by Todd K. Smith
"Monolithic Baby was born from the irony and absurdity of life in the ongoing and truly hypnotic 21st century! A combination of social commentary, ego stroking, paranoia and glee! Sex and war! Disinformation! Terror! Narcissism! Denial! Drugs! It doesn't preach, it celebrates!" Dave Wyndorf, Monster Magnet
Our relationship with Monster Magnet goes back to 1995s Dopes Of Infinity. At the time, the Red Bank, NJ quintet was riding the stoner psychedelic trail for all it was worth packing in Sabbath riffs with Purple Haze seduction. Credited for helping ignite the Stoner movement by fusing space rock and metal into a digestible format, the band seemed to hit their stride in 95. Negasonic Teenage Warhead found its way to Philly radio and put the band on a bill opening for COC.
The 1998 release of Powertrip and the universal hit Space Lord got the masses noticing what we already knew. These guys were going to be massive. Hand picked by Marilyn Manson for their largest tour to date (Mechanical Animals), Monster Magnet sat comfortably between the headliner and up-and-comers Nashville Pussy. It was one of those do not miss tours complete with strippers and organized chaos.
Two years later we saw the import of God Says No but waited months before a domestic release. When it did finally hit the States the records mixing had been so fumbled by the label execs that it lacked much of its sonic impact. Though it took a while Monolithic Baby is a return to the glory of Monster Magnets true essence. Jammed with heavy riffs at full amplification and an earth-rumbling bass end the record embraces all that is and will every be glorious about this band. Ultimately Everything.
Join us for our exclusive interview with Monster Magnets founder and main vox, Dave Wyndorf.
The Cutting Edge: Glad to have you back in the States. I know youve been on the road in Europe for the last four months with Gluecifer and The Quill.
Dave Wyndorf: Yeah, nothing like touring with your favorite bands. Im a big fan of both bands. So when they (SPV) asked us who we wanted to take on the road it was a no brainer. Plus both bands are on our label so it made things real easy. It was great for the fans two what a rock show!
TCE: The crowd reaction was good?
DW: Are you kidding? Three kick-ass bands on one bill. It was a rock lovers dream come true. There was no preamble, no nu metal it was just rock. And the record has been received so well over there. Just as well, if not better than anything we did on a major label. No big money push, just the record on its own. There are parts of the world where the music really does speak first.
TCE: After your initial tour of Europe you went back for a number of festival dates. Some were the same markets. How did the set change?
DW: Since we were revisiting some of the same places I decided to change the set list. I told the promoters that we werent going to play the same string of hits we just wanted to go out and play rock. I wanted to take a chance and see if they would still dig the set. It worked great. Now Im thinking of doing a tour thats completely wierded out like unplugged - or sitars and melodeons, something like that. Just to see how far I could push the art angle.
TCE: Whats the state of music like overseas? Is it going through the same trouble learning curve that we have here?
DW: Music isnt in trouble. Its selling music that is the larger problem. Ive been talking with SPV for years. I knew that the day was going to come that the people we were working with at A&M werent going to be there anymore. I knew the when that day came I didnt want there to be nowhere to go. I didnt want to go back to another independent again.
TCE: You were with A&M for five records, in fact you sold over half a million copies of Powertrip on the back of Space Lord. Now youre with SPV International. Does having a hit matter anymore?
DW: Nowadays you have to BE a hit, not just have a hit. Its not just about the music its about the personality. That means homogenized media personality. You can shock like Marilyn Manson but eventually people lose interest. The only way to be a true star these days is to run with the system.
The old rockn roll way was to offer an alternative lifestyle and invite people to come in and listen to what the music had to say. It was poetry a mixture of lyrics and words. Today its all about music for entertainment.
Music lovers, of course, dont pay any attention to that. They will track it down and today you can track it down and get it for free. You cant compete against free.
TCE: The new album Monolithic Baby has a killer sound. Almost European in flavor.
DW: Yeah, the way a lot of European bands treat music now is that its 1972 and its Detroit. But thats always been a part of the Monster Magnet thing. With this band we can emphasis the rock n roll side of Monster Magnet or the psychedelic or the super heavy part. Then there is the other angle where I could get really weird.
TCE: It sounds like youre moving further and further away from the whole stoner rock thing.
DW: Thats good. I never minded the comparison but I always thought we were closer to Grand Funk Railroad or Steppenwolf.
TCE: What are some of the songs the crowds have been warming to off the new disc?
DW: Defiantly Monolithic and Radiation Day. Unbroken was the single in Europe so that did really well. Theres a lot to this record that I think people are going to get the longer they have it.
TCE: Amidst the recording you lost a couple members. What happened to Jon Kleiman (drums) and Joe Calandra (guitar)?
DW: Well, Jon and Joe ran outta gas. Jon is a very particular character. He doesnt like rock music. Hes very particular about the kind of music that he likes. But he does like money. When he didnt receive the money that he thought he should by being in a giant rock band he started putting out less effort. So we said, goodbye.
Jons one of the funniest guys I know and hes an awesome drummer. But now he plays guitar in the Ribeye Brothers - probably doing the best work of his life. Thats probably where he should be. He still works with Tim (Cronin) who was with us from the beginning, and they have a number of different projects like the Ribeye Brothers and Gallery of Mites. Tims my roommate and our lighting/sound guy so were in touch.
Look, Im an aggressive guy. I want to play aggressive music. Some people dont like that but Ive got this kill em all mentality. Its like a crusade -, but thats what it takes to be a frontman lead the charge.
TCE: You guys are like a frat house. Youve all know each other most your life. Whats it like being a gang-like band from Jersey?
DW: You mean living in the shadow of New York? Ive always seen us as an international rock band. Since our early demo days I was sending our stuff to Germany. I figured Europe would be way more interested in psychedelic rock. Our first deal was with a Germany label (Glitterhouse Records) at the same time we got attention from Caroline in the States. We only played four or five shows in the US before we toured Europe for six-months.
Its true we started in the basement of a comic store in Jersey but we really got our start in Europe. So really weve come full circle.
TCE: Its been three years since God Says No. Was it the label switch and the member change that slowed you down?
DW: We waited a year to get out of our deal with Universal. They wanted to keep us around but suddenly we were working with a bunch of guys in black suites and cell phones looking for the next Limp Biscuit. They knew their days were numbered so there was a lot of fear. I wanted no part of that so we got out. Then 9/11 happened and nobody was moving.
I got offered to write a soundtrack for a movie with Warner Brothers on their dime so I went out to LA. It was awesome to do. But while I was out there I started writing the new Monster record. I met the daughter of a famous record producer (whose name will go unmentioned) and we stayed in this hotel and I just wrote. Thats where songs like CNN War Theme, Slut Machine and Unbroken (Hotel Baby) came from. It was bizarre and weird but totally cool at the same time. I was hanging out with such a weird group of people. Its all on the new record.
I tried to put everything in my mind into each and every song. I tried to make it as straight ahead rock as possible but I drifted. The lyrics were all written at the same time so it has this madhouse absurdity of the 21st century to it.
TCE: What about On The Verge?
DW: Thats about me being voyeuristic, looking in peoples window and watching them smoking their bongs while the world is blowing up on TV. Then there are songs like Theres No Way Out Of Here and The Right Stuff that are basically written for the fans. The band has reached this point where a lot of the music we created is actually dictated by the fans. We know what they want to hear and we give it to them. They have somewhat of a say in my conciseness. Im not going to rip these people off so Im going to give them a big guitar solo.
TCE: So when do we get the Dave Wyndorf solo record thats completely disjoint for Monster Magnet?
DW: In about a year or two. Its going to be out there real crazy with all these unusual instruments on it piano - lots of stuff. Ill be singing through a fuzz box. Theres so much stuff coming out of me right now that it would be stupid to waste it.
TCE: With the US release of Monolithic Baby you put it out with a bonus DVD. Was it to be more completive in the market?
DW: Oh yeah, totally. We were like lets give em something else. The record company wanted an interview and a video but I was like, thats not enough. Lets give them a whole new video. If were going to give them something lets make it special. So we did a video for a song thats not even a single - something not obvious. I think it worked really well and its something I want to do in the future.
TCE: The record cover is amazing. Bigger than life.
DW: Have you seen the LP version? Its awesome. I wanted this monolith theme with a tower of amps to look statuesque. Then it morphed into this whole Excalibur thing. We wanted it to be about no apologies for anything. Were fighting the good fight here.
And fight they did the night we caught up with them in Portland, OR. Holding on to what they do best they ripped through a stunning, near two hour set. Songs from Monolithic Baby stood proud as they launched into the guitar punch of The Right Stuff, Supercruel, On The Verge and Radiation Day. The old favorites filled the gaps including Dopes, the reaching Twin Earth and the fuzz of Elephant Bell. Wyndorf, dripping with sweat, questioned over a stack of marshals, You want a REAL rock show? then drove the MM truck right into Powertrip, Melt and the massive Cage. The show closed with Monolithic and "Third Alternative however the stomp of the crowd lit the lights one more time. Returning to bury the hatchet the band raged through a mammoth rendition Space Lord leaving us deaf and happy for it.
Website: www.monstermagnet.net, SPV Records