Following 2012’s nostalgia trip that was the “Spine Of God” 25th anniversary tour, Dave Wyndorf appeared to be on a high. Yet new opus “Last Patrol” sees him in a contemplative, downright melancholy state, a far cry from the gonzo anthems of “Dinosaur Vacuum” and “Space Lord”. Itching to find out what had taken the good ship Monster Magnet on such a course, we caught up with Dave to discuss, government conspiracies, George Orwell, psycadelia and possibly the darkest Monster Magnet album ever written. “Last Patrol” feels very dark and apocalyptic in tone. Why is that? “I wanted to look inwards on this album. Writers are always told to “write about what you know” so I wanted to make something which reflected my mood at the time. I looked back at our last record (2011’s “Mastermind”) and I asked myself what I liked and didn’t like about it. It was too long and I wanted to make something with more vibe and of a darker tone. As much as I love writing big rock songs, I wanted to focus on making a record that took you on a journey. “Last Patrol” is a midnight album an album for a lunar eclipse. It’s a risk as it’s not the most immediate album I have done but it was one I was willing to take!”
Reflective is not a term many fans would readily associate with Dave Wyndorf and company, yet “Last Patrol” sees Wyndorf in a more sombre mood with lyrics like “There’s no targets to aim for, no mountains to climb” on “” and disturbing closer “Stay Tuned” where he rasps about “The boys upstairs with the best and worst intentions” to whom is Dave referring? “Corporations, politicians, the man! People have more information than ever before available to them and they are choosing to ignore it! Instead of trying to develop real relationships with each other, they are wasting their time with Facebook! It’s not about having a thousand friends on social media; it’s about developing real relationships with people. People are so self-obsessed, always wanting attention. People say to be they don’t have time to read the newspapers and see what’s going on in the world but they spend all day on Facebook! Facebook is one big flirt; it’s flirting without getting fucked!”
Science fiction has long been a metaphor for Dave Wyndorf to vent his personal demons. While many fans will notice, the zany psycadelic party tunes the double “M” are famous for, they often miss the dark undercurrent of social commentary which comes from Wyndorf’s punk rock roots. “I don’t want to just write escapist fantasy. I have written about space and women and things like that but only an idiot could bury their head in the sand and not see what is going on in the world today. The situation in Syria is fucked! People say the president is doing a bad job but at the same time they have faith that this “culture of America” will see us through. They choose not to question authority. They’d rather ignore it sometimes. I think we are dangerously close to the rise of fascism in the world today. Fascists believe people want to be controlled and have their decisions made for them. We have to wake up before it is too late!”
Wise words indeed from a man whose parents lived through events like the great depression, Dave expresses the need for caution when it comes to the smokescreen of news, social media and celebrity gossip “We live in a world of constant distractions. While you are at home downloading porn, guys are working out new ways to take your freedoms away! These people don’t have your best interests at heart. It helps to be aware. When you read a story in the paper read between the lines and read your George Orwell.”
Despite all this talk of questioning authority and staying connected with humanity, Dave insists that “Last Patrol” was actually a fun record to make. “I had been looking to make a record like this for a long time. When we were touring “Mastermind” in Europe, I watched how our audiences reacted very positively to both the big rock songs and some of the more psycadelic moments. I wanted to make an album which reflected where I am in my life right now. I’m 56 now; I don’t want to jump up and down all the time. I have to be able to present these songs live too. I went with my heart and we left our producer (Matt Hyde) out of this one. Phil Caivano and I wanted to do something more D.I.Y. It was mainly Phil, me and our drummer Bob this time around. Phil came up with all these weird octaves. He really understands what I want when it comes to a certain sound. If I say, “I want to get that early Alice Cooper sound where the guitars sound like a kid playing through the radio” he know what I am talking about. The last album was very thick and used many Gibson guitars but on this record, we simplified things. There are a lot of single string riffs and acoustic parts on the record. I think “Paradise” has about one chord on it. There are some loud parts but we wrote some very intimate songs too.”
Clearly, Dave has been working on these ideas for a long time considering just after “Mastermind” was released he was talking about using pianos and strings in the future. “I still plan to do that but maybe on a solo album. I want to keep working with new songs and keep it fresh for me. I need to be the cook in the kitchen tasting all the new dishes! This album is 99% about me personally. I have always tried to write about what I know, using metaphors to make it more exciting. Instead of saying, “I’m horny”, I’d sing about gallons of lava spilling from a volcano! That was always the way I kept to my punk rock roots and explored my psycadelic influences at the same time!” At this point Wyndorf lets out his familiar infectious laughter. It is comforting to know this sly old fox still maintains his sardonic wits about him. “I don’t want to seem all depressed and paranoid as I’m not but I had some things to say on this record. Whether the next record sounds like this, I don’t know. It will be all about the vibe at that moment. I feel privileged to be of an age where I grew up without technology. It makes me appreciate more what we have now. I still don’t understand it when bands want to make something so sanitised and cleaned up. It’s not rock n’ roll. I love some pop music. That song “Stay” by Rhianna is great. Some of that is great for light relief but too much metal is the same. I did this interview with a guy from some metal publication who was all “Have you heard the new Avenged Sevenfold? Do you know how many records those guys are selling?” and I’m like, I don’t fucking care! Probably because I’m not 14 and don’t have tits but whatever!” Dave cackled mischievously. I love how sensitive some of those guys are when you say you don’t listen to every metal band out there right now.”
Metal purists be damned! Dave Wyndorf has been blazing his own trail for over a quarter of a century. One creative pursuit Monster Magnet took on was working on an alternative version of their classic “Superjudge” which they released on vinyl under their own Studio 13 imprint. Could we expect any more of these releases to come to light? “Well we are working on a sister record to this album right now! It’s a reimagining of “Last Patrol” which will come out next summer. It’s going to be out on Napalm but it’s the same kind of thing as that vinyl release. There will be a lot of 60s style organ on the record. It’s going to be a trip.”
Able to indulge his appetite for cosmic rock in any way he pleases, Dave will shortly be embarking on Monster Magnet’s biggest U.S. tour for over a decade. Considering his comfort in the studio, what makes the veteran frontman still heed the call of the road? “It’s about human interaction. When I am singing and I see people singing our songs I still get a kick out of it. I still enjoy the romance of touring. Who wouldn’t want to wake up at 6am and see the Alps out of the of the tour bus window?” So despite exploring the darker recesses of his mind on “Last Patrol” Dave Wyndorf remains ever youthful in spirit, with U.K. shows booked for January this is one mothership whose journey is far from over.
Monster Magnet’s “Last Patrol” is out 15th of October on Napalm Records
Manchester Academy 2 – 24 November 2012
Having returned two years ago following a resurgence in fortunes with a new album and a new focus, Monster Magnet showed the world that they were still an active force to be reckoned with. While not about current glories, this evening was about taking a trip down memory lane to revisit the glorious “Spine Of God” opus. Prior to the sprawling psycadelic freak show rolling up we got a taste of German act My Sleeping Karma. Their otherworldly noise filled the hall, alternating between delicate ambience and driving Sabbathian riffage. The instrumental quartet are mesmerising, as is the light show, with images of Buddha amongst the intoxicating cosmic vibes that sweep you up and draw you to them. Their watertight percussion and shimmering keyboard passages should bring them a lot of attention in the future.
It was then time for the main fix with the acid fried strains of “Pill Shovel” kicking in to gear. Monster Magnet are in their element. Jim Baglino waved his Rickenbacker bass like a broadsword while guitarists Ed Mundell and Phil Caivano peel off hedonistic swathes of sonic excess with Bob Pantella keeping it tight at the back letting the rhythm do the talking. It was encouraging to see a few white haired audience members rubbing shoulders with young teens, proof positive of the intergenerational appeal of this enduring act who took up the iconic chorus of “Nod Scene” with gusto.
Dave Wyndorf loved every minute, thrusting himself against his guitar much to the enjoyment of female audience members as the band blended ‘Doors style 60s psyche with a leviathan dose of Hawkwind meets Stooges bluster. The intoxicating mood lighting helps make the acoustic tinged “Zodiac Lung” a truly engrossing trip but before you can become too lost in the mellow cosmic vibe the band kicked into the riff driving bad ass that is “Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother”. Ending the “Spine…” portion of the set with a song about “Having sex on LSD” “Ozium” shows a more subtle side The ‘Magnet before the encore saw “Powertrip” era hit “Tractor” make a welcome appearance. While “Space Lord” and more recent hits didn’t make the cut tonight, this was an evening of celebration of the double M’s lesser touted works which felt like more than just a retrospective but a regeneration of the band’s lusty and vital catalogue.