Full disclosure: Monster Magnet are one of my all-time favorite bands, a lock in my top five for sure. A mixture of motorcycle fumes, LSD, and weird ass 70s Marvel cosmic comics, nobody sounds quite like them. Frontman Dave Wyndorf has been the sole constant in the revolving lineup, and his intergalactic pronouncements and demented songwriting are two of the major things that make the band unique. Hot on the heels of last year's Milking the Stars, a significant reworking of the previous year's Last Patrol, he's decided to tackle 2010's Mastermind. Cobras and Fire sounds like a totally different beast, and in a great way. You can hear/see for yourself with the debut of the "Watch Me Fade" lyric video at the bottom. Here's what Dave has to say about it:
"Watch Me Fade" features one of my favorite musical combinations: heavy, old school organ and fuzz guitar. When I hear that sound I want to sing like some mad preacher. The lyrics started out as a love song but wound up being a paranoid rant about living in the 21st century. I'm sure somebody out there can relate. And...it's only 3 minutes and 6 seconds which has to be some kind of record for Monster Magnet. Rock on!"
He also has a lot of other things to say, so I got on the phone with him for an exclusive interview.
How’s it going?
Good. What’s up with you?
Where are you at?
Oh wow, you guys are fucking dying, man. I go out there like three times a year for forever, and I’ve never seen it that dry out there, like, ever. I don’t think I’ve ever felt it, and I could feel it. Everything was crunching. It was weird.
Yeah, it’s pretty bad. But the rich people still have their beautiful lawns.
Not for long, dude. It all comes down the wash. But I know, I can’t believe it, though, that they actually still – as long as those guys have it, everybody thinks “well, it’s not that bad of a problem if those guys have it,” but they’ll go down the great swirling vortex in the end. They’ll have a green lawn, and then they’ll just disappear into the void. They’ll never see it coming.
There are less interesting ways to go, right?
Sure! No, you want to be there. LA is everything, but they’re going to get it first. The people that promise the most will get it first. It’ll be LA and Washington.
That’s a nice, apocalyptic note to start things on, huh?
Woo hoo! Just kidding.
So why did you decide to revisit Mastermind?
You know, for a couple reasons. There is no integrity here. It was like, I wanted to – I wasn’t done with Last Patrol, so I reimagined that, because I felt like I wasn’t done, like “there’s still stuff I want to do, how did this happen?” So I did it, and at the same time, I thought to myself, “well, I had so much fun with this, why don’t I do it to the other Napalm record?” Mastermind is on Napalm, so there wouldn’t be any trouble legally to do it. And, it would be something I could do in between tours, tinker around with it between tours, and I can put it out so I could have something out while I took a break. I could have something out there, and it wouldn’t just be like Monster Magnet Live in Berlin for the 19,000th Time. It would actually be something cool. It was something I thought would be easier to do than write and record a new record. So that was really the reason, not because Mastermind was calling me to do it, it was just because something was there and I wanted to fuck around. And after it’s all done, I’m glad it’s out there because I think it’s cooler than the original.
How much of it is just playing around with the original tracks and how much of it is new recordings?
Pretty much all new stuff except for some of the drums. And some of the cases, I even redid the drums. It became a lot bigger project than I anticipated it to be. It was like, “everything on this record sucks, I’m going to have to replace everything.” I didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I heard on the master tapes. The stuff was recorded and done at a time where I was kind of on my game but not completely on it. I had a lot of help from my coproducer at the time, and in retrospect I looked back at it and went “I didn’t authorize any of this shit,” and I took out all of the plug-ins. There was a lot of digital illegality going on, you know? False guitar tones and – the older I get the weirder I get about this, “that’s not cool, that’s really not cool, take it off, take it off!” I remember my coproducer, Phil [Caivano] – he’s more like the engineer on this thing – was just like, “Do you really want to do this? Do you want to set up the band and record a new record? Because there’s nothing left.” There wasn’t, there was really nothing left except for “dun dun dun,” like a couple drums, and I was like “fuck!” But I was already in it, and I’d already signed the contract, so I had to do it. So I was like, “well, fuck it, no.” The band, everybody else was like doing stuff, you know? We’d just toured on and off for three years straight and everybody else is doing things – somebody’s in Florida, and another guy’s having babies or something, and I was like, “we can’t call everybody back. All right, just pick it apart.” So we took it all off, almost all of it. Then we set up in a chair in Phil’s house, which is around the corner from my house, and I went, “all right, I’m going to sketch out what’s going to be on the record,” meaning I’ll just go in there with a rough guitar, organ, percussion, and put a sketch out first. And then we go back and redo it according to the sketch, except with somebody who knows how to play, like Phil. Phil can really pull off the leads and the bass, I’m horrible at it, so I just put in the rough sketch. And then we sit together and go, “no! Yes! No! Yes!” until it sounded like something. As soon as it started sounding really odd, I knew we had it – “good! That sounds really weird. We’re done. Doesn’t sound anything like the original, we’re in a good position.”
I guess that’s the thing about technology – it makes it easy to ruin records, but it also makes it easy to go back and rerecord the album.
It’s the same old thing – no matter how good the technology gets, if you don’t pay attention every step of the way, something’s going to get away from you. Somebody has to make the decision as to what’s a finished record. Deadlines just make things go crazy. If I had paid closer attention to what was going on in the box while I was recording the thing – I was out on the floor while somebody else was in the control room – if I had paid attention more, I probably wouldn’t have even wanted to do this, I would’ve said “look, there’s nothing wrong with the record.” But because I wasn’t paying attention, and because technology can afford it to finish the album in a quick, timely manner, most of the stuff I would have a problem with kind of slipped under the radar and only came up later. And it bugged me for a long time. You’re right, though, the technology also allowed me to go back and take everything off, which is awesome – although really what I should’ve done was probably just taken the band and redid the whole thing. It probably would’ve been quicker. I had to take apart tons of stuff – it’s weird, there were so many tracks, it’s crazy.
So you think this’ll be the last time you do one of these reimaginings?
I think for a while – I definitely bit off almost more than I could chew, like, “oh my God, this is a whole thing.” In order to get all the touring in, plus doing this, and writing a new record, I ended up eating up half a year more than I wanted to eat up when I thought I was going to save half a year. So it will be the last one for a while. Unless someone wants to offer me money to do another one, I’ll be glad to go in and fuck around. See, fucking around with stuff, with already existing material – mine anyway – if I can change the vibe of it to a certain extent, and it’s not a complete ripoff – I don’t remix things, I completely redo it – it’s fun. For me, it’s something of an artistic accomplishment. I think it’s worth it if it sounds cool, for it to be floating around out there. If someone in two years, or five years, goes “what’s Monster Magnet about?” and they listen to Cobras and Fire, I don’t think they’ll say “This was Mastermind, this isn’t real!” They’ll think it is, because it is real. But I think I went too far, it’s time to write a new album.
***Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) drops October 2 on Napalm. Preorder it.