Monster Magnet interview (Dave Wyndorf)

"Our big hit singles made people misjudge the whole "Powertip" album"

08/11/2013 @ 12:29
Dave Wyndorf is a musician that you admire for quite some reasons. One of them is that he will speak his true belief concerning Monster Magnet's previous albums and the mistakes he did during the past years. He also sounds very optimistic about the band's future and we have no reason at all of not being eager for it just like him. Maybe the Gods haven't told him to relax...yet.

Monster MagnetHi Dave, this is Chris calling from How are you doing? Is everything ok with the release of your new album?
Hi, very well friend. Yeah, so far so good. Working hard like giving some interviews and getting ready for a tour. So far, so good...

Based on your statements, we were expecting the whole "Last Patrol" to sound like the intro of "Mindless Ones", but finally you created the perfect mix of all the different Monster Magnet periods. Would you consider it as one of your most balanced records?
Well, thanks for saying that. Yes, I think it's really balanced and that's what I wanted to do, just trying to make and bring all the elements that I love about Monster Magnet together in a happy balance. I wanted the songs to mean something, you know and to be connected, so yeah...I agree.

Monster Magnet - Last PatrolThe cover of the album is great and gives you an initial idea of what's going on with the music, in contradiction to "Mastermind". Honestly, how would you review "Mastermind" now?
Basically, I think it was too long and I should have kept some songs off of it, but I made "Mastermind" very, very quickly. I am not crazy about all the songs on it and "Last Patrol"... I do like all the songs on it. I did a better job that's for sure.

Every time you decide to make a cover of another song, the views of the original one on Youtube are suddenly raised. What makes you wanna do a cover song? And how difficult is it to make it your own?
The reason I choose to do a cover song is usually because I feel the record doesn't have something that I didn't wrote. For example, I wrote sixteen different pieces of music to develop into songs for "Last Patrol" and I cut them down immediately to fourteen and then when I was looking to fourteen, I realized there was still something out of these fourteen songs that I was missing. So, I was like “either I have to write the type of song that I'm imagining, that's really nice, clear, early psychedelic type song that I needed. And I thought immediately about the Donovan song, which is one of my favorite and I thought what I need in this record is that song. It doesn’t matter if  I wrote it. It really matters how does it fit in and then of course I just can't do Donovan's version, because this is Monster Magnet and so I kinda had to make it a Monster Magnet song as well. So, my rules on a cover song is "Is it needed? Do I need something else?" and number two is "Can I add something to it? Can I make it? Can I own it?”. I gotta own it and happily this song worked and it's one of my favorite tracks of the album .

Monster MagnetWas there ever any other song that you wanted to cover, but you wouldn't dare to?
Oh, millions of them! I'm a huge fan! I am a Rock 'n' Roll fan before I'm a Rock 'n' Roll musician! My whole life I’ve been listening to albums. I would love to do a straight out fucking rock n’ roll song. I’d say the Rolling Stones, but I’ve covered The Rolling Stones. But I’d like to do something like "Brown Sugar" or "Bitch" or something like that by the Rolling Stones but I don't think it would fit on Monster Magnet.

You also covered "Venus In Furs" on "Monolithic Baby!". How important was the music of late Lou Reed on you?
Ah, the Velvet Underground thing… Lou Reed - especially on Velvet Underground - was extremely important to me, because it was the type of psychedelic or avant-garde music from the '60s that wasn't your typical flower power, you know? It was a different thing. Almost negative, but it was fantastic music based on the hardcore reality of New York City. It always fascinated me to see people, much like the Doors, deal with fantastic subjects that wasn't exactly the “Peace and Love” thing, it was more realistic side of like. So, they were really important as I grew up as a kid, knowing that the '60s wasn't just some media construct of people who loved it. It was also a lot of scary too. It was very exciting, exciting music.

Dave Wyndorf (Monster Magnet)Once again, on your new album there is a lack of an instant classic hit. Do you think that "Powertrip" was maybe misjudged due to the overexposure of the same titled song and "Spacelord"?
Sure! Definitely! And that's the history of music business right there and it happened to a lot of people. But what are you gonna do, you know? You have a hit song? You have a hit song! We are known in a lot of places just for that song and nothing else, not even the album. But that just makes it our job to prove that we have more than that song. It's a kind of a struggle and some people really resent it, but I think it's just fine. There are people that understand Monster Magnet and at least most of the time they are quite satisfied, so I try not to worry about it.

"Last Patrol" seems to have equally strong songs and its biggest success is that each person has a different favorite. Is it preferable than to listen to the same 2-3 songs over and over?
Sure! It definitely is! I mean I think that's the way I listen to a record. I never had much of a pop mentality when I was a child. I just listen to the record and not the favorite song. As a child I didn't get trained by the radio programme on how to listen to music and if it was a good record I liked all the songs. And more importantly, I like how all the songs fit in with each other. That thing! The album itself, I look at the album and it's like a book with chapters. Here's this chapter, here's that chapter, this tells the story, this has this lead, this has that lead and that's what I really try to go for on this one. I wasn't like "We have to have a big single and then all bunch of little singles all around it". No, it was like it had to be a beginning, a middle and an end. It opens up quietly and ends up quietly, it gets heavy, it gets mellow, it gets weird, it gets heavy and that's the way I prefer people to listen to the record. This one isn't exactly trying to hit a whole run on the radio, it's just trying to be true itself.

Monster MagnetIt's not that you don't like playing live, so how come you have never released a live album after all these years?
I am really scared of live albums! I'm always scared that my voice would sound like shit, but the more time goes by the more I realize it's time to make a live album. I was just talking about this with someone before. We are probably gonna record a lot from this upcoming tour and release it.

You also have a handful of great B-Sides songs. Are you planning to do something with them?
That's a good question too. I mean we probably got enough to release like a small vinyl. That's a great idea and I'll take your advice on it!

Dave Wyndorf (Monster Magnet)You also give me the feeling that you are a musician who is not afraid to take a risk or experiment with your music. Have you ever felt the need to create a side project and what would be the ideal line up for this project, having you on vocals and your favorite deceased musicians on the instruments?
I've always felt that there is probably a way for me to express myself outside of Monster Magnet, in a different fashion. And I felt that many, many times but due to what happened as I gathered together material it turns into Monster Magnet material, because that's the job at hand! That's my responsibility, to put the band forward. There are plans to go solo and probably in the need to get original sound I would go with different musicians. I can't think of the actual musicians that I would use, but I would definitely would go with the sound of a...piano. Sounds that aren’t associated with Monster Magnet. Heavy on the piano, acoustic guitars, strange instruments. This is something I've been going with for a couple of years and it will probably come through.

Monster Magnet - Last PatrolThe promotional poster of the album is very cinematic. If you had composed the soundtrack to a movie, which movie would that be?
Oh well, there’s a lot of movies. I've always liked "Forbidden Planets" (editor: starring Leslie Nielsen) which is from the '50s, a science fiction movie. A great, fantastic movie that has no soundtrack except from electronic sounds, there's no music on it and I always thought "Wow, I could write the music for that movie". It would be really fun…

In my opinion, one of your big successes is that your name is not mentioned in the stoner rock scene. Even Clutch have been labeled like that, so how have you managed to avoid it?
I don't know, I mean sometimes it feels like I can't avoid it but you know… Monster Magnet, like my mother used to say is a 'strange duck'. It sounds like a lot of old stuff, a mixture of it and there is definitely no need to fit in a specific genre, not even to stoner rock. So, I think that's why I think we avoided it, because people find it hard to categorize us. It was hard to listen to us and knowing exactly what that is.

What many people don't know is that you made your first steps in music business back in the late '70s early '80s with Shrapnel for example. What do you remember from these days? Being already in the music business, how did that affect Monster Magnet while making their their first steps?
It was a great time and I was really, really young. A teenager in the New York rock scene in the late '70s, it was on fire back then and a completely different world than it is today. It was a lot of fun, so I have great memories, playing in punk rock clubs when punk rock was new… it was fantastic. It really helped me later in starting Monster, cause I remembered a lot of the bullshit that went on in the music industry and I tried to avoid most of that bullshit. So, when I started Monster Magnet with friends of mine from down here, I completely wanted to avoid anything that would make us feel insecure about our music, such as looking at the rock scene, looking what was around and trying to beat that in order to fit in. I knew for a fact that the only way I was gonna get through this and do a band that I wanted was to stay with what I wanted, not to get too concerned about how big it would get. And that's funny, because as a result of that we actually became kind of big and I think they can feel the fact that I was somehow relaxed. It taught me a lot those days.

Dave Wyndorf (Monster Magnet)Was the name of the band taken by a toy made by Wham-O or is it by Frank Zappa's "The Return Of  Τhe Son Monster Magnet" (editor: from the Mothers Of Invention album "Freak Out")?
(Laughs) It was from the toy! And it's funny because I knew about Frank Zappa's song, but I didn't even think about that one to name the band. It’s funny, cause the name could have been one of ten names. I was changing the name of the band every month back, we called ourselves Nipple Tank, Beware The Wrath Of The Bull God, King Fuzz, Dog Of Mystery and Monster Magnet was just one of many, but the one that people remembered because we played that big gig with Jane's Addiction, when we opened for them in our home state of New Jersey and people were like "What's the name of the band?" and it had to be Monster Magnet that night.

Your lyrics are once again a pure pleasure for anyone to read but we miss weird song titles with “Elephants” And “Dinosaurs”. Where have they gone?
(laughs) I don't use them all the time and I don't mean I won't use them again, it's just because I try to tie the meaning of the song with the title and if it gets too far away then sometimes I'll write the title back. I think that some of those crazy titles have gone away, because I'm trying to make a connection between the title and the actual song. That’s why they seem to be more normal. But, you know...I can't say they won't come back!

Monster MagnetOn your new records it seems that you are having a good time as a band. Where do you draw your optimism from regarding the band's future?
I think that creating music is a lot of fun for me, the process of creating it… it's a good place to go in my head and I can't help of being enthusiastic about it. I am pouring out my mind and my energy into this work. It's one of the few things I have discovered in life that always gonna give back to me. It’s a kind of magic. It really makes me feel cool and I think that's where the optimism for the band comes from. You finish the songs and then of course the old feeling is coming back: "I kinda like to take this sound on the road, I like this music" and I think to myself “Would I wanna see this? Would I wanna go out and see a band playing this music?”. And If I say yes, I am really, really happy and so far I say yes every time. I think I'm playing a game with myself and it seems to be working.

Let's assume that your son becomes a musician. What would you advise him not to do?
Ah! If my son becomes a musician I would advise him not to move too fast. Make sure that you’re happy with your sound, with your writing, try things all the time. Experiment, try. You don't have to go fast and become super star right away. The music it's about expressing your artistic sensibility. That's number one. Selling records it's a totally different thing than making records, don't get these two confused.

Dave Wyndorf (Monster Magnet)Are you planning a tour in Europe soon?
We are doing Europe in January and February and Greece is not included in the first leg but we are trying to get there for the summertime in some festival.

Which show of yours here do you remember the most here and why?
I remember all of our shows in Greece because I love it there. I remember we did two nights in Athens, probably the second time we came because the first one we played was with Metallica and I can't remember the club but it was the coolest thing...

Rodon Club...
Yeah, it was awesome! It was my first time I hung out in Athens, so we stayed in the same hotel for two nights which never happens. And I was in a dream world to tell you the truth, I just wandered the streets and I ate like the best food I ever had in my whole life. It was so much fun and the promoters were like family, you know?

Yes I know, I was there too back in 2004. I guess that was it, thank you for your time but I still have one last question: Who taught you how to dance Mr. Wyndorf?
Hahaha! My mother!

...that was pretty obvious I guess.
Yeah, she was a good dancer. It was cool.

It's been a pleasure talking to you Dave. Thank you very much.
You too brother, my pleasure.

Yiorgos Zarkadoulas, Chris Karadimitris