The MusicNerd Q&A With Monster Magnet

Monster Magnet Promo

When I was in high school (back when Muchmusic played music videos), I essentially worshipped the ground that Soundgarden walked on. And because of my obsession with the Seattle band, I made a point of recording everything I could get on them, from their videos to interviews. One night while I was flipping burgers at McDonalds, Soundgarden had dropped by Muchmusic. They were in the studio for an interview behind their 1991 album Badmotorfinger. Knowing that Muchmusic repeated their content every eight hours, I dutifully set my alarm for 3:00 am so that I could obsessively watch their interview over and over.

As the Soundgarden interview was wrapping up, the host conducting the interview asked the band what video they would like to see. They chose to play Monster Magnet’s video for Medicine. I had never heard of Monster Magnet before that time but I was an instant fan. And besides, Soundgarden liked them so I almost felt as though I had to get into them too. Soundgarden wouldn’t steer me wrong, right?

Over the next couple of weeks that followed me hearing Monster Magnet for the first time, I sent away for their debut record, Spine Of God. And though it along with my Jesus Christ Pose CD-single were held up at the US-Canadian border for God knows what reason, my Monster Magnet album arrived almost a month later. The record was unlike anything I had heard at that point in my life. I was an instant Monster Magnet fan but not just because Soundgarden thought they were cool.

So here we are in 2013, a good 20 years after my first having heard Monster Magnet and the guys have a great new record, Last Patrol, coming out next month. Earlier this week, I had the extreme pleasure of chatting with Monster Magnet guitarist-vocalist Dave Wyndorf via phone about their new record among many other topics:

I’ve had the chance to give Last Patrol a listen and probably the thing that almost immediately jumped out at me was how it reminded me of the spirit of your first couple of records. Was getting the band back to the sound and feel of your earlier work a deliberate move with this record?

It was definitely deliberate. We wanted to get back to that style of recording and laying things down in our own studio. We have done the whole big fist-in-the air rock and while it is a lot of fun, we are pretty hardcore fans of psychedelic music and garage rock of the late 60’s and the early 70’s. It was time to get back to that in full force.

It is not as though you guys have put out these really over-produced records that you couldn’t pull off live anyway. It’s not reinventing the wheel per se but it’s good to hear the band has stayed faithful to where you came from. 

At this point, we definitely don’t wanna go too far into making these really complicated records. I think we get a little spooked about maybe over doing it; we don’t want to do eat our own tail. It has been a lot of trial and error but we know more often than not what we want out of our records. I feel as though we really brought it back home with this record.

The first lyrics sung on the new album are “I got the feeling that no one cares…” Do you worry that people won’t want to hear what you’ve got to say at this point?

I think that everyone feels there is a lot of hard working people out there doing art, music and writing that put it into the giant display of the internet and watch their work get sucked up in 3.5 seconds [laughs]. In a world where everything is seemingly available, who the hell knows what is going to stick?  

The way that the internet has changed our lives is pretty crazy, for better and for worse when it comes to music.

I think the internet has definitely been both good and bad. In one respect, it has afforded a certain amount of democracy to bands. You’ve got all these bands making music but it’s just so wide now that it’s hard for people to pay attention to everything. I think there is a mass amount of quality stuff that is slipping through the cracks now just because of the sheer amount of stuff out there. In old days, music really only came via radio and video and, to an extent, maybe in movies. It was like a pressure cooker which would suddenly blow kind of thing; it would boil up and shoot out. The internet is like a colander; shit just kind of sifts out now. It is up to the listener to gather their priorities and to figure out what they are going to listen to.

Later this fall, you guys are embarking on a rather extensive North American tour. It seems like it has been awhile since we’ve heard of Monster Magnet touring the United States or Canada so where have you been spending your time?

The last three to five years, we have primarily toured Europe and Australia. And for what it’s worth, Canada has always been very good to us. I like to think that Monster Magnet has been a very esoteric kind of band. We’ve had some success in the U.S., but have never been a “hits” band so we felt as though the States was the wrong place for us to be spending time. That made us want to focus on Europe where the culture is so much more open. The same freaks you’d see at a Monster Magnet show one night are at a jazz bebop show two nights later; those are the guys I want to hang out with.

Why do you think there is such a significant cultural divide between Europe and North America? You are definitely not the first to say something along those lines. 

I wish I knew why that divide was there. The pace of life in Europe is so different from the States. In the States, everyone works their asses off and needs everything done like yesterday. They rely on Top 10 lists to tell them what they should be listening to or whatever. The whole concept of Top 10 lists is ridiculous anyway but that’s a whole other story.

In Europe, kids have it beaten into them from childhood that it’s good to listen to different kinds of music. They have a much healthier society than we do in the States. Even the smallest city centres in Europe are the nicest places you could visit where in the States, they are the most dangerous parts of the city.

These days, in North America at least, people are just glued to their phones, worrying they are missing out on something. The amount of personal interaction people have with one another is probably at an all-time low. 

Our imaginations are very much in danger of being hijacked. People’s fear that they are going to be missing out on something is huge but I can completely see where it comes from. Throughout the whole 20th Century, the media trained people to look towards those people that they saw on the covers of magazines that they were somehow better or more important than the rest of us. It became this completely coveted spot that everyone is aspiring to now. Everyone wants their shot.

For music, it is a really weird time. When I was a kid, music was the centre for entertainment and poetry; there was a literary aspect to the whole thing back then. It was a challenge to the listener to find the insight that the music was providing you. It was an experience to get up and turn the vinyl over and just completely immerse yourself in that one record for as long as it played. These days, people just want to push button their way through it. People aren’t being taught to appreciate the art and to invest the time in it.

It’s been 21 years since Spine Of God was released, are you grateful to still be making music at this point?

I’m shocked and amazed [laughs]. Sometimes it seems like two years, sometimes it seems like 200 years. Being in a band has a way of suspending time unlike anything I’ve done before.

An abbreviated version of this interview was published in the September 26, 2013 edition of Here Magazine