Q #1,970: The last album the Melvins recorded for a major label.
The last major label Melvins release was the 1996 album ‘Stag.’ Signing with Atlantic records, after the booming success of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind,’ the band would make their major debut with the 1993 album ‘Houdini,’ with Kurt Cobain landing guitar, production, and mixing credits across the release. ‘Houdini’ landed the band at #29 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, which you would think a fairly positive endeavor for a new signing during this era of the music industry.
The following year the Melvins would release two albums, ‘Prick’ and ‘Stoner Witch.’ At face value this sounds like a very ambitious undertaking, in a very Beatles sort of release schedule. However, ‘Prick’ was supposed to be an experimental spin off of sorts, and was released through the label Amphetamine Reptile, under a mirrored version of the Melvins moniker, SNIVLEM. Releasing this album one year after a major label debut, under a rival label, more or less under the same name just to dodge contractual obligations could not have made the suits over at Atlantic happy. Their major label counterpart to ‘Prick,’ ‘Stoner Witch,’ failed to reach a chart position. Then, the following year the Melvins released the ‘Tora Tora Tora’ EP through X-Mas Records.
Not knowing any details of their contractual workings, I can only speculate on how things went down. That said, it is more than possible that Atlantic was concerned with the band as a brand, and wasn’t keen on subsequent material being released without their consent, regarding maintaining the overall ‘product.’ I say this because by the time the Melvins made it to their third (and ultimately final) major label release with ‘Stag,’ they managed to regain a chart position, hitting the Heatseekers again at #33 in 1996. The album was co-produced by GGGarth (Garth Richardson), who has worked with Nickelback, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Testament, and Chevelle to name a few (I’ve talked about GGGarth before, on his work with Testament’s ‘Low,’ and Chevelle’s ‘Chevelle – Wonder What’s Next‘).
So, with such a well seasoned producer to keep things solid, and a chart position to boot, it’s a wonder as to why this album would result in the band being dropped. It’s likely a three album deal fulfilled, with the contractual acrobatics not sitting well at Atlantic. Melvins mainman Buzz Osborne has also made it no big secret that he is far more into the legacy of punk rock, as opposed to having dreams of arenas. It makes the band’s signing with a major quite the head scratcher in the first place, and doesn’t likely end with the band being disappointed at their release from the label.
All things considered, it was probably still an good career move to capitalize on the popularity of the Seattle / Aberdeen music scene, likely gaining a few new fans and a few extra dollars from the deal. Feel free to tweet me (@JohanssonShreds) if this period of years qualifies as a “sell out” move, weighing on material vs. belief systems. Sure, the band kept up their no frills experimental nature, but that was more on the side releases, and much less notable on the major label efforts.