Dear Guitar Hero: Dave Wyndorf
He’s the founding member of Monster Magnet and one of the preeminent practitioners of stoner rock. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is…
Monster Magnet’s new album, Mastermind, is one of the heaviest-sounding albums you guys have ever released. Was that a goal, and what guitars and amps did you use to get that amazing sound? —Tyné Grosswiener
It was definitely a goal. We wanted to slam it hard and heavy. The reason it’s so heavy is because of the gear. I put a ban on Strats for this record. Not that I have anything against Strats, but I wanted that humbucker thing. I used a mid-Sixties SG. It’s become my favorite guitar, because it has more bite than a Strat. I used to think the SGs weren’t that versatile, but they actually are. Plus Tony f’ng Iommi and Hawkwind’s Dave Brock play one.
As far as amps, it was a combination of old and new, but mostly old, like early Seventies Marshall heads, Laneys and a big old Ampeg SVT bass. Basically, we dialed in a little less midrange than I usually do to create those dark, ropey kinds of riffs.
What first inspired you to play guitar, and what songs did you learn first? —Hollis Greene
I used to be too lazy to play guitar, so I would just do riffs with my voice through a fuzz box and then sing over those. But it was getting harder for me to write songs that way, and that motivated me to play guitar. As far as musical inspirations, it was Johnny Ramone, mid-Sixties garage punk and Hawkwind, because all those guys had a great vibe without having a lot of technical proficiency.
I heard a rumor that you guys played through amps made out of toaster coils on Dopes to Infinity . Is that true? And what exactly was the amp? —Chris Foster
It wasn’t on Dopes and it wasn’t toaster coils, but we did play live through clock radios once. But I like that toaster idea! [laughs] We would play in punk rock bars and just try to piss those guys off, because they deserved it. Punk rock in the late Eighties had turned into its own fuddy-duddy institution. People forget that, but punk rock sucked back then. Those guys were like fascists. Even though I was a former punker myself, I grew my hair down to my waist just to piss them off. Anyway, we did this thing where we plugged into clock radios and we set the alarms to go off at a certain time, and when that happened the set would be over. It sounded like hell, and they hated it. They thought we were a bunch of fucking idiots. Boy, that was fun.
If space aliens came to this planet and you had to play one song from your catalog that best represented Monster Magnet, what would you pick, and why? —Matt “Space Lord” Ray
Oh, boy! Dude, the mushrooms are kicking in! [laughs] There’s just something about psychedelic music that attracts these kinds of questions. I would say “Dopes to Infinity,” because it’s a positive song. And I want the aliens to get the right idea.
I love “Third Alternative” from Dopes to Infinity. How did you get that massive tone? —Ted
It’s really simple: guitars panned left and right. Put a little reverb on one of them, and play it loud.
If you had to pick the top five records that influenced you the most, what would they be? —Ted Stinson
Hawkwind—In Search of Space
Alice Cooper—Love It to Death
I heard that you had a rough bout with the booze, but that you’ve cut back. Did cleaning up help the creative process, or did it make it more difficult? —Fred Talbot
It always helps. Even though I’ve done drugs and all that stuff, I’ve never been successful at writing or recording anything while drunk or stoned. I think that’s a romantic notion. Even Keith Richards knows it’s a bunch of shit, too. He tells the stories because people like to hear it. But when it comes down to it, if you’re stoned and listening to music, that’s cool; but if you’re stoned and making the music, then not so much. You really have to have your shit together. I write my music for everyone to listen to, and I always keep the stoned mentality in mind rather than in practice.
How much guitar do you play on the albums? Do you just do rhythms and let Ed [Mundell] and Phil [Caivano] build up the tracks? Is it challenging to balance three guitars? —Dave
I play a lot of guitar. I play 99 percent of all the rhythms and foundational stuff, as well as all those decorative parts that sound like one-finger guitar lines and anything that sounds like a sick, wobbly feeble guitar part. Also, that’s me playing anything that sounds Sixties or garage-y. Phil plays way more than Ed does on the records. Ed pretty much only plays leads. It’s not really hard to juggle three guitars, because they all have their parts: clean, dirty, Hendrix- and Sabbath-like. It’s a feast of guitars, and it’s actually quite fun to play like that.
Dave, who would win in a fight, you or Glenn Danzig, and why? —Jon Baum Jovi
Man, I don’t wanna fight Danzig. That poor guy has been beaten up enough, hasn’t he? [laughs] I don’t think a month goes by when I don’t see that video of him hitting the deck.
You’ve been on the soundtracks of a lot of good stuff out there: The Matrix, Sons of Anarchy, etc. As a fan of great comic books, what song of yours would you pick for the new Judge Dredd movie? —Angry Vince
I didn’t know there was gonna be another Judge Dredd. It would have to be something mean, probably “Perish in Fire,” off the new record, because I can imagine Judge Dredd saying something like that.
I’m a WWE fan and love the theme Monster Magnet did for WWE superstar Matt Hardy. How did you get hooked up with WWE, and are any of you guys fans of pro wrestling? —Billy Rouse
I’m not a big fan of pro wrestling, but I was a fan of the paycheck they offered for the song. [laughs] They called up and said, “We need a song right away. You can have the job and the paycheck if you write it in one week.” Obviously they had gone to someone else who had turned them down. It wasn’t like, “Mighty Monster Magnet, please write us a song!” So I wrote the song really quickly. But it turned out to be a great experience, because the whole WWE thing is located in this insane compound in some god-forsaken place in Connecticut. It’s old-school; no outsourcing. They have it all there: TV studio, radio studio, recording studio and stage. I had never seen anything like that before.
Spine of God  is a classic rock record, a true landmark recording. Was it really recorded at Spahn Ranch [the California property on which the Manson Family lived]? And what memory stands out most for you of that experience? —R.A. (Van Helios) Brice
[laughs] Gee, do I really wanna spoil the Spahn Ranch story?… Okay, it wasn’t recorded at Spahn Ranch, actually; it was recorded at some lousy, shitty place in Long Branch, New Jersey. Boo! [laughs] Well, you asked me, so I told the truth. It was a great experience to record it, but the memory that stands out the most is how fun it was to be behind more than four tracks, because that was the first time we recorded with eight tracks. At that time I thought eight was the most amount of tracks in the world. It really blew my mind.
I think Superjudge  is one of the all-time greatest hard-rock records. But listening back to it, I think the production sounds a little thin. Do you agree, and have you ever thought of remastering it? —Lance Immel
Yes, and yes. It is really thin. But the real problem with that record isn’t in the recording; it’s in the mix. It was rushed, and it didn’t turn out as heavy as I wanted it to. It was kind of a disappointment at the time. But you move on. I would like to remix it, and I think I will, because I’m actually getting the rights back to Superjudge this year.
I saw you guys play both in 2008 and 2009, and I was actually a little surprised that nothing from 4-Way Diablo made the set. I love that album and was wondering why you don’t play anything from it? —Erik Ahlqvist Loiske
The reason is because they weren’t written as live songs. I’ve tried to get some of those songs together live, but they were too delicate to pull off. They just didn’t seem to be the right songs to manipulate into something that would work louder and live. That’ll change one day when I get a mellow set together.