SPV/Steamhammer Records
  [Monster Astronauts ... an unofficial biography by Serge Defraene                                                                                                                               
 

 
 
Somewhere in the late 70’s early 80’s a couple of fine young men based in Red Bank NJ decided to start a punkrock band called “Shrapnel”. Amongst them were guitarist Daniël Rey, who later on played with Handsome Nick Manitoba from The Dictators and Masters Of Reality for a while and  produced for The Ramones,  Hellacopters , Nomads and other various noise making scum. Another member was guitarist Dave Vogt who later became soundman at the legendary Brighton Bar in Long Branch NJ and sadly past away just before Christmas 2000 at age 40. Shrapnel also featured Dan Clayton on drums, Phil Caivano on bass guitar, who later on fronted Blitzspeer 
and resurfaced as a guitarist in Monster Magnet in 1998 and a certain Dave Wyndorf on vocals, an individual who just before the demise of Shrapnel got abducted by aliens and never came back.Sure, some folks are trying to convince the world it’s the same Wyndorf who later on shocked the universe with albums like Spine Of God and Dopes To Infinity but there’s absolutely no proof for that. Let’s stick to the facts and assume that a modified Dave Wyndorf was dropped back on earth existing out of only his physical outside and a totally re-programmed inside. For a short while Shrapnel fucked things up at legendary New York clubs such as CBGB’s , recorded a few indie singles and released a self titled EP on Elektra Records in 1984, which later on became a collectors item amongst fanatic Monster Magnet believers all over the world. Apparently Shrapnel demised somewhere around 1985 but up until today no one’s sure if the alien abduction of their lead singer was the main reason. So far … so good.
Around the same time three former pharmacology students going by the names Tom Diello, John McBain and Tim Cronin were doing silly things with random instruments in various basements around NJ. Going by the moniker Pinque Phloid they even became very famous and extremely rich for a short while when they sued an illustrious band from Great Britain named Pink Floyd because they stole their name ... and won . Generous as they were, Tom, John and Tim gave all the money away to a wide variety of charity institutions such as 
abandoned animal shelters, homes for the mentally ill and even a less known organisation for people struggling with traumas after being abducted by alien life forms. Most likely that’s how they first met the earlier mentioned Dave Wyndorf but more on that matter later on. With a small amount of money left over from the legal hassels John McBain decided to buy a Yamaha scooter to drive to his job at a record store but soon found out they sold him a 4 track recording device of the same brand. The boys decided that now that they had it they might as well use it and because they didn’t want to abuse the worldwide appreciation they earned with the lawsuit Pinque Phloid evolved into Dog Of Mystery shortly after Tom Diello stopped showing up for recordings. Dog Of Mystery recorded two tapes : “And therein Lies the Rub” and “Metal Head of Robeson”. Most of the time Dog Of Mystery was a two man operation. Sometimes they called in help from guys based at a nearby space cadet academy like a certain Pocko the Clown who suffered severe brain damage during a space shuttle simulation flight but sang through a bullhorn like no one else could. The live incarnation of the band was a completely different thing though. The line up was a continuous freak show, sometimes they had two drummers or three guitarists and always multiple singers. Dog Of Mystery continued in this formula until former adbuctee Dave Wyndorf came to a show and they asked him to be their manager. He liked all the right stuff and looked like Dave Brock from Hawkwind but Wyndorf turned them down. Instead he suggested he join the band. Dave Wyndorf’s entrance in the band, and his echoplex freakout mentality, led to the eventual dismissal of the other members. After playing several shows as Dog Of Mystery they transformed into Airport 75. The Dog Of Mystery tapes have recently been re-issued on CD and can be purchased online at Nodzine. The freak parade recorded their first demo tape “Forget About Life, I’m High On Dope” as Airport 75 but changed their name into Monster Magnet, named after a 60’s toy by Wham-O. Any resemblance of the toy with the actual life form on planet Galactus may or may not be a total coincidence.
In the meantime the three Dog Of Mystery / Airport 75 / Monster Magnet members also featured in a wide variety of local bands, side projects, solo efforts and total lunacy such as Uncle Homegrown / Thee Smoking Pets / The Golden Nehru Flamethrowers / Triple Bad Acid / Acid Reich / Chigger / King Fuzz / Love Monster etc. None of these projects ever led to any officially recorded material except for self released demo tapes but Dave Wyndorf’s solo effort Love Monster which was a collection of his experiments on 4 track somehow saw the light of day as a bootleg somewhere in 2001. For a short time they kept on using the names Dog Of Mystery / Airport 75 and Monster Magnet all at the same time time but after a show at City Gardens in Trenton where they supported LA junkies Jane’s Addiction, they decided that if they wanted to get serious they needed to chose a name and stick with it.
So basically the constantly changing parade of weirdo’s ended up as a three piece called Monster Magnet existing of two rather brilliant chemists Tim Cronin and John McBain and a gifted half alien / half human Dave Wyndorf, who at the time ran a comic book store in Red Bank NJ. The comic book store was in fact a cover up for his more interplanetary activities and Dave was about to show the world what he learned during his time in a spaceship faraway in another galaxy. John and Tim went out of circulation for a while after Dave implanted their galactic frequency devices but as expected they recovered pretty fast. After spending most nights sitting in the backyard watching out for spaceships it didn’t take them to long before they realized they would be stuck on planet earth for eternity so Monster Magnet decided they could as well spend their time doing something useful. Passing on information to the mothership only took a couple of hours a day so there was plenty of time left to fuck things up.  
The earlier mentioned tape “Forget about life, I’m high on dope” recorded as a three piece, was circulating amongst wannabe freaks all along the Jersey shores for quite a bit so it became time to move on towards a higher level. Eventually the tape became an official Cool Beans release and the record stores, where both Tim Cronin and John McBain worked undercover, carried it. Although Tim Cronin’s brainchild Cool Beans, a highly acclaimed Jersey underground label (which released tapes featuring a wide variety of local insanity on regular basis), did a great job, the guys pretty soon found out most of the tapes kept on being distributed within the same circle of already converted space heads so they decided to release two songs on vinyl 7” through Circuit Records. Lizard Johnny / FreakShop USA featured a transformed Dave Wyndorf on the sleeve sending out vibes to the mothership. Vibes which only became visible after smoking a good amount of substances retracted from plants growing on planet Galactus. Needles to say it took an extremely advanced outer space camera to immortalize this particular scene, a device which had to be flown in by an exploration shuttle coming straight from the mothership. Both songs were taken straight from tape without re-recording, remixing, overdubbing what so ever. Everything already sounded perfect, at least for the purposes they had in mind … finding and converting more suitable freaks to expand their earthly colony in order to set up a solid base for the Galactians who did the math and came to the conclusion that their planet was about to collide with a pissed off gigantic meteor around 2010. Of course at the time the event still lay more than 20 years ahead but as things were moving rather slow in Monster Magnet land it was about time something got done.  
Along with the outer space camera came a shitload of ‘food from the Gods’ so once they got started there was nothing which could eventually stop them again. Within’ weeks a second tape entitled “I’m high what are you gonna do about it” was recorded and again distributed by Cool Beans. In the meantime the Glitterhouse label based in Germany picked up the Circuit single and a deal was sealed, finally the alien colony was about to expand their horizons towards the European continent. Although the three piece did a good job, where both Dave and Tim shared vocal duties whilst Tim also played the drums and both John and Dave switched between guitar and bass, it became time to call in help from more recently converted freaks.
Both Joe Calandra and Jon Kleiman were recruited from a band who called themselves The Shock Mommies in order to become a solid rhythm section in Monster Magnet. Both were chosen mostly because of the fact no one else was very willing to get a device implanted but their musical capabilities couldn’t be denied either, let’s get that clear. Both musicians played with Dog Of Mystery / Airport 75 on several occasions so without a doubt they were the right people for the job. After a relatively short time of isolation in order to get the basics on the Galactian principles and to make sure their earthly bodies didn’t reject the implant both were found suited and a self titled EP was recorded for Glitterhouse featuring brain melting tunes such as Snake Dance / Tractor / Nod Scene / Freak Shop USA / Lizard Johnny and Murder. This time they chose to keep things low for a while and only disposed the planetary colours of planet Galactus on the sleeve, no one outside the colony knew what it meant anyway.
Shortly after the release of the self titled EP a second vinyl 7” was released through Primo Scree, a division of the Caroline label containing the songs Murder and Tractor. Although the band already were signed to Glitterhouse records at that time they were still looking for a label to distribute their stuff in the U.SA.. Ignorance on the part of Primo Scree resulted in the fact the self titled EP wasn’t officially distributed in the US, a fact which directly resulted in the disappearance of the label about two years later, although no one involved with the label will ever confirm this. But let’s keep to the facts and take a look at the sleeve. This time you see a Dave Wyndorf in his earthly form after he disposed a gun from planet Earth to a visiting Galactian  ambassador. The ambassador in question made fun about the level of simplicity on the particular device after which Wyndorf, as you might have noticed, trashed the entire house. Needless to say the murdered body on the bed is in fact the ambassador in his earthly form. The backsleeve is a picture from a random female inhabitant of planet Galactus, nothing more, nothing less, they all look the same anyway.  
But let’s not get off topic here … after featuring on a Glitterhouse various artists 7” boxset  accurately entitled “Endangered species” with the song Murder in 1990 higher powers decided time had come to record and release the ultimate conversion song entitled “Tab”.  Although the tune already  featured on the setlist of many Dog Of Mystery / Airport 75 shows  Monster Magnet wasn’t to fond about releasing it worldwide. After all they noticed the devastating side effects the song in question had on audiences. The song was in fact a recorded transmission sequence between the colony and the monthership which clocked over half an hour. The monotonous riffs and the sheer lunacy of Dave Wyndorf’s rantings simply was to much for listeners without an implant. In order to stir as much confusion as possible the guys decided to create their own side project called Monster Magnet 25, which was a clever move. In case a lawsuit put an end to Monster Magnet 25 after the release they could always go on as Monster Magnet. So far, so good … “Tab” got released on Glitterhouse including more lunacy as 25, Longhair and Lord13. Although the flying saucer / laser sounds created on Dave’s extra terrestrial echoplex made heads explode on various occasions most of the times these cases got filed as drug related accidents. Not a lot of people were aware they were listening to a side project and the album went into history as “25 … Tab” by Monster Magnet. The sleeve featured a futuristic scene of an abandoned planet Galactus and it’s version of the statue of liberty after the earlier mentioned collision with a meteor. After a serious period of testing on European listeners the album became available on the US market when it got re-released by Caroline Records somewhere in 1993. Both in Red Bank and on planet Galctus life went on …  
1991, only 19 years away from the total destruction of planet Galactus and as if this wasn’t enough two originals were getting troubles with their implants. First Tim Cronin started to show signs of rejection. Weird enough only during on stage performances … apart from Dave Wyndorf who apparently went through a more advanced sequence of modification back at the spaceship both Tim and John were equipped with a rather primitive version of the Galactian implant. The devices later on used on Joe Calandra and Jon Kleiman were much more advanced. Problem was it was way to late to remove the antiquated piece of high tech machinery without
risking severe brain damage, not that it would matter much but you never know. The high council decided unanimously it was time for Tim Cronin to take a step back, flew him over to the mothership and crowned him “Centre of the Universe”. On more earthly bases they made him “Master of Lights” and “Dope Provider”. Tim felt good in his new position and the longer he worked behind the scenes the less his body rejected the implant, problem solved, time to move on. 
Monster Magnet, now extended to a solid five piece psychedelic shitstorm retires towards the rehearsal cellar for a while and starts to write masterpiece “Spine of God”, a mostly nightly activity, naturally. In the meantime a highly trained team of Galactians start to make plans about artwork, merchandise and selecting crew members for an inevitable world tour. First “Spine of God” gets released in the US through Primo Scree / Caroline shortly followed by a Glitterhouse release in Europe. On the front sleeve a rather frightening piece of artwork showing the BullGod, who’s Galactus’s equivalent to our God, speared upon a human spine. Seems as the former peace loving colony is getting hostile. Common theme on the album seems to be the first Galactian attempt to establish a colony on planet Earth back in the late 60’s, a sad failure known as the “Manson Family” case. The back cover shows a stoned bandpicture as seen through the lens of a modified camera, operated by Samantha Muccini, an early convertee, along with the wise words “It’s A Satanic Drug Thing You Wouldn’t Understand” in order to exclude all misunderstandings. The band starts a series of local shows in the New Jersey / New York area when also John McBain starts to show signs of implant rejection. His rather weird behaviour, diagnosed as a case of drug paranoia at first, is getting worse by the day and for some reason all contact with the mothership seems to be lost and no one knows exactly what’s going on. More shows outside the NJ / NY area are booked and poor McBain seems to lose all control, not that he’s the only one for that matter but for good observers it’s perfectly clear there’s more going on with the guitarist than your average rock band debauchery. Early 1992 Monster Magnet decides to leave for Europe anyway.
Dredging through the European continent like a stoned mule on the lose Monster Magnet succeeds where many failed before, converting many freaks wherever their kerosene fuelled tour-van decides to stop. John McBain somehow managed to keep his head above water, mostly because of the fact his and his bandmates behaviour doesn’t differs that much compared to your average European rock-fan. Places like Frankfurt, Vienna, Munich, Zurich, Paris and Amsterdam are crushed in swirling psychedelic pools of decay leaving a black hole in both the band members and the watching spectators heads. Support acts like Sister Double Happiness and Helmet, and headliners like Prong, are blown away and mumbling space heads wearing “Spine Of God” shirts become a frequent picture in many cities across the continent. Although Dave Wyndorf’s voice was shot on most nights due to the fact he forgot his inhaler containing Galactian air back home, which resulted in lots of strictly instrumental shows, this doesn’t change a thing. Mission accomplished … “It’s A Satanic Drug Thing You Wouldn’t Understand” seemed not to apply in Europe, at least not completely.
In the meantime a certain Ben Shepherd, bass player in Seattle based band Soundgarden, picks up the “Spine Of God” album and plays it for his band mates. Totally unaware of the disastrous side effects they decide unanimously that this is the band they want to support them on their upcoming US tour. No rest for the wicked, Monster Magnet floats from Holland to London without the help of any third parties such as airplanes etc. As a matter of fact they lift off leaving a smoke screen of hashish and never looked back. Arriving in London all that was left to do was catching a flight towards the US and get on with the craziness. Portland, San Francisco, Tijuana, Hollywood, Austin, Dallas, Chicago, Toronto and many places in between are witnessing Soundgarden in front of a totally numb audience, crushed by the sheer psychedelic impact of the support act … when suddenly the wandering caravan of insanity comes to an  abrupt end on may 12th 1992 at the Avalon in Boston. Backstage the Monster Magnet members are having an encounter with an emissary from Galactus’s high council. The loss of contact with the mothership which lasted for the past couple of months seemed to be caused by John McBain’s damaged implant. The worn out guitarist who just about had it with music at that point is called back by the high council in order to get a well done overhaul at the mothership. A dream coming true for him as up until then he never had been invited to the sacred place. Time had come for him to visit the place which was the closest he’d ever get to the planet he worshipped so much for the past couple of years. Exit John McBain.  
Deeply touched by the temporary loss of their guitarist the rest of the band rushes back home for a few months of meditation and uploading batteries. Not much time to tarry though, within’ the same week a nightly message from the mothership reaches Dave Wyndorf. John McBain has been totally improved and recovers fast but the high council has other plans for him. During the tour with Soundgarden two of their members were found in a differing stage of conversion. Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron are in high need of a leading hand to get them through the not-to-be-underestimated first few stages and John McBain seems to be the right man for the job. McBain isn’t exactly fond about returning to planet Earth already but brave as he is he accepts his fate. An event which later on resulted in the “Hater” project and up until today goes on in “Wellwater Conspiracy"
to be continued ...