Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with Monster Truck guitarist ‘JER’

By John Parks

The band Monster Truck is getting set to open the new Alice in Chains tour but is making time to come play a big show at The District (205 W. State St., Rockford) June 23.

The Canadian powerhouse fuses ’70s stoner rock with modern velocity, and has been making a name for itself with a couple of EP releases leading up to its new album, Furiousity.

I recently talked with their guitarist “JER” (Jeremy Widerman) about their album, history and more.

Q. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, guys. I have been diggin the new album Furiousity, and went back and checked out some of the old stuff. Heavy and fun … for those who are not aware, how has the band changed over the years?

A: There haven’t been a ton of changes, as we kinda found our formula early on and stuck to it. We make sure that the ideas and songs come together quickly and easily, or we scrap them and move on. The only major shift with the new album is our ability to have an entire record to try out a few new styles of blues, rock and metal to experiment with. We wanted to make sure the EPs were very focused and easily grasped, since you only have four to five songs to showcase what you are about. Now, with the full-length, we had more time to slow things down and then speed things back up again without throwing anyone off balance.

Q. Fans of bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Clutch or Rival Sons have a lot to get excited about here with Monster Truck. Do those comparisons make some sense or sit well with you?

A: It’s fine with me, really.  The beauty of our band, in my eyes, is that every rock fan has a different comparison to make depending on who their favorite bands are, and I think that speaks volumes about the diversity of our music.

Q. The fact that you incorporate keyboards and don’t relegate them to the background is pretty cool and different in this day and age. When and why did you know that was going to be important to you and your sound?

A: From day one, it was an absolute must in (Monster Truck singer) Jon’s eyes that we incorporate a “rock organ,” as he put it. I wasn’t as familiar with the concept, but after a few listens through Deep Purple’s Machine Head, I totally understood the angle and importance.

Q. You guys don’t seem the suit-and-tie type, but recently won a Juno in your homeland of Canada, which is basically a Canadian “Grammy.” Did you ever forsee the band accomplishing such highbrow recognition, and does it trip you out at all?

A: We never saw that coming. It was a trip being the underdog and shocking media insiders, and a real thrill for our parents, who were watching live at home and had no idea that we would be getting up on stage to accept.

Q. You are coming to Rockford in preparation for a tour with Alice in Chains … pretty big opportunity. How much of a learning experience were your gigs opening for the likes of Deep Purple, GNR or Slash? Did it really help in terms of “spreading of the gospel” of Monster Truck?

A: I feel like every opening slot is always a huge asset in spreading the word about our band, but it’s really accurate you mention those gigs as the ones that were learning experiences. All of those aritsts are such legends, and seeing them perform and how they handle themselves on the day-to-day end of things really showed us a thing or two about being a professional.

Q. What inspired the track “Psychics” on your new album?

A: That’s a tough one. That song is great example of the kind of co-song writing that goes on in the band. I wrote the main riffs for that song  while I was dog-sitting a friend’s dogs all alone late one night. Once I had the core ideas, I kinda brought it to the band, where it changed fairly significantly as we worked on it as a group. Jon wrote the lyrics based on shared feelings that we’ve all had … the kind that sense that a major change is coming to how we act as a society. However, we only know how to spread that message in a very  vague way.  He would be able to better explain the lyrical side of things, I think.

Q. Being a Canadian band can be good if you break on a level of Rush, but can be hard sometimes for up-and-coming acts like Danko Jones, who have been slugging it out for years. How do you deal with the naysayers, the people who may have questioned you over the years or counted you out on your way up?

A: We started this band with blind eyes and deaf ears to just about anyone who thought they should have a say in how bands write, act or present themselves to the world. Also, I don’t really think we have any naysayers or people that question us because everyone we work with is super supportive. If there is anyone out there that doubts our band, we definitely haven’t heard from them. We’ve been on a roll from just about day one, and we aim to continue working hard to keep it that way.

From the June 19-25, 2013, issue

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