It takes an unusual sort of man to decide that the best thing to help him clear his head and write songs is a trip to Las Vegas.
Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet is that unusual man.
For three weeks, Wyndorf holed up in his hotel room, writing songs by day and wandering the streets by night, and, at the end of his self-imposed sabbatical, he emerged triumphant with the 13 over-the-top rock songs that constitute Monster Magnet's recently released fifth album, Powertrip.
"I roamed around the town. I watched people losing money. I watched the rap guys spending money. I watched the prostitutes sit in Denny's," said singer/guitarist Wyndorf, 36. "I brought an electric guitar, a pair of bongos, a pair of headphones and a four-track machine. I'd get up every day and have to write a song. I just tried to obey my instinct and not overthink things."
Where his instincts led him was an all-stops-out rock 'n' roll place -- a place down the road apiece from the stoned-out psychedelic-metal zone that Monster Magnet once occupied.
The band's current over-the-top approach applies as much to its visual persona as to its sound.
Wyndorf said that when the modern metal act started out in its native New Jersey and released its 1992 debut, Spine of God, Monster Magnet weren't much for image. That has changed over time, and Wyndorf, bassist Joe Calandra, lead guitarist Ed Mundel, drummer Jon Kleiman, guitarist Phil Caivano and Tim Cronin, the cryptically titled "Herald of Galactus," have gone in neck-and-crop for image -- of the black leather, towering flames, busty babes variety.
In the years since the release of their last full-length album, 1995's Dopes to Infinity, Calandra, 33, said the six-piece grew increasingly frustrated with the mopey indie-rock scene, leading his outfit to take a more straight-ahead approach. "We got tired of all the lame alternative crap out there. We went in and did a straight-ahead rock record, which is what Powertrip is," Calandra said. "We got sick of guys staring at their feet and whining and being sorry they're in a rock band."
Representative of the sextet's unapologetic attack on Powertrip is the keyboard-laden "See You in Hell," which focuses on the not-so-forgotten underbelly of America, popularized by daytime television talk shows.
"I was taking a bus to Red Bank, New Jersey," Wyndorf said, explaining the story that inspired the song. "I got on this bus with this old hippie guy and we started shooting the s--- about him going to see the Doors. ... He and his old lady had a baby, and she freaked out and murdered the baby by smothering it with a pillow. They were worried about somebody going to the cops, so he drove out to where they were building the Meadowlands and he buried the baby."
Not content to just address the morbid aspects of American culture, Wyndorf and crew take time out to discuss the power of money and how it permeates society, with the heavy riff-rock of "Bummer" (RealAudio excerpt).
"I watched a lot of advertising while we were recording this record. The Information Age has just provided advertisers with such a smooth, slick palette," Wyndorf said. "We're at this point where success is way more important than content in most people's eyes. ... Americans' eyes flash the loudest and the brightest when somebody makes a lot of money."