Monster Magnet’s Dave Wyndorf: ‘Stupid Is the New Smart’
By Katherine Turman
Just who is Monster Magnet singer/guitarist Dave Wyndorf, circa 2018? “Well, they call me the son of the cobra...I’m the one true master of sound. If you want some, nobody does it like me. I make all my music in outer space and I’m the stone cold future of the human race.” Actually...those are lyrics from “Want Some,” off MM’s latest, a 10-song slab rock goodness titled Mindfucker (which is out today, March 23). But the words could easily serve as a rallying cry for the album’s raison d’etre.
Wyndorf laughs. “Yeah, those lyrics are basically me blowing long and hard about how I’m the best option you’ve got, basically. You might as well just go for it. It’s 2018; this is no time to be subtle.” There is some subtly in Mindfucker’s lyrics, but musically, it is, to be politically incorrect, mostly balls-out raucous rock and roll.
Oh, and about that PC crap? “Political correctness has got to the point where it’s not fun to be a human anymore,” the frontman states. “It used to be that cool people who knew better could still make bad jokes. But now, no. NO,” says Wyndorf, who, at 61, has lived through several permutations of cultural norms. These days, “The creep radar is on. Finely tuned. I was talking to my sister the other day. I’m just going to resign from being a man. Cut it off. Did you ever think you’d get to the point where you’d go, this is IT?” he muses.”That this, now, is a culmination of thousands of years of civilization? The biggest clusterfuck, the biggest mind fuck. This is all we got?!”
As Wyndorf states in the bio/manifesto he penned to accompany/introduce Mindfucker: “Stupid is the new smart. What a bummer.” Calling from his New Jersey home, Wyndorf is as sharp and unfailingly cool as when he began Monster Magnet in 1989. MM has always been a smart band who played dumb -- if you consider ‘70s-influenced, deep bluesy psych-space rock “dumb”-- stoner rock. But don’t use that four letter word for Wyndorf. Behind the mirrored glasses, long hair and haze of cigarette smoke (maybe he’ll quit… one day), he’s one smart mindfucker.
On Mindfucker, his aural journey is complemented by band members Garrett Sweeny and Phil Caivano on guitars; bassist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella, who ably bring the songs to wild and wooly fruition. An organized type, Wyndorf had “begin writing” penciled into his calendar for January 20, 2016. Ooops, inauguration day. He began lyrics on the “Official affirmation [date] of the madness. I’m like, ‘Ok, let’s write this good-time record!’” He couldn’t help the words that flowed: “It looked like the Op-Ed Page of the New York Times! I was like ‘that’s not gonna work.’ But I couldn't not write those. We’re all slaves to our impulse. It was a nightmare. So I put it away for a week, and then hit it again.” Second go-round, he was again able to write the words the music dictated but managed to shift it more to the personal than the political. “But [politics] kept slipping in, so it became metaphors and double meanings. I wanted to have a vibe where, in some cool fourth dimension somewhere, there would be a radio station in 2018 where you hear [my songs], and you’re singing ‘Mindfucker, baby,’ and it’s about a girl, but at the same time, you can apply that to the Zeitgeist.”
Mindfucker is by no means a “throwback” though it was deliberately intended to have a “Detroit edge.” There’s a sense of raw urgency on new songs like “Ejection” that posses the soul of past hits like “Space Lord,” but with more of a driving feel than a greasy, slower, stony groove. “MC5, Stooges, Alice Cooper--that one tiny blink in the universe between ‘71 and ‘73 where Detroit was the center of the world. It was over really fast, but all the record companies came there. It really killed me, as a little kid, listening to those records: ‘This is REAL,” the singer reminisces. “Everything else was real, too: I was big fan of British rock—rock in general—but the Detroit stuff was more than rock; it was rock and roll, you know? It had a certain swagger to it. I’ve always had that in Monster Magnet’s music, but I never really featured it as the big feature, so I decided to bring out that aspect.”
He was successful, likely because it was embedded in his DNA, so the question “What would Wayne Kramer do?” didn’t have to be asked: it was subliminal. “I’m a complete mutant, so it’s not unusual to go down a wormhole that has nothing to do with the music we’re playing, like, ‘I wonder how Electric Light Orchestra did that on Eldorado?’ Next thing you know, it’s five hours gone. In this case, I didn’t have to research. It just came from natural conditioning.”
More natural conditioning came to play via the song ‘I’m God,” with lyrics that lead one to surmise that Wyndorf himself is a believer. “I’m a retired Catholic,’ he states. “It would be nice--a big friendly guy in the sky with a big white beard to hold me in his arms when it comes time.”
So Wyndorf imagines heaven rather than that other, more “metal” destination? “I would like to have the option--I could switch gears at the end, and kinda lobby for entrance,” he offers with a laugh. “I use God because it’s a way to put things in perspective. I like history. So I think [God] would be like, ‘I gave you guys a lot of chances. In the 20th century, you brought me Adolph Hitler, World War II, the Cold War. Ok. You learning your lessons yet?’ There’s no excuse not to learn,” Wyndorf believes. “When 20th-century media started there was no excuse. The information age is not the wisdom age, by the way, unfortunately... but it’s easier now to make better decisions. What do we do? We fuck it all up. So that’s why 'I’m God.' I think he would just bail, and be like, ‘I’m going to leave this project unfinished for now. I won’t destroy you, although I do have the power, because I’m riding a river of flame. You should be lucky that I’m just leaving you.’”
He has equally eloquent and amusing opinions on social media. He avoids it for the most part, not engaging in Twitter wars or Facebook trolls. “Twitter is like the Bataan Death March. That’s where the action is,” he quips. “Business-wise, people go, ‘You’re making a big mistake not jumping into [social media]. Access, access! I’m like, ‘If I provided access, nobody would even want it!’" While he’s not about lurking, he likes to be a New Jersey man of mystery. “When all is said and done, all this access takes every bit of mystery and anticipation out of everything. You can’t be constantly in the minds of everyone and still be interesting. I’d rather bands devote time writing good music than staying in touch with people,” he opines, concluding: “That’s what I liked about rock stars when I was a kid. They weren’t multi-media. They were one media: Music.”
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