Monster Magnet’s Wyndorf discusses ‘Last Patrol,’ tour, uncensored videos, makeup metal

Posted on November 21, 2013

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Monster Magnet "Last Patrol"

Monster Magnet “Last Patrol”

By Rachael Mattice

Debuting bands struggle with sharpening their sound signature and recognizable audio vernacular in both cultured and genre-centered communities.

Ironically, long-time runners who’ve released dozens of albums can battle the same beast, weaving back in forth through themes focused around personal successes or screw-ups, fad phases, label advising or maturing fan expectations.

Twenty-four-years-strong, psychedelic, sci-fi rock veterans Monster Magnet are set to release their tenth studio album on Oct. 15 titled “Last Patrol” via Napalm Records, maneuvering back toward their original spacey, freakout-written, ’60’s garage feel following 2010’s more thunderous yet different-vibed “Mastermind.”

With the return of another Monster Magnet album and roots-focused theme with the likes of “Spine of God” or “Dopes to Infinity,” North American fans will also be able to celebrate a return of U.S. and Canadian tour dates for the first time in a decade starting on Nov. 14.

Monster Magnet frontman, vocalist and longest standing member Dave Wyndorf , 56, finished the cosmic fashion-metaphor lyrics for “Last Patrol” in one week, driven by deadlines, with the vintage-style instrumentals recorded in Magnet’s hometown of Red Bank, N.J., in about a month.

Known to add cover songs to their sets and albums, which includes Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs,” MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” The Stooges’ “Fun House” and Black Sabbath’s “Into the Void,” “Last Patrol” adds an eclectic, psych-like rendition of Donovan’s “Three Kingfishers,” which Wyndorf said “makes sense for the record and definitely belongs here.”

During an interview, Wyndorf answers questions about covers, “Last Patrol” ‘s lengthy prog-like songs, what happened between “Mastermind” and this release, MTV’s shutdown of the uncensored “Heads Explode” video, U.S. versus European touring and his view on what he calls “makeup metal.”

Question: So what’s been going on with Monster Magnet in the last couple of years since the release of “Mastermind” and now coming up on the new album release?

Answer: It’s the usual with us – make a record then tour for two years. Then we kind of crawl back in our hole and make another one. That’s usually what goes on. We changed guitarists during that time. Ed Mundell– our guitarist, left the band. It hasn’t hindered anything.

Q: The press release said you wrote “Last Patrol” in a week? What drove your writing inspiration so much that week?

A: Just the lyrics in one week, the music took about two weeks and we worked it out in about a month. Nothing like a good deadline to make you write really fast. I think you understand that (laughs). You know what you want to write about, it boils in your head and you can’t get rid of it.

I almost put myself in that position where everything that is important in my head is going to have to come out piece by piece because I’m out of time. It’s worked for me in the past, and I would like to do it more comfortably, but it’s what seems to work for me. Everything that has happened to me since the last record — life, adventures, past relationships or lack of, — it all seems to come out when I’m forced with coming up with lyrics for these records.

There is very little real fantasy. I use a lot of metaphors. When I sing about stuff that bothers everybody, I’m just an observer and I’m like everybody else. That’s why I use the vernacular of science fiction, and I use a lot of outer space and in a cosmic fashion, everything I liked as a kid. I want to try and elevate the normality and compliment the emotion of what the song is.

If I broke up with someone I could say ‘I woke up today and I broke up with my girl,’ it seems horribly boring and I turn it into ‘the world split open today.’ It needs to be visually provocative all the time. It couldn’t come from a place of total imagination because I’m not that good of a writer or genre based. My writing comes from the old vibes of science fiction, old rock, comic books, movies; all that stuff is a more interesting way to describe human emotions.

Studio 13

Q: I saw you’ve recorded at Studio 13? Tell me more about what it is and what’s special about it.

A: Studio 13 is Phil Caivano’s house in Red Bank and he started a studio where we track guitars and vocals. We named it Studio 13 and started doing seven-inch and little eight-track revisions of Monster Magnet songs. I like working there so much because not only is he an old friend of mine – we grew up together and had our first bands together – and so we understand each other. Working with Phil is the next closest thing to working with myself, very liberating. He’s a kickass bass player and guitarist.

Q: I read on your forum on the Magnet website that Jim Baglino is no longer with the band? Do you have anyone else in place yet?

A:  That is correct. We are trying people out right now and have a couple of guys ready to go. It’ll be fine. We go through this every once and awhile, it happens. The band has been together for almost 25 years.

The Album

Q: With the title track song “Last Patrol” being the lengthiest song on the album, the long instrumental breakdown really brings the listener on that psychedelic, prog-like space trip. As a songwriter, what was going through your mind to evolve that segment of the song to really create a journey for your fans?

A: In psych terms, there’s another bit in the song, at least with full psychedelic music. It’s got to have the “freakout” section, and I had that in mind for the song “Last Patrol.”

Try to imagine where the cut-off points would be and how long it could go. I sat down with Bob Pantella (the drummer) and took it section by section until we ran out of bits. Originally it was 12 minutes and now it’s 9.

We built the excitement with drums first and then scratch guitar and sat down with bass. Hopefully the listener will feel it. They may not understand it, but they will feel that there is swell. I love freakout sections; I always did since I was an 11-year-old kid listening to Hawkwind.

With jam rock it can easily go the wrong way. You think “this is going to be great, they’re going to jam!” But then you see why the ‘70s went away – they are too long. Punk rock came along and shortened songs. I’m really sensitive to writing lengthy songs because of those reasons.

Q: On “Last Patrol” you covered Donovan’s “Three Kingfishers” and I remember your cover of “Venus in Furs” on “Monolithic Baby.” Do you aim to cover a different song on each album and/or show you perform?

A:  I love music so much that I want to take a bite out of those songs. I somehow want to be personally associated with that music I love so much. There is probably a secret urge to play that song in front of someone else that doesn’t know the original and then they think that I wrote it.

It’s so much fun to actually play that song yourself, you feel like you are in the band. It’s important that I add something to it, I don’t want to f*** it up. I don’t want to do a s*** version. It has to make sense for the record. “Three Kingfishers” definitely belongs here.

Q: This is your second album on Napalm Records correct? How has it been working with them so far?

A: I don’t really know what “record company” means any more.

To me, it’s just a place for people to give me money to put my record out. I’m not into music business, I’m into Monster Magnet business. If the band has it’s own identity, it doesn’t matter what label it’s on.

Another good thing about Napalm is that they are going for many different styles of music. They signed a bunch of bands that aren’t that whole pointy headstock metal thing. I have nothing to do with makeup metal, but there aren’t a lot of labels out there that stands out as a ‘psychedelic rock label.’

Q: Why don’t you start your own label?

A:  Well, I have to ask – do I want to be a songwriter and a business guy? No. Who wants to be a business guy? That’s the worst thing in the world.

Art, music – that’s where it’s at. All the rest of that stuff is needles and crunching numbers. I would take no pride in being a really good, savvy businessman. The two don’t exist really well.

You witness a lot of really successful metal bands, but then look at their music.  Their success is built off this flashy, makeup metal shows. It’s not all the music. The music is s***.

Taste is taste, I’m not the avatar of taste. I’m older, what do I know. There is a certain sensitivity I like in music that I don’t see in a lot of modern metal. I don’t think it’s because it couldn’t be there, I just don’t think they get it. They think in one dimension – “look how big I can make my music, look at my logo.”

It hasn’t occurred to them that there are actually metal kids who have a brain. It prides the obviously conformist metal way. Metal is a very conformist genre, it’s very Republican. It’s not a lot of free-thinkers; there are a lot of rules attached to it. You hear “No, that’s not metal.” These guys are artists? Really what are you talking about? Most are just kids trying to be bad, but they are not. They are just following the trail, they might as well be techno — it’s the same thing.

But that’s the pressure and I don’t mean to be a jerk, I would never hold that against somebody for trying to further themselves because that’s the way it’s done.

If you spend 75 percent of your band time social networking and 25 percent on the music, that’s what you have to do, but it just seems wrong. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? If you’re not on the top of the page on Google, or Tweeting, then you don’t exist. It seems very anti-art to me. It’s a trap that they can get caught in.

Maybe I’m just jealous that I’m not modern enough to do all of those things. Once I’m done with the record then I disappear. I thought the record represented me and music did that. Focus is more dispersed than ever before. There is not more quality. More has never been better, it’s never been the definition of art.

Q: “Mastermind” was pretty heavy, where as “Last Patrol” is pretty psychedelic and trippy. What was going on in your life to really drive that heaviness in “Mastermind” to the transition with “Last Patrol?” Why did you choose to go back to some of your original influence-infused vibes?

A: I’ve wanted to head there for a while, but I got addicted to anti-anxiety medication. It was prescribed to me so I could sleep.

My life was like a party — I was touring all over the world and it f***** me up. I wanted to get back into serious music and something that would take more time for me to think about and relax. That was going to be an album, but that situation delayed it.

“Mastermind” was done fairly quickly to fulfill some contractual obligations. While writing it was fun, it didn’t really fulfill the psychedelic trip I wanted to write, but gave me the plan to do it next time. I wanted to work on the next one with Phil quickly. So “Last Patrol” took a little time to develop.

I got even more psyched on it because we went out and did tours and performances of albums in their entirety. We did a “Spine of Gods” tour and “Dopes to Infinity” which were pretty psychedelic albums. The crowd reaction was so it made me want to do more psych when you see happy fans react positively to it. The synchronicity of them being happy with that and the writer wanting to create that kind of material makes it happen.

“Heads Explode” video

Q: I’ve always liked the song “Heads Explode” and the original video even more. It still shows the MTV logo in the corner, were you forced to remove it and that is why you created a second, censored video?

A: There was a lot that went on with that video. MTV was actually a way to sell records. I was getting money from the record company so they had a stake in it. It was weird making videos the way you wanted to because it never really happened that way.

There was a big, untold censorship against rock bands. MTV was really liberal with hip-hop, but they weren’t liberal with rock. I never really understood it. It actually is probably a bit racist.

Of course then I’m saying “We got to have everything!” and back then I would just scream and holler “this has got to be big!” We hired these Playboy models and I asked if they were going to be nude and insisted they had to be naked. They just said they couldn’t show that on MTV so why film it.

The owner was out of control, there was naked girls running around – it was really fun. At the end, A&M was just wondering “what is this? Why don’t we just do another one?” and actually spent more money and wanted another direction.

I just didn’t have time to control the video, but I would’ve loved to. I’m in makeup all the time; it’s a nightmare. You can’t stand there and look behind the camera. Eventually, they made a bunch of cuts to the video and none of them were right without the naked girls. It was just a lot better with full-on nudity, it looked like “Caligula.”

Nobody ever made a finished final cut of how the video was really supposed to be. The girls were so sexual and into it and weren’t a bunch of California girls saying “yeah, I guess I’ll pull it down.” They wanted to be naked and take over and ended up dragging me around, it was really cool. The whole thing with the video anyway was that the girls took over. It was a macho video and they took over and won. Rock does not win in the end; the girls take over. A&M was horrified and so was MTV.

So we went on to make another one that was a little simple.

– Watch the uncensored video for “Heads Explode”: HERE

Q: Are all the naked girls in your videos from Playboy?

A: In the other videos no, they were just American girls that wanted to get naked. I think there is a point in their lives where girls just want to get naked and go for it.

I’m totally aware of sexism in rock, but at the same time, nothing works like a naked girl. It’s not going to go away, everybody has to face it.

It was a dream for me, a nerdy kid growing up in New Jersey never getting any girls and to be part of that. It was fantastic.

First Monster Magnet tour in 10 years

Q: This is the first time really touring the United States for Magnet in 10 years, real coast to coast. How come it’s been so long since the last big tour in the U.S.? I’ve read you really enjoy and almost prefer European tours more.

A: We took some time off from touring with Monster Magnet for a while because there was a bit of confusion in what kind of band we were. We started paying more attention to Europe.

The physical congregation of cool people here is getting less and less, more people staying inside. A lot of people are putting their thoughts just on the Internet, a lot of opinion. There is a lot of talk and not a lot of physical action.

A lot of live music in the States has been going downhill in the last 20 years because of economics, bands that should be headlining together are playing on these pitiful tours with decibel limits and $6 bottles of water. This isn’t rock n’ roll. This is the end.

In Europe, I can still pretend there is a real rock scene. There is a physical congregation of people, all these clubs without a big stick with the drinking age, a lot of attention to different genres and variety of music. I got nothing against my country; we’re the country that invented rock n’ roll. It makes me sad that this is the last place I want to play. The mass America won’t buy anything that I have to sell.

There was an idea of Monster Magnet amongst some people that we are all “Space Lord,” and they weren’t thinking beyond what that would be. We had issues booking shows so we booked straight metal joints all the time, profiling all the time, which made me feel kind of weird. I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t like they were paying a lot of money either.

So I just wanted to focus on a place where they would understand the variety that goes into Monster Magnet’s music as opposed to the visual aspect of it. It paid off and I took that to the rest of the world. We developed a better sense of the style and put less emphasis on the visuals, and it helped us give off the music better.

If someone gave us $50,000 to play a show in America, I would’ve been out there. They weren’t buying what we were selling. I took some time off and glad I did. Rock, as far as psychedelic revisionist rock, or hard rock revisionist or stoner rock or whatever you want to call it, seems to be standing it’s ground pretty well. There are more people that are into it than there used to be. We thought it was time for us to go back out into the States.

Q: Monster Magnet tours in Europe a lot and you’ve said you enjoy touring there because their venue restrictions and overall attitude toward rock shows is a lot more lax as oppose to the convenience Americans want to push toward. What do you think has to happen here in order to bring back at least a few of those old standards of a rock show?

A: Economics have a lot to do with it. Everybody wants too much money. Rock n’ roll was never meant to be a high premium priced thing, it was meant to be a populous movement. It’s not supposed to cost more than a movie or a ball game. It should be somewhere around $20, not $80. It’s not designed to be that way; nothing is worth that much. How can you be happy that you are a part of something when there are financial constraints?

Art will always happen; cool will always happen. How far cool will actually stretch to the masses, that is never done too well. However, there have been times when cool has overlapped into entertainment. It’s up to the kids (laughs) to figure out a way to get this stuff out there and not charge a ton of money.

Maybe it is festivals that bring a lot of music to a lot of people. Maybe the economy will get better and more people will have more money to spend on it. I don’t think it’s impossible. The reason it happens in Europe is because they never lost their focus on culture. It’s important for people to get out and see live shows. It’s not a car culture. Everything hasn’t been spread out over a bunch of strip malls.

The train stations in European cities are still the nicest part of town as opposed to the worst in American cities. The bus stations are the good places to go, you can travel into the city from the country on a train or bus and you are in this paradise of cafes and clubs. Over here you have to drive. It’s a music lovers paradise. Look at the music festivals that go on there. The variety is really fantastic.

There is a long explanation of why these things happen, plus there is a huge cultural shift in what is important to young people. What’s important to young people in the 21st century was built in the 20th century, and that’s the focus on themselves as a minor celebrity, and that’s finally come true.

From the beginning of magazines and the radio, we’ve taught people that the person on the radio, in the movies, on the cover of magazines are somehow more privileged than you. Why wouldn’t generations of people jump at the chance to be their own star? Facebook – the beginning, everyone is going to be their own star. They didn’t figure out “No, you have to be talented.” Everyone is going for their shot.

There may be less focus in the world on where the quality is, but there is still a better chance of controlling the quality.  I would tell every band, “Don’t always go for the easy thing. Try it out, stick together. Your fans can take more than what you think they can take.”

Buy “Last Patrol” in limited edition digipak via Amazon available NOW

Mattice is a producer and music journalist for the Journal & Courier. She can be reached at rmattice@jconline.com or on Twitter @RachaelM_JC.

 

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