This particular interview has great sentimental value for me, because I love Monster Magnet and Dave Wyndorf has always been on the top of my list of the coolest personalities in music. Read what the King of Mars had to say about ‘Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol’, the band’s past, the Fantastic Four, circumcising the imagination, Greek food and much more. Interview: Romanos Terzis
Rockpages.gr: ‘Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol’ is the new Monster Magnet release. What made you want to rework on the songs off ‘Last Patrol’?
Dave Wyndorf: Songs are never finished in my head, they’re never really done. I always think: ‘It’d be really nice if I did this too’. Of course you have to make a decision about what’s going to be on the album, it’s the only album right? But then, as we were playing these songs on tour I thought: ‘Well who said it has to be the only album?’ Of course every band re-imagines their material when they play it live, they play alternative versions. For me it seemed fun to see what I could do, with just keeping the existing drums, not bringing the whole band back in the studio, but changing some of the tracks. It’s like a compendium to ‘Last Patrol’; It doesn’t compete with ‘Last Patrol’, it’s just more music.
Rockpages.gr: Did you always know that there would be new songs to come out of this process, or did that come about in the studio?
Dave Wyndorf: I hoped there would be. I wasn’t going to reinterpret all the songs; the big space rockers, they are what they are. But the little songs, those are the ones that could be fucked with. The challenge was to make an album that could stand on its own. Take the drums down, add more fuzz, take away the meaty guitars and put skinny little ones, do the vocals differently… just have fun.
Rockpages.gr: ‘Last Patrol’ took me back to the space rock, more psychedelic vibe that your albums had in the mid 90s. Did playing ‘Dopes to Infinity’ in its entirety influence the writing of ‘Last Patrol’?
Dave Wyndorf: I think it did. It definitely made it clear for me that the audience is ready for more psychedelic and for a variety of style. It’s hard when you have a hit like ‘Space Lord’, or ‘Powertrip’; sometimes it takes years to figure out what the crowd really wants or how much they’ll accept from you. So you have to make the decision and say: ‘I’m going to do what I want to, I hope it’s what the audience wants at the same time’. Doing ‘Dopes…’ live proved that to me, so I felt really liberated by the whole thing.
Rockpages.gr: So speaking of ‘Dopes to Infinity’, back in 2004 when you were doing the ‘Monolithic Baby!’ album, you re-recorded ‘King of Mars’. Is there another song from the old stuff that you’d like to re-record?
Dave Wyndorf: Yeah! All the little ones! I’ve always said I am ready to re-record anything at any time. Songs are only done when the people that hear them say they’re done. If when I did ‘King of Mars’ all the Monster Magnet people who bought the record said: ‘That’s the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever heard, don’t you ever do that again!’, then I would have probably said ‘Ok…’. But they didn’t, they thought it was cool. So I’m always thinking about it. It’s usually after the new stuff is written, when I start to think what I could add to make this package more interesting for people. We’ll see in the future. The record ‘Mastermind’ will be hit up again in some sort of fashion, whether it is a re-imagination or a straight up remix by Joe Barresi and myself, to keep it in psychedelic tone with ‘Last Patrol’. I had a good time making ‘Mastermind’ but it wasn’t mixed well, I think it could be done better.
Rockpages.gr: One of the biggest reasons that I am a Monster Magnet fan, is the lyrics. So, there’s a song on ‘Mastermind’, called ‘The Titan Who Cried like a Baby’. On the chorus you sing: ‘There ain’t nobody gonna follow you and there ain’t no Fantastic Four’. I know you are a big comic book fan, so I want to know how those lyrics came about.
Dave Wyndorf: [Laughing] I’m glad you like it. I was trying to get across the meaning that ‘this is not a good day’. It was my way of saying: ‘Guess what? There’s no Santa Claus, there’s no fantastic four, you’re fucked’. It’s a depressing song and instead of saying there’s no hope, I said there’s no fantastic four, because I knew what it meant; and I thought it would be kind of a secret between the people that got it. I wanted to be more obvious with the tone of the song, and less obvious with the lyrics. I figured the tone is already pretty creepy so I wouldn’t have to beat it over the head and go: [singing] ‘…and then everything sucked.’ The ‘there ain’t nobody gonna follow you’ part is a remark about twitter. No one’s going to follow you on twitter! You’re fucked! You thought everything was going to be great but no, nobody cares about you. It’s a song I wrote after breaking up with a girl. That’s all that song really is, me having a relationship end. But it was boring to write about that so I made it grander and grander. You got the Fantastic Four part, very cool.
Rockpages.gr: Would you say your lyrical inspirations have changed through the years?
Dave Wyndorf: I think they’ve been pretty solid for a long time. It’s a cross between influence from musicians, writers and pulp fiction in general; headlines, titles. My lyrics are very inspired by titles of fiction, like something off an old book. So they haven’t changed that much but now I do pay a lot more attention to different artists from the 80s. I think there are some great lyricists. Paul Simon wrote a lot of great stuff in the 80s. Steely Dan had the coolest lyrics, very satirical. Tori Amos is really good, as well as Alice Cooper, one of my favorite lyricists of all time. Iggy and David Bowie were fantastic especially in the early days. Also, there’s Marc Bolan from T. Rex. What makes those songs unbelievable is that they don’t just have words; they have words that fit the sound. And that’s important, sometimes you can overwrite songs, people are so literal that it circumcises the imagination. I always write lyrics that leaves something to the imagination. Some of my favorite songs of all time are the ones where I’m like: ‘You know man, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about, but it sure sounds cool.’ They let you do the work; they let the listener fill in the blanks.
Rockpages.gr: I believe ‘do not circumcise the imagination’ is the quote we’ll keep from this interview.
Dave Wyndorf: [Laughing] Did I just say that? [Takes exaggerated tone] ‘Do not let them circumcise the imagination!’
Rockpages.gr: We talked about these stripped down, mellow, dark songs like ‘The Titan Who Cried like a Baby’, or ‘Black Balloon’, ‘Your Lies Become You’…
Dave Wyndorf: Those are my favorites, I love those songs.
Rockpages.gr: Were you ever tempted to do a whole record, just you, a guitar or a piano and only do this type of songs?
Dave Wyndorf: Yes, and that moment is getting closer all the time. Without all the noise, the ‘boom–boom–boom’ and the ‘bash-bash-bash’, which is fun to do with rock, I can go into that weird world, almost like a movie. I’m glad you like that stuff and I’m definitely headed that way. Plus, I’m not getting any younger you know? I can’t be an old man screaming all the time; people will think I’m crazy. And I would love to do that live, do a whole show of all those songs together.
Rockpages.gr: That sounds great. When ‘Powertrip’ was released, a broader audience got introduced to the band; more people became aware of Monster Magnet. What would you say you learned from those 15 minutes of more mainstream success?
Dave Wyndorf: I learned a ton. For one thing I enjoyed every second of it. I finally got to do all the stuff I wanted to do as a teenager: Spend a lot of money, ride around in a lot of airplanes, be on TV and still be as satirical as I ever was. But the more important lesson that I learned was that people should be very careful, when you’re a musician, of knowing where you are going to wind up on the other side, not money-wise but image-wise. Monster Magnet started off with no image at all; no pictures of the band. We were the mysterious band. And then I said: ‘ok, now I’m going to put leather pants on and be like this guy’. Be careful about that kind of stuff because it sticks with people for a long time. Most Monster Magnet fans understand that I’m more than the guy with the sunglasses, but what I learned is this: If there’s any way you can put the music first, over everything, people will understand you forever. If you don’t, and you put image first all the time, you’re going to wind up with a problem. People aren’t going to listen to your music, they’ve already decided on you according to your image.
Rockpages.gr: Did the ‘sex, drugs & rock ’n’ roll’ triptych ever get out of your control?
Dave Wyndorf: It’s supposed to be out of control. I went into it and made it out of control, probably a little bit too much. When I say stuff like ‘sex, drugs & rock ’n’ roll’, these three words don’t conjure up the world ‘control’. I let it happen to me. I did make horrible decisions; drunken decisions, bad financial decisions, bad musical decisions… I wanted to. There was something in me since I was 15 years old that said: ‘One day I want to do this. I want to be the guy who’s out of control’. I didn’t want to OD on drugs, or die, but something close to that. It was so romantic to me when I was a kid. I looked at my father; he’s worked all his life selling cars, in a store, and these guys (e.d. rock stars) just completely went berserk. I wanted to see what that’s like and I found out what it’s like. And you know something? [whispering] It was pretty goddamn cool. But you can’t do it forever or you will be a vegetable. You won’t have anything to create, there’s no lifelong plan for that kind of behavior. You have to do it, learn from it and stop or go straight down the drain, which I almost did, but I didn’t so I am happy.
Rockpages.gr: You got to the other side.
Dave Wyndorf: Yeah, I actually got to the other side! I can’t believe it but I did.
Rockpages.gr: Continuing with the back catalogue, I know this isn’t your favorite subject to talk about, but I have to say that ‘God Says No’ is in my opinion one of the most underrated rock albums of all time.
Dave Wyndorf: Aw, thanks man.
Rockpages.gr: I know you lost your lyrics prior to the recording and the production wasn’t exactly what you were hoping for. Still, would you be interested to see how the more experimental songs like ‘Queen of You’, ‘Cry’ or ‘Silver Future’ would translate in a live situation?
Dave Wyndorf: Yes, I would. Every once in a while I think about it and say: ‘Man this could be done a lot better’. With serious attention paid to it and a little bit of rearranging here and there. I would that live in a second. I had a lot of success doing whole albums…
Rockpages.gr: ‘Powertrip’ would be the obvious choice to do another record live in its entirety…
Dave Wyndorf: I keep holding back on it because it is the obvious choice. Maybe I’ll do it for its 20th anniversary of the album.
Rockpages.gr: So, what does the future hold for Monster Magnet? Any tour plans?
Dave Wyndorf: Yes, we’re going to hit the road in Europe probably in January and February. Then we’ll play the States and other places of the globe and maybe next summer I’ll start writing another album. On it goes. It’s either touring or music, or both lately. I did ‘Milking the Stars’ while we were touring. It’s good because it keeps us out there, there’s always a release coming. These days in music you got to fight to stay alive. It’s like a little kid saying ‘I’m here!’
Rockpages.gr: The first time you played in Greece was in 1999, opening for Metallica. What do you remember most about that show?
Dave Wyndorf: I remember the whole tour which was fantastic; Metallica was the biggest rock band in the world. They invited us on for a really long tour, two straight months all over Europe. And Greece was unbelievably fantastic! I got to tell you, even beyond the friendly people and the nice places, it was the best goddamn food I’ve ever eaten in my life. The food was so good that I couldn’t believe it. I’ve eaten Greek food in the United States but it was nothing like it. Whenever I go back to Greece the first thing I do is eat! I get off the airplane and I ask: ‘Ok, when is dinner?’ The way you guys prepare the olives, the feta! All that stuff tastes different than anywhere else in the world. It’s in the water!
Rockpages.gr: I’m glad you like it; you’ve got an extra reason to come more often!
Dave Wyndorf: Yes! Are you kidding? I love it.