Space Lords Monster Magnet have just released their new album Mindfucker and it’s a hard rocking and riff filled monolith of a record with even more of a raw proto-punk vibe added to the bands powerful music. We had a chat with frontman Dave Wyndorf to hear all about the record and its influences as well as the bands awesome visuals, crazy live shows rock stars, playing with Hawkwind and the influence of sex, drugs & rock n roll on the band.
Your new album Mindfucker is out now. How did the creation and recording of the album go?
It went well, it was created pretty fast. It was created in chunks but I like the music in, like, three weeks, I sat down and just decided to write a straight ahead sex, drugs and rock n roll record. Short songs as opposed to the last one which was much longer songs. This one I just wanted to kill it and I just wrote it in sequence really, like what would the first song of the set be? I thought of it like a live situation, first, second, third song and just kicked it out on garage band and then it took it to out drummer and we figured out how to make it exciting so it was pretty spontaneous and then the recording part wasn’t so because I had to do it in chunks because of other peoples scheduling problems but I tried to keep it spontaneous with the memory of the spontaneous creation through the recording!
The music on the album certainly lives up to its title! Did you want to name the album something that lived up to the songs on it?
Oh hell yeah, at first I had another name for it and it just wasn’t cutting it, it just wasn’t a very memorable title and then Mindfucker came around late in the game when I was writing the lyrics and Mindfucker is an old term that I’ve not used since I was fourteen! It’s a great way to explain anything that you can’t really understand, especially when you’re fourteen! Anything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to What the man is telling you to do, whether it be Nixon at the time or whatever, it’s like man that’s a mindfuck! It’s real Beavis and Butthead you know! And also you can get mindfucked by a girlfriend very easy, she’s play mind games, she’s mindfucking me! As soon as I put that as a song title, there was no question. Not only is it a title I really should have called a record a long time ago but it’s 2018, if a rock band can’t call a record Mindfucker in 2018, when can they call it?! It has to be.
The album has a punky and raw feel to it as well. Was this rawness a key factor in making the album?
Yeah, it definitely was. I tried to do a couple of experiments in the studio making a little bit more hi-fi and it kind of ruined it. It sounded way modern, almost to the point. I wanted it to sound a little foggy and a little weird. It is based in proto- punk after all and I wanted it to be straight ahead rock but still Monster Magnet. Just a little bit psych and it came out the way it was and I tried to up the fidelity of it in certain ways and it definitely took away from the vibe.
And then did you record it the way it sounds now?
Yeah, I was like it doesn’t sound sound good like this, let’s fuck it up! A lot of double guitars which maybe didn’t need it but Ed made it sound much soupier and s little bit thicker. Some effects like slapback in the vocals that some people would probably consider too much, just to get it kind of creepy. I buried the vocals in spots to make it a little bit creepier too. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing but it seems to want to be this way, the music wants to have this vibe. It’s fun to experiment and it’s amazing to see what can be considered the best possible way to record something awesome but often it’s not.
Is that a way that you’ve worked before or was it specifically for this record?
Yeah? I’ve worked in all different ways. I’ve cleaned it up to the tits and I’ve done it completely pro and I’ve done it way, way down at the other level, totally lo-fi. I keep fucking around with it as I go, it’s fun to do! It fun to figure out what the sweet spots on different records are depending on the material. Again, there doesn’t seem to be any right way or wrong way to do it. I’m a big fan of records from the early 70s when production techniques were all over the map.
Just being more experimental?
Yeah, it didn’t matter and they all shared the same space on the record shelf. You could have a Yes album next to a Uriah Heap album next to a Sky & The Family Stone record or Black Sabbath and all the records sounded completely different. Some of them were louder than others. There wasn’t as much of an industry standard but it didn’t bother me, it made the records individual to me. Nowadays there’s a lot of what they call metal, which I’m not but we get put in there a lot. A lot of these records have an industry standard sound which is kind of disturbing, like that’s the most upfront, digitally compressed guitar sound I ever heard and it’s exactly like the other bands!
There’s a big Stooges feel on the albums it seems.
That dirty, sleazy rock n roll attitude they had, you can’t imagine them being told how their guitars should sound!
I think people tried to! Someone said turn that shit down, but there’s only so many ways you can control that beast! Probably at that point, you’ve got a twenty year old guy with a fuzz on and what now would be called a vintage Marshall stack and a Stratocaster and they only way they know how to play is on 11! That’s the only way you can do it and the engineers would have to deal with that!
You always have such great videos and the video for your new single Ejection is amazing as was the one for Mindfucker. Do you always want to have such mind blowing visuals to enhance the music of Monster Magnet?
Yeah, I always think of it especially as per song on an individual basis but to me, Magnet was always intended to be visually evocative. That was the thing, and that’s the way I write my lyrics to try and be as visually evocative as possible. Even if I was writing about something normal like breaking up with my girlfriend, I’d try and write that song as dramatic and visually evocative as possible so I use metaphors. Exploding planets. Supernovas. Biblical references. Natural disasters. An absolute freak out, like I said, everything on 11! Most of the time I want to get as much stuff out there as possible to support the song. It’s not a stretch for me to think more is better you know! I’ve overdone it in the past and will probably keep on overdoing it but it seems right. It seems like you have one track and it’s got to stand out in a bunch of other videos that people scroll through these days, why not try to make it like a cool comic book panel. It’s not a whole story, it’s just a panel which is why I try to avoid big storylines most of the time. All those one minute intros and some mini story which a lot of people do. Just get to the song and then blow it out!
Monster Magnet have always been the living embodiment of sex, drugs & rock n roll. Would you still say this the case for the band in 2018?
I guess we try! I mean the drugs are gone for me. I pushed it to the limit a long time ago and the drugs, funnily enough, never were as this band goes, the biggest part the band. I started off singing about drugs because it was part of my childhood and part of the culture. When I was a little kid, the formative years, it was basically bong culture. Late sixties to early to mid seventies American drug culture which was more than just drugs, it was everything. It was posters, it was books, it was comics. It was just saturated with. blacklight! I was in that generation, that shirt generation between 69 and 75 where everything was black light and it was just as hyped as it could possibly be and I thought that was the coolest thing in the fucking world! The cars looked cool, big muscle cars driving around. Everyone was high but it wasn’t the drugs as much as it was the visuals that got me and the music so that’s what Monster Magnet was all about. The sex part probably filled in for the drugs for me because as a nerd teenager, o never got any so when I finally got into a band and got to do it, I ran after it like a maniac! Like any sex starved teenager would! That’s what it was, it was like well, it’s all about the rock, it’s all about the music and then it’s all about girls and it remains so to this day. It’s insane, how long it’s gone!
You’ve said before that rappers are the modern day rockstars, do you still feel the same about that or do you think there’s a new wave of rockstars coming through these days?
I don’t know, that’s a good question. I don’t know if rockstars can really exist these days. The system and the way things are I don’t think you can be one anymore. You can act like a rockstar but I do t think you could just be a rockstar because in order to be, let’s just say, in the old days rockstars were in their own world, the world of rock or whatever they’ve dusted, made money, lived, played in front of an audience, almost off the radar, they weren’t part of the mainstream. They crossed over into the mainstream, the mainstream would cover them the way they would cover a circus animal or something and I know it was different in the UK because it was broadcast on tv, you had tv shows but over here that stuff existed without any knowledge of parents. The parents were like what the fuck are you guys listening to, where are you going and so, everything was fine in that world of rock and it never crossed over to the mainstream and everything was successful and moving along without it but now everybody’s a star for one reason or another and they use the word rockstar, how can they be that thing. They use the word a lot and anyone who wants to be a rockstar, I guess, could be but there is a big exception. A lot of these people calling themselves rockstars don’t rock. Where’s the rock?! Do you k is what I mean, it sucks! So I don’t know if that can happen again.
You’re co-headlining the Sunday night of the Desertfest with Hawkwind in May. You must be looking forward to that?
Oh my god, we’re playing with Hawkwind, it’s a dream come true. It’s insane and I’m so honoured to be doing this. Man, I saw Hawkwind when I was thirteen, I saw Space Ritual in New York City when I was thirteen, I snuck out of my house to see it and it was one of those things, there’s my psyche before Hawkwind and my psyche after Hawkwind, that was it! That was THE show of my life. It was like holy shit and to think that if somebody told me when I was thirteen that I’d be playing with them now, I would’ve dropped dead! This is it and we’re playing at The Roundhouse! Amazing!
What are your touring plans after that, once the album is released and are you playing any of the summer festivals as well?
We’re trying to get as many summer festivals as possible. I know we’ve got a full on headline tour of the States at the beginning of September. Through the dimmer, we’ll try to get as many festivals as possible and maybe Australia too.
Will you be playing much material from the new album?
I want to try and play as much as I possibly can, at least five or six songs because I think this stuff will work really well live and it was written for that. I’ve been way past that stage where your older albums tend to carry more weight than your newest ones. It’s just the nature of the beast so I always have to pay attention to what people want and if they want the older stuff, they get it but at the same time I have to nudge them into the future. It’s a bands job but it’s weird, I don’t think anyone thought that rock n roll would get this old. You have to try this shit all the time!
In a live situation, do you prefer playing new material rather than songs you’ve played again and again?
I prefer playing anything that’s going to work so I’m not going to be embarrassed about it. If Space Lord worked once, it’ll work a million times but at the same tie, in order to remain sane you have to play some new stuff. If it’s the type of stuff that’ll work in a live situation, I’ll play it. Sometimes I write records that don’t, like the last one Last Patrol, that stuff was pretty melancholy and a lot of it was purposely melancholy to put it mildly and more cerebral to put it in a better light. I probably would’ve performed that better in a situation where people were actually sitting down but you get into a rock n roll situation where people are standing up and you play somewhere like Koko and people are standing with their arms folded, then you better give them something that’s gonna work live! Or they’ll either turn around or throw shit at you so it’s my job now to pay attention to what new stuff goes out and what stays in and that’s the criteria. Once I get out into a live situation, all bets on the new record are off and you don’t have to play it because it’s new, it’s just got to work live.
You’ve toured with so many bands over the years already but who would you love to tour with in the future and what makes a good bill for Monster Magnet?
There’s so many, I mean nowadays I just look at what’s coming out of Europe, in the quote-unquote stoner genre and garage rock. There’s lots of bands and there’s one band from the UK called Table Scraps and I think they’re fucking amazing and they’re coming with us. I asked them, I just went in there on Facebook and gave them a message like are you guys available for a tour?! That’s real rock n roll, Table Scraps really do it you know. They kick the ass out of most metal bands. I try to avoid, when I can what people would call purposely obvious commercial adventitious tours, of course if we were asked to open for Metallica or something we’d do it you know. I try to keep it strange and different. I don’t want to get caught up in anything, I mean I’m not a super young man anymore so I don’t want to get automatically caught up in the old mans club because I don’t feel like an old man and sometimes you can do that by going with what’s suggested by algorithmic concert promoters. I try to avoid wang dang doodle guitar players and uninteresting metal pop bands, stuff like that we could get on, they’d probably give us more of an audience but I’d rather play with someone like Table Scraps who really fucking get it , they’re a real rock n roll band there’s no doubt about it. Listen to their music and your like that’s it! That’s the kind of shit that I look for most of the time. In a dream world I’d dig up Jimi Hendrix’s fucking corpse and put him up there but that’s not gonna happen!
But you do get to play with Hawkwind!
Yeah, we get to play with Hawkwind! I mean fucking Hawkwind, Who are still alive, unbelievably so, who would’ve thought!!
The cover of Mindfucker features the iconic Bullgod. How did you come up with the idea of the Bullgod mascot and was Motörheads Snaggletooth an inspiration for it?
Yeah kinda, I didn’t mention Motörhead when the Bullgod was made but I just wanted an iconic figure and it was a joke really. I wasn’t really serious about much of anything, it was like right, we need some sort of pagan idol and I took out a toy I had, just a plastic toy that was a really goofy looking pagan idol from some toy set, it might have been with He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe and i was like this thing is so stupid, it’ll work! We put it on a poster and took a picture of it on the psychedelic poster, put Monster Magnet on it and it was, there it is, great! Those were the days when I’d just started talking about Satanic and pagan idolatry, anything that would lend some goofy gravitas to the whole thing. A friend of mine, Rob Leecock, did the Bullgod and he. Said this is kinda like Eddie or Motörhead and I said yeah, yeah that’s fine! I never thought he would last but here he is!
As you say it is iconic now!
Yeah, something to stare at you know. I kept thinking, when I was a kid I’d stare at posters while I was listening to records. You just sit in your room and stare at a poster when you’re fourteen or whatever and I thought, that’s what I need and he was the guy!
You played Dopes To Infinity in its entirety a few years ago and have re-released earlier albums like Tab and Superjudge. Do you enjoy revisiting the bands earlier material?
Yeah, it’s awesome. There’s a bunch of reasons, they make the band play better, everyone’s got to be on their game to do an album in sequence because albums in sequence aren’t always the best set. It’s not always the best live set as I was talking about before so you really have to make it work and that means playing it very well and it also means playing songs that have never been played live before. Number one advantage to me is that everybody in the band gets better at what they do. Their nuances get better and their chops get better, number two is that if it’s a record that’s been out there a whole so everyone has heard it, there’s no expectation for us to do anything else. Most of the people that come there aren’t going to say,’why didn’t you go this’ Shen they know what they’re getting and they’re into it. The third reason is that it’s something o always wanted to see when I was a kid and that never happened when I was a kid. It would’ve killed me for Sabbath had come out and come Master Of Reality in its entirety, I would’ve had a fucking heart attack and dropped dead from happiness! I love it, you win on every situation with it and we’re going to do that in the future. We’ll go those albums again.
You have had a long and storied career with the band. What have been some of the most memorable moments along the road with Monster Magnet?
Oh man, there’s lots of them. The roads great. I mean, being in a travelling rock band is like being in the circus. Every night is Saturday night so you’re pretty much with a bunch of people who want action and there’s a certain energy that goes on and all kinds of crazy shit has happened. Probably one of my favourite things is I simultaneously said the perfect word at a show and seemingly summoned lightning from the sky. It was the most Spinal Tap moment you could ever possibly imagine. Doing Spine Of God and teaching up to the sky and going ‘Centre Of The Universe’ and spidery, theatrical lightning came out of the sky and a drugged out crowd of East Germans almost believed that I had done it! I had Mother Nature as a light show and it was fucking awesome! If I was watching in the crowd, I would’ve said I don’t want to watch another concert again, that was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen! It’s that kind of stuff.