MONSTER MAGNET's Dave Wyndorf INTERVIEW: "I Just Try to Pretend I Can Live in My Own Fourth Dimension."
The definitive lords and sovereigns of stoner rock, Monster Magnet have been churning out groovy head-snapping goodness for nearing on three decades.
Led by the enigmatic frontman Dave Wyndorf, the New Jersey five piece are set to unleash their 10th studio album Mindfucker onto the world on March 23rd via Napalm Records, but not before the mad-genius himself caught up with Metal Injection to dissect the state of the music business in a candid and pull-no-punches interview.
"I had done a couple of long-form psych records that were decidedly melancholy," begins Wyndorf, hyped and in rare form for the release of Monster Magnet's first record since 2013s Last Patrol. "You’ve got to go down that route and get tripped out and weird. I kind of put that away and say alright, enough. Time to rock. It’s time to rock.
"It’s a matter to me of sticking to the things that I love. In the old days they would call that roots, so sticking to your roots and trying to get a different mood to those roots. It has worked out. I haven’t got tired of it so far. Believe me, if I got tired of it I wouldn’t do it."
Wyndorf has no disillusions on the state of the music business. The industry, particularly as it pertains to rock and heavy metal, is in another universe compared to when Monster Magnet released their definitive opus Powertrip in 1998.
It's all clicks and downloads and shares and streams now, with artists endeavouring to push forward at their own peril.
"It really did change the game, and it’s better and worse at the same time," he says. "Better because people now have more opportunities to listen to your band, but worse because it’s like… I’m going to try to release my snowflake today in a snowstorm. Here it goes, did you see it? Well I kind of saw it, maybe I’ll catch up to it later. In that respect it has kind of evened out. Your chances aren’t any better on getting popular than they were back then."
The five years in between the bands sophomore 2013 outing with Napalm Records and Mindfucker was the longest gap between records in the lengthy history of the group, something Wyndorf attributes to the changing medium of artists putting food on the table.
"I got wrapped up in more touring than ever before, because that’s where the money is. In order to survive you have to tour more now. You don’t get paid for the music anymore. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. How many good albums is that going to produce? ‘Hey guess what, what you do is worthless! Now get out there and dance like a monkey!’
"The whole thing was you had to make a great record or you couldn’t go on tour, or they wouldn’t invite you on tour," he adds. "Now the system, for whatever reason, is the other way around. It’s odd. That’s why there’s this big backwards mentality where people keep looking to the past for the pinnacle of their bands ‘success’. That’s the only thing the promoters can attach to. How many records could they sell back when records were selling?"
Wyndorf has always considered himself a salesman when it comes to mass-producing, and in many cases, hand delivering his craft to the masses. Whether or not his records sell in bulk, where the band ends and begins is on stage, where the connection to the audience cannot be measured in clicks or downloads.
"Door to door salesmanship has always worked for me. That’s why I stay on the road as much as possible. It’s very gratifying," he admits. "Real time is very precious, real time is called real time because it’s REAL. You can get out of the Bandcamp mentality and iTunes and Spotify and say alright, I know somebody rented my music as part of a package – I know I’m part of a bundle. It’s like look how many people! Yeah, well a lot of people go to YouTube and watch a video of a monkey pissing on a babies head too. Live is really important. That’s where you go and actually look them in the eye and say here’s what I got. It’s really, really fucking cool. Live rock ‘n’ roll has always been cool, and I’ve been doing it for a long time, but it’s even cooler now. To me it strikes me harder now knowing that there are people who will never get it. There are people absolutely satisfied with never going to live shows.
"I don’t look at my output like, I think this record will do great. I look at it as when someday I’m lying dead in the grave someone will discover all of these albums and think that’s cool. I don’t think of being able to puncture anything now. Nobody punctures anything now without some sort of scandal attached to it."
And what does he think of this new consumer culture that has dominated the music landscape for the better part of a decade? One where quality is offset by an influx in quantity? Where any Joe Somebody with a guitar and amp can post a YouTube clip covering Meshuggah or Led Zeppelin or Carly Rae Jepsen?
"It’s hard to burst out in bubble land, because there’s so much of it and there’s no focus," Wyndorf says. "There’s not any real vanguards of quality out there. You don’t see any critics or any quality websites, there’s just niche websites. There’s just one place, no Alamo of quality that says guess what, the P.J. Harvey record is as fucking great as the TLC record. That’s really what should be going on. If it was that way at least there would be a way for people to know that there’s good music, of all different genres. Maybe you want to pay attention to quality more than quantity. But hey man, Americans love quantity. They love it. They would rather have 90 pieces of shit at a lower price than two pieces of gold."
Ending on a decidedly interesting note, Wyndorf, who has always had one foot firmly planted in some far-off nebula, ponders his place in the grand scheme.
"I don’t know where I fit in this world," he says. "I just try to pretend that I can live in my own fourth dimension universe."
And with that, he goes. Off to melt a face, to blow a mind – to throw his snowflake into the unending snowstorm.