Interview: Monster Magnet’s Dave Wyndorf on the Music Industry, Gear and 'Last Patrol'
Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet
And then we get a kind of dulling down of concepts to appease a bigger audience.
I was reading a thing with Oliver Stone the other day. I'm not a big Oliver Stone fan, but he said this great thing. He said, "I watch TV and I watch these movies and these filmmakers don't even have a respect for real violence anymore.” It's all this orchestrated violent bits in movies that are excellently shot, but there's no real feeling in any modern movies that violence is real.
And they’re missing this huge, dramatic tool that they could be using. But they don't want to spend their time in the gaps, in the gutters to portray a violent act and the repercussions of it. Everything has to feel full-on and I think that happens with almost everything.
The mass audience has lost its taste for any kind of time they would have to put in to understand anything. They just don't have the time for it. They don't want it, and they'd rather believe it's a different way. They'd really rather believe it's like this. Because they look at their own shrieking souls to realize that life is pretty fucking grey. You're always in this grey area and you have to look at things and interpret how they affect you – not how it represents you, but how it affects you.
Well, if every blockbuster showed violence on the level of [Sam] Peckinpah, no one would want to go.
No, not at all. I don't see any real violence in movies. I see splatter, but not the terror that goes along with it. If you want to be terrified, watch a documentary.
As I mentioned earlier, the new album seems to have come together pretty quickly. What was your songwriting process like this time around?
What I do for my songwriting process for Monster Magnet is that I'll take these sessions of two to three days in the middle of my year, in between tours or whatever, and write as fast as I can. I go in there with a drum machine and click track — sometimes no drum machine and only the click track — and just write: verse, chorus, middle section, sing over it, do a melody line. Get a vibe on the thing.
I put them down really quickly and then I forget about them instantly, just put them away. I usually try to go for a song a day for however many days I have.
When it's time to make a record, I'll go back and look through all those things and go, "Alright, that one. That one" I’ll write the numbers down and then start to write over them, and give it a title. Maybe I’ll change the key, but basically it's all there. I know what I want. I then I bring it to everybody and I play them my demos, and I say, "Here's the new stuff."
I'll bring it to Bob [Pantella, drums], I'll do a scratch track, and we'll get the drums together. Then I'll bring it to Phil [Caivano, guitars], we'll work on a bass part together. I'm kind of musical director on all this stuff, the vision of the songs. We put that together really, really quickly. With Bob it was like two songs a day, and for Phil it was maybe a song a day for bass. So it's all constructed, then I put a scratch vocal on, and we've got something we can all sink our teeth into. And that's the math that we all work off of.
You’ve got a couple of very talented guitarists around you in Phil and Garret [Sweeny]. When it comes to the final recording, how much of your original guitar ideas are we hearing there?
I play guitar on probably almost every rhythm track. I've got at least one guitar. And I've got quite a number of little leads. Any time you hear things go completely spaced out and shit, that's usually me. But I leave all the prime stuff to the refined players. I'm not a very good technical guitarist. I write parts and I organize and I designate parts for stuff I can't play. And I don't want to play everything. It would take too much time for me to dedicate myself. Playing guitar well is like a full time job, you know? And thankfully I've got these guys in my band that can do it.
What do you see as your biggest contribution as a guitarist, besides writing the parts?
Sometimes I'm there on a track, and I'll take my backing track away, and maybe it could be played by someone else, but the emphasis is all me – when to mute, how many open chords, how many slides up and down the neck. That's what I'm really interested in. All those zoomy sounds that go into parts. "Nyowww!" All the pick slides. I'm really anal about stuff like that. All that shit that Pro Tools engineers hate, because it makes their job harder. I want that stuff to be fluid
But there's some latitude for interpretation. I give them like two inches and tell them to go crazy. [laughs] No, I like to be a director, not a dictator.
You can have some very skilled musicians in a band, but if the emphasis is wrong on a part, some part of the listener’s brain is going to know that.
It's really important to me, especially, when I work with less and less volume. I'm having fun making records, but with less volume on the guitars. More musical, more placement of instruments. Clean and the dirty, rather than two dirty. You get more bang out of a clean guitar than you do off a heavy guitar. The sonics of it: “Claaang!” But “Clang!” doesn't work by itself, so it's “clang!” plus “Zhhhh!” “Clang!” and “Zhhh!” together go “Bwaahhhhh!”
Music, a band, a combo, is all about having their individual sound that compliments the totality of the piece.
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