Dave Says Yes
CoC talks to Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet
by: Adrian Bromley
I know there are a lot of Monster Magnet fans in North America wondering why the Hell it has taken so long to get the new Monster Magnet _God Says No_ [CoC #51] on store shelves in North America. I mean, the record was released five months ago in Europe. What the Hell?! Don't fret any longer, metal heads, as Chronicles of Chaos hooked up with supergalactic rebel leader Dave Wyndorf to talk about the new album, drugs, comic books and of course, why it took so long to get _GSN_ in our hands. We begin...

CoC: The record came out in November in Europe and I had heard that the reason why it wasn't released here was because of the release schedule for North America around that time and that you didn't want to get buried beneath all of these bigger releases. Is that true?

Dave Wyndorf: What happened was that we had finished up the album a bit late and it was too late to get it out in the Summer of last year, so the only time they had to put it out was in September or October. They were trying to get it out before Christmas because the only thing that really sells around Christmas are box sets, Electric Light Orchestra or Billy Joel. <laughs> So I was cool with September and I thought it was a bold move seeing that we weren't the biggest band in the world and we had never released a record then. Then I walked into my own record company and saw that they had on the same release schedule, or around that time, Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson, U2, The Wallflowers and somebody else, and I was like, "No! This is going to kill us!". Monster Magnet has always stood to the left of everything else and we thought the best way to go about this was to come in the back way and have it released after New Year's.

CoC: And how was the record received in Europe?

DW: Really well. The best one ever. We always do well over there. They are just eating it up. It worked out goof to have it out in Europe. We also played six weeks over there and it is good for us here [in North America] because we are ready.

CoC: Initially, when you sat down to record this album and soaked up the success of the last disc (_Powertrip_ [CoC#31]), what was the mindset going into this record? Did you feel the need to rush in and put out another record or did you want to take your time?

DW: I didn't want to rush into this, but I did want a record out sooner than the last one. The last one I was dicking off for two years when I wrote it. This one, I said to myself, "Okay, we've been on the road for two years with _Powertrip_, everyone take six months off and I'll write the record." So we did that and I had never written that long and I just let it come together real easy. I started putting together a little here and a little there, some words from this day and some music ideas here and collect them together. Then after I get all of these ideas together and get ready to throw it together, it'll be like a cache of ammunition when it becomes really serious. I had done this over those six months and more or so was ready to get it all down and recorded. About two months before we went in to record, I was seriously grouping together the ideas. In the middle of all that, I had my stuff stolen from me.

CoC: What!? Really? What happened?

DW: It was a real bummer. I was driving around and I was at some truck stop just outside of Toledo. So my stuff was gone. I dunno what I really lost, as it was just being assembled half-assed and I don't know how much was gone. Once again I was forced to write _Powertrip_ style and I just freaked out, came right home and went in to my kitchen and set up the four-track and started writing. I was able to come up with about fifteen songs in twenty days. It was scary. My whole time of taking it easy went right out the window.

CoC: Were you able to piece back together any ideas you had lost? Or did you say "Fuck it!" and started from scratch again?

DW: First I was terrified and thought I would never be able to remember any of the ideas I had come up with. But in the process of working on those songs in my kitchen, a lot of the stuff came back. The words didn't come back and that is what I miss the most, but the music did. Music always comes back because it percolates in you all the time. I remember turning phrases and stuff I liked in those notes and not really making an effort to record knowing that I would eventually bring the ideas together. I'll never really know what I lost.

CoC: So someone out there right now is trying to decipher your notes?

DW: Yeah! <laughs> Some crackhead is burning my notes.

CoC: It has been a long career for Monster Magnet, with the band shapeshifting sounds and ideas as the career has gone on. Each album is different and represents new ideas and new vibes. Do you like to feel that from each record?

DW: Totally. If I didn't get a different vibe from each record, I wouldn't do this. I have limited musical ability and so what I have to do is change things around with the mood and atmosphere on each record. As the producer and writer I'll try to write songs in different keys and different ways to get the most out of the band, yet remaining true to my core and what I am strong at doing. In order to keep myself sane, I need a new mood each record. And the hard part, seeing that I am limited and just a rock 'n' roll guy, is to do that successfully each time out. Making a record is amazing. You can colour anything anyway you want it. It is important for me to be happy with a record and the way it sounds and the way it moves me as a musician.

CoC: Do you get tired of doing certain song ideas and moods for the Monster Magnet albums?

DW: What I want to do, especially on this record, is to compress the things I like about each record into shorter forms and try to get the most out of those parts. If something in the past was glossed over with psychedelic sounds, it would go on for three or four minutes. On this album I wanted to have a song structure and use the psychedelic sounds as something that would pop out and then go away. This record is stripped down, but in my mind it is the most complicated of all the Monster Magnet records because I really needed to pay attention to each and every step that I wanted in there and more importantly what I didn't want in there. Y'know? Don't scream the whole record, try to sing.

CoC: A lot of bands who get into the flow of making a record really make an effort to just clamp down for four weeks and just finish it up, rarely taking a break from recording and resting. Are you like that or do you like to take "breathers" from songwriting/recording?

DW: I love to walk away from something for two days, but I normally don't do that very often, only if I am having problems. 20% of a Monster Magnet record is do over, the rest is just almost straight down. There comes a point for me where I just figure it just won't be right for me and I just let it go. If I am 60% happy with the disc, I let it go. After that it is up to the listeners to decide if they like what they hear.

CoC: What excites you about the new record when you play it back and hear it?

DW: This record I am proud of the diversity, which is what I was really trying for. I wanted to have different scopes for my voice 'cause the voice rhythm is one of the most important pieces for a record -- at least I think. I wanted this record to be much more subtle too. Not weak, but just subtle. I wanted it to be less screaming than the last record. I like the fact that I can go off into insanity with songs like "Melt" and "Heads Explode" and then take it down a bit and go off an do a song like "Gravity Well".

CoC: Do you find yourself going back to listen to older Monster Magnet records either in preparation for a new record or just to listen to them for nostalgia sake?

DW: I don't listen to the older Magnet records that often. But every once in a while after we come off tour I'll throw on all of the records over the course of the week and just listen to them and go, "I should have done this better". Or I'll just know what to do or what not to do and just bring ideas that I have done into the new recording as an idea. It is very weird to go back and listen to your own music. It is like reading a diary. I don't want to listen to my music too much because I might get caught up in it.

CoC: What is your least favourite Monster Magnet record? Is there one?

DW: The one that totally bagged out on me and was the most trouble was _Superjudge_. It was a very troublesome record for me. _Superjudge_ and _Dopes to Infinity_ were both pains in the ass, really. _Powertrip_ too, but it was a lot quicker. I just love knowing it is what it is. I love having mistakes and I love unhappy mistakes. When I listen to _Superjudge_ now I get frustrated because I knew how little time I had to make the record. I get mad knowing how I didn't plan out the production correctly and I can hear songs that are unfinished on it. As a songwriter and producer I had to wear all of these hats and I was wasn't prepared to and sometimes the songs suffer. On the other hand, some of it is really psychotically cool because of that fact. I was pissed off when I wrote that record and it sounds like it. I just take it all for what it is, but if you ask me which one I am least happy with, it is that one. That record was over and done before I knew it was done. If I could have walked away and come back, it would have been a million times better.

CoC: You seem to be like the kind of musician who doesn't mind dealing with the business aspect of things, but you don't want to get too caught up in it. Is that a valid assessment, Dave?

DW: Yeah. I don't want to get too caught up in it. I don't think it pays off spiritually or financially. If I was into all of the business sides of things I would go crazy, I think. Being involved in that is just so anti-art. Part of rock 'n' roll is when commerce meets creativity. You can see now what happens when people take complete control of it. You get people like Fred Durst [Limp Bizkit]. There is a guy who is more concerned with money than music and it shows. He is just out there saying, "Hey, I'm the big daddy! Oh, and I also make music." Whatever. He is like a goddamn clothing ad. I am just so old school, I think, when it comes to all of that. I just want to make sure all the bills get paid and that no one dies. Let's just make music and think in concept rather than what the single is going to sound like.

CoC: Seeing that you played a few weeks over in Europe, how'd the new stuff go over in the live environment and with the older Monster Magnet material?

DW: Surprisingly well. I was a little scared that it wasn't going to work, to be honest. As usual, when we play live, if I see that we have an organ part and no organ player, we switch that with a guitar part. From that the songs get different, yet still stay the same somewhat. A lot of the songs sound more rocking too, I think. You just really need to go out. Play the songs and turn up the volume. I am happy they are going over well. They seem to meld with the old stuff well. It took me like five times to get the right set list that would work for the new songs and old songs to work off one another well.

CoC: When Monster Magnet took off almost a decade ago, it was a different musical state. The sounds were different and bands were doing different things. There was just a different vibe going on. What is your take on music nowadays?

DW: The late '80s and the early '90s was a really cool time. It was a time of a lot of promise and a lot of cool bands. There was a lot of psychedelia for those of us who enjoyed it. Bands like Screaming Trees, first couple of Soundgarden records, Spaceman3. A lot of bands had psychedelic tinges and just really rocked. Not indie rock, but real rock. Now that promise was bought up by record companies and it just ran its course up to where it is today, at the bottom of the pop mountain. Nowadays there doesn't seem to be any breeding ground that is far away from record companies to gestate properly. There are no scenes because the scenes get co-opted immediately by guys with checkbooks. I think the next big thing to come and maybe make a change to the scene will be from the Internet. But that is a lot less human.

CoC: So where do you see Monster Magnet heading over the next few years? Is there still longevity in the band and its music?

DW: I think about that all the time, really. It has been about ten years since we really became a real band, but the concept has been around since 1989. Every time I turn around, it seems like I have been out for only like two or three years. When it actually hits me how long it has been and I say, "Man, it feels like I have been out for twelve years", that is when I'll say I can't do this anymore. I just get so excited making records. Music is never going to go away from me. I'll be doing this for a long time, with Monster Magnet or without. There are a lot of other things I would like to do...

CoC: Like what?

DW: I'd like to go to school. I quit when I was in high school. I'd like to study pop culture. I just like to indulge in all of that. Twentieth century pop culture just fascinates me. I'd also like to write. I am starting to get at my point where I can sit still for a couple of seconds. I am not there totally, but I am sitting still a bit. That is why rock 'n' roll is so cool: 'cause you don't have to sit still. You get to jump around and rock out.

CoC: You obviously lived the rock 'n' roll experience. A lot of excess, a lot of ups and downs and a lot of drugs and sex. But it does take its toll. How do you feel about all of that which you have experienced?

DW: The drinking and the drugs: that is what killed me. I have been straight for six years now. That stuff, what it did, it just blocked my imagination and my songwriting process. When you are a consumer, that is one thing; when you are a creator, that is something else. When you work on things and create stuff all the time and use drugs, you are just blocking yourself and what you do. It wasn't for me. I just realized after a lot of drug and alcohol abuse that it wasn't for me. This was just so crazy. I was trying to get in touch with my inner child. That is mostly what drugs are about. If it is not about pain, it is about your inner child. It is not about smothering pain, really, it is more about feeling uninhibited, the way you did when you were five. I realized if I could get through that without the drugs, then I can be seeing clearer and having a good time. The excess part got more out of hand. It just got way out of hand. It wasn't just sloppy stoner sex. It was full on, like the next plateau. It was extreme behavior. It really spooked me. Here I was running this rock 'n' roll ship and I felt like Captain Kirk on the Enterprise in "Star Trek". Captain Kirk in the '60s would fuck up every mission because he was too busy trying to ball some purple woman on a planet. That is what it was like for me. I was making bad business decisions and that took me into the real rock 'n' roll excess: money and women. It was the whole power thing. I just needed to step back from all of that, I realized, and now when I look back I can see where I went wrong. Now I try to conserve my energy for when it is absolutely necessary. It is a very crazy world out there and it is very stereotypical. I look back and everything looks very Spinal Tap-like.

CoC: I remember the last time we chatted, for the _Powertrip_ album, you mentioned an interest in electronic music. Are you still into electronic music?

DW: I love all of that stuff. I haven't heard anything recently that has blown me away, but I'm always looking.

CoC: Would you ever do an electronic record or band project?

DW: I do it home and I have all these sequencers around the house, but it strikes me as something almost anyone can do; but in reality, it should be made by the people who listen to it and not by artists. Part of the fun of electronic music is being able to add stuff to sounds so quickly and play it back almost immediately. I just think sometimes, "Why should I do this when everyone else out there can do it and probably better than me?" It is fun to do, and make music and all these crazy sounds, but I'll stick to putting out my rock records.

CoC: As we close down here with the interview, I'd like to know: how would you describe this record to Monster Magnet fans?

DW: This is a very lush and deep record. I think this is more psychedelic than _Powertrip_. I hate to say varied or diverse, because it scares people away and can be the "Kiss of Death" in the music business, but it has more diverse character than any Monster Magnet record.

CoC: And with each recording, is the excitement still there?

DW: Every record is totally exciting. It gets better as you go on and there is less stuff to stress you out. When I was first working on records I was scared to make them and work with 24-track studio equipment. Now it is like a breeze and a real enjoyment to do studio work. Now the thing for me is to try and get into a lot of challenging situations with a record and the music I make. I want to pull off a huge song and then go onto a real simple song. I just want to make a record that works well with one another and not follow a certain style. Making records is a lot of fun and after so many years of doing it I get excited. I'm like, "New record? Let's go!" It is like being in a circus or military camp. Y'know? Forward! Forward!

CoC: Is it still worth it?

DW: Yeah. It was worth it the first year I was doing the band. This is just a natural part of my life. I can't imagine not making music.

Discography:

_God Says No_ (2001) _Powertrip_ (1998) _Dopes to Infinity_ (1995) _Superjudge_ (1993) _Tab_ (1992) _Spine Of God_ (1991)

(article submitted 13/5/2001)


ALBUMS
10/31/2010 A McKay 9 Monster Magnet - Mastermind
2/29/2004 J Smit 9 Monster Magnet - Monolithic Baby!
1/10/2001 A Bromley 8.5 Monster Magnet - God Says No
6/7/1998 A Bromley 9 Monster Magnet - Powertrip
GIGS
9/1/1998 A Bromley Monster Magnet Megalomaniacal Monsters
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