If you haven’t noticed, Big head Todd and the Monsters are on tour and playing better than ever. They just released an incredible new album Rocksteady and have been criss-crossing the country promoting it for months now.
I checked the band out at a recent show in Charlotte, NC and had a really great time. I hadn’t seen them live in many years and was blown away by their incredible performance. They played their new songs, some amazing blues covers, and of course some of their classic “Hits” from the 90’s. Todd Park Mohr is one of the greatest blues guitarists of our time and JBO was thrilled to get to talk to him about his music.
So shortly before the show, I got to know Todd a little better and learn about his influences, his song writing and of course the new album…
JBO: When you were guest a guest DJ recently on the Sirius XM radio station The Spectrum, I found it fascinating to learn that Aretha Franklin was one of your biggest influences. Will you tell us about this?
Todd: Well, as a young person in junior high School, I somehow ended up getting really involved in listening to Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. They were the first artists that really appealed to me and drove me to be interested in music and I’ve always really loved the album Aretha Live at the Fillmore West. It is probably my favorite album of all time.
JBO: That’s really interesting to learn that you were listening to these guys in junior high considering these artists weren’t necessarily from your generation?
Todd: Yeah, you know? Everyone else was listening to bands like Journey and Styx (laughs).
JBO: Makes me want to know who else you were listening to…
Todd: I was also very influenced by song writers like Bob Dylan and Springsteen and others who have a really good song craft and lyric abilities.
JBO: Speaking of song writing, I have been listening to your new CD and was very moved by the song Beautiful. I would love to know what inspired you to write it?
Todd: Its actually kind of a comedy, based on the outrage regarding those relationships that, you know, are maddening (laughs).
JBO: (Laughs) Well it’s great that you can use these experiences for positive and make art out them. Are most of your love songs autobiographical?
Todd: Well, I consider myself a fiction writer from a story telling perspective, so I use those standard literary mechanisms and try to come up with a point of view for each of my songs and try not to repeat writing a song, but yes, obviously I cant divorce my own experience from my material, so yeah, a big part of my emotional life does end up in my songs.
JBO: On the new album, you cover a couple of great classics; Smokestack Lighting by Howlin Wolf and also the Rolling Stones song Beast of Burden . Can you share with us your decision to record these songs in particular?
Todd: Beast of Burden is a song that I’ve been singing since the game began 27 years ago and it also happens to be my wife’s favorite song that I sing. With Smokestack Lightning, I’m just a big time Howlin Wolf fan and always loved his version of that song. I know other groups have done that song, but I took a whack at it, and I think it ended up turning out really well for us.
JBO: Todd, how does your music fit into the jam band scene?
Todd: Well we are really a song based band, so we don’t really go into long jams on our albums or at our shows, but outside of that, I once heard somebody define a jam band as a band that would play 3 shows without repeating a single song and I think that our shows kind of bring that to the table. I definitely am interested in the jam audience and I think they like our band. And I want more of them to like our band.
JBO: Yes, I agree. I think that the jam audiences appreciate the blues, so I can see why this would be the case, even if you don’t necessarily do the 10-20 minute songs or the 30 minute set breaks. Lets end the interview with question I have always wanted to ask you since I first got turned onto your music in 1993; Why do you call yourself Big head Todd?
Todd: Well, we started out as a blues band and there are artist like Eddie Fat Head Newman or Clean Head Vincent, so there seems to be a kind of tradition along those lines of blues names and we wanted to keep that tradition going, so we ended up with Big Head Todd.
JBO: I love it! Its been really great talking with you Todd and thank you for spending your time with us.
Todd: Thank you!
For more information on tour dates or anything else Big head Todd related, please check out www.bigheadtodd.com