Interview with Dave Wyndorf by Dan Slessor
Photographs by Jeremy Saffer
There’s something perfect about Monster Magnet titling an album Mindfucker, and the recipient of this name is arguably one of the finest releases in their nearly 30 year career. Taking a left turn from the more tripped out strangeness of 2013’s Last Patrol, it is a straight down the line and in-your-face rock record that makes your body want to dance, regardless of what your brain says. We talked to mastermind Dave Wyndorf about being mindfucked and the fun he’s had on the road up to now.
Did you know what you wanted to do when you started making this record?
Yeah, I wanted to write a straight-ahead rock album, and I wrote all the music for it in three weeks, back in 2016. Traditionally, those things don’t work out if you take months and months over them. It tends to be the more you work on them the more they suck!
What made you want to go in a rock direction on Mindfucker?
I think it was a natural reaction to Last Patrol, which was very weird and squirrelly and had nine minute songs. I was like, “Okay, time to rock!” Don’t get me wrong, I love that album. It’s exactly what I wanted it to be, but I just wanted to do something that went the other way.
Do you ever look back and say, “I want to make another record like Dopes to Infinity (1995) or Superjudge (1993)?”
Oh yeah, all the time, especially when we’re playing songs live. You see people’s reactions, and it makes you think, “Yeah, I like how this feels right now.” At the same time, if you go back and actually attempt that, and say, “I’m going to make it like this,” it’ll probably be a disaster. Sometimes you just can’t go back. I can flavor it that way, but I think most musicians will tell you if you start trying to go back, you usually wind up disappointing people more.
At what stage in the process did you know you wanted to title it Mindfucker?
I wrote a song called that a while ago, but that term has been with me since I was 14. It used to be a common term, from back in the early 70s when life was very much a mindfucker…quite like today! Things haven’t changed much. In the early 70s, being mindfucked was, “Man, I saw 2001,and that ending is a mindfucker!” It’s a real Beavis and Butt-Head term, and the simplicity of a stupid title like that is just so absolutely gorgeous to me. I think I’ve been walking around wanting to name a record Mindfucker my whole life, and then this whole Trump thing comes up and I’m like, “Wow, if I don’t call my record Mindfucker in 2018, I’m shirking my duties!” If ever there was a good time to call a record that it’s now.
Were you very much inspired by what was going on in the world around you when it came to lyrics?
Yes and no. I tried to make this a sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll album. When I wrote the music, the intention was to make it a good time album. When I sat down to write the lyrics, it was at this point where the whole information age collapsed on itself, and it was like, “Hey, the internet frontier has got a couple of logjams in it,” meaning that people were believing lies without really investigating anything. Which is a big mindfuck. So, I couldn’t leave it alone. It was the week of Trump’s inauguration and there was this giant monster on TV making nationalist speeches. The leader of the free world was up there sounding like some old-fashioned blood and soil 1930s German. It was so fucking low class and ridiculous I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I went forward with both, trying to write songs about girls and stuff, but it always came back to “I’m getting fucked over here.” It’s like trying to write a song about girl meets boy while the house next to you is burning down. I think I have to put the burning house in there somewhere! I try not to be too preachy, and I may have gone over-the-top a couple of times, but what the hell, you only live once.
Is recording an album still fun for you?
Oh yeah, I love it. Making records is the best, and it’s always informative. You always find out what works and doesn’t work. The best thing about it is I hear these cool noises in my head, and these juxtapositions of sound and melody, and I get to track them down and make them into something. It’s never gotten boring to me. It’s always a case of, “Wow! Listen to that!” It’s been a long time for me, doing this, so I guess I really did fall in love with this at a certain point in my life, and it’s not gone away.
You never really feature guests on your records. Do you ever want any, or do you prefer to keep it between the band members?
I wouldn’t mind guests at all, but when I’m doing a record I’m so obsessed with it, the last thing I can think about is bringing in someone else and trying to teach them something. “Okay, it’s another person I have to explain something to!” I don’t care if fucking Beethoven were to come in, I’d be saying, “Can you play it more like this?” And Beethoven would get mad at me.
It was the 20th anniversary of Powertrip in 2018. Is that a record you remain fond of?
Yeah, that was a trip to make, too. All of these records bring back so many memories, and I thought that was going to be our last record on A&M because they were going to dump us. They didn’t like Dopes because it was too varied. In the rock climate of the time, people weren’t buying albums like the ones I grew up listening to. My goal was to make a record that would have a really heavy song and a real pretty song, all that different stuff, and people were like, “Huh? What’s that?” So, in true fuck you fashion I got mad and said, “Fuck it, I’m gonna throw on some leather pants and I’m gonna rock,” because that’s part of me as well. We’ll put some tits on the cover, sing about money and the American dream, and get mad at everything. And goddamn if it didn’t work! Making that record was a gas, because we were in LA, the belly of the beast, record company people were coming by all the time, and we were trying to get it mixed so it didn’t sound like a Nirvana or Pearl Jam record, which is what everybody still wanted at the time. Everybody in LA wanted it to sound like that, and everybody I played it to was like, “Oh, this will be a hit,” and they started mixing it and it sounded like Pearl Jam. And that just was not going to work. But that record paid off spectacularly, because it took me on a whole new adventure in life, which was running around in leather pants and acting like David Lee Roth and having fun.
And the “Space Lord” video is still probably the greatest and most magnificently overblown rockvideo of all-time.
Yeah! (laughs) And it was so funny, because that was a joke too! They said, “What kind of video do you want to make?” And I said, “I’m so sick of this shit,” because no matter what I want to do artistically, no one’s gonna want to do that, and people aren’t going to buy it. I already found this out with Dopes, and they ended up saying, “If you want to do something that’ll make it, just put a rock band in a hip-hop video!” So, I was like, “Yeah, okay, but I’m gonna do it my way,” and I got on the phone and started calling directors until I found one who knew what I was talking about and got that it would be funny. We shot it in Vegas, and while we were doing it I was thinking, “Wow, thisis how the big boys do it.” There’s all these people, and we have dancing girls and everything—and thatworked too! I was shocked and amazed, and kinda happy, but I knew it would cause some kind of identity crisis for the rest of my life, and it did, but it was a happy one.
You still make videos, on a somewhat smaller scale, but they manage to be very much Monster Magnetevery time. Having come up through the music industry before internet content was obligatory for every release, do you ever feel that much content seems forced or unnecessary?
It all seems forced and unnecessary to me. I’m not active on social media at all, and I’ve been taken to task by every record label I’ve been on for the last 15 years asking why I’m not doing it. I can’t, because it’s not good. I want the work to speak for itself, which is such a naive thing to say, but it seems like it’s coming to a point where if there’s no new photo of you then you don’t exist. You almost have to post pictures and put out videos just to prove you’re still alive! “Check it out guys, Dave’s still alive!” Actually, I’m already on the case, filming tons of this shit so I can convince people I’m still kicking long after I’m gone! “Check it out guys, old Dave’s still going!” It’s all so superficial though. I think it shows we’re in a desperate time in rock ‘n’ roll, because step by step people are demystifying themselves to the point of apathy. I’m spoiled, because I grew up in a time when mystery and rumor drove the music industry. A couple of images and an album cover was all you got, but it was so much, and everything else was driven by the imaginations of the people reacting to it. Now that that’s been taken out of the equation, it has diminished that effect.
Have you ever considered writing a memoir, or is that not something that interests you?
I’ve thought about it, yeah, because I definitely want to write it all down before I forget it. So much stuff has happened to me, and so much stuff continues to happen to me. I remember it all really, really well, and I have written some of it down. The only problem is that for me to tell the honest story I would have to throw a lot of people under the bus, and I just don’t have that in me. Also, my family would be horrified! I have a daughter, and she’d be like, “What the hell?” Ask me again when I’m totally broke and there’s a bit of money in it, and I might just do it, but there’s got to be a different way for me to get that information out there, because that’s really good information, I think, and could be made into something that wouldn’t put me so much on the hook! There’s lots of bad stuff in there—not murder, there’s not a couple of nurses buried in shallow graves somewhere! (laughs) But it’s a compromising situation, a lot of sex and madness, and a lot of big giant egos on the part of rock stars that doesn’t make anybody look good. But at the same time, it’s the same kind of stuff you know you’d love to read!