Interview: Monster Magnet’s Dave Wyndorf on the Music Industry, Gear and 'Last Patrol'
So there’s actually some pressure off at this point?
In the old days when radio was such an important part of making or breaking a band, radio was really important, and if you didn't fit into a release window, then you're dead. It was pretty intimidating, and you kind of push your schedule around that. That kind of pressure was always there, but now that radio doesn't really figure in as much. It's just one of a million ways to get your record heard. So I think it's better now.
There’s something to be said for how the DIY spirit that started with bands like the Ramones has really taken over in the digital age. On one hand, you don’t need a major label to make a great sounding record, but on the other, there’s such a massive influx of new music at various levels of completion.
With the artist in charge, I think that there can only be more positives, of course. Along with it, there will be a lot of fuck ups, as people try to forge their way in their art and being able to represent themselves and represent their art realistically and not get caught in the trap of just being merch monster. I think that's probably a big problem. The world, right now, doesn't give any gold stars to a pure, true artist. They seem to like their idiots. There are gold stars for people who make a lot of money, so it creates a lot of mobsters.
We also seem to be in this hyper-aware state of culture that is dominated by this ironic, cynical voice that makes it daunting for an artist to want to make any sort of real, person statement that doesn’t have a protective wink of self-awareness.
You said it, pal. I agree a hundred percent. It's true. Never has there been a time in history where everybody was so fucking aware of everybody else. There's no laboratory. Every lab has a camera in it. Is there any time where anything cool happens that someone doesn't go, "Let's film it?" Where's the gestation?
And it's affecting artists and affecting their sensibilities. It's very Warholian, where everyone's aware and "art as," "their process as the art,” but it's really easy for people to miss the point. Unless the person is super-, super-talented and super-aware of what their limitations are, a lot of this stuff that's going to come out is just going to be fumbles and fuck-ups and just unfinished art, misrepresentations of their own creativity. It's just too much, too soon. I guess that's just the way it is, but I'm used to people preparing their stuff to a certain extent and then unleashing it when it's done.
Which contributes to an unspoken problem in the music industry that there’s so much new music coming out that the consumer dollar is spread so thin.
That's the name of the game. That's commerce right there. There's your internet democracy.
If you could fill up the space with stuff, fill it up. Content? Quality of content? That can always be re-assessed. [laughs] It's a three-star world we live in; everybody gets three stars. People get praised, and a certain amount of people get bashed, but to make the world go and make everyone money, everybody gets let in. So how would people even begin to define what quality is?
How do you feel about how tight the feedback loop has gotten these days? You put up a song, and you’re immediately getting commentary and opinions back on it by way of blogs, comment sections, etc.
Artists are sensitive people. If I was the doctor, I'd prescribe them not to look. Don't look. I want you to make art and be in touch with yourself and try to communicate what you feel. Be in touch yourself for a while. I know it's a pop world and sooner or later someone's going to have to go out there and put one eye on the chart, or one eye on the internet, or whatever you want to call it. But for a while, just be yourself
That's fucking hard. Especially when people laugh at you when you do it. "You hermit. Where've you been? You don't exist." If you're an artist and you're not out there all the time, you don't seem to exist. You get props from people, "Oh you're great man, you don't do Twitter. That’s really, really cool." But your sales don't show that.
Everything is about branding now. It’s not enough to just produce art and let it out into the world.
Well, we live in western civilization, dude, and more importantly we live in America. Results are king, numbers are king. Over it all. Numbers and results.
“What did you get?”
Not, "What did you do?” “Get.”
That's where it's at. And it's always been like that, but it's never been at such a fever pitch as it is now. In the old days, in the classic, real renaissance time of say, like ’65 to ‘75, there was a time where the big guys didn't really know what was going to stick, so they signed everything. The glorious time where the lunatics came in and they signed 'em. But that stuff doesn't last forever.
So we went through that time and pretty quickly it snapped back to a more controlled thing, and now we have a time where people have been so conditioned by money that it's now equated with good. If you have money, you're good, and fuck content. Not fuck content maybe, but let's reassess what content is. Let's reassess quality. Let's lower the bar.
Guess what? If we lower the bar, then a lot more people are happy. Which is crazy, because the bar should be a lot higher than it is, than it ever has been before. But it seems to be lower. People are just drinking their own fucking Kool-Aid and thinking, "Ah, I'm fucking cutting edge. I'm badass." There's nothing badass about it.