So, a one-armed German walks up to Dave Wyndorf and says…
No, this isn’t a gag at the expense of disabled Teutonic fellows or the lead singer of Monster Magnet. As the New Jersey stoner rockers prepare to tour Australia once more, Dave recounts the story to Loud Online, when asked about his battle with sleeping pill addiction.
It’s an issue he feels compelled to become something of a spokesman about.
“I do. I shouldn’t really get into it because it should be far, far, totally in my past now but … yeah, sometimes I do,” he comments.
“Benzodiazepine particular. It’s not even a sleeping pill, really, it’s more like an anti-anxiety drug. Anything that’s like Xanax, Ativan, anything with a –pan in it, Diazepam. That’s stuff than can really fuck you up, beyond heroin, beyond coke and stuff. It’s its own particular brand of devil.
“When you hear the term ‘pillhead’ – ‘he’s a pillhead’ – that usually means a person whose eyeballs are, like, up in their socket and they never make sense. And not even the hardcore drug guys hang out with them. You know what I mean? You’re better off doing heroin. That stuff is so fucked up, it’s like ‘God’! How did I get involved in that stuff?
“Be careful everybody! Don’t take it on a regular basis! It puts the hooks into you and it will make you have the brain and the nervous system of a squirrel.”
Before we get to the German bloke, let’s quickly go over why we’re talking to Dave any why he’s talking about sleeping pills.
We’re talking to them because they’re coming to Australia. This month. Dave and bandmates Garrett Sweeny, Phil Caivano, Jim Baglino and Bob Pantella will be playing their 1995 Dopes to Infinity album in its entirety.
It’s something other bands have done, but MM have until now resisted. Oz is the first stop on the ‘Dopes’ Tour.
“I’ve been watching people do this album routine where they play an album and I’ve always been interested because if I was a kid, I’d think that was the coolest fucking thing ever, to see a band do an entire album in sequence,” says the Space Lord.
“You kinda want to do that. I finally talked to some people that I know who have done that – I talked to Mark Arm from Mudhoney, I talked to Josh (Homme) from Queens Of The Stone Age and they said how much fun they had doing it. I said ‘alright, we’re going in, we’re doing it’.
“I picked Dopes because Dopes is not our biggest-selling record but it’s not our smallest-selling record either. It leaves me a chance to do the biggest seller again if it’s successful. I could go up to Powertrip, which is the biggest selling record, or I could go down to total undergroundsville, which is Spine of God, Superjudge and stuff like that. So this seemed a good place to start.
“Australians have always been really, really good for Monster Magnet. Absolutely awesome. It’s definitely on par with Europe. Australia, to me, it was no mistake why we did well down there. It’s because you guys have a long history in loving the guitar.
“There’s so many guitar bands out there. Guitar rules. You still hear guitar, unlike other places. Along with dance music, you still hear it. It’s not like America. America is extremely fickle. Monster Magnet’s always had a hard time in America.”
Has the band researched how popular Dopes to Infinity is/was Down Under?
“That would just spoil the surprise when no-one shows up!” Dave responds.
“I just went off memory and what I felt would work. This is really based on the reaction in Europe and even smaller than that. I was like ‘what if we did Dopes in Germany?’ where they really, really loved Dopes when it first came out. It was on the charts and all that kind of stuff. Then I just put it out to promoters all over the place and said ‘who wants this?’ And one of the first people that actually did was Oz.”
Which brings me to one of my rock’n’roll hobby horses (it’s got horns): why don’t bands do their entire back catalogue, one album at a time, on tour? Play your biggest-selling album in your biggest markets and your lesser known ones in clubs and pubs.
The diehards would follow you everywhere!
“If you had enough time to do the whole back catalogue on one tour, it would be one thing,” Dave says, “but the whole thing has been … since the beginning of rock’n’roll and the old system of doing things: you’re only really as good as your latest record.
“That’s the business model, as created by the record company because the record company – understandably – was so concerned about selling whatever they had, whether it was good or bad. Whatever they had in their hot hands now, what’s on their plate…
“And things have changed over the years. As far as I can see, most people who really love music and care about music don’t have the time … it’s hard to pay attention to new stuff as it comes out. A lot of people just buy records or get their music and listen to a little bit of it and don’t listen to the whole album – as atrocious as that may sound.
“It’s almost like … expecting to get the most out of this new record from your fans, those days are almost over. I can’t tell you how many times in my career … our records tend to come out, sell a certain amount and then they’ll see a lot more five years later.
“You’re seeing a lot of people experiment with a lot of different things and in the attention-span-wasted world, sometimes you have to wait for stuff to vintage-up a little bit, you know?”
Wyndorf was critical of aspects of Dopes to Infinity when it was released and now has time to fix those things up in a live setting.
“I wrote all the stuff and I recorded it so I’ve already heard it, like, a thousand times in my head,” he explains “I don’t lose any of that. I’m looking forward to seeing how the stuff mutates live – because stuff always does.
“It’s very in-tune. The vocals are very in-tune. I remember going crazy because I wanted it be the opposite of Superjudge which was wildly razor sharp. This one, I wanted to be smooth and zoomy – and it was. It came out a little bit too smooth at the time.
“Everything has to get roughed up. I think the material’s going to be better for it.”
The shows are to finish with a greatest hits set – at least that’s what we’ve been told.
“They say that because … my manager made me promise that because the promoters were nervous. Like ‘what do you mean, they’re not going to get ‘Space Lord’?’,” Wyndorf chuckles.
“I’m a little bit in reserve about what the encore’s going to be. Half of me wants it to be even more obscure, you know what I mean, and just keep goin’. Have everyone wait for “Space Lord” and just not give it to ‘em! I’m not sure. I think I should do some songs off the new record, just to show people we haven’t totally given up on our latest release. And, yeah, we’ll probably do some ‘Space Lord’.”
Since it was released, how many shows have MM played sans the anthem?
“Not one. I mean, there must have been a couple but they want that ‘Space Lord’, man. The power of corporate rock. Once you get caught in that corporate rock machine, that thing will work for you forever. I’m just lucky I like that song. It could have been a song I hated. I never liked ‘Negasonic’. We stopped doing ‘Negasonic’ for a while. That was our biggest hit so I had to do it.
” It only takes two blokes and one pretty girl to say ‘Space Lord’ and I’ll do it.”
OK, a couple of quick updates for the Monster Magnet maniacs reading this.
Firstly, the proposed Dave solo album: “I would do a solo record except that every time I go out on tour for a month, I end up going on tour for two years. Then it’s time to make another Monster Magnet record. I’m strapped for time. I use all the heavy ones for the next Monster Magnet record.
“I want to do this solo thing. I’ve got a lot of stuff in the can now. So between this … I’ll possibly record the next Monster Magnet record and the solo album in pieces at the same time and then release the solo record later.
“I want to work with a piano player and stuff. I want to be sure I lock myself into a different (way of thinking). It’s easy for me to pick up a guitar and make it work. But it’s going to sound the same. So I think I’m going to hire a piano player. I’m gonna say ‘we’re going to write some songs, I’m gonna tell you to play all these pieces I wrote on guitar which I’m going to translate to piano. That will force me to work in a different sonic sphere.”
And the Monster Magnet live album: “We might do that, yeah. I don’t know if we’re going to record any in Australia, that’s a little bit close. But I think in Europe we’re going to record the Dopes thing several times and other stuff as well so hopefully in the next couple of years, we’ll have a nice collection of live stuff to release.”
All this almost came crashing down a few years ago due to that sleeping pill addiction. When he finally beat it, Wyndorf put on weight and his health took a long time to bounce back.
Wyndorf completes the story: “Some guy came up to me – this is a couple of years ago – and he had taken too much of that stuff and it drove him crazy. He tried to commit suicide.
“He lay on a train track and his arm was cut off. A fucking armless man came up to me and he said ‘you’re the only person who explained that the way I understood it. Every time I read about it, it never seemed to apply to me’ But he said ‘you put it in such a way”.
” I wish he would have read it sooner.”