The Psychedelic Guitar presents...
an interview with
Michael Monarch
formerly with Steppenwolf!


Michael in 1968 (Source: Internet)

This interview was conducted by E-mail in Feb. 2004. Thanks to Michael,
not just for the words and pics he provided for this page, but for his
music and influence generations of
fans & players have grooved to.
 

 


Was there a moment you knew music would be your life's path?
I remember learning a little boogie-woogie piano around the age of 8 and loved that. I always wanted to play drums and getting my first pro drum set (about 12 years old) was a thrill. I didn’t really plan on music for a profession, it just kind of happened.

Your personal entry into the psychedelic era was…
I’m not sure what you are after with this question but the late 60’s was the beginning of the psychedelic era.

Your personal exit from the psychedelic era was…

You never really leave it…..Residuals.

What do you carry with you from the '60s?
The sixties were wild and exciting. I was a teenager hanging out on the Sunset Strip. That was an unusual time that I don’t think will be repeated. I met or played with Hendrix, Cream, Janis, The Doors, etc….so many creative people. There was an open mindedness, so many possibilities and a lot of experimentation with music and otherwise. They say if you have a clear memory of the sixties, then you weren’t really there. I’m a little blurry.

Other players through the years you've really enjoyed: guitar and / or otherwise.
There are so many but here is a partial list of my favorites: Jeff Beck, Hendrix, Albert King, Albert Lee, Ry Cooder, Danny Gatton, Eric Johnson, Brent Mason, Junior Brown, etc.

How did you get that tone at the beginning of Magic Carpet Ride?
Our producer asked me to "go out into the studio and make some noise with your guitar". I cranked the amp and just beat up on my guitar for awhile. They loved it and asked me to do it again. I did and they mixed the two together and that was that. If I had to recreate it would be hard.

 

 


Michael in Steppenwolf, late '60s (3rd from left). Source: Michael Monarch

 


Did you have a main guitar / amp / fuzztone rig you used during the Steppenwolf years?
Originally I used a Fender Esquire (one pick-up Tele) and a Fender Concert or Band Master amp. During the second album I switched to a Fender Stratocaster. For a while we used Rickenbacker amps and then Marshalls. My first fuzztone was a grey box with one red button called a Distorte. I don’t know who made that or where I got it but I wish I still had it, not that it sounded that great but it looked so primitive.

What gear do you play currently?
I have few guitars: 2 Tele’s, a custom Strat, a Les Paul, and a Gibson Chet Atkins Nylon Electric. I have an old Fender Princeton and a small Marshall for recording. Live I use the custom Strat and a Marshall 900. I keep the effects simple – delay and eq-ed boost.

Talk about some recent projects – last decade or so.
For the last decade I have been writing and producing music as well as performing with Randy Meisner (Eagles), Denny Laine (Moody Blues/Wings), Spencer Davis, Aynsley Dunbar (Journey) and musicians from Toto (Fergie Frederiksen), Steppenwolf (Nick St.Nicholas), Foreigner (Ron Wikso), and Lynyrd Skynyrd (Randall Hall) as the World Classic Rockers. We have a CD available at www.WCR.com.

I have two all instrumental CDs available at my website – MichaelMonarch.com as well as from cdbaby.com, cdstreet.com and amazon.com. From balls-to-the-wall rock to funky R&B, my first release for the MSR label, "Guitar Bazaar", is an eclectic collection of guitar instrumentals with plenty of "ear candy". In 2002 "the Other Side of the Tracks" was a follow up with 12 new tracks full of guitar bends and twists that will take you on a trip.

What were you up to between Steppenwolf and the newer stuff?
Well in ‘69 I played on the Janis Joplin album "Kosmic Blues Band" along with Goldy (Steppenwolf keyboardist) and Jerry Edmonton (Steppenwolf drummer). In the early seventies I did one album for Romar/MGM called Hocus Pocus with singer John Hyde and keyboardist Scott Thurston (Iggy and the Stooges, Motels, Jackson Browne and now Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). Around ’74 I moved to England and worked on a project for RSO but nothing was ever released. I met Roger Glover (Deep Purple) and did many sessions for him in London. He was producing different acts at the time but the idea was we would form a band in the future. I eventually moved back to Los Angeles, met Michael Des Barres (Silverhead) and the two of us formed Detective on SwanSong/Atlantic records. We put out two records and toured in the US but after a few years we decided to call it quits.

In the eighties I worked with Andy Fraser (Free) for a few years and then formed my own band that played locally called Monarch or sometimes Steele-Monarch. In the nineties I began to get interested in country music and played in a few bands around L.A. It was in a country club that I was introduced to country dancing. At first it was just sort of a joke but when I entered a contest and won I started to get more serious. I switched to Swing dancing and won a few titles in 97-98. Who would have ever thought that a rock musician would/could compete in dancing? Rock musicians don’t dance! I was getting pretty busy playing with WCR (World Classic Rockers) and gave up competitive dancing at the end of 1998.

 

 



A more recent shot of Michael. (Source: Michael Monarch)
 

 


Five albums you feel are parts of a soundtrack to your life – they move you still and you never get tired of them; they're very important to you.

Jimi Hendrix "Are You Experienced"
Jeff Beck’s "Truth" album with Rod Stewart.
Stevie Wonder’s "Songs In The Key Of Life"
Jeff Beck’s "Blow By Blow"
Albert King’s "Born Under A Bad Sign"

How often do people recognize you and break into fits of air guitar, mouthing your signature riffs? I mean, to be the guitarist from Steppenwolf is a HUGE thing – do you run into people who don't believe it was you? Any wackiness?
The Steppenwolf songs do seem to have a special place in a lot of people’s lives. I meet people all the time that tell me how much they loved that stuff. One guy said, "I burned a lot of brain cells listening to your music". There are some people that find it hard to believe that I played in the original line up of Steppenwolf and that I played with Janis. I take it as a compliment and kid them that I was 8 years old when I did those albums.

 
Some books that changed your life:
Well I guess number one would be Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse.

Some causes you feel strongly about:
Self-preservation….

Is music a spiritual thing to you, and if so would you elaborate on that connection.
I do think music can strike a spiritual chord in most of us. I believe that some music comes from the same place where spirituality and philosophy have their roots.

What is it like to know you have influenced thousands of players and your work has become so important to so many for so long? That must feel good, like footsteps in the sands of time.
Well I have been very lucky. To have played in a big Sixties band when I was a teenager is not something everyone can say. It’s great to be a part of music history.

What are your future music plans?
Writing, playing, recording and producing.

Any life wisdom you'd like to share?
Strike while the iron is hot!

Also, I studied for a long, long, long boring time with the great Indian philosopher, the Paramagondaparanoia and he taught me one thing I will never forget….He said, "Always"……..No, he said "Never"…no that’s not it.…..Oh yeah, he said, "Always keep a litter bag in your car. When it gets filled up you can just toss it out the window".
-- Steve Martin

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."
-- Hunter S. Thompson


Thanks so much for this interview and for all the music you've played for the world. It's an honor to have your words on my screen. Hope the New Year is good to you, Michael! Visit Michael's official site at www.michaelmonarch.com and tell him you saw his interview on thepsychedelicguitar.com!
 

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