вторник, 21 декември 2010 г.

Monster Magnet: Interview with Phil Caivano

This interview is published in Bulgarian in The website: Rawk'n'Roll. The reason I am posting it in English is that I would like to share it with Napalm Records who gave me great cooperation for this conversation and also to send the link to the band in order they to use it however they want. So, here it is:


RR: Hi, Phil, how are you?

PC: Great and you?

RR: Me too. My name is Ivo and I am from Bulgaria…

PC: RR: Oh, great country!

RR: You’ve been there 4 years ago with Hatebreed.

PC: Yes.

RR: What do you remember from your stay there?

PC: That night I was working with Hatebreed and I remember walking in there and it was madness. I always wanted to get back there with Monster Magnet – we’ve played there a long time ago.

RR: Yes, in Plovdiv in 1999. I saw you back then.

PC: And the Hatebreed night was great. We went crazy, I love these guys, and they are my good friends.

RR: How did you start working with them?

PC: I started to work with Hatebreed when we had a break and my friend Matt Hyde, who’s the producer of the Monster Magnet records, was coming to the East Coast to work with Hatebreed and I had some time off. Years ago I used to work with Matt in his studio in Los Angeles and he asked me if I was interested in working on a Hatebreed record. I said: “Yeah, I’d love to do that, I’ve seen them a few times” and so I went to work on a record with Matt. I knew how great these guys were and they’ve been really close and great friends of mine since the minute I met them.

RR: And Hatebreed are connected with the New Orleans scene. With the NOLA scene. Their singer Jamie Jasta sings with Kingdom of Sorrow…

PC: Yeah, Kingdom Of Sorrow, this connection with Crowbar. I love that stuff. I am also very close with Zeuss, I’ve worked with him on two Hatebreed records and I work with Jamie on some of his side projects. And he was playing me a lot of Kingdom Of Sorrow stuff and I worked on one song that was on the first record, with Jamie, I went on doing some vocals with Jamie and I think that the Kingdom Of Sorrow stuff is amazing. Zeuss is a fantastic engineer and producer, he is one of my favorite people to work with.

RR: Talking on production, the new Monster Magnet is so massive as sound, it’s really huge. And you are back with this album, you weren’t part of the band for the “4 Way Diablo”.

PC: No, I was not. I was working with Hatebreed then. I was taking a break, I’ve always been a studio guy and…

RR: So there haven’t been any arguments with Dave…

PC: No, no, no. I’ve worked on all the demos. I really wanted to do a studio for myself.

RR: The Studio 13?


PC: Yeah, I wanted to build my studio and I needed time to do it. I was a little burnt out from all the touring and Dave was taking a bit of a break at that time and I felt that it was… I needed to do it then. And I started to get involved with working on other records with other people. And when you are a musician and an artist you have to go with your coin and that was the time. Then some things happened with everybody personally with Dave and stuff so Monster Magnet didn’t do anything for quite a while. Then Dave asked me if I’d come back to Monster Magnet. We had some long discussions about what we wanted to do. We were really hell-bent on how we wanted to do that record.

RR: It shows.

PC: Yes, it really does show because we were very specific on how we wanted it. When Matt Hyde came after to work with us, it’s been great to work with him over the years, but we wanted to do things a little bit differently.

RR: More oldschool music.

PC: Yes, it was more oldschool with the drums and the bass being a big part of everything. The bass is really prominent in the record.

RR: I’ve read an interview with Dave where he says that you were doing all the bass.

PC: Yeah, I played all the bass in “Mastermind”. I grew up a bass player and we had some unfortunate situations around the making of “Mastermind”. A lot of things happened with everyone personally, Jim had some family things going on and unfortunately the schedule conflicted with that.

RR: And you had to do it on time?

PC: Yeah, we had to do it, we got to get the job done. And then was the rehearsal starting, to do the preproduction of the record which was only five days and I ended playing all the bass on the record. It wasn’t planned but that’s how it happened and I am really happy that I was able to do that; that I got the opportunity to play bass on the record and to do everything I knew how to do. It was very spontaneous; there wasn’t a lot of thinking about it. I just knew it had to be as heavy and musical as we wanted to. I couldn’t sit there and just go through the parts, it was really spontaneous and really, really fun.

RR: So it comes out that at least for this album you were the second main guy doing the songs and the recording?


PC: Dave and I we have an amazing working relationship. I have worked with a lot of people over the years, I’ve been in Monster Magnet now for long time. Dave and I grew up together. I know how he thinks, I know how he likes to work. And there are always a few surprises because just when you think it’s going to be a certain way, he throws you a curve ball. And as long as I have worked with him, it’s just amazing, like: “Oh, my God, he’s gonna do it like that! Amazing! I have never thought about it.” So, I am the guy that Dave always comes to, I always hear the demos first. He always calls me and we live five minutes from each other, you know what I mean? And it’s always been like: “Hey, I got an idea, can I come over to the studio to record something?” That’s how we work together. It’s really great when someone else comes in to see how we work, they think we’re nuts, that always happens. It’s funny, I go through the years and I still really, really enjoy working with this guy. I really love the way Dave plays guitar, I love his approach to music, and his reference points are amazing. Just when you think that you gonna get what you expect, he does something different. He really amazed me with this record with how some of the songs he came up with and with some of the riffs he came up with. And then when he called me about what did I think, he remembered that riff that I was… I was working on something, he asked me if he could use it for the record and I said: “Of course”, you know. It’s really a lot of fun.

RR: About you and Dave working so well, you have been together in a band called Shrapnel back in the 80s. And then when he formed Monster Magnet you weren’t a part of the band, of its initial line-up. Why?

PC: I left New Jersey and moved to New York at a young age. We actually started Shrapnel while I still was at the high school, I mean we were teenagers. When the band broke up... We grew up an hour from New York. When Shrapnel stopped doing what we were doing, I was in New York doing other stuff but I was around for Monster Magnet a lot. I remember Dave playing me all the early demos and I was at a lot of the early shows. And for the time after he recorded “Spine of God” and “Tab” I was living in New York. They recorded “Superjudge” and “Dopes to Infinity” in New York. I was in the studio with those guys, hanging out. On “Superjudge” they borrowed my guitar and amps. On “Dopes to Infinity” they used a lot of my guitars and amps. And I have always been around the band. And when he came to LA again, I had moved to LA after New York. I have been in some bands in New York; I really wasn’t doing much of anything, I mean, I played with a band called Murphy’s Law, I had a band called Blitzspeer, I was doing heavy stuff. I was really into the New York Hardcore scene, so that was a lot of fun. When I moved to LA, I really concentrated on working in studios. That’s when Dave came to do "Powertrip" in Los Angeles with Matt Hyde again and it was a natural evolution for me to join the band at that point.

RR: About Ed’s decision to leave the band, were you surprised to hear this?

PC: I was very surprised to hear it. Especially after recording a record like “Mastermind”. When I have left the band it was a time when the band was taking a break, there wasn’t a lot going on, we just toured extensively and everybody was really tired. With Ed’s decision now to not wanna do this I was really shocked, I was really surprised… I don’t know, I was surprised, I was shocked.

RR: How do you think his absence will affect the sound of the band?


PC: You’ll see for yourself tonight. All I know is a lot of people who have seen us on this tour are telling us we sound better than ever. You know, I love working with Ed, he is very talented guy and if this is what he wants to do, that’s his decision. A lot of fans went like: “Oh, my God, Ed’s not in…” This is Ed’s decision, not our decision. We really were surprised and kind of shocked. We just toured at summertime and we really hadn’t time to find somebody else. Thankfully we had Garrett from Riotgod and Jim and Bob has just toured Europe with Riotgod. I have worked with Garrett before. He was just the natural guy that we have to do this and I think he sounds really powerful. I really can’t compare the two of them, I’m not gonna either go there. I just know that we go on stage now and we sound really, really strong, Garrett has his own style that really fits him with what we do. Garrett’s rhythm guitar playing is great. With Ed it’s just one of those things that happen, you can’t be angry. I wish that Ed would decide… I just wish Ed to be happy. We worked for a long time together, you know. No hard feelings.

RR: In a recent interview with Dave he calls you a chudder.

PC: Yes, haha!

RR: Can you explain what that means?

PC: Oh… wow, that gets a lot of different meanings. That’s a word Dave and I use to somebody… We call our amplifiers, our pedals, our guitars “chud”. I’m always taking stuff apart, I’m always figuring out in the way of doing stuff.

RR: Some kind of gear-guy?

PC: Gear-guy, yes. And a studio guy. I blow stuff up, I take stuff apart, I say an amp needs a new loudspeaker. Dave would be working on a part and I’ll be like: “Wow I wonder what it would sound like if we used this tiny amplifier instead of the big Marshall and this really old microphone?” That’s a chudder.

RR: So how do you choose your gear during the tour? Is it different every time or you don’t change it much for the road?

PC: I stick with a lot of the same stuff. I have this thing that I always go for my gut instinct. There are certain pedals I always liked to use, guitars I always liked Les Pauls and stuff, Marshalls but on this record I got introduced to a company called Metropoulos. For this record we’ve used a lot of things how we always wanted to do it. We introduced a lot of classical sounds. I have a pretty big guitar collection, I’m always changing pickups and things, I always go back to the beginning and that’s kind of chudding around, I’m always sideling cables and stuff.

RR: And that’s chudder?

PC: Yeah, that’s chudder.

RR: You have your custom First Act guitar. Do you use it with Monster Magnet?


PC: I use it in the studio; I’ve used it on one tour. It’s a difficult guitar to use life because we don’t think it’s our certain way with some pickups. I actually found a broken guitar from the sixties that was on the street, it was a pure chud. I used it in the studio, it sounds great in the studio. Live it’s pretty hard to use because it feeds back a lot and I’m more comfortable with the Les Paul.

RR: You and Dave have your Studio 13. Can you tell me something more about the studio? What bands are you interested in? And will you use it mostly for Monster Magnet purpose?

PC: We use it for the band and we look for some other bands. I want to record something with Tim Cronin and Tim’s been involved with Monster Magnet since day one. We’re definitely looking for some other bands that interest us to put some stuff out but it’s also comfortable for Monster Magnet, the guys in Monster Magnet to do some other things they created. Like Dave and I have big love for space rock. And maybe we’ll be doing some space rock recording in Studio 13. Maybe the label wouldn’t want to put it out so we could put it out. Do some garage rock stuff. If I find some cool young band and maybe write some songs with somebody else, things like that. My side project Capricorn which was something that I did with my old friend Todd Youth (guitar, ex-Danzig), we decided to put that out with Studio 13, just an avenue of creativity. It’s creativity more than kind of label, it’s just avenue to give music out to people. Music that we actually love and we like to do.

RR: Talking about space rock, would you put that label to the Monster Magnet music? How would you describe the band’s style?

PC: I think we’re more of a rock band. But we’ve been able to bring all of these elements into it. The space rock is a huge influence. When Dave and I were kids, we were listening to that stuff over and over again. Amon Düül, Hawkwind, The Stooges, The Groundhogs, all these bands. They were more rock bands. We are a rock band that has a lot of influences. That’s what I think keeps Monster Magnet so interesting over the years.

RR: Since it’s the end of the year now, are there any particular albums that you like most during the year?

PC: There’s always stuff but nothing that is of the top… Well, the Kingdom of Sorrow record, I love what Jamie did vocally in that record different than Hatebreed. I thought it’s really, really good to see him stretch out, I’m big supporter of that. I like the Riotgod stuff that Jim and Bob are doing and Garrett’s doing, that’s really cool. And I was into a lot of really old blues and really old jazz. I am into finding bands and records I didn’t know about, that were released a long time ago. Like the other day we found out that this band we loved from Germany from the early seventies, Tiger B Smith had another record out under the name Second Life before Tiger B Smith. We’re on Internet, tryin’ to find: “Ah, here’s the guy, here’s the guy!” And finally got it and paid for the download. I thought: “Oh, my God, this is the best stuff I’ve heard in fucking years!” Cause we’ve never heard it and I got excited about it. I get excited about things like that. It’s kind of tough to come out with specific stuff, you know.

RR: Now you work with Napalm Records which is a European label. Is this the reason that you tour started here, in Europe and not in the States?


PC: Well, maybe it has something to do with it. Europe has always been a great place for us. We’re gonna start into getting back into playing in the States. Unfortunately with the States it’s really hard for hard rock bands now. And we are starting to see more interest now but in the last couple of years it was all pop music. A lot of hard rock bands have to come over here. We’ve been coming here for so long; Europe is such a great place for us. It feels like we belong here, so we will always come here.

RR: I hope you will! I guess I have to leave you to join the rest of the band, thank you very much for this nice talk! See you in the hall!

PC: Thank you for the great questions, it was real fun!

Then he remained a bit more in the room, we talked about the band, about the "God Says No" record that is "Very underrated, yet amazing" and he signed my copy of this very album. And an hour later he and Monster Magnet blew my head off, sending it orbiting in space. The report is only in Bulgarian and it's available here and here is a gallery from the show. The only thing remaining is great memories.