Monster Magnet interview (11/2014)
|Conducted by:||Apothecary (phone)|
It was a natural flow of events. I reviewed his band's latest album last year. Then I was offered to review his new "reimagining" album this year. So finally, when I was invited to actually interview Monster Magnet's Dave Wyndorf, I warmly jumped at the offer. I sat down on the phone early Halloween morning, coffee still in hand, to chat with the big guy himself about 60s music, Wham-O toys, and more.
Che: Hello and happy Halloween, Dave! Thanks for taking the time out to chat today. So what've you been up to recently?
Dave: I've been in and out of my studio like mad, working both on the next Monster Magnet album and our next reimagining. I've been pretty busy lately, I'm a busy guy (*laughs*)
Che: I'm sure it'll all pay off, right? Speaking of being busy, how have tours been going lately?
Dave: We finished a string of European dates earlier in the year that went over really well. Before that we had some planned U.S. tours last December, but we had to end up canceling them because I caught a real wicked round of the flu. I really want to re-tour the States, maybe even make up all the dates, but at the same time there's a part of me that isn't too sure. Sometimes it feels like the country that invented rock and roll is the least rock and roll these days. The U.S. is pretty expensive, and at plenty of venues they don't even let kids in! I think we're living in a time of convenience where people don't always like to make appointments for their entertainment. It's a byproduct of the digital age I suppose. Psychedelic music is also a lot less popular in the States than it is in Europe as well, so these are all things to consider. We probably will end up making up those dates though.
Che: So tell me a little about how the whole Milking The Stars idea came into creation. What were you really going for with that?
Dave: It was really somewhat on a whim, to be honest. I just love making records, and I started recording recently at a spot very close to my home. It gave me a lot more tinkering time, and I started exploring different riffs, bridges, and endings. I wanted to experiment a little, and most of all I wanted to see how much I could mess around with songs I had already written and have them still be the same songs. So I said to myself, "alright, I'll go in, spend the money, and do this thing." Once I began to do it with one song, the rest just followed from there.
Che: Would you therefore consider this thing as a sort of remix album, or something else entirely?
Dave: Well it's a bit paradoxical. It's not really a remix album, because I actually retracked a bunch of stuff, and there is some new material on it as well. So it is and it isn't. It's like a Frankenstein project, some strange mutant of sorts. Very 1960s sort of recording style.
Che: I noticed you used a lot of keyboard and organ with this one. Is that a favorite instrument of yours?
Dave: I love it, man. I used organ a lot, and mellotron as well. Mellotron was this weird keyboard thing they came out with in the early 60s that was actually a string section recorded on tape and put into a machine, so that every time you hit a key, it utters a different, violin sort of sound. It's pretty neat.
Che: I can only imagine, I love the added vibe it gives to the music. Let's talk about those 1960s for a second. So you really grew up around then, when all this sort of bluesy space rock music Monster Magnet emulate was coming to a peak. I'm sure that all had a huge influence on you?
Dave: Most definitely. I did grow up with it, and all that stuff was just thriving underground back then. It was a pretty amazing time. It was when Hawkwind were at their most popular, and punk rock was in early development. So I guess you could say that musically I came out of both backgrounds, the psych and the punk. I was in the latter at first, but everything always ended up coming back to the former.
Che: It's interesting to me that you note that sort of blend of styles, because that's something I've always noticed with Monster Magnet. I think the band really has two personalities, your more relaxed, spacey side, and then a more groovy, hard rock sort of sound, and I think part of what made Last Patrol so great was that you guys really balanced each out. Do you particularly prefer one style over the other?
Dave: Thanks for noticing man, because that really is how it all went down. Ya know, both deliveries really work to their own benefits, especially when you're going from the studio to the stage. When I bring the psychedelic stuff out live, sometimes I feel the need to just rock it a little bit more, so each ends up influencing the other. Sometimes I just want to change up the mood a bit, and when we play harder live sometimes more people can relate to it. Back in the 90s I remember we were touring the U.S. in support of Soundgarden, and when we played some of that trippier stuff, all the younger kids at first were like "what the hell is this?" But when we brought the energy a little bit more, sure enough they got into it. I realize that this is what happened with the 70s bands as well, as psych bands played bigger and bigger shows, they had to end up making things a little heavier and simpler, and that's how music evolved.
Che: Pretty cool observation! So tell me, what role, if any, did the other band members have in the whole Milking The Stars process?
Dave: It was pretty much just me and Phil, that's how it's been for a while. I dreamt most of it up, and then brought it over to Phil's house, where he has a studio. I sat down with him and went over what we needed to retrack. I wrote out parts for him, played them badly, and then he played them well on recording. That's the biggest thing, you should always go with each others' strengths rather than overfocusing on weaknesses. As much as I'm the "leader," I always know when to say I need help with something.
Che: I like that attitude. Something I've noticed is that Monster Magnet has quite the presence in media outside of music, some of your songs even being featured in T.V. and film. Did you really have any say in this?
Dave: Not really (*laughs*)! Most of it was just luck. We had a manager a while ago who kind of pushed us into it, the whole dealmaking, racket thing, but the biggest ones were really just luck. Even Sons Of Anarchy just came to us and asked if they could use some songs, and I thought "why not?"
Che: As long as we're on the topic of film, let's talk a little about this new music video for "The Duke." I really enjoyed it, although I'm not sure I entirely understood the theme. Would you care to elaborate on that?
Dave: The Duke was Phil Mucci's creation, and it's done from a lot of sketches he had done beforehand. The song itself is about Satan coming back in the 21st century, because he lost in World War II. It has a really time travel sort of vibe from the 1940s to now. Phil took that idea and did a whole video about a girl with telekinetic powers who's found in the ruins of Hiroshima and is taken hostage for study. A doctor falls in love with her, and when she finally escapes, she wreaks havoc. I mostly let Phil have free reign with the project, but one thing I specifically wanted was a U.F.O. in the shape of a pentagram. And he brought it to life! He's a crazy guy and does amazing jobs with his work.
Che: Sounds like a pretty fun process. So hey, I've read that "Monster Magnet" actually wasn't your band's first name, and that when you finally did settle on that name, it was taken from the name of a toy. Please explain!
Dave: Man, back in the day we were changing our name like every other week (*laughs*). We were Acid Light, Nipple Tank, King Fuzz, Madness Is The Mongoose, etc. Monster Magnet just so happened to be our name the night that we covered for a band who had canceled their support for Jane's Addiction, and that was our first show under that name. After that, labels started to get interested in us and we started to gain some wider recognition, so we figured we'd keep it. Monster Magnet was a goofy toy put out by Wham-O back in the 60s, it just had a really cool name that stuck with me. It was a plastic demon with magnetic arms that you could pick stuff up with.
Che: So do you have any more reimagining plans in the future?
Dave: Yeah, totally. I really want to go in and do Mastermind, mainly just for fun. I think that album came out a little too slick and not really weird enough. Now that I'm on a roll, I think I'll give it a shot! It'll probably come out while I'm recording the next album as well. It's strange times we're living in, man. These days people don't really want you to tour unless you have a new release out. It seems like bands exist to tour more than make music, but then on the other hand you can't really tour unless you have new music. So writing new albums in turn becomes less profitable than touring. I personally think it somewhat lowers songwriting quality.
Che: I can definitely see why you say that. So Dave, it's Halloween! Do you have any plans for the evening?
Dave: Nothing big and fancy, I'm just in the studio working tonight. I've got two new fuzz boxes that I really want to mess around with, they sound like a nest of angry hornets.
Che: Before we close out, I'd like to turn the tables a little bit. Is there anything that you have to ask me, or Metal Storm in general?
Dave: Sure. What are you guys really all about over there?
Che: Well we're kind of a strange blend of an online zine and a metal encyclopedia. We have a database of bands, and then Staff review albums, concerts, conduct interviews, and the like. Sometimes we get into these philosophical conversations as to which end of the spectrum we're more focused on, but it's really a complementary relationship, each helps the other to function.
Dave: Yeah, it's nothing to lose sleep over. I really like that though, and I think that'll ultimately work out well for you guys in the end. I mean, when you're reading a review, why go to Google and search for a band when you already have an encyclopedia at your fingers and can just stay in the same place to do it? That's a really nice concept.
Che: Glad we have your approval man! Alright then, Dave, any last words for your fans?
Dave: I just really appreciate everybody who's been onboard for some of my crazy experiments. As I get older, I realize more and more that life doesn't mean much unless it's an adventure. So thanks for all the warm support and sticking by us every step of the way!
Now off to play with those hornet nests!
||Posted on 01.11.2014 by Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.|
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