Features

Dale Crover

The latest project from the drummer and his Melvins partner, Buzz Osborne, is hot enough to earn its own band name: Crystal Fairy.
When the Melvins toured with Le Butcherettes in 2015, they’d invite the group’s vocalist, Teri Gender Bender, to join them for a number at the end of their set. Even after the exhilaration of a sticks-flying, riff-crushing Melvins show, the fiery singer kicked up the energy a big notch as she hit the stage. “We took note of that,” Dale Crover says. “It was always the big highlight. She’s so much fun to watch because you don’t know what she’s gonna do. She’s got the intensity of Iggy Pop on stage.

“We thought we ought to maybe do a record with Teri,” Crover continues. “And then we were like, ‘Maybe we should just start a whole new band.’” Behold the all-star Crystal Fairy, where Crover and Melvins guitarist Buzz Osborne team up with Gender Bender and Butcherettes producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta, At the Drive-In), who plays bass in the new group.

Crystal Fairy’s self-titled album was written and recorded in two 2015 sessions: first at the Melvins’ Los Angeles studio, and then at Rodriguez-Lopez’s place in El Paso, Texas. “It all just clicked immediately,” Crover says. “In a couple days we had like half a record, and working with Teri was so easy. She can come up with a melody and words as easily as I can sit down and come up with a drumbeat.”

Given Crystal Fairy’s members, the music is characteristically heavy, touching on punk, heavy metal, and Zeppelin-ish riff rock. Gender Bender is a live wire, bringing a different sensibility from Osborne and Crover’s vocals in the Melvins; she’s alternately fierce and playful, and songs like “Necklace of Divorce” and the title track have a poppy catchiness. Never fear, though—sly twists abound. “Buzz was trying to write songs that were a little bit straighter,” Crover explains. “He just can’t do it. He says, ‘I just can’t help putting some weird part in there.’”

Working fast in the studio suits Crover. “Nowadays I like recording when the songs are fairly fresh and I don’t have something completely worked out,” he says. “You relax and get in the zone, and just let it go. Sometimes, if it’s a song I know really well and I have a solid part, I’ll screw it up, you know? If it’s more open for me to mess around with, then I can get it in one take.”

The last few years have been good for the Melvins, seeing Osborne and Crover embrace a fluid, anything-goes approach to a career spanning more than thirty years and countless aesthetic triumphs. As documented in Bob Hannam’s 2016 film, The Colossus of Destiny: A Melvins Tale, the band has recently been a two-drummer quartet incorporating Big Business, a “Lite” lineup with stand-up bass, a power trio, and a four-piece with two Butthole Surfers members. In 2012 the Melvins played every U.S. state plus Washington, D.C., in fifty-one days; in 2013 they released a collaborative album of covers that includes a Kinks song with Crover, Coady Willis, and Clem Burke on drums; and in 2016 they issued Basses Loaded, featuring six bassists (not all playing at the same time).

Meanwhile, Crover has gone even further toward perfecting the touring life by getting in shape on the road. He’s put drinking aside and has been hitting the hotel gym, in addition to sitting a bit higher on his throne. “It’s the healthiest I’ve ever been on tour,” he says, adding with a laugh, “I’m bummed if we’re on stage at ten o’clock: Oh no, a late show!

Watch for a Crover solo album on Joyful Noise in 2017. It will follow Dale’s unique project Skins, a twelve-sided vinyl record whose 127 copies sold out immediately upon release last year. “The record has six spindle holes,” Crover explains, “so there’s a groove—a cut—that correlates with where each hole is. Because there has to be space enough for all these cuts, the songs can only be between fifteen and thirty seconds long, almost like a little commercial or a drum haiku. And when you put the record on your turntable, it’s going to look really crazy when you play it.” Michael Parillo


Dale Crover uses Tama drums, Paiste cymbals, Aquarian heads, Regal Tip sticks, Pete Engelhart metal percussion, and Shure microphones.