Many of the songs have a storyteller’s quality and some definite Dylanesque overtones. It seems a bit more subdued with a laid back groove.
If your appreciation of Big Head Todd and the Monsters is limited to the more-than-decade-old “Sister Sweetly,” with standards “Bittersweet,” “Circle,” and “It’s Alright,” you owe it to yourself to check out this immensely energetic trio live. Todd Park Mohr, Rob Squires, and Brian Nevin consistently deliver a solid show that is jam-packed with tunes. Vocalist Hazel Miller is slated to join the band on this tour, which promises all of your favorites plus tunes from 2002’s impressive Riviera and their pre–Valentine’s Day release on Big/Sanctuary Records, Crimes of Passion. Come on out and see what makes Todd so big.
Lisa Tebbe chatted with Big Head Todd (Minus the Monsters). Their conversation follows. (ed.)
You have been playing with Rob and Brian since attending Columbine High School. What initially brought you three together and, after almost 20 years, how do you still keep things energized?
A: I met Brian at Jazz Band in high school. Brian was friends with Rob at the time and before long we were making noise. We have a great
friendship, partnership, and enjoy being a band together. I feel that the band is a great format for my ambitions and enjoy being part of a team that works well together.
Collectively, who are your main musical influences? Who did you like in high school? Who has influenced your guitar style?
A: I was a freak for Blues and R&B as a young person. Most of my peers were listening to R.E.O. or Sammy Haggar. I was obsessed with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Albert King, “Mississippi” Fred McDowell and so on. Brian has always been partial to Jazz as well as progressive or alternative music. He has a huge album collection. I would put Rob on the more classic side of the map. He’s way into Springsteen and Led
How do you write a song-words or music first? Do you begin with your guitar or another instrument?
A: I usually write music before writing words. After I have a completed melody for a song, I’ll map out the syllables and begin writing words. I find that the music often times suggests the story or the point of view.
You’ve recently merged your own label, Big Records, with Sanctuary. What lead to that decision?
A: After completing Crimes of Passion, we felt we should try to shop for a partner in supporting it. A major label, or in this case Sanctuary was the perfect partner for us in helping “Big” reach a larger audience.
Crimes of Passion, your first release on Big/Sanctuary comes out on February 10—just in time for Valentine’s Day. Many of the songs have a storyteller’s quality and some definite Dylanesque overtones. It seems a bit more subdued with a laid back groove. Can you tell us what inspired your songs on this release?
A: I think one of my strengths as a songwriter is writing the mid tempo ballad. So it seemed natural for me to follow my inclinations with songs like “Imaginary Ships” or “Angela Dangerlove.” I have always been very interested in the story telling songs of Bob Dylan and Springsteen. “Beauty Queen” is probably one of the most developed plots I’ve ever crammed into a pop song. The blues tracks on the album “Conquestador,” “Dirty Juice,” and “Lost Child Astronaut” are not really blues anymore because we’ve enlisted some contemporary synthesizer elements, creating what I call “techno-delta.”
I like the different styles represented on “CoP,” for example, the
Caribbean feel of “Beauty Queen.” This release seems to be less
about power-guitar driven tunes and more about atmospheric vibes. Is this something new you were trying to achieve?
A: I’ve always been a fan of atmosphere when it is used properly – as is the case with say, Daniel Lanois, or Peter Gabriel. I think BHTM’s music can always afford to dip a toe in that direction, although I've always been a fan of mixing things up as much as possible on an album and dishing up as much variety as the stomach will allow.
BHTM have built an incredibly loyal fan base through touring. It seems like you’re always on the road. What keeps you going? How do you stay grounded to your families and friends?
A: It seems like we are always on the road, but in fact we have a very regular touring schedule that takes us to our top 30 cities or so twice a year. We take two six week outings every year to achieve this and the rest of the time we spend with our families in Colorado.
I’ve only seen BHTM as a trio and I noticed you’ve added Hazel Miller to the tour on vocals. What prompted that?
A: The Crimes of Passion material is very produced and we felt we wanted to bring that level of production in order to present this material. We will actually be a six piece this time out: Keyboards, Vocals, and Percussion will round out the trio.
One last question . . . is that your wife on the cover of Crimes of
A: Parts of my wife to be sure.