Monster Magnet are back touring Europe and the UK in January/February, armed with a setlist that will contain many fan-faves including songs off of their critically acclaimed 2013 release ‘Last Patrol’.
Last November, however, Monster Magnet released ‘Milking The Stars: A Reimagining Of Last Patrol’ which took much of ‘Last Patrol’ on a sonically psychedelic trip. We chatted with Dave Wyndorf to ask about the album’s reinterpretation, the musicians that were especially brought in for this project, as well the up and coming European tour.
MJ: Hey Dave…it’s MJ from The Classic Rock Show.
DW: MJ! What’s happening?
MJ: I’m going good, how are you?
DW: Doing good, sitting here sitting in the pissing rain in New Jersey, probably very similar to where you are, I would imagine. Kind of gray and pissy.
MJ: It’s much the same here in England.
DW: Welcome to winter.
MJ: Indeed. Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet, welcome to ‘The Classic Rock Show’!
DW: Thanks, dude.
MJ: I guess we can still get away with it as we’re just into the second week of the new year…Happy New Year to you.
DW: Yeah, Happy New Year to you! And to all your listeners.
MJ: How did you go about celebrating the New Year?
DW: You know this one went by really quick. I was, like, working in the studio which is probably the best place for me to be. All the way up to the holidays and then I did like a commando jump into the holidays, like hello, family! And then slept the whole time getting ready for the tour. So sometimes the holidays are best for the short, sharp shock as they say on Pink Floyd.
MJ: Did you make any resolutions for the New Year?
DW: You know I used to do that and always disappoint myself, so now there is no resolutions anymore. Why kid around? I’ve been disappointed in the past. I always fail. My resolutions always come after a bitter defeat at something. You know? I have to be beaten down or make a horrible mistake and then when I learn the lesson from that. That’s the resolution – I’ll never get beat down from that again.
MJ: Listen, we’re going to get to talk about you coming out to tour Europe. But before we get to that, we’ve got loads to talk about, Dave. ‘Last Patrol’ was released back in 2013, widely acclaimed by Monster Magnet fans and music critics alike. In November though, you released ‘Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol’ via Napalm Records. As album titles go, that has all sorts of connotations to the laymen. What does that mean to Dave Wyndorf and the rest of the guys in Monster Magnet?
DW: You know, the ‘Milking the Stars’ thing, that was just me following a whim that I had at the end of the record which is just the whim that I bring to almost every record. Like, oh, I could have done this and I could have done that. Songs are really cool, music is really cool, it’s really only defined by how you present it. There’s a song, but the way it’s presented is the song as well. Not to get too musical about it, but you put in minor notes, you add a different instrument, you sing it a different way, it becomes somewhat different. Same song, different vibe. And I always walk away from records, like this one I was like well why don’t I just stick to this? I didn’t have enough time to do a whole right and record a whole new record because I was so busy touring Last Patrol. Last Patrol did really well. So we toured and toured and toured. What I thought I could do, since I records now really close to my home, my whole life is like a demo now. It’s no more running off to big cities to make records. It’s, I live in a small town, and I record this stuff two blocks from my house. And I was like why don’t I just dive in there in between tours and see what I can come up with? Just because it sounds like fun. And I’m in love with all the instruments that I really don’t play very well, like melotrons and old sixties organs and stuff and was like what would happen if, how would it sound? And I got into it and I just got carried away. And the next thing you know I did the whole thing. And then I thought maybe I should release it and see what happens. And that’s really what happened, it was just, I was just following, like a bird dog, following down the trail. What would happen here? What would happen there? What would happen if you mixed it differently? Panned it left and right like the sixties? It quickly turned into a sixties kind of thing, because I love that sound. And it’s really fun to do. Opened up a whole new world for me. It’s something that’s not over till the fat lady sings! Or the fat man in this case.
Yeah, it’s ridiculous, yes, I agree, it’s completely like why? Why would you do this? I know. I totally get it. Well, the good thing about it for my poor band mates, they didn’t have to like suffer through this reimagination. They didn’t really have to, it’s not like I called the gang back and said all right, we’re doing it again! Because they would have killed me. What I did was I just sat down with mainly my co-producer Phil Cavano, who is also a guitar player in Monster Magnet, and we arranged drums to suit the purpose digitally. Rearranged drums, rerecorded some guitar by myself and with Phil and some bass and some vocals. And whipped it up like that. And added stuff. Mostly by me and some other, I have a couple, two different keyboard guys to come in and do it. So it’s not like everyone sat on the floor going here we go again. That would have been a disaster, that would have been an absolute disaster because who would have gotten into it? You know? I mean I was because it was my obsession. But everyone else was like, okay, do what you want to do. And I think the real reason it worked was for one, the material was there, there was a lot to work with. And two, it didn’t stop the monster magnet train dead. You know, it wasn’t like alright, we are all shutting down because we have to do the same goddamn thing we did before, which would have been a nightmare. This was like a squirrely little like missions in the middle of the night over the course of a couple of months.
MJ: You mentioned you brought in a few musicians. Tell us about them and how they bought into the project.
DW: It was awesome stuff. I mean I just needed, I mean I can play keyboards but not that well, I can’t play them without clamming. So I could sum up the part, do the part, but I couldn’t execute it. So I got a local guy named Matt Foreman, who played with a band called The Ribeye Brothers around here with Tim Cronin [ex Monster Magnet]. And he rocked it! He did sixties organ like completely spot on. Like it was 1968. So he did one. So then I needed like a B3 vibe, like a John Lord kind of early 70s distorted B3. And I found a guy in California named Kim Bullard, who had been around for forever. He actually plays with Elton John now! You know? He actually plays with Elton John. And I called him up and said hey, I have a friend of mine who says you play a mean B3, you know, like Deep Purple. And he said no one has asked me to play like Deep Purple in 35 years. And so we went to his house and he had this old B3 and that guy was unbelievable. I mean, that’s kind of a lost art, that whole thing. That playing that way through the real B3 distorted, through Marshall cabinets, all the flourishes, all that stuff, he was like a magician. And that’s how I got him, just by talking it up. It was really cool. He started to scratch the surface for real old mussos, not just punk guys like me, but like the real mussos are out there with nothing to do. I think I got to try this in the future.
MJ: One of the new tracks on the album, and I think there’s around about four tracks that you added on a couple of live tracks on the back of the track as well?
MJ: The opening track, “Let the Circus Burn” what a great opening track. It really does set the tone for the rest of the album.
DW: Oh, awesome! Thanks. I had people going do you really want to start the record out like that? I was like, yeah of course! You have to know. Yeah that was, that’s one of the cool things about music, too, I just went in with absolutely no planning and the music kind of tells you what to do. I took a drum loop from the actual, from Last Patrol, the original track, just a loop, maybe a minute and a half, and looped it for six minutes and took the loop home and listened to it and sat there with a guitar and made everything up. Just with that repetitious loop. And as soon as I started playing it I said wow, this sounds like Pink Floyd on ‘Ummagumma’, it sounds like something like that. So just go that route. And then recorded a quick little droner track, and then I actually played the organ on that one, and did an organ track and spaced out the parts. Okay we’ll stop here, this is where it’ll stop and then I’ll get a cool sound, like an electron flute or something. It happened really fast. I mean, no more than a day. I think? The whole thing was almost done and it just goes to show you, using the elements of a preexisting song can be a whole new song. Without a lot of, like you said before, why bring everybody back? Unless it’s going to be something brand new. But, yeah never let it be said I’m not stubborn. Talk about milking the stars, milking the songs is more like it. But it was really fun and it came alive very, very quickly which is like a joy.
MJ: That’s the word for me, Dave, “live”. It really does sound a studio live album. Some real edge to it, there’s some grit, there’s that determination that pushes through the song. It comes over so very well.
DW: Thanks! I really appreciate it because that’s what I wanted it to sound like. In a weird kind of way with my attention was paid, well, there was a time constraint, so basically most of the effects on there were recorded onto tape or hard drive, or whatever you want to call it, a little lo fi using that ambiance to drive other parts, which kind of fuzzes the actual fidelity of the whole thing but makes it sound like it was done, you know, I played it as if people were playing it at the same time, like decisions were made with redoing the basses. And I said well, you know, the guitar kind of fucks up there, so you know why stop and fix the guitar? What would you do live? You would play the bass over that part. And just the ten minutes live, what would a live band do? They would just solider through. And so I kind of dialed back some of my more finicky tendencies and let the thing open up as the way it was going down without fixing too much. And when I listened it back I was like why don’t I make records like this all the time? It actually sounds alive! So, I learned a lot. You expect this kind of treatment more from future Monster Magnet albums for sure.
MJ: Well this was going to come into my next question funnily enough. Does ‘Milking the Stars’ set the tone for the next Monster Magnet album?
DW: It has to somewhat, I mean, I can’t deny I love the sound of those keyboards you know? I love those scene change that they make. It’s just a whole different thing. It’s a new way to get to express a mood of the song. I used to be afraid of keyboards because number one we don’t have a keyboard player and don’t plan on getting one, it’s just one more person to play. Rock is expensive! It’s another plane ticket. And I never played keyboard that well so why set up a band you know, well why set up a band that can’t do what they do live? Can’t, why do it? But now the older I get I just think everything’s a big experiment, so if I have a way to express myself, express music through sounds that I may not necessarily always recreate out there live in every situation, it doesn’t matter. The record’s the thing. You know? The record’s the thing. Yeah, so I’ll just go. So now I’ve started to crack into this older musician thing with these guys hanging around from the old days with nothing to do. I think I’ll go out for that, that could be something too. There’s a lot of really, really cool musicians out there, talented, with the kind of talent that just isn’t made today. Just sitting around doing nothing. So I’d like to tap into that. It ain’t over, you know what I mean? The seventies, the whole seventies hard rock, late sixties psychedelic early seventies psychedelic/hard rock/whatever you want to call it, it ain’t quite done yet. You know what I mean? I’ll prove it to you. It’s not quite done, there’s more. It’s coming!
MJ: Yeah there’s another chapter to be written.
DW: I think it is! As long as these people live. And you know I mean a lot of new bands that are doing it too, you know? I mean just like jazz or blues, it’s never really over.
MJ: Well as long as there are people picking up an instrument and picking up a microphone it will be there.
DW: Yeah, exactly.
MJ: It’s been, what…25, going on 26 years now as Monster Magnet? You know, a lot of yards and inches, sweat, blood and tears has gone into the band over the past quarter of a century, Dave!
DW: Jesus, the way you put it! I’m out here in the backyard with a shovel digging a hole! *Laughs* Seriously though, I’m having too much fun. Being in Monster Magnet has been more fun for me in the last ten years than it was in the first I think 12. Because, the first 12 was a mad race in the old system and hitting a wall. You know, hitting a commercial wall and a perception wall. You know? We started off as a total psychedelic rock band. Moved into a straight on hard rock band that was still very much the same elements as we started, just a little bit more overt and in your face. And then we had a big hit, and the big hit and the big video, and that kind of confused the issue with record companies and audiences. Well, that’s what these guys are. Their modern age and brand yourself it’s kind of hard to un-brand yourself. And usually you brand yourself on your biggest success. And that was it. So after a certain time, it was hard for me to and hard for us to operate as an honest musical band that could take a left turn and a right turn without having people go oh, that’s not it. You know? It’s like well, no, that’s not it according to you but it is according to us. Fair enough. We had to build it back up. And I think I did. Cool. So now it’s really fun, I don’t have to deal with any of those kind of expectations anymore. Maybe if we go to South America and they’re like “Space Lord!” you must do it! You know? And we’ll always do “Space Lord”. But we finally started to crawl out of people’s notion, notions on what’s the band about.
MJ: Monster Magnet always get a huge response when we get them on ‘The Classic Rock Show’.
DW: That’s awesome, that’s just awesome.
MJ: You’ve got a few dates in the UK in February 2015. Are we going to see Dave Wyndorf with a little half-sized keyboard stood next to him? Running out some of these tunes from ‘Milking the Stars’?
DW: You know I was going to do it this time, just didn’t have the time to set up the whole prog-rock thing. So, this is going to be heavy on the psych, heavy on the rock, and will feature songs that we haven’t done in a really long time, plus all the hits! “You guys going to do Space Lord, right?”…I mean, yeah, it’s a very, very satisfying thing to do it this way because we haven’t done a proper, I mean the last couple of times we’ve been through the UK we’ve just done album stuff. I think the last time we came through we did, it was, Last Patrol in its entirety and a couple other songs. And then before that was ‘Spine Of God’ and before that it was ‘Dopes To Infinity’. So this one will be more well-rounded representation of the Monster Magnet repertoire.
MJ: We’re looking forward to it. Well, Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet, thank you so very much for your time talking to The Classic Rock Show. Listeners…go see Monster Magnet!
DW: Right on! Thanks, dude, thank you so much it’s a pleasure. I love to talk to people about rock, dude, it’s just very, very specific thing. It’s so much different than how the whole rock thing has fallen into the metal ghetto. It’s like you know, people gotta stand up for this shit. This is not what a lot of people think it is, you know? It’s a lot classier than metal. You know what I mean? No, seriously, there’s no reason why classic rock or that thing has to be old. You know what I mean?
MJ: Well that’s how I see it too. I call it ‘The Classic Rock Show’, but play stuff that’s just been released because this is the future. You know? We got the old stuff and we got the new stuff…heck, it was new 30-40+ years ago? So let’s get it out there, let’s get people into it, buying it and going to gigs!
DW: Yeah there needs to be some representation of actual taste. It’s so weird, I’ve been pretty much, people in the states have rolled over. I know you probably have your complaints, but the UK has a lot more respect for hard rock than the states does. The states has completely rolled over, it’s like whatever you got, we’ll take. Literally they are more concerned about other things and they think music is going to be free and great forever. They don’t realize that the less attention they pay and the less, the less standards they set. They set no standards. There’s no demands, it’s like they just pick and choose. So there’s not a group of, there’s not an intelligent group of people, there’s no like fortress of criticism here. There’s nothing. It’s just, and left to their own devices the masses choose crap all the time. There’s nothing to direct it, the focus, and it’s pretty disturbing. That’s why I hardly ever play in the states anymore, it’s hardly worth it. Europe’s the place to play, all over Europe is the place for rock, very cool.
MJ: Listen man, it’s been a real pleasure. Maybe bump fists when you come to play the Electric Ballroom?
DW: Right on man. I would love to meet you. Thanks MJ. Take it easy.
Catch Monster Magnet on tour across Europe:
30.01.2015 GR – Athens / Stage Volume 1
31.01.2015 GR – Thessaloniki / Principal Club Theater
02.02.2015 CH – Lausanne / Les Docks
03.02.2015 DE – Frankfurt / Batschkapp
04.02.2015 DE – München / Backstage
06.02.2015 AT – Vienna / Szene
07.02.2015 CH – Lyss / Kufa
08.02.2015 DE – Oberhausen / Turbinenhalle
10.02.2015 NL – Deventer / Burgerweeshuis
12.02.2015 BE – Antwerp / Trix
13.02.2015 UK – Nottingham / Rock City
14.02.2015 UK – Glasgow / Garage
15.02.2015 UK – London / Electric Ballroom
17.02.2015 DE – Saarbrücken / Garage
18.02.2015 NL – Eindhoven / De Effenaar
20.02.2015 DK – Arhus / Voxhall
21.02.2015 SE – Gothenborg / Sticky Fingers
22.02.2015 NO – Oslo / Parktheatret Scene
23.02.2015 NO – Stavanger / Folken
25.02.2015 DE – Bremen / Schlachthof
26.02.2015 DE – Hannover / Capitol
27.02.2015 DE – Dresden / Reithalle
28.02.2015 NL – Rotterdam / VanNelle Fabriek