Melvins Drummer Dale Crover Talks New Solo Album ‘The Fickle Finger of Fate’–influential drummer discusses his first full-length solo album and much more in our exclusive interview.
Dale Crover has had one busy year so far, and he isn’t slowing up anytime soon. In addition to The Melvins recent double-album A Walk With Love and Death, and performing with the likes of Fantomas and Redd Kross, he’s also just released The Fickle Finger of Fate, his first full-length solo album (out now via Joyful Noise Recordings).
His solo début may surprise Melvins fans–while it has plenty of the percussive fury they might expect, Crover also explores a variety of other genres, including psychedelia, power-pop and British Invasion-era classic rock.
I recently interviewed Crover to discuss the new solo album and the rest of his current flurry of activity. Enjoy the full Q&A (edited only for content and clarity) below:
Well part of the thing was that the Skins thing was limited. There’s only like a hundred of those made, so people were disappointed that they couldn’t get it (laughs). So I decided we could do another release and put those on there, and just do a whole solo record and add new songs. And the label thought that was a good idea, so I recorded it over the fall and winter and expanded on the whole thing basically.
The album is very diverse, and you’re definitely exploring different sounds: everything from psychedelia to power pop to experimental instrumentals. Did you intend from the start to have such a variety of material, or did it just evolve organically?
It definitely evolved in the studio…a lot of the songs I had ideas for, some were more finished than others, so I just went in and decided what would be good for each song you know? And I never really worried about like “this have to have the same guitar sound for the whole record.” I tried to think of a bunch of different types of songs that would be good on it. Then it was just a matter of working on the order and try to make it all fit together.
So it was just trial and error in the studio and figuring out what sounds really good. And sometimes things wound up sounding a lot differently than I had intended on doing originally. Sometimes you hit upon something that would give you a different idea, and it’ll lead you in a different way.
And all that’s good–I’m not afraid to try something different..The Melvins have done so many types of records so I’m not really afraid to do anything weird, and certainly I wasn’t with the solo record either. I was like “I can make this whatever I wanted!”
What was your basic songwriting process for Fickle Finger–and what did you enjoy about doing a solo effort vs. in a group dynamic?
Well it was still weird doing a solo thing, and I still had people coming in to help me– especially the engineer Toshi (Kasai). He would help with stuff, especially if I had something unfinished…I’d go “what do you think this song needs here”?
He would help with that kind of stuff: it’s always good for me working with other people and bouncing ideas off of them. That tends to inspire me to do something in a certain way or change my mind about something…but I guess it’s different in that I wrote these songs…in The Melvins Buzz writes most of the songs and of course in Melvins the drums are the first thing that I’m working on…this was not that way… except for the drum bits (laughs), like the strictly drum instrumentals.
But the song songs were all written on guitar…I recorded that first so I had something to play along to when I went and did the drums. So it’s kind of backwards from normal I guess. Then I would go back and redo the guitar and throw other stuff on top of it, and figure out what else it would need.
Also in the last couple years The Melvins have built a studio so I have a place that I can do stuff…and you don’t have to worry about going in and spending money on some other studio. I mean our studio costs money but I can work there whenever I want to go there…it’s easy. So there’s that whole advantage.
Redd Kross’s Steve McDonald played on several songs on Fickle Finger, as well as the new Melvins release A Walk With Love and Death–what has it been like collaborating with him, and what did he bring to the table on both releases?
He’s great–just a really great bass player…there were a few that we wrote together on the last Melvins album. The way that we record is that Buzz and I record first and then let him come up with a really great bass part for the whole thing and he did a great job. We also encouraged him to write songs for it–he’s got a song on the record. So we were recording The Melvins at almost at the same time I was doing my solo album and I knew there was a couple of songs that I wanted to have Steve play on and I think he added a lot.
His bass playing is certainly better than mine (laughing). I played bass on a few songs but Steve played bass on some really good songs on there, as well as my friend Dan Southwick who I played with in Acid King and Altamont. He co-wrote Bad Move–the first song on the record and played bass on that. So yeah! It’s almost solo–I probably did about 90% of the music.
I really like the psychedelic, slower material on the album like the title track, Little Brother and I Found The Way Out. Was that fun to explore, and did you draw upon any influences for that? It’s not a sound most would associate with you
Definitely The Beatles you know–Sergeant Pepper’s probably…I love a lot of that stuff from that psychedelic era: Creem, Jimi Hendrix, some of that is my favorite stuff…I guess it just kind of crept into it somehow.
I really like the single Hillbilly Math, I read that was inspired by films like Deliverance and Gummo?
Yeah, lyrically for sure (laughing). Something about those people and whatever weird situation would happen if you were to encounter them I guess…I was writing with a Rolling Stones vibe in mind for that in particular.
You’ve had quite the prolific year between the Crystal Fairy album, the new Melvins album and now your solo album, how do you find the time to do all that just from a time management standpoint?
I have no idea (laughing). I had to book it all in advance I guess. Just planning ahead. I mean I knew we were going to do the Melvins record and Crystal Fairy has been done for a while…but then I also went on tour with Redd Kross (laughs). I use my iPhone calendar! It’s a useful tool!
Well that’s impressive–that’s a lot to squeeze in and the year isn’t even over yet!
For sure…I’ve done a lot this year and there’s lot more to do as well. Because we’re on tour right now and will be out until November 12th pretty much, we’ve got a little bit of a break, and then I have more stuff with Redd Kross, and then hopefully get back to some more solo stuff. I’d definitely like to put something together and do that live at some point. If I have time of course! (laughs). I’m looking for the time. The Melvins keep me busy so it’s hard to cram everything in but I’m trying.
What was it like working with your daughter on the solo album?
It was easy. I just had her come down one day like “Hey! let’s record some stuff, it’ll be fun!” She’s a little shy at first but after a while she warmed up and saw that it was fun to mess around with stuff (laughs). I had her play this violin thing for one song, and then I had her do a bunch of vocals through effects on some other stuff. That shit was really fun.
Then I couldn’t really get her to stop (laughs). She was like “what else can I do?” She’s intuitive. It’s really cool–she plays the piano…she’s definitely interested in music. She plays the violin at her school and does pretty well with that.
Do you think your experience on Fickle Finger will influence or change-up the writing process on the next Melvins album?
Oh I don’t know–I’m sure if I came up with stuff and presented it to the band that there would be no problem. I know there’s a song that hasn’t been released yet that I wrote. But yeah, I hope to do more, but Buzz never really has any shortage of good quality stuff. So there’s always that–I love playing his stuff.
Has the songwriting process in general changed for the band over the years?
I think if anything has changed, it’s that we don’t try to beat things into the ground when we’re working on it. I think we’re better at realizing when things are done, or are as close to done as it should be, before we start recording something.
I think that also comes from the luxury of having our own studio. Before we had that we didn’t have the time or the funds to sit in the studio and write songs–we had to have everything prepared before we even went to the studio.
So I think just having our own place where we can just go and write a song and record it right there–and that’s pretty much what we did with Crystal Fairy too…when we were working with Teri, somebody would go “I got this idea”–and we would go work on it for a little while–with the stuff flowing pretty quickly. And we would work on it for about an hour and have a song pretty much done– and just record it and go on from there, so I guess that if anything it’s all a quicker process.
So is that more satisfying to be able to record things so quickly when the inspiration strikes?
I think it keep things fresher for sure.
I’ve said this before, but I’ve noticed it we have some stuff that’s really rehearsed, or a drum part that’s really solid and I know what I’m going to do–I’ll screw it up. Whereas if I’ve got kind of an idea what I want to do and things are more open then I won’t fuck it up.
And I’ll get it on the first or second take. A lot of first takes when the vibe is good, and then we can move on to other stuff (laughs). It’s funny how that works. But I don’t know if one way is better than the other really…it’s hard to say…but all of its fun to me. It’s always fun to be in that creative process.
I also wanted to ask about the soundtrack material off a A Walk With Love and Death–when is the film coming out, and are there any stories you can share behind some of those pieces you recorded?
There’s a lot of field recordings…I mean it’s musical but it’s not the normal rock format I guess. There’s all kinds of weird shit on there! That was probably the hardest part to put together because there was so much stuff to go through and piece it together before we could make it all cohesive…the other disc was much easier to do.
I don’t know if people will appreciate the second disc or just think it’s noise you know? I mean some people like noisy stuff…we do obviously. But I think since it’s a soundtrack, if you view it that way, it might give you a different perspective on it and you won’t just dismiss it as noise.
Have you seen the finished film and can you tell fans what expect?
I haven’t seen the finished film, but I can tell you its definitely surreal and avant-garde. I’ve only seen a little bit of stuff…the guy that’s directing it lives in Atlanta, so hopefully when we play there will get to hook up with him and check it out. I’m not sure how far along he is with it…it’s all some sort of mystery (laughing.) so I don’t know when it’s going to be done…but it’ll be weird!
Thanks to Dale Crover for taking the time out for this interview, you can buy The Fickle Finger of Fate and A Walk With Love and Death from Amazon below.
Melvins 2017 North America Tour Dates:
July 5 San Diego, CA Casbah
July 6 Santa Ana, CA The Observatory
July 7 Los Angeles, CA The Troubadour
July 8 Fresno, CA Strummer’s
July 9 Sacramento, CA Goldfield Trading Post
July 10 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
July 12 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
July 14 Vancouver, BC Venue Nightclub
July 17 Edmonton, AB Union Hall
July 18 Calgary, AB The Marquee
July 20 Winnipeg, MB Pyramid Cabaret
July 21 Fargo, ND The Aquarium
July 22 Minneapolis, MN Grumpy’s Bash
July 24 Milwaukee, WI Turner Hall Ballroom
July 25 Chicago, IL The Metro
July 26 Grand Rapids, MI The Pyramid Scheme
July 27 Detroit, MI El Club
July 28 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop
July 29 Columbus, OH A&R Music Bar
July 31 Pittsburgh, PA Rex Theater
August 1 Syracuse, NY The Westcott Theater
August 2 Boston, MA Paradise Rock Club
August 3 New York, NY Irving Plaza
August 4 Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer
August 5 Asbury Park, NJ The Stone Pony
August 6 Baltimore, MD Ottobar
August 8 Richmond, VA The Broadberry
August 9 Carrboro, NC Cat’s Cradle
August 10 Knoxville, TN The Concourse
August 11 Louisville, KY Headliner’s Music Hall
August 12 St. Louis, MO The Ready Room
August 13 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck
August 15 Englewood, CO Gothic Theatre
August 17 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge
August 18 Las Vegas, NV Psycho Fest
August 20 San Jose, CA The Ritz
August 21 Santa Cruz, CA The Catalyst
August 22 Los Angeles, CA The Echo
September 5 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom
September 6 Tucson, AX 191 Toole
September 8 Austin, TX The Mohawk
September 9 Dallas, TX Tree’s
September 10 San Antonio, TX Paper Tiger
September 11 Houston, TX Warehouse Live (Studio)
September 13 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jack’s
September 14 Pensacola, FL Vinyl Music Hall
September 15 Jacksonville, FL Jack Rabbit’s
September 16 Tampa, FL The Orpheum
September 17 Ft. Lauderdale, FL The Culture Room
September 18 Orlando, FL The Social
September 20 Athens, GA 40 Watt Club
September 21 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade (Hell Stage)
September 22 Nashville, TN 3rd & Lindsley
September 23 Memphis, TN Hi-Tone
September 25 Madison, WI High Noon Saloon
September 26 Rock Island, IL Rock Island Brewing Co.
September 27 Des Moines, IA Wooly’s
September 28 Omaha, NE The Waiting Room
September 30 Ft. Collins, CO Aggie Theatre
October 2 Albuquerque, NM The Launchpad
October 3 Flagstaff, AZ The Green Room