and record solo material, do you share stuff with Buzz? Or, when you both are working on solo stuff, do you keep it to yourself?

DALE: He played me his stuff when he was working on it and I played him some of my stuff when I was working on it. I just gave him the final record the other day, so we’ll see what he thinks. He took the photos in the record. I gave him the vinyl and he was like, “This is no good for me because I don’t have a record player. You know that.” I said, “Yeah, but I thought you might like the art work.” I haven’t given him the CD yet.

Do you think you might make some more videos for the new album?

DALE: Yeah, that was kind of a new thing for us to do it by ourselves. We are doing the Melvins TV thing, that’s the focus for right now. I know Toshi and his partner Alicia really liked making the video so we’re hoping to do more.

Because you’re not on the road like you normally would be, has the way you consumed music changed since you’ve been stuck at home?

DALE: Even since having an iPod or whatever, I’ve done most of my listening off of that. I feel like I listen to more music and a lot more different stuff because I have access to it. I have iTunes radio so I can go on and listen to anything I want to at any time. I think that’s really great. Paying a subscription rather than buying a CD, I’ll take a chance on more stuff. I still like CDs and records but most of my listening is off the phone. Records skip when I drive around in the car, for some reason.

My daughter is super into music and actually likes a lot of pretty good stuff. She’s discovered all this stuff – some from us, because my wife and I are playing music in the house all the time – she’s on my iTunes account so she has access to everything. I wish I had that when I was a kid. She’s got good taste, I’m proud of her.

The new Melvins 1983 record, Working With God comes out at the end of February. Does it feel like there’s competition?

DALE: Oh, no. It’s good because I can talk about both at the same time now. It wasn’t originally going to be like that. We all worked together so we knew it would be a good thing. It wasn’t going to hurt if they were back-to-back like this.

Was the Melvins 1983 record recorded before all this too?

DALE: Pretty much during. We started before this happened. Melvins 1983, that’s with our original drummer Mike Dillard playing drums. That’s somebody we’ve been friends with this whole time. It’s funny, he’s one of those guys where you might not see each other for a long time but once you get back together, it’s like no time has passed. Things are still the same. It’s like he’s one of us and always has been. He came down here (to L.A.) right before people were starting to freak out. He still lives in Washington, he still lives in Montesano, the home town of the band. Where Covid was spiking was right outside of Seattle, for the first wave of it. He kind of realized it after he got down here. It seemed like things might get shut down, even possibly flights so we’re like, “We better hurry and get your stuff done. You should go home.” It was easy enough, we had all the stuff ready for him to play on when he came down here. He got his stuff done and went back. Buzz and I stayed away from each other for a while because there was quite some worry there for a moment. Once it felt safe for us to get together and work on stuff, we did that.

Without giving too much away to readers, the opening and closing songs on the Melvins 1983 record are covers and they are a lot of fun.

DALE: With that version of the band, it’s almost like we still have the humor of a 14-year-old. That’s never gone away. Farts will always be funny.

You’ve talked about how you listen to music. Is that how you discover new stuff?

DALE: Yeah, I mean, that or recommendations from somebody or seeing something somebody might have posted. I’ll get interested in stuff that way. But, I’ll look for stuff, try to look for new stuff.

What’s been your latest discovery that you think more people need to know about?

DALE: There’s this band, they’re an old band. They’re from Canada and they’re called Goddo. They are like some weird late ’70s/early ’80s hard rock band, sort of metal but some of their early stuff sounds almost glam in a way. I’d never heard of them before. Buzz had heard the song some place and he sent it to me and he’s like, “What do you think of this? How come we never heard of this stuff?” and then I looked on iTunes and they had a whole bunch of records. I have no idea why nobody’s ever heard of them.

I also recently rediscovered UFO. I’ve been listening Lights Out.

I know a record that’s coming out today that I’m going to have to go check out, Sleaford Mods. I like those guys. I guess they’re kind of hard to describe, very English. Lots of screaming about politics. It’s kind of cool. It’s almost like punk rock rap.

It’s not out yet, but Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers has a new solo record coming out and that’s really good. It’s coming out soon, within the next month or so. He’s on the same label, Joyful Noise. It’s like a Shimmy Disc release but I think Joyful Noise is putting it out.

What’s L.A. like now?

DALE: It’s still locked down here. Luckily, it’s a pretty nice day. I won’t brag too much but it’s in the 80s here today. We can at least go outside and do things. It would be a drag to be stuck inside. I have two kids and they haven’t been to school since last March. Trying to get by with that, but, it’s a lot of sitting around.

Anything else, besides the solo record and the Melvins record, we should be looking out for from you?

DALE: Gosh, nothing that’s finished that I can say. Hopefully Redd Kross gets to do some more stuff. I’m ready when those guys are ready.