Ten records and 32 years into their career, Monster Magnet can’t help but sound like Monster Magnet.
In 2021, the band is hammering that point home with A Better Dystopia, a collection of covers of some of their favorite “freaky garage-psych and hard rock” songs from back in the day. However, unlike a lot of other covers records, you could easily spin this one and think it was a Monster Magnet record – but that was all part of the plan.
We caught up with main man Dave Wyndorf to talk about the record, pre 70s SGs, and why digital amps “aren’t quite there yet”.
A Better Dystopia is the band’s first covers record – why now?
Corona interrupted a 2 month Monster Magnet tour and it’s hard to just stop playing, you know?
We hate wasted energy. When it seemed the world was gonna be on indefinite lock down I talked to everybody and they all said the same thing. Let’s record!
This seemed like the perfect time.
Can you talk me through some of the song choices on the record? I know a lot of people have a vision in their head of the bands that would be on a Monster Magnet covers record, but for the most part you guys went down a maybe more “obscure” road, for want of a better word.
First and foremost I wanted to do a record that more or less sounded like Monster Magnet from start to finish regardless of who wrote the songs. These tunes and their style very much inspired me in the early days. Not to say I wasn’t inspired by the heavyweight bands from back in the day but I thought a whole record of songs that have been played a billion times wouldn’t hold up for long.
Obsure and freaky garage-psych and hard rock has always been very much at the heart of this band and this album lets us share the love. Maybe turn a few ears on…
As far as the process of coming up with the final set of songs, did you guys sit down and make a list, or was it just a case of trying things out as they came to you and seeing what worked? Or something else?
I pretty much knew what I wanted. I had a list (one of many) in my pocket of songs I always wanted to sing. I passed the list to the guys and everybody was into it.
Any songs that didn’t make it out of the studio for one reason or another?
Nope. I did all the editing in my head, beforehand. We wanted to do this for real in the studio. Face to face. With the virus spreading like crazy I thought we’d be pressing our luck by over-recording.
So guitars! What did you guys use on the new record in terms of guitars/amps/pedals?
All pretty much pre-70’s SGs and Les Pauls. An old Strat. Old fuzz boxes. Natural amp distortion. Marshal and Fender amps. A violin! A harmonica…
As far as the production on the record, was there any talk of how you wanted the record to sound as a cohesive set of songs? Or was it just a case of recording the band as you sounded?
Sure. There was a strict plan to make the record as chohesive as possible without sacrificing the integrity of the original songs. It was important to me to make this sound like one band’s record rather than just a compilation album. A few songs need to be beefed up but I hope not too much.
I produced and mixed it with Bob Pantella (Monster Magnet drummer) all in his little rehearsal space and believe me, we were very careful in this respect. Bob recorded and engineered with additional recording by Phil Caivano (Monster Magnet guitarist).
Are you a gear head at all? Any pieces of gear you’ve played recently that were a pleasant surprise? Anything you got to play that was disappointing?
I’m only really disappointed by guitars that won’t stay in tune.
A lot of guitarists are embracing modelling and profiling amps these days, especially due to making fly in gigs much easier. What’s your take on digital amps and effects?
From what I’ve heard, digital amps and effects are almost there… but not quite. At least not for me. They still sound a little plastic… They’re better at “modern metal” then they are at older tones.
What’s up next for Monster Magnet? Any new material in the works? Any post-rona plans?
We’ve got tours planned for 2022. Hopefully at least a few gigs at the end of this year. I guess I should actually write something! Haha!