Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Ripple Conversation with Dave Wyndorf- Monster Magnet

It's not everyday you get to talk to one of rock's most acclaimed main men, especially one that you have admired for a long time. I first heard Monster Magnet late in 1994 when a college friend played 'Superjudge' for me and I really liked what I heard. Then a few months later, early in 1995, 'Dopes To Inifinty' was released and that was it, Monster Magnet had me hooked. So being given the opportunity to have a one-on-one with Dave Wyndorf to discuss his band's latest magnificent album 'Last Patrol' and what the future holds, I couldn't be happier. Armed with a freshly brewed pot of coffee sitting comfortably in the morning sun on my balcony I dialed the phone number I had been given. After two rings someone picks up and "- Hi, this is Dave" greets me at the other end...and the rest is, as they say, history.

It's been three years since your last album 'Mastermind' came out. What have you been up to since then?

"- Oh, we've been touring man. Probably for a year and a half to two years, pretty much non-stop. We make the music and bring it to the people. Then I took a couple of months off to clear my head and re-charge".

And it's not hard for you to get back in writing mode after all this?

"- It definitely is! But after those months off to shake my brain I start to sketch a little bit, just to work on ideas to get back into the groove. Then I begin to piece the sketches together and eventually the old obsession "I have to finish this" kicks in and the writing process really takes off".

Most of the lyrics were apparently written in one week in February. What happened?

"- Well it was me not budgeting the time right. Apart from writing the album I produced it as well. Told the band let's hit the studio and finish the music and I'll deal with the lyrics later. We kept doing 12-hour days recording until it dawned on me the lyrics aren't done and time's running out. So I took a week off to do nothing but write the lyrics. I started each day with a huge cup of coffee and then I wrote non-stop. And I've always done it this way. Don't know why but the words come out much easier when I'm under pressure. Got to get that old fire under my feet to pull everything together and get the best out of me".

So you write everything yourself? The music as well as the lyrics?

"- Yes I do but it starts out in an almost childlike fashion. I play chords and riffs, that's about it. Leads are not for me because I'm not good at them but I want them in the songs and I know where they should go. So I sketch even more on what I have, just like a film director if you will, and then I bring the ideas to the real people, you know the guys in the band. I show them the sketches, explain what vibe I'm looking for and what direction we should aim for. So I'm like a music director".

I think it's a very bold move to start 'Last Patrol' with 'I Live Behind The Clouds' which isn't an explosive song but more of a build up kind of track. And then you end and tie up the album with 'Stay Tuned' which is in the same vein as the opener. To me it's an even bolder since most Monster Magnet albums are more in-your-face explosive rockers and now you stepped out of your box quite a bit.

"-You got it! Thanks man, it's great that you see it that way. It means a lot to me when people see where I'm coming from. I love big rock music but you can't do that all the time. And I really like albums that initiates you into the story. A build up if you will and that's what I wanted to do with 'Last Patrol'. You know, here's a journey for you, so I sequenced it that way which adds more dimensions to the music".

Is that how Donovan's 'Three King Fishers' entered the fray?

"- I wrote 16 songs for the album and I was looking at them and started to weed out the ones that weren't good enough. While going through this process I felt 'Last Patrol' needed an authentic mid-60's psych song and a knuckle dragging Black Sabbath song. I picked up my sitar and was messing around with it and I kept hearing Donovan all over my playing. So I took his song 'Three King Fishers', added some knuckle dragging parts and that was it".

Most times bands play identical versions of cover songs making them bland to say the least. But you did it the right way by keeping traces of the original version while making it your own. To me it sounds like Jethro Tull gone Stoner.

"- Yeah, I like the way you talk, Jethro Tull! I thought about that a lot. How do I take this and make it fit with Monster Magnet? It was a challenge but I did it. Turn it up in the middle and reinvent the end. Kill two birds with one stone".

Going back to 'Stay Tuned', apart from tying up and ending the album, does it also signal the end of Monster Magnet? The way the song plays out it kind of offers that question.

"- No, there will be more Monster Magnet records. I don't like to look too far into the future cause it will make my head hurt hahaha. 'Stay Tuned' is more of me day-dreaming about checking out from society which I think we all do at some point in life. You know, "I'll see you later" or "we'll see what happens". In all honesty I did toy with the idea of making 'Last Patrol' the last one though. It would make sense since this is album number ten and we've been around for over twenty years. But I have too much fun making records so I'm not going to stop".

Will there be any side projects from you?

"- There might be, or actually, most likely I should say. And that means even more music for me".

Your two previous albums, '4-Way Diablo' and 'Mastermind' are not bad but they never moved me the same way as previous Monster Magnet albums has. You said in the press release that with 'Last Patrol' you found your way back to the old Monster Magnet vibe and recording style.

"- Yeah I lost the plot a little bit with them two. A big time constraint brought a lot of that on but they were albums I had to make you know. As for coming back to Monster Magnet's roots, it was time for it. Like I said earlier we've been around for a long time, making ten albums in process and I've taken left turns and right turns along the way. But in the end I always return to the original idea of this band. And that's what happened with 'Last Patrol', the time was right".

The very moment I heard the first bars of 'I Live Behind The Clouds' all I could think was "Yes! This is how Monster Magnet should be!" Also the album works in so many ways. Regardless what frame of mind I'm in, every time I listen to it I feel good, relaxed and happy.

"- Cool, that's awesome. I'm glad cause that's what I want to hear. I'm trying to forge a new way to write and record the rock music I love without being so much in your face, the way I thought I had to write in the past. So I tried to create a collection of songs that works as a total thing and write this midnight record, if you will. It's designed to whisper in your ear "come on in, wait for this scene and this one", just like a movie. I really liked doing 'Last Patrol'¨this way".

The track order is one slower, mellow trippy song followed by a heavier, faster song and back to a more mellow. Was this intentional?

"- Yes, very much so. It's to give you a little breathing room or thinking room. Rather than releasing a full-on album similar to a live show, making 'Last Patrol' this way makes the record grow on people wanting them come back for more...which in turn makes it a more lasting release. So having the track order the way it is was definitely on purpose. I had to change the Monster Magnet song-writing formula or I would go crazy".

What are your touring plans for 'Last Patrol'?

"- We start in Michigan on November 14th and tour the States for a month. Then we head over to Europe at the end of January and stay there for a month. After that we fly out to Australia, then return to the States for the second leg of our North American tour before the festival season starts in Europe. It will be non-stop for us, man".

This is the first US tour for Monster Magnet in ten years. Why the long wait?

"- A bunch of reasons but the main reason is work is better overseas. Better shows, bigger production levels and bigger crowds. It's a bigger scene for Monster Magnet in Europe where more people are into our kind of music. Ten years ago that was gone here in America and it has been bumming me out because this is my country and I don't want to play here anymore. Hell, rock'n'roll was invented here and then no one wanted to know. There was nowhere to go for psych music, our music, so we said "fuck it, we're only playing over in Europe where people understand us". Therefore, this time around it seemed to be right. The interest in Monster Magnet has been a lot better with the release of 'Last Patrol' so now's the time to be on the road stateside. And I couldn't be happier because I've wanted this for a long, long time".

Our conversation is drawing to a close so it's time wrap things up and bid adieu to Dave. It's been a pleasure to talk to him and hear how 'Last Patrol' went from just an idea to become an amazing album. Make sure you get your hands on it and of course catch Monster Magnet whenever they visit your town because you will go on an amazing trip either way.


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