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The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
MOSTER MAGNET DAVE WYNDORF INTERVIEW 2013

MOSTER MAGNET DAVE WYNDORF INTERVIEW 2013

 

 

MONSTER MAGNET IS BACK...

WE TALK EXCLUSIVELY TO DAVE WYNDORF ON THE EVE OF THE RELEASE OF MONSTER MAGNET'S MASTERPIECE 'LAST PATROL'...

CHECK OUT OUR CD REVIEW OF THE NEW ALBUM 'LAST PATROL' HERE

 

MONSTER MAGNET is on the verge of releasing their most essential album for years: 'Last Patrol' is everything you wanted Monster Magnet to be and sees the band back to their very best. We got the chance to speak to Dave Wyndorf to get the lowdown on everything from the stunning new album to the bands first headlining US tour in over ten years...

 

 

 

 

Mark: Hi, Dave, its Mark from The Rockpit, how are you?

 


Dave: Hi, what’s happening, Mark?

 


Mark: All good here, and you?

 


Dave:  Good, too, it’s a really nice morning here in New Jersey; it’s the only time of the year, where it’s consistently good for weeks in a row.

 


Mark: The new album, “Last Patrol”, when I heard it was coming out, there was a great degree of anticipation, and when I actually heard it, wow, it was amazing! You touted it, as a return to your roots, it’s got that huge psychedelic, sixties “garage” rock sound, a bit like Jefferson Airplane with balls!! Were you intentionally trying to take it right back to the start?

 


Dave: Yeah, that stuff is around, it’s in me all the time, I write stuff like that all the time, and not all of it gets used, or, I think that way all the time. It comes out in little pieces, on records, here and there, but I just thought it was time to get back to that, solely, just to re-emphasise everything. The main thing, the difference between this and the last bunch of records, is that I returned to a style of writing, and a style of recording, that I had not been doing on the last records. After “Powertrip”, in order to streamline things, I left it up to a high class, modern engineer, and there’s a certain way that things get done, and I just got sick of it after a while, as some of the good bits would be taken out or forgotten about, so I wanted to take it back to the way I originally did it, which was, write everything myself! Every drum part, every base part, write it all, I can’t play it all, so I had to explain it to people, but it’s worked, because I explained everything very thoroughly to each member, they take it over, and implement what I’m asking them to do, a lot of my choices won’t be traditional choices, because I’m not that good of a player. It all adds up to an orchestration of parts, and sounds that comes out, somewhat, different, original, a little bit assembled, a little bit disassembled, and it’s what the songs require. I wrote a bunch of songs, and this song, does it require a strange weirdness, yes, it does! On this record I knew it was going to be a total psychedelic whatever, but I wanted to see what would happen if you really tried to do "Space rock”, but if Space Rock was 4 years earlier! It’s that fine line between late sixties, early seventies! I love that shit, so much, it did sound different, and I was glad!

 


Mark: I read that it was written in a week, earlier in the year, are you one of those writers that likes to put yourself under pressure?

 


Dave: I did write the music in a week, and I wrote pieces of the music over a course of six months, between tours, and I put it all together in about one and a half, two weeks, and brought it to the band, the lyrics I wrote in about a week. There’s something about deadlines that forces you to write, horribly procrastinating, because I want it to be good, and I could easily wait till the end of forever for it to be good, but sometimes that deadline forces you to just be honest about the whole thing. I have used deadlines to my advantage before.

 


Mark: How crucial was the use of vintage technology, did that allow you to get back to basics?

 


Dave: Of the sound, yeah, I mean it wasn’t recorded in a vintage style it was recorded on hard drive, but the sounds, the source sounds were really important to me, I couldn’t hear it done any other way I just kept thinking in those terms, like ‘oh this would sound good as the snare, or that would sound good on one of those tiny beat up fifties amps’. Believe me I would try it again, if I could approximate sounds in a ‘plug in’ on a computer that sounded like that, I’d be totally happy! But, so far I haven’t seen it, there’s something about a big air between a microphone and a little amp. The air that’s in a room, on drums. Something goes on there, the frequencies are different and when you end up with a lot of tracks you’re gonna need a lot of frequencies so when you go all computer and all plug ins (which are fantastic) there’s just a commonality that just flat-lines the whole thing. You can’t really tell why it’s not that great but you know it’s not that great. Anybody who listens to rock records, if you listen to a modern rock record, it has a sound, it’s almost supersonic, it’s amazing, bit I guarantee after 3 or 4 songs, your attention is going to go somewhere else! It’s that flat-line frequency thing.

 



 

 

Mark: It starts off really beautifully; “I Live behind the Clouds” with that simple introduction that is sustained all the way through, it’s almost the sort of song you can imagine Tom Waite singing.

 


Dave: Thanks, Dude! I mean, I like the little songs, I put them on the records, and I figured it was time to get that stuff up front and centre, rather than leaving a quiet song to song number 4 or something, I thought why not start the record off like that?

 


Mark: I’ve been playing the album for weeks now, and I thought “The Duke” was an interesting first song to put out there, why did you make that choice?

 


Dave: Well, one, I really liked the song, I wanted it to lead off and let people know that they are not going to get a “fist in the air” rock record.

 


Mark: It’s almost like you can hear the breeze flowing through that track, its fantastic!

 


Dave: Thanks! The guys played their hearts out on the record. Bob on drums, I sat down and thought this is a real fucking Rolling Stones/Pink Floyd shit, this is real stuff!  It’s not going to be on a grid, there’s not going to be a lot of fixing and tightening up. The way the stuff was in the past and the way a lot of records are made today, I thought we just got to play it good, it’s gotta have that swing!

 


Mark: It’s funny you mentioned Pink Floyd there, because “Stay Tuned”, the final song, was one that really struck me, and you can just imagine them doing something like that, it was so cool, and the lyrics are great! Can you tell us a bit about the lyrics, it starts off a bit pessimistic, but the way things are this day, that’s fair enough! But do you think there’s an optimistic note there that we are going to avoid disaster, somehow?!!

 


Dave: Yeah, that’s exactly what it was! I wanted to have a song at the end of the record where, after all the cosmic shit, the guy who sang the record, being me, I would come out and sit on a stool, like the end of a TV show, and go “well thanks for being here, everybody”, “Here’s a couple of observations, and stay tuned till next time, goodbye”!! So, that was the intent of the song.

 


Mark: I loved the song, and I loved the way you started talking about throwing confetti in the air! That’s such a great image, it’s fantastic!

 


Dave: Thanks, Dude, thank you! What I write about is my life, one day it could be me having a tumultuous relationship that breaks up, the normal shit and then it could be me just watching television, going what the fuck is wrong with everything!!! Or, me complaining down at the record store, that how come all these new albums suck?!! Or me getting on a tour bus and pretending to be Spiderman or something!

 


Mark: There are some great lyrics on there; I love the drunken barber shaving the world, the monkey with his salt and cigarettes, it’s absolutely classic! “Three Kingfishers” by Donovan, an inspired choice, it does fit really well, but were there any other contenders?  Were there any other songs of that ilk that you were considering?

 


Dave: Not on this one. That one came about because I was considering writing two additional songs for the record; I had already written 16 songs for the record and kicked a bunch off, and I thought what I need is a really authentic, nice, almost San Francisco style, psychedelic song,’ 66-’67, that kind of thing, and what I also needed was one big dumb ass clodding rocker, where the drums just never really hold a groove. So, I was prepared to write two songs, and then I thought of “Three Kingfishers”, and I thought yeah, it’s going to be like that, and I can save a lot of time making “Three Kingfishers” in to both those things!

 


Mark: My favourite song on there, and I don’t know why, I’ve played it a million times, is “Paradise”. Can you tell me a little bit about that? It starts off as a silky croon, with the quirky lyrics, and it’s the song for me that really sold the album.

 


Dave: I love weirdness, and I love the sound of single strings on guitars, there are no chords on that song or on “Behind the Clouds”. I am totally in to how much music can you make on a single string! Maybe chords come in to spot things, but, to make these sounds on a tiny little string, just record them as well as you can. On that song I’d just been trying to replicate that weird feeling you get when you’re dreaming, the last 10 seconds of your dream, and the first 10 seconds when you wake up, and you’re not really sure if it’s real or not.

 


Mark: That deconstructed sound works really well, it’s almost like when you strip back the essence of a song, it doesn’t matter what you do with a song, if it’s a great song it will stand up to a great voice and an acoustic guitar.
Dave: I think writing that way, I mean musically, it’s really fun to work less! That’s the way I’m going now, it’s so much fun, you go in there and you have all those lead guitars and you just choose one string, that’s fucking really, really cool!! So many old records sound so good, minimally tracked, some of my favourite stuff doesn’t have a lot of stuff on it, and it’s orchestration with tiny instruments instead of big ones!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark How do you write? Do you sit there with an acoustic, or do lyrics come first?

 


Dave: Yeah, I sit there with an acoustic guitar, or electric and I have an 8 track recorder at home, in a little digital work station thing, I always have something like that, I’m always behind the times, but whatever works, whatever’s easiest. I do like a quick track, and play a bunch of different quick tracks at different speeds on a tape. I play one tiny guitar part all the way through, and start humming over it, and then if the humming is good, sounds like it’s a melody, I just quick grab a mike and do monkey noises over it, and build around that, and then I’ll write drum parts with my hand, I’ll like pick a bongo and mike it, then a bass then anything, so I create something that sounds very strange with bongos and stuff, it’s all out of time with me mumbling. But it’s enough you know- he’s a verse, here’s a chorus, here’s the middle section,  or sometimes I don’t write the middle section I’ll just bring that to the band (the recording) and I’ll write it with them. It’s a pretty effective method, it’s pretty quick, I mean I can get a vibe on a song in about four hours. And I know that’s going to be a great song later.

 


Mark:  The great news for everyone in the US is that Monster Magnet is just about to embark on its first headlining US tour in over a decade in November and December. I was really surprised to hear it’s been that long, as we’ve seen you over in Europe  and seen you down here in Australia multiple times headlining over the years. Is it exciting to be getting back out on that scale at home?

 


Dave:  Absolutely! About ten years ago, I made a decision, and said I’m going to stop trying to climb a commercial mountain in the United States. There are certain commercial considerations, that you have to make, to make it in the United States, and frankly, I didn’t see the audience for it here. I think for the most part the States has been diverted from culture. The masses, the economics, everything, and most people, the masses have turned to themselves as being the star. With the media, and technology, we taught everybody to worship, or pay attention to, and have more respect for people who are in magazines, on TV, on the radio, in movies, and now we have the gear to do those ourselves, and the States turned that way. There wasn’t a big surge for poetry, or whole esoteric music there, but there is in Europe and in Australia as well, and I don’t know why! It doesn’t mean there aren’t any smart people; it just means physically, they are not represented out there; they are living behind their screens, they are living behind the clouds! Smart people are huddled inside, reading each other’s blogs, you have to get out and fucking rock, dude!!  I’m dying out here, and I’m not going to play that game, I refuse, the things you have to do here, all these stupid radio shows, it’s fucking horrible!! Ask Wolfmother, how they liked it!!

 


Mark: It’s a fantastic observation and I don’t think anyone’s’ ever put it that well before but you’re right, it’s that whole Cult of Celebrity – like we’re constantly being distracted by what really matters…

 


Dave: Well we’re certainly being distracted from worthwhile poetry and culture because as we all know, and I’m not for a minute putting myself in the position of a worthwhile poet or culturist, as you and I know and everyone with half a brain knows if you want some worthwhile art you need to invest some time, you have to invest time to sit down and read a book, and finish something. But you have to pick your priories, it’s not enough to pick a tiny bit of everything and say you know about everything, it’s just impossible and priorities are in huge question these days.
Mark: And I think that the younger generation especially is being starved of that oxygen so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.

 


Dave: I think they’ll get a handle on it, I really think they will, it’s always the kids that get it. There’s gonna be a generation of kids that aren’t gonna be impressed and blinded by the tech at all, sure they’ll do their teen years and their Facebook and they’ll do all the kissy faces and take picture of their friends, but then they’ll go ‘you know what it’s time now for me to beat them’ – they’ll use the tech in the way that it should be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark: Great to see that optimism. I think they last two times we saw you were just before ‘Mastermind’ in 2009 and then for our Soundwave Festival in 2011. There’s no chance of seeing you in the second wave of announcements for Soundwave 2014?

 


Dave: We were working on that but it looks like our schedule is going to be a little tight for that. We’re in Europe for a long time which kind of crosses over, but we’re working on a headline tour that will probably just be a while after that, but Australia is definitely high on our agenda for 2014.

 


Mark: I better get back over to Europe first then, are you looking at the Summer Festivals over there?

 


Dave: Yeah we’re doing a lot – over in January and February for five weeks then back over in the Summer for the Festivals. Europe’s happening man, it always has been but it’s got steadily better over the last ten years. And now that ‘Stoner Rock’  for lack of a better phrase is going through a whole new phase you can get over there and see some great bands at any time of the year. I would suggest that anyone who likes that kind of thing should grab it while they can as these kind of scenes don’t last forever.

 


Mark: I was over this year and I was amazed how much it has changed as I’d not been back in a while. So much great music out there and so many people getting out to see it. Getting back to the tour – which of the songs from the new album are you most looking forward to playing?

 


Dave: There’s so many I want to play ‘At the End of Time’ is gonna fucking rock! ‘Last Patrol’ for sure, ‘Paradise’ I hope works out as I’d love to do that.

 


Mark: ‘At the End of Time’ is a great track with that incessant riff and almost kaleidoscopic series of images whizzing by before the guitar just soars in at about five and a half minutes …

 


Dave: Yeah that royal roc outro it had to have! I almost turned into Lynyrd Skynyrd for a minute there! Let’s go – in the studio I was just like “Riff, Riff you motherfuckers!”

 


Mark: How did it feel when you were laying that one down? It must have been a great feeling?

 


Dave: It was because that one really came together and when they come together quickly you know you’re really onto something, then it becomes just kinda like a giddy joy to get it all down!  It’s like I’m not afraid and there’s no “what am I going to do about this one”! ‘The Duke’ was one didn’t look like it would make it – It was a hard one. But at the time it was like “OK everything’s going really to plan, everyone’s playing great, and this is really fun”.  So most of the time in the studio I was just spinning around chain-smoking cigarettes and shouting “try this, try that” but a lot of fun!

 


Mark: So with the album release imminent, the US tour set what’s the rest of the grand plan for Monster Manet for the next twelve months?  

 


Dave: The plan is like usual to go out and get as much airplay as we can, then the US tour, then a little time off. There’s actually a while re-imagining of “Last Patrol’ that’s in the works right now that I’m doing with Phil which is basically alternative versions of the album. There’s a lot of sixties wording on it, some new pieces which when we get the pieces assembled it will be kind of like a movie soundtrack, so that’s in the works and will probably but out next summer!  It’s really, really cool, so I’ll be working on that between the American and European Tours.  Then I’m looking at Australia so a headline tour there possibly in April? I don’t like to leave it too long Australia is a great place to play and you guys haven’t forgotten rock down there! You have a great tradition of guitar-based rock music in Australia. It goes deep!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark: You’d think listening to the radio sometimes that we have forgotten about it! But it’s great that there are still plenty of people like us who like to get out and see some real live music as often as we can!

 

  
Dave: It’s always been good for me.

 


Mark: It has and we’re always glad to see you. The big question is how do you think ‘Last Patrol’ stacks up against other Monster Magnet releases?  

 


Dave: Well I like it a lot better than the last couple. ‘Mastermind’ had its moments but I was just getting my shit back together. It’s my favourite record in a long time.

 


Mark: I honestly was blown away when I heard it and I wasn’t expecting that. I must say if this isn’t my album of the years there is going to have to be something very special released between now and December.
Dave: Oh Thanks Dude!

 

 

Mark: Like most of us over the years you’ve had your own personal ups and downs – where is Dave Wyndorf in September 2013?

 

 

Dave: Working really hard! I made a huge mistake by getting addicted to anti-anxiety medication, prescribed as sleeping pills. I almost died. That was a huge wake-up call, I was like “OK get back on the horse dude” and it totally helped me out on my outlook to music – meaning my music, and I was going to re-purpose my energy toward nothing but interesting music. There’s nothing inside me and no one outside me that can tell me what I should do, I’ll make music that interests me and if they are horribly uncommercial then so be it! I’m done with this trying to write that next hit single or anything else that doesn’t make complete sense to the album in hand. And I think that really was taught to me by the whole drug think – you know waking up and thinking what really makes me happy? It’s true – you go through something like that and it’s all about priorities, what really makes you happy but like from minute to minute. And the only thing that really makes me happy from minute to minute is making sense of music.

 

 

Mark: It’s great to hear that and it’s really worked on this album. In saying that did you really go back on this record and revisit any of those primary influences you had? Any that came through that made me think shit this is what it used to be all about?

 

 

Dave: Oh sure, yes, absolutely, it’s not as if I have to listen to old records to get that. Although we did play a couple of tours after Mastermind where we went out and played old albums all the way through so that might have helped me too. We did one tour of doing ‘Dopes to Infinity’ in its entirety then we did ‘Spine of God’ so I’m sure that was all lodged in my brain somewhere. That kind of old school attitude, recording techniques and the whole thing has always been in me though it’s not hard to summon them up.

 

 

Mark: It’s been hugely enjoyable to talk to you Dave and the time has just flown by. If we could end with a couple we ask everyone… If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any piece of music at any point in time just to see how it came together and the magic worked what would it have been for you and why?
Dave: Oh God, there’s so many that’s the toughest question in the World! I would say it would have to be Black Sabbath – Paranoid because those guys don’t explain themselves well, when you see them asked how they did stuff they just say (attempting a Birmingham accent that turns out pretty good) “Oh it’s just Blues” – dude! That is not like any blues I ever heard! I never heard anything to sound like Black Sabbath before that and if they can’t explain it I need to be there to find out!

 


Mark: I think they needed someone there as like you say, I don’t think they have the slightest idea themselves.

 


Dave: (laughing) They don’t! It’s the most amazing story I’ve ever heard it’s like here’s this band who create this music that everyone loves whether you call it Heavy Metal, Proto-Metal whatever, but no it’s more than that. It’s weird shit! This is weird music! It’s like a Bosch painting come to life – that music is more than the sum what those guys are.

 


Mark: and finally “What is the meaning of life?”

 


Dave: Ah, ha, ha! Sharing! That’s it if you can’t share anything with anyone don’t bother just get off the planet!

 


Mark: Thank you so much mate, if we don’t catch you in Europe first, we’ll catch you Down under! Have a good one.

 


Dave: You too - have a good one!

 

 

 

 

Dave spoke to Mark Diggins September 2013

 

 

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