If I Had A Horse…
Meteor City Records

It was late, it was raining – and it had been a killer show. Monster Magnet tore through town (Philly) like a 5-stage Tornado. Afterwards we sat down to chat with MM drummer Jon Kleiman and Ribeye Bros vocalist Tim Cronin to talk about their new side project “If I Had A Horse….” In the early days of Monster Magnet Tim Cronin had been the vocalist, which makes this a family affaire in some strange way.

Let’s get the history right. Current Magnet vocalist and New Jersey-native Dave Wyndorf was playing guitar as well as singing when they assembled the group in the ‘80s with fellow New Jersey natives guitarist John McBain, bassist Joe Calandra, and drummer John Kleiman. Fusing their punk, space rock, and psychedelic influences, the band developed a sludgy, feedback-heavy hard rock sound. After releasing a self-titled six-song EP through Germany's Glitterhouse Records, Wyndorf assumed all vocal responsibilities while Cronin retreated to a behind-the-scenes consultant position much like that of John Sinclair for the MC5. Cronin now runs a fabulous record shop in Red Bank, NJ called “Jacks” right next to Film Director, Kevin Smith’s comic shop.

Interviewing both Cronin and Kleiman was much like hanging out at a record shop with friends. Friends that happen to be living Spinal Tap characters who bounce off each other with sarcastic humor like pin-pong balls. Band names flew around like preying seagulls and the conversation drifted from project names to how best to avoid the clubs security trying to throw us all out. As chaotic as it was, our interview was quite insightful.

TCE: First of all, I heard there is a third side project as well?

Actually it’s a second side project.
Tim: No, it’s a third side project called “The Carlsbad Trio.”

TCE: Was there something else?
Tim: “Buzz Aldren?”
Jon: “Gallery of Mikes,” “The Flying Navigators?”

TCE: Whoa, how many side projects are there?

Jon: Well there is still the “Salty Snacks.”
Tim: Actually the “Flying Navigators” is our sea shanty band. There is a local bar in Jersey where we hang out. We play as BY-Tor & The Snow Dog where we play the best of acoustic Rush. It’s not that popular.
Jon: Actually now one ever came to our shows - once.
Tim: I even missed one.
Jon: I hate Rush

TCE: What was the appeal to do The Ribeye Brothers?

Jon: We wanted to wear diapers on stage and not get reprehended.
Tim: We both like Garage Rock…
Jon: What kind of Rock?
Tim: ...and Country Rock. It picks up a lot of Garage tendencies but it’s not really Country. I mean it’s basically Country – but its not strictly Country its Garage Rock.
Jon: What? It was just an outlet.
Tim: Okay, we had written songs together for a while we just had no way of doing anything with it. We were in the “studio” doing a version of “How Does It Feel” – a Creation song. The original version was OK but then we thought, “We can’t top the original Creation,” at this point the band had no name, so Jon started playing it countrified.
Jon: No, remember, we did it fast just to go through the parts. Lets do it like this and like that, and then I said, “Hey what’s that sticking out of your pants …and” (rolls over in laughter).
Tim: And then we were like – let’s go get a drink.

Security: Hey guys we got to close up. Can you take this outside?

Jon (to Security): Hey, man were just getting a drink.

TCE: So do you guys have an interest in Country?

Tim: Huge interest.

TCE: Traditional?

Tim: Hank (Williams) mostly, Bob Wills, Hank Thompson - all a big influence. Early stuff by…

Security: Guys you got to leave man.

We ignore security and carry on with the interview

Tim: Old country like the original “Sun” stuff. That was an influence.
Jon: Johnny Cash.
Tim: Old bluegrass stuff.
Jon: The Gunn Club.
Tim: The Gunn Club’s not country.
Jon: Link Wray was a good influence.

Tim to Jon:
I’ll kill ya soon as look at ya (both rock back on their bar stools laughing).
Tim: Ok, Link Wray, The Scientist – an Australian band - one of my favorite bands.
Jon: I made fun of them for like a decade.
Tim: There’s others – Buffalo, Birthday Party, Taste – Rory Gallagher old band. Early Saints, Beat Time – an amazing band. That was three knuckle dragging guys, Joe six-pack guys. Just a bass, drum and the most amazing slide player with this guy barking over the top. They have this record called “Shovel” that is great. I manage this record store in Red Bank called Jacks. We get a lot of cool stuff in. It’s right next to Kevin Smith’s comic shop. Bruce Springsteen comes in a lot. We did music for one of Kevin’s side projects called “Vulgar.” He was the executive producer. We have songs on it.
Jon: It’s like a male clown being raped.
Tim: Yeah, Howard Stern is on it too. Nothing like going straight to the top.

TCE: Are you guys trying to get any kind of airplay with this record?

We’re not really looking for airplay. We’re just doing it because we dug it. And then Meteor City wanted to put it out so we were happy with that.

TCE: You put it out yourselves first right?

Jon: No it was on an independent label called All Indy. The guy was really cool – full of enthusiasm but just really never got the connections. I think they have since gone out of business.

TCE: Did you shop it out?

Tim: Oh yeah, Columbia, Sony, Warner had no interest.
Jon: A&M had no interest.
Tim: Most of them just said, F**K You!
Jon: Steve Earl’s label showed some interest.

TCE: How did Meteor City get involved?

Jon: They know ALL things about Monster Magnet so they jumped to put it out.
Tim: Then they heard it they said, “Well we can’t go back on our word.”
Actually we put a little disclaimer out saying, “Not quite like Monster Magnet.”
Tim: More like “Lobster Magnet.”
Jon: And everything is misspelled. Tons of misspellings on the jacket.

TCE: Do you think there will be a second Ribeye record.

Tim: Oh yeah, we already have six or seven songs written.
Jon: Right after the “Gallery of Mikes” record is finished – hopefully next year.
Tim: See we write a bunch of songs but not all of them fit under one name so we have three different bands and put the songs under the band it fits with hence; The Gallery of Mikes, The Ribeye Brothers and The Carlsbad Trio. The Carlsbad stuff is a lot like the Ribeye stuff. The Gallery of Mikes is more like Stooges – actually more like Union Carbide.
Jon: One of the greatest bands ever.
Tim: We got to tour with them.
Jon: In my opinion Union Carbide out Stooged the Stooges and out Stoned the Stones. But that’s my opinion.

TCE: So, tells us how the evolution began.

Jon: Tim started doing all the drums and the vocals and I played the guitar.
Tim: Then I said, “What are you doing in my house – get out!”

TCE: Would you consider this a musician record?

More like a Zappa record. Low brow rock country shit.
Jon: More like no brow.
Tim: We didn’t consciously say, “Let’s get weird on this shit.” It just made sense.

TCE: What about the lyrics then?

Jon: Oh, they’re weird.
Tim: Jon gave me a tape of his music and I would go to this truck stop out in Edison New Jersey and sit there in my car till four in the morning writing lyrics. Driving helps me come up with lyrics but when your driving and writing your swerving all over the road. So, I’d pull into a parking lot and write them down in my sketchpad.
Jon: I like to play guitar while I’m driving but it’s pretty difficult.

TCE: Would you consider yourselves an actual working band?

Tim: Oh yeah. Jim and Jason are both in “Lord Sterling” a really amazing Jersey band that sound like MC5 meets Hawkwind meets Pink Floyd.
Jon: They remind me of Jesus Lizard.
Tim: But yeah, we might tour with this if there is enough interest.

TCE: Is the Monster Magnet connection positive for the band.

Tim: Yeah, but a Monster Magnet fan might find this a leap to get into.
Jon: But the connection with our day job is good.

Security: Interview over guys. You gotta leave NOW!

If I Had A Horse…defines two guys obsession with music for music’s sake. They dabble in and “explore” elements of Country, Rock, Garage, Rockabilly and even a bit of Punk (more in attitude). Theirs is a journey of psychedelic romp with plenty of Link Wray guitar riffs, which even comes close to Social Distortion at times. It all gels on tracks like the B3 Hammond-heavy “Bootful Of Piss”, “How Does It Feel” and the cover of the Beatles’ “Don’t Pass Me By.” Packed with a notepad of clever, yet catchy lyrics, songs like “Drinkin’ and Stinkin’” make this record a very funny yet entertaining listed. “Walkin’, talkin’, Drinkin’ and Stinkin’ / I’m down at the bottom / It’s a place I know so well / I’m tired of lying face down in my own puke…I still aint got your scratch / Better open a can of whup-ass/ Put it on my bill/ I swear that I am good for it.” The combination of the hippy, echoed guitar and humorous lyrics carry the record through most of its experimentation. The charm does wear thin in places. “Steakhat” is a disaster as is “Love Theme” but for fans of the Tubes, B52s, Devo and the like, this should be right up your alley.