Shed Archive: SMH-D’s 1st and 2nd Anniversaries with Big Head Todd & The Monsters

This week’s Shed Archive celebrates Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson’s NOT So Sweet 16 Birthday Bash (which is taking place this Thursday through Sunday complete with awesome food and drink specials, vendors on site, and tons of great riding), by looking back at the first ever Birthday Bashes which both featured one of The Shed’s favorite bands! You can see that even in 2005, Big Head Todd were very well aware of where the music business was heading and correctly predicted the future. Be sure to check out the video below where you listen to the full show from the 2006 performance!

Big Head Todd and the Monsters help Harley Dealership Celebrate One Year
By Steve Wildsmith (Originally published in The Maryville Daily Times)
September 2, 2005

Todd Park Mohr has neither an oversized cranium nor a gigantic ego.

It’s not a stretch to make that assumption, given the band’s sideshow-like nom de guerre. In fact, it might be more apropos to call the band Big Loud Todd and the Monsters, given the band’s monstrous guitar chords and blues-rock foundation.

But Big Head Todd and the Monsters has worked for almost 20 years, so there’s no point in changing the name now. After all, Mohr and his two bandmates, bassist Rob Squires and drummer Brian Nevin, have been functioning just fine under the unusual nomenclature since they were students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

“I just think that we’re a great rock ‘n’ roll band,” Mohr told The Daily Times during a recent interview. “We have eight albums out, so we have a lot to draw from. We have all kinds of material from all kinds of genres. Basically, I’m a guitar-playing singer-songwriter, and my bag is being a songwriter.

“Plus, our friendship is our basis for being a band. When you have a great friendship, just like a great marriage, there’s not a lot that you can’t achieve. I’ve always felt strongly about not writing the same song twice and never making the same album twice. I’ve always been really concerned about doing things that are sincere and new for me.”

It was in the mid-1980s that Mohr, Squires and Niven formed Big Head Todd and the Monsters, at the University of Colorado. Their high school alma mater would go on to make tragic headlines for the massacre of students and teachers several years later, an event that the band members keep close to their hearts, even today.

“Obviously, that was a shock for everybody, and America kind of changed when that went down,” Mohr said. “Everybody sort of realized this could happen to their school, and it did happen to ours. The worst part of it for me is that my memories of my high school experience are forever changed.

“As a band, we’ve always been committed to music education, and Brian and I went through the music program at Columbine. Since the shootings, we’ve had the opportunity to play shows there and give a ton of money. Plus, we go visit periodically, mainly for ourselves and to feel connected to what was happening and the healing process.”

In the band’s early years, the members got noticed when they sold 58,000 copies of two independently produced albums — 1987’s “Another Mayberry” and 1990’s “Midnight Radio.” Both of the records, straight-ahead rock anchored by killer guitar riffs and Mohr’s rough singing, got them signed to Giant Records, which released the platinum-selling “Sister Sweetly.” That album spawned the radio hit “Bittersweet,” which has been a bit of an albatross for the band to carry since hitting the airwaves in 1993.

“The downside of it is that from a record label standpoint, they want to make Sister Sweetly over and over and over again,” Mohr said. “It’s been kind of a long learning curve for our audience, but it’s been really gratifying now to have an audience that really respects us for our whole catalogue instead of a hit single.”

That catalogue includes the follow-ups to “Sister Sweetly” — “Strategem,” “Beautiful World,” “Riviera” and “Crimes of Passion,” released last year. Each one is a blend of several different genres, all anchored in solid, guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll.

“I write a lot of different types of genres, and obviously our group is kind of known for being somewhat eclectic,” Mohr said. “I’m writing in 12 different categories, from blues to folk to R&B to hard rock. We’re already looking ahead, but to be honest, we’re kind of waiting to see what label we’re on and the group of minds that will be helping us before getting specific on what the next record’s going to be.”

In the meantime, Mohr has plenty to keep him busy — in addition to a heavy tour schedule, the band does a six- to seven-week run every winter and wrapped 30 dates at various festivals throughout the summer. He’s also written and produced a song for NASA, and in October, the band is recording a track with iconic engineer Alan Parsons, who worked with both The Beatles and on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album. Mohr is also keeping an eye on the evolution of digital music.

“So much is going on right now in terms of pod-casting and mp3 delivery, so I’m sort of looking down the line of different avenues to really get our music out,” he said. “I really like the notion of having a career where new music is always coming out, instead of the traditional cycle of putting out a new record every two years. There’s a lot to be said in my mind for the Internet in terms of rewriting the rules of what new music can be.

“I would rather have half a million people download one of my songs for free than sell 40,000 records, because to me, it’s about getting your music out to as many people as you can. The more people that get exposed to our band, the bigger it impacts our career. I also think that free music and free content is good for our society, because it’s going to create more diversity and give us more altruistic reasons for creating art.”

Tonight, Big Head Todd and the Monsters are poised to get their music out in Blount County, kicking off three days of entertainment at the Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson dealership on West Lamar Alexander Parkway.

“We’re very receptive to what the audience wants to hear, and a lot of times our setlists are very loose,” he said. “It’s a Harley-Davidson dealership, so I imagine it’ll be pretty fun and heavy on the rock ‘n’ roll end of things.”


SOME KIND OF MONSTER: Big Head Todd returns to the Harley ‘Shed’
By Steve Wildsmith (Originally published in The Maryville Daily Times)
September 1, 2006

It would not be advisable to call the guy who fronts a band named Big Head Todd and the Monsters a cyber-geek.

It’s not that Todd Park Mohr has a reputation of resorting to violence, and it’s not that his band, despite the foreboding moniker, plays some intimidating genre of metal.

He is, however, on the cutting edge of using the capabilities of the World Wide Web to his advantage when it comes to promoting his music. And given the cutthroat nature of the music industry, that makes him technologically savvy, a much cooler term than “geek.”

“We put out a podcast (a sort of Internet radio program that can be downloaded to computers or digital music players for anytime accessibility), and if you go to iTunes, we’re releasing about three songs a month or so on that, and a lot of them are unreleased studio tracks,” Mohr told The Daily Times this week. “It’s just been a great way for us to keep connected with our fans, because everyone who has a computer can use it. And if they subscribe to our podcasts, when we put out new songs, people automatically get them.

“We’ve had a lot of fans requesting that sort of thing on our [Internet] message boards, and it’s a great way for us to keep our fans current on our ongoing musical career. These days, there are a lot of fans that don’t buy a CD, and I think it’s essential for any band to do things like this. That where you’re going to reach out to new audiences and younger audiences, because that’s where they’re going. That’s where you’re interacting with their culture.

“It’s essential for most bands, if not all bands, to reach out into those venues,” Mohr added. “Our career is a lot more niche-oriented. We’ve never been a major-label, smash-hit group, so it’s even more important for us to take advantage of alternative or digital media.”

For a band that marks it’s 20th anniversary this year, the willingness to use technology and adapt to the changing musical times is a testament of Big Head Todd and the Monsters’ willingness to survive. It was at the University of Colorado that Mohr and his two bandmates, bassist Rob Squires and drummer Brian Nevin, first formed the band after graduating from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

In the band’s early years, the members got noticed when they sold 58,000 copies of two independently produced albums – 1987’s “Another Mayberry” and 1990’s “Midnight Radio.” Both of the records, straight-ahead rock anchored by killer guitar riffs and Mohr’s rough singing, got them signed to Giant Records, which released the platinum-selling “Sister Sweetly.” That album spawned the radio hits “Bittersweet” and “It’s Alright,” as well as a couple of other minor hits.

On its follow-up records, the group rarely deviated from that successful formula, occasionally coloring outside the lines with the blues but always finding its way back to what it does best – guitar-driven rock that shakes the rafters with triumphant bombast and lulls a crowd to quiet introspection on some of the moodier songs. The themes are universal ones – love and life and death and legacy – that have adapted easily to a live setting, evident by the band’s 1998 album “Live Monsters” and 2004’s “Live at the Fillmore,” the group’s most recent release.

“We’re working on the follow-up to our last studio record, ‘Crimes of Passion,’ and fans should expect something out at the beginning of the year,” Mohr said. “We’re writing and working on it now, and we’ll be back on tour again in January or February.”

In the meantime, the Monsters have plenty to keep them busy. According to Mohr, they just finished a song called “Blue Sky” for NASA, written to commemorate the shuttle program. In addition, the guys recently collaborated with Alan Parsons, the studio engineer behind the genius that is Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album and leader of the Alan Parsons Project, on a version of that song.

Saturday, the band performs at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson in Maryville for the venue’s two-year anniversary. Big Head Todd and the Monsters performed there a year ago, a show that Mohr remembers well.

“It’s the only time we’ve ever played at a Harley dealership, so it was quite memorable,” he said with a chuckle. “Half of our guys went out for rides, so they were thrilled. It was a fun day, and there was even some moonshine involved, to my recollection.”

The band recently completed a tour with Toad the Wet Sprocket, another icon of the ’90s modern rock scene, and after Saturday’s gig, Mohr said, he’s looking forward to getting home and enjoying a much-needed break.

Even then, however, you’ll probably find him in front of his computer, tinkering with new ways to keep up with shifting musical tastes in the Information Age.

“It’s an interesting world for music out there now,” he said. “We’re moving into a different world, one where the CD is becoming obsolete. I have an iPod, and I refer to the actual discs very infrequently. I think we’re moving toward a point, quite quickly, when all music is digital. And that’s too bad, but at the same time, it’s opened up new doors for us.

“It’s been really fun for me to be able to continue to work on a song and release songs and demos to our fans. We can release those different versions and still be able to feel like they can develop as a composition or a recording. That helps me to feel free to be a lot more creative and not be so bound by genres or marketing handles.

“Those are exciting possibilities that our fans want from our music, and I think it helps everybody,” he added.

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