BOULDER, CO (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Over the past twenty-five years since
forming Big Head Todd and The Monsters, Todd Park Mohr has navigated the changing
landscape of the recording industry with integrity and grace. Always looking to
satisfy their own musical desires, Mohr and company have held tightly to their
artistic convictions, mixing pop sensibilities with roots in R&B, soul, and
singer-songwriter ethics. With their latest album Rocksteady featuring a
Caribbean influenced sound, the band is seeing a rejuvenation of their career
with the widely played single “Beautiful.” Mohr takes a moment off from touring
to discuss the band’s history, his fascination with rock and roll as an art form,
and the future of The Monsters.
Just this past June the band played their annual show at Red Rocks, this time
around playing Midnight Radio in its entirety as a 20th anniversary celebration
of the album’s release.
Did you prepare any differently for that show?
Actually, quite a number of those songs we play pretty consistently, but there
were probably three or four that we haven’t played in about twenty years. I kind
of went back and relearned some material and revisited that album, which I was a
little bit surprised by. It’s always kind of interesting looking into yourself.
I could barely play guitar and sing in tune at the time. (Laughs) I think was
probably twenty-one years old when we recorded that album.
Because it was a live album, it was pretty easy pickings, I think, for us to
present it well. It was a fulfilling moment to play it live for everybody and I
think it was a really successful show. We started the show by pulling out our '77 Dodge van called “The Colonel” on stage. Of course it didn’t run—we had to
get a front-end loader to push it up Red Rocks stage to get it to roll twenty
feet (laughs). It was entertaining and a really special moment.
Speaking of Red Rocks, you guys have been actively involved in charitable work
for quite a long time, and have often used that venue as backdrop for charity
It’s a pretty easy thing to get involved in charities. A lot of times we are
hired to support charities and at other times, like Red Rocks, we just have a
great opportunity to raise money and raise awareness for various things.
Our focus has always been on kids, so the types of charities we tend to pick out
have to do with children’s health or education.
It’s not really something that makes us that special, I don’t think. We don’t
really make a big deal out of it. My personal opinion is that the best charity
you can do is to be good at what you do, whatever that is. Like I said, it’s an
easy thing for us to do, and we love doing it. We consider ourselves
One of the things that sticks out about you guys as a band is that your sound has
evolved, but it’s always seemed to be a very organic evolution. With all the
different types of music that have produced hits since you guys stared, how do
you stick to your plan as band and play the music you want?
We’ve always been a little bit independent. When started our career, we started
our own label back in the late ‘80s and always felt that our independence was an important part of our career. I think we have always evolved naturally and on
our own trajectory. The industry is done, in a way. A lot of the industry
changes have more to do with the financial realities of a changing marketplace
with file sharing and that sort of thing.
Musically, I’m not really that cognizant of different directions that the
industry has taken. We’ve always been a roots-oriented band. I’m very
interested in and influence by soul and R&B and singer-songwriters like Dylan and
Springsteen. I’ve always kind of had a similar tool set as far as what I was
interested in and wanted to achieve as a musician.
Hopefully, our trajectory has been along the lines of being true to our roots.
Sooner or later we’re going to intersect yet again with popular culture maybe, or
maybe not. (Laughs) I guess we’ll see, but our fans love us either way.
It seems that you’re as much of a fan and a historian as a musician. There’s
little doubt that’s had a significant influence on your own music. How does
being a fan by those musicians translate into the sound you have evolved into?
Firstly, what I like about all those guys mentioned is that they’re all word guys
and I’m a word guy. I’m really fascinated and interested in music because it’s a
format for poetry. So that part of the art is something that has always intrigued me:
to be able to say something that is get-able and quick. You don’t have a lot of
words, so you need to pick them carefully in songwriting. That’s the part of the
craft that I’ve always been interested in.
But also, as I mentioned the influence of soul and R&B is there, but also on this
album in particular [Rocksteady], there are a lot of Caribbean influences. I’m
fascinated by how rock and roll and contemporary music came to be what it is.
Certain periods of music have always stuck out to me as being seminal, so I keep
those pretty close to the vest.
I guess this seems as good of a time as any to start talking about your new
album, Rocksteady. I understand the album was recorded in Colorado, which is
home for you.
Being at home in Denver, we recorded at our keyboard player Jeremy Lawton’s
studio, which is about ten blocks from my house. Overall, it was really relaxing
and the type of environment where we had the liberty to make sure we got things
right. We went in and started out with about thirty songs and spent our time with
each one and had the liberty to try different things. Somewhere in the middle of
the process we decided to split up things into a couple more focused albums.
I always wanted to make kind of an R&B album–it’s always been a fantasy of mine.
That’s the direction that we went with Rocksteady. It is the most focused
collection of songs we’ve ever put out on an album. Instead of being all over
the map, it’s a more light-hearted, fun, party album. As I said, it has a pretty
heavy strand of rhythm and blues and Caribbean influences that run through it.
As you mentioned, keyboardist Jeremy Lawton produced the album. What made you
guys make the decision to have him produce the album, rather than bringing in
another big name?
We’ve worked with big producers in and out of our career and I’ve had a lot of
great experiences. We worked with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, David Z [an
associate of pop superstar, Prince] and David Bianco [Tom Petty, Mick Jagger,
There are a lot of good things producers bring to projects. One of the things I
struggle with is the pressurized timeframe. Studios are expensive and producers
are expensive and they have other projects before and after your project.
Generally, what I find is that it is more of a cookie-cutter type of experience,
where there is less time for experimentation or trying things a different way.
That’s the big thing that I found useful out of this process with Jeremy, just
having the liberty and the time to follow every road. That can be a big problem
also, if you don’t have enough focus to get everything together. (Laughs) That’s
why a lot of bands in a lot of situations need a producer. But I think that,
collectively, we had so much experience with producers; I had produced a couple
of our records myself and Jeremy has produced a lot of records, also. I think we
felt like we had enough producing chops between us to pull it together.
This album features a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden,” a song that
has been a staple for you at live shows. Why did you guys decide to include that
song on the album now, instead of in years past?
A couple things, really. For one, my wife, that’s her favorite song that we do.
We initially started out at the beginning of this year with the mindset of
recording a bunch of covers to have a covers program, like a monthly cover. We
did a half a dozen songs or so and realized, they were pretty fine. They weren’t
like second-rate songs for the band. But “Beast of Burden” was just really
special, it had such a slinky-soul vocal. It just seemed to fit right in with the
rest of the songs on Rocksteady.
So far, Rocksteady has been met with a lot of praise. With that being the case,
what kind of expectations or hopes do you have for the future and what is next
for the band?
To our delight we’ve already had really great success with our single,
“Beautiful.” It’s done better at radio than any one of our tracks since "Sister
Sweetly." We’re starting to see a rejuvenated career already from how well the
song is doing on the radio.
These days it’s hard to have any kind of expectations for a record because very
few people are buying them and the way they’re buying them is so different. With
iTunes and Pandora, it seems to be a much more single-oriented market.
Our goal is always to add new life to our career with new music. Hopefully, our
fans latch on to that and they get excited about new material and have a reason
to come see the band again. So new music for us is our way of staying relevant
and pushing our art forward. Whatever happens in addition to that is just gravy,
but welcomed gravy. (Laughs) – Interview by Dave Mistich
Big Head Todd and the Monsters
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