Monster Magnet Psych Back

Monster Magnet Psych Back
Photo: Jeremy Saffer
When he's not harnessing the universe's energy to play psychedelic space metal, Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf resides in his decidedly un-cosmic hometown of Red Bank, NJ. That jazz pianist Count Basie, Skid Row main throat Sebastian Bach, and gonzo filmmaker Kevin Smith all hail from the same locale gives credence to Wyndorf's eternal hippie cosmonaut status, as he's crafted music meticulously for nearly 25 years. He graciously emailed with me while preparing for the band's first full North American tour in a decade.

Last Patrol took me about five spins before I absolutely loved it. It has so many Superjudge and Dopes to Infinity references! Did you intend to revisit those albums in your new songwriting?
Five spins? Dude, I must be doing something wrong! The Superjudge and Dopes references are natural, I think. I wanted to write a full-on psych album again and my instincts are pretty much the same now as they were then. I didn't reference the old records because I didn't want to purposefully copy anything but I'm sure they were there in the back of my mind.

With its nine tracks, Last Patrol contains the least number of songs of a full-length album (average of 12 cuts per album) in your catalog. Were there any extra tracks in these sessions that might be included on other releases?
Yeah, there were four more songs recorded that didn't really fit the vibe, so they'll be released somewhere eventually.

The title track is the longest song you've recorded since the Tab 25 EP. Any particular reason for that?
It's just one of those songs... I imagined playing it live and just pushing it, y'know? "More! Psych out! Go, go, go!" It felt right.

"Hallelujah" is steeped in classic blues (and I can imagine an incredibly retro music video made around it). I don't recall this particular sound on any of your recent albums. What was going through your head when you wrote this song?
I intended it to be a little blues song but I started growling and shouting over it and somehow turned into a Stooges/gospel kinda thing. These things quickly take on a life of their own when you add vocals right away. I took to [drummer] Bob Pantella and he suggested that the beat be just a kick drum and a garbage can with a tambourine in it plus some hand claps. Boom, nice and simple.

"Paradise" and "Stay Tuned" are quite mellow, placed in between more rocking tunes on the album. How important is the song arrangement/listing on albums to you?
Sequencing is everything on an album, I think. I try to position the track like chapters in a book. If I did my job right the listener will "read the whole book." It's not the most commercial way of doing it (with all the big songs right up front), but I'll take the risk.

You've always covered excellent songs over the years, most of which I didn't know were covers until sometime later. Donovan seems like the perfect candidate for a MM cover. What's the story behind "Three King Fishers"?
Cover songs just pop up in the brain sometimes. The Donovan track happened because I felt the album needed something else. Originally I was going to write two songs, one quiet and delicately psychedelic and the other big and heavy. I picked up a sitar to play around with the psych song and "Three King Fishers" popped into my mind. It then occurred to me that I could rearrange the Donovan song in a way that was both delicate and heavy, sparing me the time it would take to write new songs. Problem solved.

You didn't perform 4-Way Diablo live because those songs were too delicate. Do you feel that way about Last Patrol?
No, I think Last Patrol will translate to a live setting pretty well.

Ultimately, Last Patrol is a more subdued album than previous albums — with no obvious kick-out-the-jam tunes like on Powertrip. Was this restrained vibe intentional or just a natural evolution of your songwriting?
Very intentional. I was into setting a certain mood for this album — to make a kind of "midnight record."

You've spent your entire career singing about drugs, yet I was still surprised to read about your overdose in 2006. How did living through that change your perspective on your life and your music?
The truth is I've always written about real life. I do, however, use the vernacular of science fiction, religion and old stoner culture to dramatize things. I don't know why, it sounds cool. Also, I never did write while stoned, and concerning my OD I've learned that you're never too old to fuck up!

You've almost always produced your albums. Is that habitual for you, or do you not trust anyone else with the band's overall sound?
I've been lucky to have worked with some really good ones, but I must admit always being little suspect of record producers. Not because they're bad or evil or anything, it's just because I had a particular vision for Magnet that I wanted to develop over time. Record producers come and go but MM remains constant, y'know?

How has the internet helped or hindered you over the years? Do you think that illegal downloads hurt or help Monster Magnet?
Illegal downloads devalue the music, monetarily speaking, which obviously is a kick in the balls. I mean, if music is what you sell and what you sell is offered for free all over the place, well... it is what it is. Great time to be a listener, lousy time to be a musician.

Did you fulfill your contract with A&M and then part ways? Were they jerks about it?
A&M were folded into Interscope around the time of Powertrip and most of its employees let go. After that MM found itself in less than friendly waters, so I got the hell out!

Is Napalm Records a good fit for the band? What ever happened with SPV?
Ah, record companies... they come and go but MM remains.

The band has had its share of ups and downs, and the music industry has changed dramatically since you were jamming with garage bands in high school. At age 56, how long can you continue to lead Monster Magnet? Any plans for retirement?
I think if I retired now I'd just start another band! Right now not I'm living by the rules of the average 56 year old and it's awesome, so I think I'll wait until I'm utterly exhausted before I go into the long grass.

Any chance that you'll release the Cool Beans demos on CD (or, even better, on cassette) anytime? I know of the Love Monster CD but haven't been able to find a copy.
Good idea! Maybe. Thanks again. See ya!