Loyal following keeps Big Head Todd going



By Steve Newton

The day before Todd Park Mohr called the Straight from a friend’s place in Chicago, an armed teenager in Germany walked into his former high school and began a suicidal rampage that would claim 16 lives, including his own. Twenty-four hours before that horrific event, another 10 victims, and their assailant, died during a shooting spree in Alabama. Closer to home, you’ve got ongoing gang wars in Metro Vancouver that have resulted in a rain of bullets and multiple deaths.

While researching Mohr’s Colorado-based quartet, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, I learned that he and two of his long-time bandmates—drummer Brian Nevin and bassist Rob Squires—had attended Columbine High School, the site of an infamous 1999 massacre. Thoughts of all that mayhem had me wondering if Mohr had ever contemplated writing an anti-gun song himself, his own “Saturday Night Special”, so to speak.“I’ve never involved myself politically in terms of songwriting,” he points out. “We’ve done a number of events to show our support to the students at Columbine, and all of us are pretty in favour of gun-control legislation, but that’s kind of where we’re at with it.”Fair enough. Not every recording artist concerned with gun violence feels impelled to skewer the NRA in song. And judging by past successes, Mohr does well enough with lyrics that focus on relationships and emotions, thank you very much. Back in 1993, his group—which also includes keyboardist Jeremy Lawton—hit platinum with the album Sister Sweetly, which boasted the hits “Broken Hearted Savior”, “Bittersweet”, and “Circle”.

As for what’s been going on lately, Mohr isn’t too concerned that Big Head Todd and the Monsters haven’t cracked mainstream radio since their cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” back in 1998.

“Obviously, you’re always tryin’ to be as successful as you can,” he states, “but for our career, we’ve been very fortunate to have a really loyal fan base, and our live show is what kinda drives our band.”

With eight studio albums to its credit—including the most recent, 2007’s decidedly uptempo All the Love You Need—the group has no shortage of original material to choose from in concert. But it’s not above covering Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” or a tune made famous by Mohr’s main influence on guitar, Albert King.

At the height of its early-’90s success the band took part in the H.O.R.D.E. Festival tour, which put it in the company of jam-happy acts like Phish and Blues Traveler. Nowadays, Big Head Todd and the Monsters’ sets normally run between two-and-a-half and three hours long, not unusual in the jam-band pantheon.

“That H.O.R.D.E. tour really gave us a chance to play for a lot of people,” cites Mohr, “and we still have a fair amount of fans from that era. But a friend of mine always says, ”˜There’s two kinds of audiences: there’s beer-drinking audiences and there’s the other kind.’ And we’ve always sort of been on the beer-drinking side of things, so our fans are pretty diverse, I guess.”

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