Interview: Monster Magnet – Get Your Ass To Mars

Posted by Morgan Y Evans - Walking Bombs on Monday, September 30, 2013 at 9:47 PM (PST)



If people keep paying attention to music the way they do now, there aint gonna be any good music. Cuz they don’t deserve it and the artists aint gonna make it… Grown men going to Avenged Sevenfold concerts. Are you fucking kidding me? -Dave Wyndorf

On the 15th day of the voyage, seabirds began to circle overhead and some of the older men swore they could smell land. Fergus felt a little wrench, for he knew that miles over the horizon to the port was Cape St. Vincent and the waters where Captain Burbage had died and the ATHENA had received her brutal pounding at the hands of the Spanish. Damn, it was little more than a year ago, but it felt like a lifetime to him. He smiled ruefully and asked himself if his fortunes had indeed improved in that time. – from “Captain Kilburnie” by William P. Mack

Space Freak rock overlords Monster Magnet return with new/now odyssey The Last Patrol (Napalm Records), the second near perfect record this year to feature the word “Last” (The other is Cathedral’s The Last Spire). NJ Native Dave Wyndorf drops in from Mt. Riff’o’ lympus to detail the 60’s psych throwback future 70’s sounds of the latest Magnet voyage, their first U.S. tour in some time (with witch/pitch-perfect blues shamans Royal Thunder) and  other topics like real rock n’ roll, how to track in the modern age, Dr. Strange, rock star vs. indie nerd lifestyles, selfies, Tori Amos and much more.

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This record is cool to listen to at 2 a.m. and zone out to after a couple tokes.

Dave Wyndorf : If somebody says “This is a perfect 2 a.m. record or a perfect driving record” then I’m like, fuckin’… thank you!

 It would have to be a desert road or Oklahoma or something really straight because this is easy to zone out to. Nothing too curvy. (laughing) How hard was Last Patrol to pull off. A lot of long pieces. So many textures. Seems like you and Joe Barresi had a good dynamic going on.

Yeah. The way I put these together is I try to think of what should be long. Jam out. Space out. I try and design it. You put guys in a room and jam, it can have spontaneity but it doesn’t always work or sound cool.So I kind of build it. I’ll sit down with Bob, the drummer, and bring a click track with scratch guitar. I’ll put some vocals on and at this point start going free form. Build it here. Build it there. Build something that sounds like a good framework for a freakout. Imitation freakout! Take those scratch tracks to Phil and work out bass parts to maximize this build. Once that’s in place you can go completely berserk with guitar overdubs. It’s like a map to follow. These days we don’t use tape anymore so you are saving room on the fucking drive for this. Now I have an engineer or somebody go ,” Well, how much room do you need?” and I say ,”I don’t know”. I’ve had engineers in the past ask if we are really going to record this much and I have said ,”I never want to hear you say anything like that again.” (chuckling) It’s always a good idea to record three minutes more than you think you’re going to need because you never know if something cool’s gonna happen at the end. Sometimes things happen and you’re just like “Fuck!!!”. The mistakes are always the best part. you lay out the roadmap and then cool shit happens.

You used a lot of vintage gear on this!

I don’t think we used anything made past the 70’s. Pretty much all Phil’s gear. He’s got a great collection. 50’s and 60’s amps with old guitars. They don’t sound as big or saturated as modern amps but they have a character you can’t beat. I’ve used every kind of plug-in and yet that certain character that a certain type of Amp brings can’t be beat.

I think my favorite style of recording that has been successful for you guys or a band like Mastodon is to use a lot of vintage gear but record in a modern way. Clarity but with tone.

Exactly. you just said it all. You go for the source sounds. A lot of people think whenever you record on tape it will come out fantastic but it’s all wrong. Source sounds should be as original as you want and record it on something as modern as possible. That way you get something sometimes better than what those guys got on tape!

I agree and rarely hear people say that so it is refreshing.

Oh, Fuck yeah!


I love that you are still doing Monster Magnet. I miss bands having longevity. All these band’s I start to get into break up after three records nowadays.

I know. Well, it’s a tough world out there. it’s really really rough. the modern world with all this internet democracy is fine, but there’s just too many people in it. It’s easy to get lost in the sauce. I wouldn’t know what to do if I started a band today. there’s a certain sensitivity with musicians where they can’t take a lot of slaps in the face or bellowing into a sea of white noise and information. the whole world’s going through a fuckin’ identity crisis. if everyone has to have a page or Facebook, like a magazine, in order to exist…you know some shit is going on. “Look at me! I’m here! I swear to God I’m here! I’m here so much that I can’t just deal with the people in my daily life. It’s not enough! I have to be connected to EVERYONE! even though I don’t talk to them”.

“But I’m worried about surveillance”.

The whole 20th century taught people to look up to the people on the screen.

Max Headroom

We trained everybody to think celebrities were better than them and to look up to them. Then when they got the technology, of course they are going to want to be like those people. In 1500 years we are going to look back and say “Remember when they acted ridiculous and gave all their freedoms away just so people would look at them?” What’s crazy is no one really pats attention. Unless it’s a train wreck or something. it’s a bunch of horseshit. Playing little kid games. But for a band, how do you get people to pay attention? When the model you are working off of is rock n roll as poetry? As defined in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the definition that rang forever…this music is meant to live with you but also give you some poetic insight. I mean, more or less. Depending on if it’s AC/DC. You know what they know. But there is something spiritual to it when a band is working something out. That’s not really alive today on a mass scale, at all. The rise of the LP in the 60’s, we went from a singles society to people saying ,”You have to listen to the whole album, man. It’s the whole thing. It’s saying’ something.” That’s unheard of. people wanted to pay more because people thought they were getting almost like a book. It was literary. I miss that. I feel sad for bands when it is hard to get people to listen to more than one of their songs. There’s gonna haver to be some sort of cultural change. That poetry is not gonna come out of music. There’s not much room for any long form poetry at all in the current media world. People have to readjust priorities.

 Everything is so fast paced nowadays that it is hard to prioritize long form things

Yeah. No one has the time. Time spent doing that stuff is perceived by a lot of people as stupid or weak. What are you still there for? how come you’re not an octopus? You missed this! We live in a headline society where the headline is more important than the story. We just keep reading the headlines. Of course, that leads to ultimate disaster. Eventually the truth will out. If people keep paying attention to music the way they do now, there aint gonna be any good music. Cuz they don’t deserve it and the artists aint gonna make it. Why would you want to make music for these knuckleheads? They don’t deserve it. Fuck it, you dumb ass pieces of shit. Yayayayaya, running around thinking they know stuff. You don’t know shit. Grown men going to Avenged Sevenfold concerts. Are you fucking kidding me? Your license to rock is going to be revoked. In a better world the rock police would come down and take these guy’s license to rock away. you’ve gotta get off the planet now. You’re an idiot. And people say ,” Well, they make more money than  you. Those guys make lots of money.” Well, when the fuck did cool become redefined as making money? When did this happen? The late 70’s? Early 80’s. Hip hop, rock star-izm. Post-Led Zeppelin. But there was still a modicum of quality attached to success. The tail started wagging the dog and now if you are successful you are smart. Clever is not the same thing as being knowledgeable, you know what I mean? There are a lot of clever people in the world. I could say there are a million bandits who are clever and could sneak on my tour bus and steal my gear, but am I gonna say they are wise men? No, he’s a fuckin’ thief! So, that’s the world. but there are small pockets of the world who get it. They get the cool stuff. They don’t have to act like me and philosophize. I’m a blowhard. But they get it. They get what’s meaningful and makes them happy. A lot of time they recognize music as something they can loser themselves in but it challenges them a bit. The dumb people just use music as the soundtrack to their night. “Look at me! This is what I dance to!” Girls suckin’ in their cheeks on Facebook. You are the prime example of the decline and fall of Western Civilization.

It wasn’t punk rock!

My God, No! punk rock was super, super intelligent. A movement that was gone very quickly because nobody wanted to play the game. That was a mass movement like Grand Funk railroad or Disco that was real.

I love Grand Funk. Underrated.

Grand Funk was a real, grassroots band. Really underrated and really soulful. I defy any band to sound like that now. People don’t know how to sing like that anymore. He was singing Motown shit! And the basslines! That band is worth their weight in gold. But yeah, so back to the bands today, it’s tough for people to take a stand because their is a lot of static. Someone told me once,”In the old days there were a hundred bands with a million fans.” these days it’s the opposite. It’s hardly about the money anymore. It’s about survival. Bands have to really step up their merch game in order to survive. But if a fan will take it as they should love a band just because they have the best merch so they must be the best…I’ve seen that! Merch, merch, merch! Thirty years ago when Iw as a kid you would have been kicked off the planet for that! What is this? A sports team? On the plus side of things, there are real thinkers out there who are gonna make music no matter what. They just have to think about how to get it out there to people. If you can’t look people in the eye at least to physically represent your music a couple times a year. it’s tough to make people remember. That’s why it’s important to me to always go out. We are a hard touring band. I’ve been going out and never really stopped going out. I play Europe all the time. We haven’t really played the States in ten years because of everything I just said. You guys are fucked! When the weather is better! Europe is culture for cultures sake. [youtube]http://youtu.be/PkYDyFJ8Vpk[/youtube]

Yeah, one of the magazines I write for over there, New Noise in France, I am always amazed when i get a new issue how cultural and in depth their coverage is. They care about the history. How it is all tied together.

They pay attention! But yeah, I can’t wait to play the inside of the States again. There are places I haven’t played in a long time. I live in New Jersey. A place called Red Bank. It’s nice. Old East Coast suburbs. Lots of trees and farms.

Parts of Jersey actually have trees!

Yeah, ever since Jersey Shore and The Sopranos, the whole world thinks there is a certain look to it, but there are pockets of civility and even nature.

I wanted to ask you about “vibe”. The song “I Live Behind The Clouds” has real vocal control, tension and build up.

More and more as I go on I like delicate things. There’s a certain vibe you get when you gotta hold it in. Whispering. I just thick about the words. What would that sound like if I was sitting in a room talking to someone? A lot of times it’s better off to whisper it. In the music, it’s just me droning. I;m not a very good guitar player but I do like to play with a lot of unison tuning. I start to jam in a Raga way. As long as it doesn’t go atonal, it always sounds cool. You just stay int he same tuning and jam up and down the neck. As long as it sounds cool, you’ve got something. Zeppelin used to do it. I mean, they did it much better than I do. And, timing…I was probably swiping Tori Amos piano parts for riffs! She’s fuckin’ deep. She’s got a lot of albums now, some better than the others. But the lyrics are insanely good. She was really on a roll there for awhile.

It’s amazing to think of how popular she got considering how weird and quirky or even Gothy some of it was.

Once in awhile, I’m glad you said it, something slips through. Mad Men. Twin Peaks. “How’d this get here?” “I dunno. Don’t jinx it.” (laughing) I don’t know how it happens either. But yeah, she got through. i remember all these Goth girls listening to her. ‘We love her”. Why are you smiling? Don’t you hear what she’s singing? This is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown! So yeah, I wanted to make it creepy and personal. Try to keep it that way as long as possible until the rock takes over. For some reason i can’t ever take that away. Now it’s gotta get loud! I gotta make a point.

How about “Mindless Ones”? That’s another standout.

Now, ‘Mindless Ones”, I was going for straight 60’s garage rock, but it came out more plodding than I expected. Four on the floor drums, a rolling baseline. It was gonna be wriggly, a lot more garage. It turned into more on a Monster Magnet rocker. I guess that’s what happens when you put grown men in a room with big amps. The words were me thinking about a Dr. Strange comic book I read. Steve Ditko-era from the 60’s. Totally surreal.

I hope that if they put him in one of these movies they don’t fuck up Dr. Strange, man. That would be unforgivable.

I almost dread the day. Oh, it’s summer? It’s time to cringe! You can’t beat the static magic of comic books. Static images placed by artists in a realm in sequence to make your eyes move across a page? It’s a particular artistry. It leaves a lot up to the viewer. No matter how dumb the comic book is, there is still a sophistication in reading it. You get to set the pace. The movies don’t work for me that much. Yeah, they are gonna fuck up Dr. Strange (let’s out a resigned sigh).


Unless they grab it by the balls and just say “Steve Ditko! If this doesn’t look and feel like a Steve Ditko comic everyone is fired!” But I don’t see Disney doing that.

A little too straight laced for the nightmarish LSD vibe. Though I liked Lynn Collins in John Carter quite a bit.

If they did do it, it would be too scary for people. The notion of Ditko drawings coming to life is kind of terrifying. Plasma bubbles from weird dimensions and faceless mouths with twitching gullets! Tongues hanging out. I look at it and wonder who they were selling this stuff to? Some of the beauty of the old comics is no one could figure out who was buying them. They didn’t know. they just made them and put them on the stands. they didn’t have test marketing those days. It was a bunch of guys sitting in an office putting stuff out. They’d get fan letters and then sell a million. Comic books sold a million an issue back then, and no one knew who was buying them. It changed the culture in a lot bigger ways than people think.

I always wonder about how the world would be if we didn’t have certain things like The Beatles to move the mass culture a little bit more towards the light.

We have to have our sacrificial lambs. Things have to get bigger than they should in order to have wide reach. i guess that means everything has to suck someday. You have to hate the band by the second album. After that you can’t buy them anymore.

I feel like you weathered success without sucking.

I failed a couple times. i waded through the suck pond. I didn’t plan on that level of success. I was making jokes. Wildly joking gestures and they were succeeding. I thought, what if I put on a pair of leather pants and breathe fire for awhile? What would that be like? Once Powertrip sold really well I realized, In america I am always going to spend the rest of my life with people thinking I am a guy who puts on leather pants and breaths fire with devil horns in the air. that’s gonna be it.

There are worse fates, Dave.

(Chuckling) Back then I really had a hope and belief that people would get the strange nod and wink behind some of the stuff. the fact that I believe rock is ugly and stupid when it gets to that point, but it’s glorious in a way. I could sit there as a record lover and be as indie as the next guy but soon as you are on stage with a thousand people cheering, it’s real and great. It’s fantastic. So I tried to go back and forth and have it both. It didn’t work.

I don’t know. I think that made you a lot more interesting than bands who were just nerds. ‘Oh no! That’s too loud and they have groupies”.

Yeah. The 90’s thing. The loser mentality. Remember that? It’s cool to be a loser. It’s sad because nothing’s worth it but it’s ok cuz Kurt Cobain blew his head off. It’s ok! Man up. You can rock. You’re not Poison! Rock n roll had been overanalyzed and we had a lot of years with really strong college radio. it went to the masses through great bands like Nirvana and it was cool. It was the best. But I think the bands were sometimes afraid to have fun with it and it became an albatross. I knew Soundgarden back then. Soundgarden was really, really aware of not doing a Led Zeppelin thing. yet they’d go on stage and people would be in rapture cuz they wanted to rock. It was a weird time.

As far as Monster Magnet goes, what do you still want to achieve? Keeping integrity?

That’s a dirty word around my house! Right now I want to make the best music in any way I can. Live we play stuff and do it a way I don’t really see anyone else doing it. I’m not beating my chest, but I want to always sound good for people who want this kind of music. present it the best way it can be presented. It’s enough for me. I’m not dreaming about taking over the world or illuminating people who wouldn’t be into it. I am into satisfying and surprising the people who already are. You’ve got to think about the music first. It really is gratifying. We do whole albums. We did Dopes To Infinity and Spine Of God and it is great to see a big place full of people going through a whole set that isn’t dominated by blast beats or parts meant to show you what to do. A loud song and then a tiny little loud song, but everyone is still into it. It can be dancing or rocking or head banging, but it’s really about music in general. A wider pallet. That’s what i’m into.

Any moments in your career that stand out as “Wow” or even something really somber or reflective?

Oh, man. All kinds. The bitter and the sweet. A great time, i remember, we were on stage in Germany. Deep in the German forests. Some great festival. I can’t really describe it. It was deep in the woods. No police around. Big stage but everyone living in “Lord Of The Rings”. Bearded, shirtless people and naked women eating giant turkey legs. It was firkin’ awesome. Dirt and humidity. People screaming “Rock! Rock”. We’re playing and the end of the day is getting cloudier and cloudier. Thunderheads and gathering gloom and the sun going down. It got weird. Half light on. Half daylight. I was singing “Spine Of God” and at one point I raised my hand up to these people and sang “Center of the Universe”…and LIGHTNING CAME FROM THE SKY! A giant bolt of Hollywood CGI, tits ass lightning! It was a zooming burst of Cobalt blue. That stoned out tired crowd just totally believed I had summoned lightning from the sky like Thor.

(Laughing) “Woah! He’s got a big budget on this tour!”

I remember saying ,”It doesn’t get better than this”. We can get on the plane and go home. It was really fucking cool. And somber moments? I remember being in Paris. Working so hard, if you call rock n’ roll hard. I remember being so far away from any of my family or friends. Thinking it was a new world and those people were gone. Sitting in a top floor of a hotel. It was a weird thing for me. I’d never stayed in top floors of hotels before. I remember thinking this was how it goes. You get this but you lose that. It was an old school Hollywood moment. The room is a little too fancy for you. “This is really cool, but who am I gonna share it with.”


Photos by Jeremy Saffer

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