Big Head Todd and The Monsters Tickets for Sale

Big Head Todd & The Monsters have come a long way since their formation in 1986. They have five albums--including the now platinum Sister Sweetly and near gold Strategem-- and 1500 live dates under their belt. Not bad for three high school buddies from Colorado.

They've also just released their third major label album, Beautiful World. I caught up with bassist Rob Squires recently and this is what he had to say about working with uber-producer Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads, Crash Test Dummies, Live): "It was great. He was really laid back and easy to get along with, which is key when working with a producer. Bringing a producer in is like adding another member to the band. Jerry was really great because he had a lot of really good ideas but he didn't force them down our throat. He would kind of bring them up as suggestions and it seemed he really felt like, 'Well, we are making a Big Head Todd & The Monsters record not a Jerry Harrison record.'"

Did the band choose the producer or did the record company? "It was really a mutual decision. When it comes time to pick a producer usually the label will give you a list of names of who they think are good and current right now. We kind of submit a list as well. Jerry just happened to be on both of those lists and happened to be available to do it. So it just worked out perfectly."

Mr. Harrison wasn't the only music veteran to appear on Beautiful World. Parliament-Funkedelic veteran Bernie Worrell sat in for a few tracks. How did the band hook-up with this funky guy? "Bernie actually played with Jerry before. I believe he did a tour with the Talking Heads. So he and Jerry go way back, they're good friends. It was actually Jerry's suggestion to bring Bernie in. To be honest, originally we felt the person we had hired to play organ was doing a good job; but, when Bernie came in it was really a great addition. The guy is so funky it's incredible. He came up with some really neat parts. In hindsight, Jerry was right on and we're really glad that Bernie came on."

Speaking of funky, almost the entire middle of the album is like some funk-fest. Lots of organ, and understandably so with someone like Bernie Worrell sitting in. But one has to wonder if it was intentional or if the album just flowed that way due to the line up. "Well, I think that Todd is a very strong writer as far as writing soul and funky types of material. So there was definitely that aspect of the record, from the writing end of it. I think Bernie just took it to the next level."
What about songwriting? It seems that Todd writes all the songs. Does the band have any say? Rob says the band is happy with their arrangement and there seems to be no reason to change things now. "A lot of bands get into trouble when they get signed to a major label and everybody thinks, 'Well, I want to be the songwriter.' We've all been really happy with the way we do things and how we approach things. It's worked really well."

I wondered how this affected song selection. Since one guy does all the writing, does he have the final say about what goes on the album? Or does he bring in a batch of songs and the band decides? "Usually it's a batch of songs. We'll have played some of them on the road and he'll come up with some new ones. We just kind of get together and go through them and practice them. It's pretty apparent who likes what stuff. It usually comes together pretty naturally. The better songs will stick around and the others will just fade away."

When looking at the liner notes for Beautiful World, I noticed that several of the songs were from 1989. "Yeah, actually we were looking at putting quite a bit of older material out with this record. We had been traveling so long and out on the road for so long that Todd kind of ran into a bit of a writer's block. He wasn't feeling very inspired to write the material. Fortunately, during the last year or so we got to take some time off and got to live a life at home again. I think that gave Todd some time to come up with some ideas and he ended up writing a bunch of new songs. So we put in a couple of our favorite old ones and a bunch of new ones that he had written. Actually, the first single, "Resignation Superman," was the last song he wrote. We got it just a couple of weeks before we went into the studio."

Speaking of "Resignation Superman," I was up late one night and around 3:00 a.m. I saw a video for the song on VH1. It was, maybe, the second Big Head Todd video I've ever seen. How does the band see the video industry? "I think it's kind of a necessary evil in this day and age. The power of video is so strong. It has the power to break the band or break a record. Obviously, we're really encouraged, from a record company standpoint. We have done videos in the past. I think we've done five or six videos. We didn't do one for "Bittersweet" because we felt that was such an obvious song that it didn't need a video. Based on that, I think we kind of got labeled as an 'anti-video band.' That's not really the case. You can do some great things with video if you can find the right producer. It's kind of like finding the right producer when you're making a record. I think the video producer might even have a little more input because it's a totally different medium. We're musicians, not filmmakers. When you're making a video you're pretty much putting yourself in that person's hands. You're going with his vision."

Now that the band has a new album out and they've been off the road for awhile, is a tour inevitable? "Definitely, all the response we've gotten on the record has been great. Everyone has been real into it. We're hoping that it'll do well. Based on the initial response, the record company is going to want us out there for quite awhile. Right now we're going out for two and a half months for a short spring tour. Then we'll take a short break and go back out for a summer tour. Probably take another short break and go out for a fall tour. Probably going to pretty extensive touring."

Unfortunately, the band won't be able to bring along John Lee Hooker with whom they recorded a version of "Boom Boom" for the album. "That was a big thrill. He's one of the founding fathers. Getting to meet him and getting to a song with him was incredible."
During the late '80s and early '90s, Big Head Todd & the Monsters (the Colorado-based trio of guitarist/keyboard player Todd Park Mohr, bassist Rob Squires, and drummer Brian Nevin) built their audience through constant touring, playing college towns across the country. With these tours, they built a solid fan base before they had even signed to a major label. Although they have released several records, they haven't been able to completely transfer the live appeal of their laid-back, slightly jazzy, blues-based pop to tape. Nevertheless, each of their records contains many fine moments, and 1993's Sister Sweetly, which went gold and stayed in the charts over a year, showed that they were continuing to improve their songwriting as well as their playing. It was followed by their second major-label album, Strategem, in 1994; Beautiful World appeared in 1997, followed a year later by Live Monsters. Big Head Todd & the Monsters were dropped from Warner after Live Monsters and the band took four years to regroup and release Rivera in 2002. Crimes of Passion followed in 2004 on the Sanctuary label.
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