Monster Magnet Interview with Dave Wyndorf: The Beginning that Lurks at the End of Time

Posted in Features on October 11th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

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So before you even press play, or maybe about 15 seconds after, as opener “I Live behind the Clouds” starts to unfold with its catch-you-off-guard brooding sensibility — all on purpose, all for effect — Last Patrol (review here) stands out from a decade-plus of Monster Magnet‘s output and signals, if nothing else, a reshuffling of sonic priorities. It also helps that it’s hands down one of the best records to come out in 2013. As seen in the gorgeous John Sumrow artwork, the Bullgod (Magnet‘s mascot since their first album) has gone galaxial, and extended pieces like the title-track and “End of Time” thrive on the apparent danger that at any moment they could fly completely off the rails, while stompers like “Hallelujah” and “Mindless Ones” find Wyndorf, bassist/guitarist Phil Caivano, guitarist Garrett Sweeny and drummer Bob Pantella locked into an irresistible push that seems all the more vibrant playing off quieter stretches in “Paradise,” the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers, “The Duke (of Supernature)” (streamed here) and ultra-ambiguous closer “Stay Tuned.”

Between the name of the album, the palpable full-circle sonic impression it leaves and that song, I immediately speculated in hearing it that it might be the final offering from Monster Magnet, that perhaps it was a way for Wyndorf to tie loose ends stylistically and placate a section of his fanbase by “getting weird again,” which was something he also discussed three years ago in an interview for Mastermind. But no. It’s not. Wyndorf is quick to delight in the ambiguity of the title and the album’s message and musical journey, having both reconciled himself to a “no one’s gonna get it” mentality and pushed to simply enjoy the process of creating Monster Magnet songs. There can’t really be any doubt he’s working from a master plan — that is, the shift in approach with this batch of material didn’t just happen. That’s not how Monster Magnet works and even Wyndorf refers to himself in a kind of directorial role, saying he wanted to do this even as Mastermind was still coming together. But that’s not to say either that he, Caivano and the rest of the band aren’t having a good time, or that they don’t sound like it in the final outcome of these songs. Quite the opposite.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot to talk about. Monster Magnet will embark starting Nov. 14 on their first coast-to-coast US run in a decade, taking the temperature of the touring climate here after years of focusing on Europe, and extra intrigue is added with the departure of bassist Jim Baglino, who didn’t play on the album but has been a figure in Monster Magnet live shows since the turn of the century, this being their first outing since 1992 without guitarist Ed Mundell, and more. For what it’s worth, Wyndorf seemed to take a special kind of pleasure in discussing the process of recording Last Patrol with Caivano, thriving in what he describes as a chaotic writing and tracking process in taking these songs from the bare demos he created for them to their realized, complete versions, and so I wanted to focus on that. The word “fun” was used 25 times, if that tells you anything. Wyndorf‘s passion for this process came through in his voice, his quick back-and-forths with himself, and it’s my sincere hope that it comes across in this interview as well.

After the jump, please find the complete 7,400-word Q&A of my interview with Dave Wyndorf, and please enjoy.

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Monster Magnet, Last Patrol: Turn Your Wheel into the Sun

Posted in Reviews on September 12th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

There’s is a thread of self-awareness running through Last Patrol, which is Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length overall and second for Napalm Records behind 2010’s Mastermind (review here), an overarching consciousness that bleeds into the material and manifests itself in the lyrics of songs like “Mindless Ones,” “Last Patrol,” “Paradise, “End of Time” and “Stay Tuned.” Even the John Sumrow artwork could be argued as having a play in the purposeful exposition of concept — very much what we get on the album is the Bullgod gone cosmic. Last Patrol marks not necessarily a return to the drugged-out psychedelia of albums like 1993’s Superjudge or 1991’s ultra-landmark debut Spine of God, but easily the most swirling release the long-running and massively influential New Jersey outfit have had since 1995’s Dopes to Infinity. Vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and figurehead Dave Wyndorf — who also recorded Last Patrol with rhythm guitarist Phil Caivano in an attempt to capture a DIY spirit — has clearly made a conscious decision to harken back to Monster Magnet‘s earliest days. He’s taking a risk by doing so. A big one. Since 1998’s Powertrip, the band has been geared around a straightforward hard rock sound, always definitely their own, but increasingly straightforward. Following the commercial breakthrough of 1998’s Powertrip — do I even need to mention the “Space Lord” single? — and across 2001’s God Says No, 2004’s Monolithic Baby! and 2007’s 4-Way Diablo, Wyndorf refined this approach, writing skillfully crafted but increasingly staid hard rockers with faint traces of the personality that flourished in his earlier works. Mastermind satisfied tonally but essentially stuck to the same songwriting modus, and while there was always a sense of development there and Wyndorf‘s careful hand has never relinquished control over the band or its sense of mastery, it was clear Monster Magnet had long since conquered the form. Time for a change. But it’s a risk because the band Wyndorf has built around him — Caivano, lead guitarist Garrett Sweeny, bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella — has been geared the whole time toward playing the more straightforward style.

Baglino and Pantella are the longest-running members of the band at this point — apart from Wyndorf, obviously, who founded the band in 1989 with John McBain and Tim Cronin — but even they came aboard in 1999, after Powertrip was released. Certainly they’re adaptable players, as shown in Baglino‘s past participation in Lord Sterling and Pantella‘s in The Atomic Bitchwax, but the critical question when it comes to the shift in sound on Last Patrol is whether or not Monster Magnet could “go psychedelic” without lead guitarist Ed Mundell. Mundell left the band late in 2010, following the release of Mastermind, but had been a part of Monster Magnet since 1992 and was widely regarded as a crucial element to the band’s sound. So not only has Dave Wyndorf stepped into unknown territory with this latest record without knowing how the majority of his audience will react, but he’s done so without the guitarist whose blazing leads were such an essential part of what drew a line from the band’s classic psychedelic material to where they went up to 2010. In many ways, Mundell, who has since embarked on an interstellar journey of his own with the instrumental jam trio The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic — their self-titled debut was released earlier in 2013 (review here) — would likely be more at home on Last Patrol than on any Monster Magnet outing since Dopes to Infinity, but Sweeny and Caivano perform more than ably here, tearing into some deft Hendrixisms as the penultimate “End of Time” brings Last Patrol to its apex and helping propel the space-rocking pulse of “Last Patrol” while adding to the bluesy quirk of centerpiece “Hallelujah.” The rhythm section, which also includes Caivano, who reportedly also recorded the bass parts, prove likewise amenable to the change, and ultimately, Wyndorf‘s personality shines through all the more for it. Even in studio recordings, his charisma has always been a big part of Monster Magnet‘s draw, never a technical singer — though he does will with a cover of Donovan‘s “Three Kingfishers” as the third track — but a consummate frontman and brilliant lyricist, and on Last Patrol, the latter particularly comes to the fore right from the start of opener “I Live behind the Clouds,” which with the 9:24 title cut following forms a bookend that finds its mirror in the closing duo of “End of Time” (7:45) and “Stay Tuned,” starting subdued then rocking out, where with the final two, it’s the other way around, rocking out and then finishing subdued.

Much of Last Patrol and indeed many of its highlight moments are in moodier pieces like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “Three Kingfishers,” “Paradise” “The Duke (of Supernature)” and “Stay Tuned” — more than half of the nine-track/51-minute outing — and as much as Wyndorf‘s inescapable penchant for crafting memorable hooks comes through in the more driving reaches of “Mindless Ones” and the revival stomp of “Hallelujah,” it’s the dynamic throughout the work as a whole that makes Last Patrol such a success. Where Mastermind seemed largely monochromatic stylistically, leading with its strongest material in songs like “Hallucination Bomb,” “Gods and Punks” and “Dig that Hole” — the latter of which, admittedly, could be seen as a precursor to “Hallelujah”‘s gospel snakehandling — sticking closely to an approach that was if nothing else the most tonally weighted of the band’s career, Last Patrol plays out in a manner that’s freer and as engaging in overall flow as it is on a track-by-track basis. Still, Wyndorf — and you’ll have to forgive the presumption that where there’s a decision being made about Monster Magnet, he’s the one making it — does right to start the album with “I Live behind the Clouds.” Open-feeling with a gust of wind behind it, it nonetheless holds a tension in its steady guitar line that finds its release in the bounce and groove of “Last Patrol” and sets up the other quieter pieces noted above. The album’s first vocals are barely above a whisper, and for a man who once triumphantly proclaimed “I’m never gonna work another day in my life,” the line “I stay behind the clouds” comes on like a humble declaration, less that he’s a god than he’s hiding someplace no one will look. Drums come in after two of the opener’s four minutes and the song takes off, but it’s a fitting summation of Last Patrol‘s dynamic and holds to its mood even as Sweeny launches the first of many soaring solos. Bringing it back down for a quiet final verse and chorus, “Last Patrol” is set up with satisfying turns punctuated by Pantella‘s crash and given warmth by Caivano‘s prominent bass as Wyndorf teases with lines about cashing out and going to meet up with his 10-foot blonde. In movements, “Last Patrol” shifts from effective space rock turns with no shortage of backing swirl to a solo and then on to a quiet break as the echoes fade. Synth and effects back cymbal flourish and the rhythm guitar line as “Last Patrol” reemerges, gradually making its way back up from the ether with a new progression, no less insistent, but thick tonally, layers of wails and churns brought to a satisfying build as a victorious riff takes hold.

It’s the longest single piece on Last Patrol and it earns the honor of having the album named for it. Extra percussion is layered into the second half as a solo once again takes hold and Monster Magnet ride the groove while Wyndorf tosses in vague incantations in the lower regions of the mix. Even the jam is dynamic, and it’s some of Sweeny‘s best lead work, cutting suddenly to let the effects loops that have underscored carry the song to its finish. One could argue that “Three Kingfishers,” “Paradise,” “Hallelujah,” “Mindless Ones” and “The Duke (of Supernature)” represent the “meat” of Last Patrol between the front and back bookend pieces, but I wouldn’t intend that in the sense of taking away from the substance of the opening or closing pairs. Still, it’s with the Donovan cover, “Three Kingfishers” that the album begins to move past the initial shock of its opening and hit its stride. “Three Kingfishers,” particularly early on, is fairly loyal to the original, which appeared on the Scottish singer-songwriter’s classic 1966 formative masterpiece of psych-folk pop, Sunshine Superman, though where Donovan‘s version takes off with strings and sitar following its first two verses, Monster Magnet substitutes big riffs and guitar leads after the first, finding a middle ground between the heavier side of Last Patrol and the quieter that seems to delight in playing one directly off the other, the lead guitar once again distinguishing itself with classic and classy fretwork. At first, “Paradise” seems to echo the tense strum of “I Live behind the Clouds,” but it stays quieter for the duration, giving the title a sarcastic edge as the acoustic rhythm couples with intermittent kick-drum thud and electrified, fuzzy leads. Echoes and effects lend depth to the arrangement, but even at its most active, “Paradise,” despite a relatively quick tempo, keeps its groove away from the kind of raucousness that showed up on “Last Patrol” or even “Three Kingfishers,” opting instead for a brooding groove that finds satisfying resolution in the clap-your-hands-and-stomp-your-feet push of “Hallelujah” — a wake-up call if ever there was one. Wyndorf answers his own sung lines with megaphone-spoken wit, and the titular chorus brings an array of layers and attitude. The verses are propelled by the preaching in the vocals (hard for a heavy rocker not to think of Clutch here, but Wyndorf‘s influences are rarely so easy to pin down, except perhaps when he’s working under his own influence), but as the band locks into that “hallelujah!” exclamation, it’s funky enough to make me want to throw my hands up and testify.

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New Monster Magnet Album Last Patrol Due Oct. 15; Hear “The Duke (of Supernature)” Premiere Now

Posted in audiObelisk on July 23rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

For years, the fans of long-running and massively influential New Jersey rockers Monster Magnet have been divided. Purists on the one side celebrate the band’s earliest works — 1991’s Spine of God and its follow-ups Superjudge (1993) and Dopes to Infinity (1995) forming a holy trinity of modern heavy psychedelic rock that few can match — while others revere the more straightforward, riff-heavy approach that began to show itself on Dopes, came to the fore and brought the band massive commercial success on the subsequent 1997 outing Powertrip, and has been more or less the root basis for their development since then, God Says No (2001), Monolithic Baby! (2004), 4-Way Diablo (2007) and their Napalm Records debut, Mastermind (2010), each offering an atmosphere of its own while keeping a consistent thread structurally via the songwriting of guitarist, vocalist and founder Dave Wyndorf.

On Oct. 15, Monster Magnet will issue what could be a new stage of their evolution in their ninth full-length and second for Napalm, Last Patrol. While some — and I count myself among them at least at times — have clamored for years for a return to the space rocking psych of the band’s first triumphs, we all know the past is the past. Monster Magnet in 2013, by the sheer laws of physics, cannot be Monster Magnet in 1993. And yet, as we hear on the new track “The Duke (of Supernature),” Magnet are at their most ethereal in decades. Wyndorf, who has long been the driving force in the band and taken his lumps along the way accordingly, shows his intent even in the fact that he recorded Last Patrol with rhythm guitarist Phil Caivano, DIY-style, such as it is. The aim was a natural sound and one that brought in elements Monster Magnet long since left behind in favor of more straightforward, accessible fare.

Still, it’s not like Wyndorf — joined in the band by Caivano, bassist Jim Baglino, guitarist Garrett Sweeny and drummer Bob Pantella — is trying to recreate wholesale something his outfit did years ago and with a different lineup. Frankly at this point I don’t think he could stop being catchy if he wanted to, and “The Duke (of Supernature),” for its lysergish drawl and attitude drip, is still a catchy showcase of quality songwriting. So at least here, they’re not just looking back and they’re not just pressing on as they were. It’s something new. What will the rest of Last Patrol hold? I’ll let you know when I hear it.

In addition to the the announcement of the album release, the first showing of the gorgeously cosmic John Sumrow painting serving as the front cover to Last Patrol and the track “The Duke (of Supernature)” itself, Monster Magnet here unveil their first coast-to-coast US tour in a decade. It’s a thrill and an honor to host both the song and the info for your listening and perusing pleasure.

Please enjoy:

MONSTER MAGNET Announce New Album!

Confirm First North American Tour in Over 10 Years!

MONSTER MAGNET are back! The band has confirmed an October 15th North American release date for their new album entitled Last Patrol via Napalm Records. Today MONSTER MAGNET has unveiled the artwork and tracklisting for Last Patrol. Dave Wyndorf and Phil Caivano produced Last Patrol, while Evil Joe Barresi mixed the album with additional production duties handled by Matt Hyde. The artwork was created by Johun Sumrow with consultation coming from Chris Ryall and designs by Ryan Clark for Invisible Creatures Inc. The album will be available as a Limited Edition CD, standard CD, 2LP and digital format.

In support of Last Patrol, MONSTER MAGNET will be embarking on a full-blown North American Tour! Although the band has toured Europe relentlessly over the past decade, this is MONSTER MAGNET’s first full North American tour in over 10 years! The band is eager to hit the road in the states for the first time in what seems like forever. Prepare to hear MONSTER MAGNET classics and new cuts from Last Patrol for the first time live! Support will come from Prosthetic Records artist Zodiac. The tour is scheduled to kick off November 14th in Grand Rapids, MI and will run through December 14th in New York, NY.

Frontman and MONSTER MAGNET mastermind Dave Wyndorf checked in with his thoughts about Last Patrol:

“Last Patrol is a return to our roots in terms of vibe and recording style. It’s full-on psychedelic space-rock with a 60’s garage feel, recorded almost exclusively with vintage guitars, amps and effects in our hometown of Red Bank, NJ. The songs are a kind of Space-Noir, tales of cosmic revenge, peaking libidos, alienation and epic strangeness. It’s a weird trip through the back alleys of a dark, retro-future, which not by coincidence very much resembles my own life. (laughs) The lyrics aren’t fantasy really, rather a recounting of my musings on, observations of and general emotional reaction to my life and environment during a 1 week writing period in February of 2013. But I tend to use the vernacular and imagery of science fiction and surrealism to express myself and that’s where these lyrics get trippy. There’s also our cover version of Donovan’s “Three Kingfishers” which I thought fit the mood of the album.”

“Last Patrol was produced by Phil Caivano and myself with an effort to bring a home grown feel to the whole affair. We had been doing smaller projects out of Phil’s “Studio 13” recording space and I really felt comfortable there so it was the natural choice on where to record the next full-scale Monster Magnet album. Phil and I grew up together and have a shared love of some very particular vintage music and styles. And everybody in the band played their asses off on this one.”

Last Patrol Tracklisting:
1) I Live Behind the Clouds
2) Last Patrol
3) Three King Fishers
4) Paradise
5) Hallelujah
6) Mindless Ones
7) The Duke
8) End of Time
9) Stay Tuned

MONSTER MAGNET North American Tour:
11/14: Grand Rapids, MI @ Intersection
11/15: Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews
11/16: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
11/17: Minneapolis, MN @ Mill City Nights
11/19: Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
11/20: Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
11/22: Seattle, WA @ Neumos
11/23: Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theater
11/24: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
11/26: San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
11/27: Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues
11/29: Tempe, AZ @ Club Red
11/30: Albuquerque, NM @ Launch Pad
12/2: Austin, TX @ Red 7
12/3: Houston, TX @ Fitzgeralds
12/4: Dallas, TX @ Trees
12/6: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
12/7: Charlotte, NC @ Amos Southend
12/8: Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Sound Stage
12/10: Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace
12/12: Boston, MA @ Sinclair
12/13: West Chester, PA @ The Note
12/14: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom

For More Info Visit:
http://www.zodiaclung.com
https://www.facebook.com/monstermagnet
http://www.napalmrecords.com

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Duuude, Tapes!: Monster Magnet, 25 …..Tab

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on November 28th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

First of all, I know one of the big gripes with tapes is that they look lousy, not enough artwork, and so forth, but Monster Magnet‘s 25 …..Tab looks friggin’ awesome. The half-Planet of the Apes Bullgod Statue of Liberty’s extended arm draws the eye vertically in a way it never did on CD or vinyl, and the cardboard stock of the liner is durable enough to stand up to the ages it’s already seen.

I picked up 25 …..Tab recently at Sound Exchange, my local CD joint in Wayne. They have a whole wall of tapes and they’re usually a little on the expensive side for what I’m willing to shell out on a cassette, but I think they’re just as happy to have the room, which if you’ve ever tried to walk down either of the two aisles in the place you’ll know is in short supply. In the end, it cost me circa $5, and has proved worth every penny.

The album is readily available on CD. SPV reissued it and Monster Magnet‘s 1991 landmark Spine of God debut in 2006, and it was out before that as well. I have those editions, but this tape is the original US issue on Caroline Records from 1993. That’s still two years after it came out in Europe on Glitterhouse, but it’s the earliest domestic release and it’s 20 years ago either way and I was stoked to find it. With just the four tracks “Tab…,” “25,” “Longhair” and “Lord 13,” it’s as psychedelic as Monster Magnet ever got during this era of the band.

Or, you know, any other, since it was their most psychedelic era.

And their ultra Hawkwindian jamming on “Tab…” comes across excellently on the tape, sounding all the more raw and classically compressed. The song is an EP unto itself at over half an hour long, and it takes up the entirety of side A, which makes “25,” “Longhair” and “Lord 13” something like an incremental return to earth, the latter being the most straightforward of the bunch, despite all the backing mouth noises and echoes from Dave Wyndorf, whistles and guitar effects and the rest built around a solid guitar strum and percussion line.

By the time they get there, it’s been a long trip. “Tab…” was always considered an EP even though technically speaking it’s has more of a runtime than Spine of God, and its relative obscurity in the Monster Magnet catalog is no less a factor two decades on than it ever was, considering nobody’s sure yet what to call the damn thing, whether it’s Tab, Tab 25, 25 Tab, or 25 …..Tab, which I took right off the cover. Any name you give it, however, it remains unique in the band’s discography and as warped a tape as you could ever hope to find.

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Live Review: Karma to Burn, The Atomic Bitchwax, The Ominous Order of Filthy Mongrels in Jersey, 09.06.11

Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I don’t get down that way as often as I used to, but once every year and a half or so, Asbury Park does me just right. Last night was one such occasion. I left the office a bit after 8PM, sloshed my way through the rain Southbound on the world famous Garden State Parkway, down to admirable Asbury mainstay The Saint, where West Virginian instrumental riffers were joined by Jersey‘s own The Atomic Bitchwax and The Ominous Order of Filthy Mongrels, who were about halfway through their set when I forked over my $12 and got in.

Despite having On the Radar-ized them as far back as last April, and despite my fandom of guitarist Mike Schwiegert and vocalist Kevin LeBlanc‘s prior bands (Lord Sterling and A Day of Pigs, respectively), and despite living a mere 90 minutes away, it was my first time catching The Ominous Order of Filthy Mongrels live, and I was glad to have the chance to do so. They’ve got some classic crossover in their sound that they offset with noisy crunch and thick tones, and with their first full-length reportedly in the can, there seems to be much more to look forward to.

The five-piece were something of a standout on the bill for how aggressive they were, but there was no denying the formidable presence they brought to the stage. LeBlanc is a natural frontman who plays to the strength of his screams, and Schwiegert — joined on guitar by Dave Anderson — excellently displays his hardcore roots without giving in to East Coast chest-thumping cliche. The material they played was pummeling, and it looked as though they were having fun finding out just how heavy they can be.

The Atomic Bitchwax, on the other hand, seemed just to be having fun. Not counting the couple minutes I saw at Roadburn, it was the first I’d seen them since the release of their latest album, The Local Fuzz (review here), and while they capped their set with about 20 minutes of that 42-minute instrumental riff-fest, they ran through a handful of other songs first, including “So Come On,” “Shitkicker” and the Core cover, “Kiss the Sun,” which served as a reminder of just how much a part of the Bitchwax guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan has become since coming on board prior to the release of 3 in 2005.

Rightfully so since he used to be in Core, Ryan took lead vocal on that song as per usual, but bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik seems to have stepped back on some of the material from 3 and 2009’s TAB4 as well — “Destroyer” from the former comes to mind — though both had smiles on their faces for “Gettin’ Old” from the band’s classic 1999 self-titled debut. The Atomic Bitchwax being rounded out by “Monster Bob” Pantella on drums, Kosnik is the only remaining founding member, but without hesitation, I’ll say their set at The Saint was among the tightest I’ve ever seen them, and I’ve seen them plenty.

Kosnik and Ryan were completely locked in on bass and guitar, their fingers rapidly making their way through the band’s signature winding riffs with speeds approaching Slayer levels at times during “The Local Fuzz.” That album probably took some flack for moving so far away from 4‘s pop-based songwriting modus — it’s easy to see it as a kind of “diarrhea of the riff” — but live, it made more sense, and it seemed almost as though the band were stripping everything down to the essential parts, and answering those who likewise denigrated 4‘s hyper-accessibility by saying, “Well, you want fuzzy riffs, here they are.” And there they were. For about 20 minutes solid.

And I guess if Karma to Burn is going to get a lead in, there probably isn’t one more appropriate than that. The trio’s anti-bullshit stance is long noted, most recently evinced on their second album for Napalm Records, V, but as they ran through a set of their numerically-titled instrumental pieces, it became increasingly clear that something was amiss, particularly with guitarist Will Mecum.

When drummer Rob Oswald (ex-Nebula) came around his kit early on to fix the foot of his bass drum, Mecum cursed audibly and with frustration. I don’t know what the situation is with the band, if he was pissed at Oswald for something or if he stubbed his toe — I refuse to speculate or spread rumors needlessly — but something had him off his game. He played much of the set like some men operate heavy machinery: with his ballcap pulled down over his eyes and his shoulders slumped in contempt.

And though he spent a significant amount of time facing the wall to the side of the stage, leaving Oswald‘s near-flatly-set toms high cymbals and bassist Rich Mullins with the task of acknowledging the audience in a manner not unlike someone trying to explain away a domestic disturbance to the cops the neighbors called, (prior to their going on, Mullins had told me the tour was, “a lot of work”), they sounded really good. It was almost in spite of themselves.

They’re clearly three very different individuals — Mecum with his grit and seemingly endless supply of riffs, Mullins with his gaunt rocker’s looks and stage presence, and Oswald the beardo wizard in back launching into impossible-looking fills — and again, I don’t know what the situation is in the band, but Karma to Burn has become so influential in heavy rock because there’s a special chemistry among the players, and that came through in the songs. They cut the set short, nixing “41” from 2009’s Appalachian Incantation among others, and obviously it was a bad night for the band, but I didn’t leave The Saint disappointed.

The music was right on and I got to see a new band for the first time, a local staple who were mind-bogglingly tight, and an act who’ve left an indelible mark on their genre. It was a good night, I got to see some good people. For $12 on a rainy Tuesday, you can’t reasonably ask much more than that. It was a bummer that it was a bummer for Karma to Burn, but hopefully they’ll make it up on the rest of the tour, which hits Boston tonight (Sept. 7, with formidable locals Black Thai and Ichabod) and Brooklyn tomorrow, once again with The Atomic Bitchwax on the latter bill as a replacement for the apparently-defunct Black Pyramid.

More pics after the jump. Thanks to The Saint for being so brightly lit.

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The Atomic Bitchwax, The Local Fuzz: The Attack of the Riff-Loving Nipplebot

Posted in Reviews on February 22nd, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Stalwarts of the New Jersey stoner/heavy rock scene, The Atomic Bitchwax have come a long way since their 1999 self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, and not just in terms of lineup. The band, once considered by many an offshoot of Monster Magnet for the participation of guitarist Ed Mundell, has endured under the careful eye of bassist, vocalist and founder Chris Kosnik, who found a virtual stylistic rebirth when he teamed up with former Core guitarist Finn Ryan for 2005’s 3. Having also survived the departure of drummer Keith Ackerman (who has since joined and left Solace) and recruited Monster Magnet/Riotgod’s Bob Pantella for the more pop-oriented TAB4 in 2009, which also marked their return to Tee Pee after a stint on MeteorCity, The Atomic Bitchwax are back in 2011 with the curiously non-numerically titled The Local Fuzz.

Admittedly, neither the Spit Blood nor the Boxriff EPs had numbers in their title, but The Local Fuzz is definitely a full-length album at 42 minutes, so maybe it’s the fact that it’s so different from anything The Atomic Bitchwax has done before that inspired the change in nomenclature. The Local Fuzz is comprised of a single titular track that runs, reportedly (I feel remiss in confessing this, but I didn’t count for myself), through a course of no less than 50 riffs, and is entirely instrumental. Compared to the tightness of songwriting and adherence to structure that showed itself on TAB4 in songs like “Sometimes Wednesday” and “Wreck You,” it’s a definite curveball on the part of Kosnik, Ryan and Pantella, and though there are parts throughout where it sounds like one of The Atomic Bitchwax’s many instrumental introductions and interludes that have been spread over their discography and live shows – rather than a larger work, that is – for lovers of the riff, The Local Fuzz cuts out just about any middleman you can think of. It’s probably the most direct line to the essence of heavy rock you can take.

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Monster Magnet Interview: Dave Wyndorf Discusses the Decline of Rock, the Pressure of Fan Expectation, Hot Swedish Girlfriends, Getting Weird Again and More

Posted in Features on October 21st, 2010 by JJ Koczan

In transcribing the interview you’re (hopefully) about to read, I tried very hard to capture the rhythm and exuberance in Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf‘s speaking voice. To quote South Park, “It’s a Jersey thing.” Oftentimes, the venerable vocalist would begin a thought, pause, and pursue it from a different direction. I did my best to keep some of that and still make it read naturally. It’s always a balance with these things.

Monster Magnet‘s Mastermind, their first album for Napalm Records and eighth overall, will see release next week in the US and Europe. It’s an album I have mixed feelings about (review here), but there’s absolutely no getting around the fact that heavy rock would not be what it is today without the stalwart New Jersey act, and more specifically, without Wyndorf as its driving force. Over the course of their 20-year career, Monster Magnet has influenced bands who don’t even know they’ve been influenced by them. Their broad reach has taken them around the world, and their workmanlike approach to making albums and touring has secured a lifelong fanbase that’s always eager to see what they’re going to do next.

That, specifically, was something I wanted to ask Wyndorf about, and as you’ll — again, hopefully — see, he was forthcoming with his thoughts. Below, he discusses working with the current incarnation of the band — guitarists Ed Mundell and Phil Caivano, bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Bob Pantella — writing Mastermind and recording it with Matt Hyde, the differences in the American and European rock scenes, the fine line between what Monster Magnet does and heavy metal, and lots, lots more. The interview was over 40 minutes long and the transcription turned out to be well over 5,800 words. The dude’s a talker and there was a lot of ground to cover. If you have to take it in pieces, I understand. It’ll still be here later when you come back.

Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy.

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Burning Out Retinas with Riotgod

Posted in Reviews on August 18th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Though between them they’ve spent years playing in bands like Human Remains, Cycle of Pain, Lord Sterling, The Atomic Bitchwax and The Ribeye Bros., drummer Bob Pantella and bassist Jim Baglino are probably best known at this point as the rhythm section of New Jersey stalwarts Monster Magnet. Likely that’s a job that comes packaged with a lot of ups and downs. You get to tour the world over and have a built-in high profile because of the band’s past success, but probably you don’t get to write much and there’s a lot of downtime. Hoping perhaps to make the most of that, Baglino and Pantella formed Riotgod a couple years back with guitarist Garrett Sweeny and vocalist Mark Sunshine. Their self-titled debut, in digipak/bonus track form, is out on Germany’s Metalville Records.

If you’ve been privy to Monster Magnet’s latest output, you at least have a basis for understanding where Riotgod’s Riotgod is coming from; they play a relatively straightforward (in terms of structure) brand of rock, not quite stoner, but definitely influenced by the heavy ‘70s and with some element of space to it, as the cover and tracks like “Light of the Sun” and “Collapsing Stars” would indicate. The material gets samey toward the album’s back half, but there is plenty of quality songwriting on display, and the production, while modern, isn’t nearly as flat as, say, the last Monster Magnet CD. Sunshine does a pretty good John Garcia on the Zeppelin-esque “The Time is Now,” and the chorus of “Collapsing Stars” proves to be a Riotgod high point, which is surprising for a semi-ballad amidst so many hard rockers, but led into by the atmospheric interlude “Omega,” it doesn’t feel out of place.

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