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INTERVIEW – Dave Wyndorf, Monster Magnet, March 2014

| 2 April 2014 | 1 Reply

INTERVIEW – Dave Wyndorf, Monster Magnet, March 2014

“This is hardly metal!”

The Dark lord of space rock, Dave Wyndorf, brings Monster Magnet back to Perth for a show at Amplifier Bar on Thursday 3 April. SHANE PINNEGAR takes the call from his Red Bank, New Jersey home, an hour south of Manhattan.

Monster Magnet Dave Wyndorf 01

Usually thought of as a metal or stoner rock band, Monster Magnet’s roots are more heavily in 60’s psychedelic garage rock like The Count Five, and Wyndorf hates the band being labelled heavy metal.

“Totally. Exactly,” he says, exasperatedly. “I don’t think the guys at any record company we were ever at totally got that. As much as I told them, just because the band has ‘monster’ in the title and we play loud doesn’t mean its metal. It’s been a problem my whole life, my whole career as Monster Magnet. It’s like ‘Hey, Monster Magnet – that metal band.’ I was like ‘Dude, this is hardly metal. Its loud rock music, but it’s not metal.’ But what you going to do? It’s tough.”

Wyndorf agrees that because of this genre-specific marketing, his band has been misunderstood by a certain percentage of their audience.

“A huge amount – a HUGE amount!” he continues. “To the point where I couldn’t even tell who my audience was. I really couldn’t tell. There were certain parts of the world where I could understand it better. Australia, for one, I always thought I understood it just because I think Australia has a long tradition of guitar bands. Guitar psych-ish, rock ‘n roll guitar as well as punk. You guys never lost it.

“The States was always tough for me to get the point across. Europe was always good because they could tell the difference, because they have a big love for it. So, it’s funny, the place I was born in and the place where rock ‘n roll was born turned out to be the worst place in the world for me to play because marketing just basically trained people; ‘Monster’ plus loud music must mean heavy metal. It turned out to be a huge pain in the ass.

“But I didn’t help it by being pretty esoteric with the lyrics, too,” he admits, “so I knew it would be a bit of a mess. It wouldn’t always be like a number one ‘let’s break the bank’ kind of band. I always knew it would be an uphill climb as far as that’s concerned, but it doesn’t bother me, it’s actually turned out really, really well, where if you stay around long enough and stick to your guns, it kind of comes back.”

The band are touring their most recent album – their ninth – Last Patrol. After confessing in recent interviews that he’d ‘dumbed down’ the music for a couple of albums, trying to be all things to all people, it’s a roaring return to the classic Monster Magnet groove. Still, there remains a chasm between intelligent hard rock music and the masses.

“Yeah. Yep, I do [think so],” he concurs. “I think there’s not that many people that get it and I think there’s a stereotype that a lot of people want to believe in. They want to believe that hard rock is one thing. They want to believe that metal is one thing, and this is it. It’s almost like in a lot of the bands in the world of metal, those guys speak like sports fans – they remind me of sports fans. ‘No, my band’s better than yours. They’ll kick your ass and blah, blah, blah.’ It’s like they’re speaking about sports. I always felt more in touch with the indie bands that were going for old psych stuff or the old rules of music where there’d be layers – you could listen to lyrics and there may be double entendres in there. That just doesn’t go along with metal. It’s just like ‘Duhhhhh.’

“And I think a lot of people just like it that way. I think it brings them comfort – like some sort of comfort food. I hate to say that. I hate to even use the word ‘metal’ because I think its way overused and I don’t think there’s any category for REAL rock music. I wish there was, because Monster Magnet is the kind of band, where we could easily play with Goat from Sweden, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at a festival, which we do. We’ll play with Goat and Nick Cave and then we’ll go and open for Deep Purple at some classic rock Festival and nobody bats an eye because it’s Monster Magnet.

“It took us a long time to get to that point. They know us just for being Monster Magnet. I don’t think they ask any questions like ‘Is this good or is it bad?’ They just go ‘Okay, it’s Monster Magnet, we know the songs.’ I wish the world was a little bit more open-minded because I think loud music would take a real turn.”

Monster Magnet 02

If anyone out there has been blurring the boundaries of what you can do with loud rock music, it’s been Monster Magnet, and the analogy between metal fans and blinkered, one-eyed sports fans is magnificent.

“It’s embarrassing, dude,” Wyndorf continues, positively warming to his subject. “You know, it’s like they’re holding themselves back with their own fucking stupidity, but it’s a male thing. It’s like those guys, they like it all men. I don’t know why. Why? Why would they want to have guy music by guys, playing music to more guys. It’s like – I always tried to write about as much sex as possible because I was just hoping there’d be some girls at the show. In my head, it was always the thing that was imprinted on my brain when I went to the shows when I was an early teen – like ‘72, ‘73, ’74, girls went to shows. Girls went to see the early UFO. Girls even went to see Uriah Heep, if you can believe it!

“The rock concert was the thing. The music was paid attention to by both sexes and then they chose which ones they like the best, but girls were included. Somewhere along the line, I think it was in the 80’s with that whole British metal thing that came up – you know, the whole Iron Maiden and all that fucking shit, that terrible, horrible guy music – they just cut the girls out because they stopped singing about sex. They were singing about the Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, and all this stuff. There was no sex in the music and they were just playing to guys who like Dungeons & Dragons and shit.

“The girls disappeared, and then metal seemed to love that, and then it grew into this stuff that was like Slayer and Pantera and even worse, like the worst kind of possible fucking shit you could imagine. ‘We’re just going to get out there and I’m going to punch you in the face and then you’re going to punch me back.’ It’s like Fight Club and girls aren’t allowed. I was horrified. I was like, ‘this is not fucking cool, dude. This is not cool.’ No disrespect to any of the hard work that any of those guys do, but the way it fell out, my whole life, I just kept feeling I was more and more outside of everything.

“I was like, ‘well, the kind of music I do is never going to be understood because they’re just not going to get the humour.’ But, luckily, it was understood by enough people to keep us alive, so that’s cool.”

Wyndorf rates Last Patrol highly enough to have played the entire album every night on their recent European tour, but says Australia will get a more across-the-board setlist.

“Yeah, we did the whole thing. I figured I could get away with it in Europe, because we play there very often, almost one or two tours a year. If anybody would be ready for the whole thing, it would be them.

“[In Australia] it’s going to be a little bit more varied. There will be probably three songs from the new album and then a set of, I guess for lack of a better term, greatest hits.”

Monster Magnet Dave Wyndorf 02

Last Patrol is the band’s first album not to feature guitarist Ed Mundell since their 1991 debut Spine Of God. Wyndorf says it was business as usual in the studio despite Mundell’s absence.

“To tell you honestly, it’s okay, you know what I mean?” he explains. “I’ve been writing this stuff, the Monster Magnet stuff since the beginning. Ed wasn’t a writer in the band. He’s a fantastic guitarist but there are other fantastic guitarists in the world. I’m really looking for the overall picture on a Monster Magnet record. How does it sound? Is it exciting? It wasn’t a certain style that I was in love with, it was more like what was necessary to make it an atmosphere and lucky for me, as good as Ed was, to lose him wasn’t a problem because I already had one other totally competent guitarist in the band, that’s Phil Caivano, who had been in the band for a bunch of years. I hired a new guy named Garrett Sweeney too, so it was okay. It was all right.

“Ed was kind of poopy in the last bunch of years anyway,” continues the singer, “he wasn’t into touring, wasn’t into recording as much and he wanted to do his own thing. So, everything worked out fine.”

Despite Monster Magnet’s music being labelled psychedelic, spaced and stoner, many fans might be surprised to know that Wyndorf stopped taking the sort of drugs associated with that music years before he formed the band.

“Oh, yeah, totally,” he laughs. “I just always wrote about my childhood. I wrote about my teenhood in the early to mid 70’s in Jersey. My teenhood was spent smoking pot and taking LSD and going to concerts and it was an incredible time for me. That was when I was an early teen. Of course, later on, when I first started playing music, it was punk rock. When I started playing guitar, all that old stuff came back. So, yeah, by the time I had started Monster Magnet, no, I was completely sober. I thought it was the height of hilarity to actually have a stoner rock band where no one got stoned. I thought that was pretty funny.”

Wyndorf waxes lyrical about his previous trips to our fair country.

“I never had a bad time in Australia,” he says. “Yeah – never. Not once. I’ve been there quite a few times; about five or six times, I think. No, I love it. It’s about as far away from my house as I could possibly get, so why wouldn’t I love it?

“You guys have the best critters in the world, you know? The best fucking nature I’ve ever seen in my whole life. It’s insane. It’s fantastic.”

Is it all work and no play when you tour, or do you get a few moments to do some touristy stuff?

“Well, that’s the thing about touring,” he says with a contemplative breath. “It’s like you get to go everywhere but you only have a limited time to do it in so what you do is you trade off. You figure out when you actually really need to sleep and if you need eight hours of sleep at home, well I hope you can do it on four hours of sleep or you’re not going to see anything.

“So, I see a lot of stuff – I just see it, like, very tired. Like ‘Hey, look, this is beautiful,’ he says wearily. “That doesn’t even count the extracurricular activities after the show. So its weird… I can go to a lot of places and never see anything. But, luckily for me, the first couple of tours in Australia, I went completely berserk. There was no pressure on me – we had a lot of time. I made a lot of friends, too. So, it’s cool.”

Consequently, Wyndorf says it’s catching up with those people that are the priority when heading somewhere he’s been before.

“Yeah, my friends. That’s who I want to say ‘cos I haven’t seen them in a long time. And,” he adds with a chuckle, “I would say… Fruit bats; I’d like to see some fruit bats, thank you very much.”

Monster Magnet 03

Wyndorf goes on to say that when they’ve made friends in a certain place and revisit, there’s a pressure to catch up with all of them again and again, which adds up to another draw on their time.

“It gets very, very weird. The world’s a big place but when you are in a certain [place] and you make friends and stuff, it turns into… basically, the world’s just like a big, giant small town. You know? Like ‘Hey, how come you came to Melbourne and didn’t call me,’ you know, that kind of thing. Back when we were really going crazy with the girls and stuff it was a real problem because you’d go in and, you know, you’re in a rock ‘n roll band. ‘Hey, how are the girls of Sydney,’ or whatever and it’s like well, the girls of Sydney know each other. It’s not just like a big, wide world, it’s a small town. So, yeah, that kind of stuff goes on…”

Astonishingly, Wyndorf is almost sixty years old, being born in the same town he now lives – Red Bank, New Jersey, on October 28, 1956.

“I know!” he laughs when I mention my own surprise. “Don’t remind me. It’s insane.

“Dude, it is WEIRD. I’m telling you, you are not going to feel any different. You don’t feel any different. You probably haven’t felt much different in your head since you were, what, maybe 40, right? I mean, not really; you just feel like you have more problems because just physically you have more problems because you’ve been around longer.”

Yeah, more things hurt!

“Yeah – more things hurt but your body gets used to it,” he continues. “It’s your mind you’ve got to look after. That’s the thing that gets you; waking up every day and going to the office and going back home. Its like, how many fucking years can you do it? I have been really lucky because I have a home.

“I don’t have a wife – forget that. Forget relationships, they’re a different story. I love getting older but I don’t love being OLD, so I just keep running around and pretending that I’m not any particular age at all. When I get reminded I’m like ‘Oh my God, where did all this time go?’ It’s really crazy. I talked to my neighbours – I live in a nice little suburban town. It’s not rich, it’s not poor, its just middle-class. These guys are, like, 10 years younger than me. They look like they’re 10 years older than me and they’re just talking about the new refrigerator they are buying. I’m like ‘Thank fucking God I do what I do.’

“Yeah, you hold onto it… If you are making what you love part of what you do on a regular basis, your mind is going to be okay. It’s [when] people shed all that stuff just to make contractual obligations or responsibilities, that they go south really, really quick.”

Monster Magnet 04

Even though time is running out, I can’t let Wyndorf go without bringing up the possibility that they will follow through on chat in recent years of doing an ‘unplugged’ style set with some exotic song arrangements. Does that seem more appealing as time goes on?

“Yeah, absolutely,” he says enthusiastically. “In fact, it felt appealing to me six or seven years ago when I first started screaming about it. I just couldn’t get promoters in certain areas of the world where we did well to buy it. I couldn’t get the Aussie promoters to do it. I couldn’t get the European guys. They were like ‘Well, you know, we don’t know if the people are going to buy it. You’re a hard rock band…’

“The word metal was used; the M-word was used. I said ‘Well, I’ll just show you,’ you know what I mean? ‘If you watch when I play the shows, I’ll play more and more mellow songs. If you see people walk out, you win. But if you see people applauding, then you know I’ve got something.’

“With Last Patrol,” he continues, “I just did it through Europe and Last Patrol is a pretty mellow record compared to other Monster Magnet records. There is no fist-in-the-air rockers. We sold out and people were loving the mellow stuff, so I think we’re going to get the go-ahead from the promoters in Europe and they’re going to buy it. I’ll bring it to Australia too. It’s really cool.

“I mean, it may not be the thing for meatheads who wanna mosh, but for people who want honest-to-God psychedelic music played at a not-super-volume type of fuzz thing, but just general weirdness, it’s the shit. And it’s like, I will bring all my power to bear to make that as interesting as possible.

“There’s not enough of it being done. I mean, Page & Plant did it to a certain extent and then Plant was doing it with that girl [Alison Krauss] but it was almost too classic rock, too FM radio. It wasn’t weird enough. What I like to do is really weird it up – weird guitars, weird stuff.”

That sounds amazing to us – 100% ROCK MAGAZINE will be front row for that.

“There’s not enough shit like that in the world. And it’s all organic; you know, it’s just not all the stuff that’s played by real people who are willing to put in the time to learn how to make repetition exciting. That’s what psychedelic music is!”

Monster Magnet play Perth tomorrow – Thursday 3 April 2014 at Amplifier, and then
Friday 4th April HiFi, Sydney
Saturday 5th April HiFi, Brisbane
Sunday 6th April 170 Russell, Melbourne
An edited version of this story was first published in the 25 May 2014 issue of X-Press Magazine

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Comments (1)

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  1. bluesgirl says:

    Sorry I missed MM. Had no idea they were touring here and have always wanted to see them but always seem to miss out. Hopefully will catch them next time in Sydney

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