I had been looking forward all week to talking to Monster Magnet‘s Dave Wyndorf for the simple reason that, of anyone you might talk to on any given day, chances are he’s the guy who’s going to have the most interesting story to tell and chances are he’s going to get to telling it with the least amount of bullshit possible. We last spoke in 2013 when Monster Magnet released Last Patrol (review here), what was at the time their strongest outing in more than a decade by my estimation, marked by a return to prominence of the band’s psychedelic and space rock influences. In short, they got weird again. And not a moment too soon.
Their prior outing, 2010’s Napalm Records debut, Mastermind (review here), certainly had its moments but ultimately came across as playing to formula both in songwriting and aesthetic. For a band who’d been so brazen earlier in their career on records like their classic 1991 debut, Spine of God, or even 1998’s fourth outing, Powertrip, which set the tone in one way or another for nearly everything Monster Magnet would do until Last Patrol arrived. Prior to that album, it seemed like a changing heavy rock climate had left them behind, and so it was even more encouraging when, instead of pressing ahead after Last Patrol and essentially working under a new formula, Wyndorf and his studio partner, guitarist Phil Caivano, got even weirder, reworking material from Last Patrol, tripping it further out and pushing even deeper into space on last year’s unexpected release, Milking the Stars (review here).
If Milking the Stars proved anything at all, it was that anyone who thought they knew what Monster Magnet were going to do next — fans, critics, whoever — were dead wrong, and the upcoming Cobras and Fire (out Oct. 9 on Napalm; review pending) follows that impulse even deeper. In concept, it does to Mastermind essentially what Milking the Stars did to Last Patrol; it reimagines the songs and gives them a new context. The difference is the songs from Mastermind had a much longer way to go to get to where they are on Cobras and Fire, which between the brand new sleazed-out opener “She Digs that Hole” and the Temptations-gone-Hawkwind cover “Ball of Confusion” makes even the most whacked-out jams on the last album seem tame.
Reworking cuts like “Time Machine” and “The Titan Who Cried Like a Baby” — now just “The Titan” — as instrumentals broadens the context further, but the strength of Cobras and Fire is as much about the quality of what’s there as what’s done with it. “When the Planes Fall from the Sky,” “Gods and Punks,” and “Hallucination Bomb” were strong tracks to start with — had good bones, you might say if they were a house you were interested in buying — but their stretched, twisted, morphed into new identities for themselves and the album as a whole, the headphone-worthiness of which bleeds from every minute of its hour run, right down to the Joe Barresi-assembled mashup, “I Live behind the Paradise Machine,” which rounds out on a boldly atmospheric note, sending Cobras and Fire out not with a bang, or with a whimper, but with the realization that there’s a whole world out there and as much as ever, something about it just doesn’t fit.
Wyndorf has a keen talent for phrasing, as anyone who’s ever read his lyrics can attest. In the interview that follows, he talks as much if not more about the conditions in which artists create today as about these songs or bringing Chris Kosnik in on bass for the live incarnation of the band with lead guitarist Garrett Sweeny, Wyndorf, Caivano, and drummer Bob Pantella, but I consider it all relevant to not just this record, but to where Monster Magnet are headed from here as they continue to move forward to their inevitable next full-length, next tour, etc. Basically, each ramble is a fucking treasure, and as much as you want to dig in, you can. In the end, if you can’t get down, it’s your loss.
Complete Q&A is 9,200-plus words. It follows after the jump. Enjoy.