Red Bank’s lords of heavy rock and roll, Monster Magnet, have embarked on a curious process with their latest and ninth album, Last Patrol (Napalm Records). Taking on a brooding sensibility and psychedelic/space rock influences that haven’t been heard in their sound since their earliest goings, the Dave Wyndorf-fronted stalwarts are looking back even as they’re moving forward.
Last Patrol was released in October to wide acclaim, and to herald its arrival, Monster Magnet—now with The Atomic Bitchwax’s Chris Kosnik on bass alongside Wyndorf, guitarists Garrett Sweeny and Phil Caivano, and drummer Bob Pantella—have embarked on their first full U.S. tour in a decade. As they made ready to tell the world hello all over again, Wyndorf took some time out for the following Q&A:
First question: Is this it? Is this the LAST patrol?
No, no, this is not the last at all. I knew people were going to think that. Believe me, when I was titling it, I was like, “They’re gonna think it’s the last album,” and then I was, “Well, that’s actually kind of cool.” I have contractual obligations, so even if I wanted it to be the last one, it would be like, “This is the last good one!” or, “This is the last one, but then the contract obligates they put out two shitty ones.” It’s not. But I did toy with the idea. It’s a good way to write with purpose.
How are you looking at the prospect of touring the States again? It’s been, what, 10 years?
Yeah, I know. 10 years. We play the States once a year in New York, New Jersey and stuff, but that’s not the same thing. That’s not the same as going to Detroit and all these places. I’m looking forward to it just because I haven’t done it in a long time. I’d like to take a look around the country—especially the middle of the country, because I haven’t been there in so long. I go to L.A. all the time, and the Southwest, but I haven’t seen the rest of the places.
To me, it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to make sense, and it seems to me things are making a little bit more sense music-wise, the last two or three years than they did 10 years ago. For Magnet, anyway. There’s lots of cool stuff coming out now. It’s kind of a good time for whatever you want to call it—revisionist hard rock. Are we really gonna put “revisionist psychedelia and hard rock”—which never really goes away, but there’s a lot of good records out now. It’s interesting.
But there are bands that are maybe not breaking through commercially, like you say, but definitely making a go of it and getting at least some notoriety for what they’re doing.
Yeah, and possibly, maybe this is the music business finally shaking out. Maybe people are finally starting to find their foot on how to do this economically, tour bands and bands that’ll tour willing to take a hit financially because they believe in the music so much. I would love to see that happen. We may have to go back to a ‘70s commune thing.
It’s really expensive to tour. Nobody makes money, unless you sell tons and tons of t-shirts. You have to be “merch-oriented,” and “live-oriented” to sell the merch. And there’s a danger in that too, because a lot of bands, if you see some of these old nü-metal bands, and new, what I call “shit rock”—like Avenged Sevenfold and stuff that’s just the worst shit ever—and you can quote me on that—it’s just the worst shit ever (laughs). It’s totally needless, unwanted by any person with a brain. It’s like little kid music. It’s pop. Pop metal. No matter what they say, no matter how many curse words used, you know what it is.
Those guys design their career over selling t-shirts, based on live shows that sell t-shirts. So it’s like a circus. It’s a circus thing. It’s not a music thing. It’s makeup rock. That kind of thing, where the focus isn’t really on the music, it’s on the beat and the timing of the explosions and all this stuff, which I’ve got no problem with, I love big rock shows and stuff. But what are the people who are really into music to do when they’re up against these traveling circuses? The Slipknots of the world? They have to find a place, and I think they’re starting to find it.
Is that what this album is for you? Is this you finding that place?
Oh yeah. I’ve always had to find a place for Monster Magnet, because every time I go off on some obsessive whim, it’s a different angle. It’s a slightly different angle. And it’s always misunderstood, and I’ve never stayed in one place for too long—maybe I overstayed my welcome in a couple different styles—but I never stayed for too long for anybody to get an honest angle for what’s going on. And I played it so broad in the past that there’s a lot of misunderstanding. When you have a loud band and you’re signed to a major label, record stores are gonna put you in the “Heavy Metal” section. There’s just no way around it.
There’s no section in the store that says, “Real Rock.” Maybe that’s the thing we should make up: Real Rock. There’s no section in the store, so a lot of my sarcasm, innuendo, all that stuff goes out the window, if I play something like “Powertrip.” There’s a certain amount of people that buy into it, then the level of success is based on whatever record that was. But I’m not always staying the same.
So yeah, to find a place has been really difficult. So around the time where I was going off the big label, I started to find a place in Europe. And Europe’s great. “Play for these guys. Don’t play in America. America’s in a state of artistic stagnation. There’s nothing.” There’s very, very little in America for an artist. Why would you stay here? If people are more interested. They’ll nod. They’ll give nods to art. They’ll give “Likes” on Facebook, but will they go out and support it? No. They won’t. They’re too busy living their own lives and doing their own thing.
The star of the 21st century is each and every individual. They’re the star. “I’ve got a Facebook page. This is my magazine. Fuck everything else. The things I like, they define me. I’m not looking for any poetry. I don’t have the time for poetry. I don’t have the time to listen to anybody. Fuck you. Spiritualism is a waste of time, I’m just gonna gather up my favorite shit.” It’s like having your room and somebody will come and look at your stuff in your room. “This is what represents me. Let’s get on to me.” Which is fine.
The ultimate realization of a whole, the 20th century promise to everyone was, we trained people in the 20th century to idolize tv stars, radio stars, music stars, and it was only a matter of time before everyone could become their own media star. At least be appreciated for who they are, with the same tools that media stars had in the past. The visual. They get a visual, audio. Audio and video. So it makes sense to me that the mass of the people would turn away from paying any attention to seriously intricate sarcasm, innuendo, inside music. They take it from movies. They take it from that kind of stuff. Music just seems to be in a state for the mass populace, something to fall back on, something to represent themselves but then move on.
It ain’t the ‘60s and ‘70s anymore, and the ‘80s and ‘90s were just the last gasp of the ‘60s and ‘70s as we moved further and further away from music as poetry, poetry as music. A lot of people will fight me on this. Maybe I’m telling a bad story, but I don’t think it is. People grew up and had time to realize that was a one-time-only deal. Doesn’t mean the music’s gonna get worse, it just means it’s gonna be a little bit more in pockets. Pockets of people who appreciate not only music and experimentation, innuendo, sarcasm, blah blah whatever you want to say, musical styles, but also history and how all this music started. The lineage of music and how far it’s gonna go. A lot of the press has done terrible, terrible damage to music by putting labels like “cutting edge” and “fusion” on stuff that doesn’t do any of that. Any of it.
America’s like the three-star country, where people give out three stars to stuff. This is the traditional press. Because they don’t want to cover anything that’s gonna lose them any ratings (laughs). They need to hang on. It’s a weird world. It’s a very strange world. On one side, we have the amazing democracy of the internet, but on the other side, the internet is so big and so broad that people can get lost in the sauce. I see a lot of people out there who make great music and nobody gives a flying fuck about them, because they’re not “edgy enough” or they didn’t make the right “move.” Who knows?
All I know is I love what I do and I’ll go anywhere to share it with people who want to do it. The States wasn’t that place for a long time, but I’ll give it a shot again.
I don’t know if you’re there yet in putting a set together, but how would you blend the different eras of Monster Magnet?
In America? I think it’s gonna be pretty heavy Spine [Of God] and Dopes [To Infinity] and new album. Probably one off of Superjudge. Not much off the records in between there. I don’t see anything from… well, Powertrip, yeah. There’ll be stuff from Powertrip. So it’ll be Spine, Dopes, Superjudge, Powertrip. I don’t see anything from Monolithic Baby! There are some good songs on there, but it’s not in it for me right now. Europe maybe.
But it’s gonna be pretty old-centric. Old and brand new. Maybe “Hallucination Bomb” off of Mastermind, which really comes off great live—sounds better than the record. Some of the stuff that’s on records that may be like, “eh,” sometimes you do it live, and I reinvent this shit all the time too, sometimes it pulls off. But yeah, old, old.
Last Patrol is available now on Napalm Records. For more information, go to zodiaclung.com.