Friday, September 17, 2010

BDK Interview - Jon Kleiman

I started doing interviews on here for a couple of reasons. For one, I needed more content, and reviewing the drumming on albums was starting to get a little tedious every week. More importantly however, I was really interested in getting drummers' interpretations of their own playing. Rarely are drummers asked to analyze their own material and sort of value it's artistic credit. I like it when drummers have never really looked back onto their playing, and I love it when their answers are not at all what I expected, which is why it was so much fun to interview Jon Kleiman about Monster Magnet's Dopes To Infinity.

When I first contacted Jon I felt as if he was genuinely surprised someone was interested, I don't think he ever thought he would be talking to someone about something he recorded back in 1994. It also came as a shock to me that as far as albums he's played on, he's not really that into Dopes To Infinity. I think that's awesome, because instead of just buttering me up, I got some honest answers.

Here's the interview.

1. How did you begin to play drums when you were younger?

A friend of mine (in 7th grade I believe) had a Beatles cover band and needed a drummer, so I volunteered. It turned out the "band" was just the two of us. We played one show, then he quit to play with more accomplished instrumentalists, but I kept on going even though I showed little promise.

2. What was the music scene in New Jersey like when you started playing in bands around the area?

When I began playing seriously it was the mid 80's and the "scene" here was predominantly punk rock and hardcore bands. There was also the 60's psych revival thing going on, although that was beginning to wane. The bands I played in were : The Underachievers (forgettable hardcore), The Shock Mommies (good "funny" punk band) and The Watchchildren (amazing psych band, look for them. The stuff is hard to find but well worth searching out).

3. What drummers influenced your playing early on?

I'd have to say Ringo Starr early onn although I probably wasn't aware of it. Later influences certainly included Mitch Mitchell, Bill Ward and Keith Moon. Of course, I wasn't nearly as good as those drummers, so it didn't really matter...

4. Going into the studio for Dopes To Infinity, did you have any specific goals in mind? Were they accomplished?

By the time Dopes To Infinity came out, I think we were expected to produce a more refined or "professional" finished product. I'm not positive, but that's the way the production seemed geared towards. In that respect, and if that was the goal, I suppose it was achieved. We almost had a "hit" off the record, but not quite. In fact, I've always had a sneaking suspicion that it was my odd drum pattern that prevented "Negasonic" from becoming more popular. (****EDITORS NOTE**** If anything contributed to that song not being a hit, it was the fucking phaser on the guitar.)

5. I mentioned in my review that while the songs still have the power of early MM records, your playing is slower and more in the pocket. Was that a conscious thing?

My guess is that the songs on that record may have dictated a different approach to the drum patterns. There was less room for sloppy, badly played fills. I don't think it was a conscious decision on my part.

6. You mentioned in your reply to me that you weren't really sober most of the time. Jokes aside, how much of a part did drugs/alcohol have in the recording process?

Drugs were never involved in the studio except for maybe a little pot or beer here and there. Studio time was far too expensive and I'm sure I would have been fired instantly had I ruined a take because I was "Incapacitated". On tour was a different story.

7. Are there any memories you have of the actual recording process that sort of stick in your head?

It was done at The Magic Shop in NYC. They had some great recording equipment there. For that album I do remember not being allowed to play an early 60's Ludwig kit I had purchased because the producer thought it was too small and said something to the effect of "This isn't a fucking jazz band" (that actually may have been the previous record, same producer). So I guess I used my Vistalite kit (which I later sold to pay rent). The engineer had a fantastic ear, and for one song in particular kept telling me I was hitting the kick drum a 64th note too late. Yikes... I got to play bass on one song which was fun for me, but it probably sucked for Joe. And a song I co-wrote made it onto the album, which was nice. That's the last time that ever happened. But really what I remember most is stating at the Gramercy Park Hotel, drinking a lot, and throwing a lawn sized garbage bag filled with water out the 6th or 7th floor window. When it hit the ground it sounded like a bomb had exploded and car alarms everywhere started going off.

8. How did you feel about the album directly after it was finished?

I still missed the writing contributions of John McBain, but I guess we thought the album had some "sales potential". We were wrong!

9. How do you feel about it now?

I don't really listen to anything by MM these days. After McBain left, the music changed direction a bit. I guess I preferred the more garage oriented, "druggier" stuff. The records that hold up for me are the earlier ones, up to and including Tab.

10. If you could take one recording you've done throughout your career (MM or otherwise), something you feel is the best example of your talent and ability, and preserve it for the rest of time, and that one song alone had to represent everything about yourself as a drummer, an artist, a person, etc.. what song would you choose and why?

Yikes, I honestly have no idea. I like my writing in The Ribeyes' "Horn of Plenty" and I suppose my drums on MM's cover of "Evil" was a semi serviceable rip-off of Carmine Appice, even though the rack and floor tom sound on that song is awful.


  1. Great page, BDK! Kleiman interview is real good work...Love MM and considered them far better than Soundgarden (the new Black Sabbath, yeah, right). Too terrible that A&M didn't promote MM at all. I spent ten years (1991-2001) as a Disc Jockey on Pittsburgh radio. Thanks loads!

  2. Hey Jon, this is Greg, your former lead guitarist from the "forgettable hardcore" band, The Underachievers. I just discovered how big of a star drummer you became; good job, buddy!