The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 13th November 2016
As I’m not a resident of Leeds, my time in the city largely consists of pegging it to and from pubs and music venues on an evening. It’s a cold, damp November Sunday afternoon, but the city streets are bustling with shoppers. The Christmas Market is teeming. I watch some people enjoying a fake snow fight in a giant snow globe. Passing through the university campus there are virtually tumbleweeds. Where are the students? In bed or shopping at 3.30pm, I suspect. Or working to earn a crust towards their immense tuition fees. The Brudenell is the perfect oasis, something of a home from home for me. I’m early so settle with a pint of Kirkstall Back Band Porter (5.5% ABV), a packet of salted peanuts and an Ed McBain novel.
Ahead of its global DVD release in the spring of 2017, producer Bob Hannam is taking his film – many, many years in the making, and finally realised with the assistance of Ryan Sutherby and a well-supported Kickstarter campaign, which saw some 982 people chip in to enable the film to be edited and ultimately released – around a select number of venues. After a handful of US dates and a London screening, and ahead of a return stateside, it feels like an immense privilege to be able to sit and enjoy the fruits of his labours in the Brudenell Games Room.
The roll-call of interviewees all pitching in with reminiscences or simply expressing love for the band is remarkable, and is credit to Hannam’s networking skils, and testament to The Melvins and just how well-liked and respected they are. Krist Novoselic. Jello Biafra. Josh Homme. Mark Arm. Lou Barlow. Keith Morris. Donita Sparks. JG Thirlwell. Mike Patton. David Yow. Greg Anderson. Frank Kozik. Lustmord. The list goes on: many of the talking heads are collaborators, Gene Simmons! Even J Mascis manages more than three words, and seems uncharacteristically animated. And then there are of course the band members: Buzzo and Dale contribute lots of recollections, and many former players are also featured, which is quite something, especially considering just how many former players there are.
The Colossus of Destiny is an achievement simply by virtue of its existence. I mean, where do you start with The Melvins? They’ve been going forever and have released more tracks than Metallica or The Rolling Stones. And what the film achieves over the curse of its two hours and ten running time (including the seemingly endless credits) is to give a fair chronology of their history, while at the same time giving a real sense of what the band are about.
The one thing that every last one of those talking about the band attest to is The Melvins’ singularity, and this also shines through in the interviews with Buzzo and Dale. Often whacky, sometimes deeply serious and occasionally grumpy, their genuineness and honesty – and above all, their commitment to making music, and making the music they want, in the way they want – shines out throughout. Eternally heavy, but also a lot of fun, there really is no other band like The Melvins.
There are heaps of archive photos and reams of cover art and gig posters, and masses of grainy footage of early gigs, as well as some great footage of their more recent, utterly pulverizing, double-drummer lineup, which really make The Colossus of Destiny a must for any fan. But equally, watching Buzzo running off CD covers and posters and .giving an insight into the workings of a band who – apart from a brief stint with Atlantic, which they knew was destined to fail before they even signed the contract – have existed as a largely DIY concern since 1983, is essential viewing for anyone with an interest in making it in (or perhaps, more accurately, outside), the music industry.
Some of the audio during the interviews is a shade wobbly, and during the informative and entertaining Q&A (being a local las by birth, Bob Hannam is familiar with a large portion of the audience, making for some good-natured banter, with his dad is sitting behind me and Danny Mass of Salvation a row or two ahead), Hannan admits it’s a source of irritation. But this is a first-time work, and the product of passion and dedication, and as a ‘warts and all’ rockumentary, it’s entirely in keeping with the band’s ethos.
It may be lengthy, but moves at a decent pace, and is entertaining and informative throughout. Whatever your position on The Melvins, there’s something to be taken from Colossus of Destiny.