I recently had the unique opportunity to interview the lead singer of the band that my band, BlackOcean, will be opening for at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, on Jan. 14. Of course, I’m talking about New Jersey’s own, Monster Magnet, the stoner rock band that helped pave the way for all stoner rock bands out there today.
Head honcho Dave Wyndorf, 55, is the only remaining member of the original lineup, which he started back in 1989 with guitarist John McBain and drummer Tim Cronin. Since then, Dave seems to have had a revolving door of musicians. The current live lineup consists of Riotgod lead guitarist Garrett Sweeny, rhythm guitarist Phil Caivano, bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella. After surviving a well-publicized drug overdose, Wyndorf got right back on the horse and released 4-Way Diablo, putting Monster Magnet back on the map.
In 2010, after some intense touring, Wyndorf and his new Monster Magnet cohorts headed back into the studio to record and release a heavier CD called Mastermind, for which they embarked on a massive European tour to promote. Monster Magnet’s latest tour brings them to the Starland Ballroom, where they will perform their 1995 hit CD, Dopes To Infinity, in its entirety along with some other great Monster Magnet classics.
I had the chance to speak to Dave Wyndorf the day before he left for Los Angeles to meet with the producers of the hit FX show, Sons Of Anarchy, to write some music for the show’s next season. Here’s how our conversation went:
So, the unique thing about this interview, Dave, is that my band will be opening for you on Jan. 14 at the Starland Ballroom.
Oh, no shit! What band?
I’m playing in a band called BlackOcean from Vineland down in South Jersey…
Vineland! We used to go down there and go fuckin’ crazy! We used to drive our ‘70s muscle cars down there and trip our balls off before anything was down there! This was like back in 1975. We’d just drive around listening to Hawkwind 8-tracks in old Camaros, and then we’d walk around like stunted pine trees going, “Where the fuck am I?” It was fuckin’ scary and terrifying! Hey, the state isn’t that big! I’m actually proud of you for covering all that ground!
Thanks! So, you’re playing Dopes To Infinity in its entirety. Is this something special that you’re doing for the home crowd or have you been doing this a lot while you’re on tour?
It just happens to be something we’re doing right now. We just did a five-week tour of Europe, including 36 dates across Europe doing Dopes To Infinity. We’ve been touring non-stop. Before that, we toured to support the Mastermind CD in the summer festival season and before that in the spring time, and we just wanted to stay on the road. We have a lot of albums, and we’re in the Monster Magnet music business, so we switch it up and started doing whole albums.
That’s funny that you mention that you’re constantly touring because I know back in 2007, you had some health issues, then you released 4-Way Diablo, but you made a statement that you weren’t happy touring anymore. Has that changed?
Yeah! It’s really changed! It’s pretty simple with what happened to me. What got me into trouble with the pills in the first place was too much touring, and it was badly planned. It was like go forever until you drop dead or lose your mind. So, naturally, I didn’t want to go back into the belly of the beast right away, but it’s like, I can’t stay away for too long. It was getting boring at home. I got better, I went out, and it was better than ever! [In his best Al Pacino impression:] “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in!” (Laughs) I’ve been probably having more fun in the last four or five years than I’ve had the whole rest of the time that I was in Monster Magnet.
Now, why did you pick Dopes To Infinity to do in its entirety rather than Powertrip, which is a CD that most would remember?
Well, I wanted to do this thing for a while. I like the idea of doing albums. Like I said, I really want to make Monster Magnet, as we are, a band that is not always selling their latest record, but is selling or performing everything they ever did. I’ve got nine records. There will be 10 records out by next year! Ten full albums of stuff! It just seems silly to just put them out and just forget them, so I was like, “We’ll do the whole album!” Dopes To Infinity, I picked because I knew that I was going to start this in Europe, and that was the first record that broke us. It was probably the first record that broke us in the States, too!
If that worked, I knew that I [could] do other albums, and maybe lead up to… Well, we’ll save Powertrip for a little while longer. It’s the biggest one, and it’s the easiest one to guarantee an audience, but I wanted to see if I can really get a hardcore audience for Monster Magnet albums. I’m not going anywhere. You’ll see Powertrip in like two years or something.
So, you’re playing the full CD along with other Monster Magnet hits?
Yeah, we come back for an encore. The whole Dopes set is actually longer than an hour. It’s a psychedelic experience, though. Some of the songs have been lengthened. There’s all kinds of special effects and stuff. It’s a trip! So, that whole thing takes over an hour! By the time, we’re done; it’s probably about two hours worth of music. It is long, but we’re used to doing Europe, where they demand that kind of stuff over there. They love music! It’s not just American music. They make plenty of their own music, but there is a bigger interest in music in Europe than in America, and that’s for sure. There’s a huge interest in live shows way bigger than the States. It’s the place to be for rock!
Did you ever think that you’d see Monster Magnet go this long when you formed the band?
No! Hell no! This is a labor of love, and a complete mutant fantasy! I never expected more than three people to like it. It was just me being obsessed with learning how to play guitar and buying a 4-track, where I was like “Woah! I love 4-track! I love guitar! This is really fuckin’ cool! Look what I can do!” I was all by myself. I would work all day at my day job and then I would go home and mess with a 4-track. I never expected people to actually like it.
You’ve come so far, too! When you first started Monster Magnet, did you ever expect to be remembered as a ‘stoner rock band,’ or at least lumped into that category?
No, because that term wasn’t even invented at that point. The category kind of came out after, and they always said we were the people who invented stoner rock. Where that comes from is when Monster Magnet first started, even before we had the name, we played under the name Dog Of Mystery. We had all different names like Dog Of Mystery, Heroin Mule and Nipple Tech. We were just fuckin’ around—me, Tim Cronin and John McBain, and then we got a gig at City Gardens in Trenton opening for Jane’s Addiction. This was back in ‘89 or ‘90 and we fooled them!
Somebody thought that we were a real band, and we were not a real band. We just played half-an-hour wah-wah versions of Grand Funk Railroad songs and we’d play tapes backwards and it sounded like backwards masking Satanism stuff where we’d play these wah-wah solos, but it was a brutal sound. So, we got this gig. We played it; we did the wah-wah, echo and everything—got of stage, and the sound man, this old hippie dude, goes, “Yo, the return of drug rock! Cool!” I was like “Wow! That sounded really good!” So, I put that on the first Monster Magnet single “Drug Rock! Drug Rock! Drug Rock!” After the single and the album came out, the British Press started writing ‘stoner rock.’ So, I think that’s where they got the thing from, which makes us and Kyuss the Godfathers of Stoner Rock, since they came in at the same time!
Now, your music, over the years has been a staple to the WWE. How did that happen?
WWE came to us at one point—I forget when that was, but I certainly needed the money. They were like, “Hey, do you want to write a song for one of our wrestlers?” I was like “Hell yeah!” and they just liked the whole idea! This was just after Powertrip, so I guess they were just into the leather pants version of Monster Magnet with the devil horns and stuff. So, I went up there, wrote a song and recorded it, and they totally backed it. They were really nice guys!
Now, what does the future hold for Monster Magnet?
Well, right now, we’re going to finish up these two shows in Brooklyn and Starland. Then, I go into writing mode for the next record, and I should be in the studio to record the next Monster Magnet record in April. That will take a couple of months, and right after that, we’ll go out and do a lot of festival shows in Europe, which we do every year, then go to Australia to do Dopes. We’ll come back and the record should be released at the end of this year or the top of 2013. Then we start the whole circus over again.
I’m also heading to L.A. to do some music for Sons Of Anarchy. I do the music for them sometimes and they use a lot of Monster Magnet stuff. They’re cool guys! The funny thing is that the show’s creator, Kurt Sutter, is a fellow Jersey boy and huge Monster Magnet fan, but I’ve never met him. Yeah, he’s a Jersey guy, though, and he remembered! It’s like he’s saying, “Hey, Monster Magnet, Jersey guys! Do some music!” It’s pretty cool!
One last question: How pissed are you that Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters stole your look?
(Laughs) Well, that look was a dime a dozen when I was a kid! It’s so funny that we’re like the last two guys standing around with that look! Once there were millions! You can say, “Hey, there’s that guy that works at the gas station!” (Laughs) Now, that the world has gone Metrosexual and everyone is fuckin’ grooming all the time, it’s kind of disturbing! You really feel like Aqualung walking around out there (laughs)!
Monster Magnet will perform Dopes To Infinity on Jan. 13 at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and again on Jan. 14 at the Starland Ballroom. For more information, go to zodiaclung.com.