by Ty Campbell
Bass Frontiers Staff Contributor
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Rob Squires from Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Rob has been with the band since the beginning. Big Head Todd and the Monsters are a mix of blues, rock, soul, and even a touch of country all rolled up into one. Later that evening, I had the chance to see them in concert here in Nashville, and I was left, well, to put it in my terms, “blown away”. These guys put on one of the most fun and energetic shows that everyone needs to experience. All the musicians in this band are top notch and if they are coming to your town, it is a show that you don’t want to miss.
TC: Where were you born and raised to where you got to where you are today ?
RS: I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, and I got into music because my older brother played guitar and I wanted to be like my older brother, so some friends and I started putting a band together in 7th grade. I took a 7th grade guitar class and we started putting garage bands together in jr high school. We could never find anybody that played bass, so I switched over to bass so we could have the band and I have stuck with it since jr. high. I met our drummer Brian first in 10th grade in Colorado. I played with Brian for maybe a couple years with different players, and he came across Todd. He knew Todd through the high school jazz band. We could never find anyone that could actually sing until Todd came in, and he could actually hold a tune which was good for a jr high school boy, and we have been playing ever since. We had a different band in high school, it was called TJ and the Twist, playing 50’s and 60’s cover tunes, old soul, and blues cover tunes. We had that band for a few years, went our separate ways to different colleges and after a couple of years, we all ended up at the University of Colorado together. That’s when we started playing music together again. We started playing frat parties, house parties, and then finally broke into a bar gig. We had built a following through the house and frat parties, so we did well at the bar gig, which turned into a weekly gig. We started traveling around, sleeping on friends couches and begging for gigs and been doing it ever since, and here we are 26 years into it now.
TC: How are the songs constructed, the creative writing process?
RS: Todd is our primary writer and always has been. When we were in high school, he started writing songs, and we started slipping them in with the covers. We basically worked our way to where we had enough original stuff that we became an original band. Todd is a good writer and good in the studio as well. A lot of his demo tapes when he brings them in are fairly well done. He’s open to collaboration, so we all kinda throw our 2 cents in and put our personal style on it. He writes a lot of the bass parts and I respect that. As the writer, that’s kind of the direction he is going in. I take a lot of the parts and play them the way I play, with the best way to help the song along.
TC: What gear are you currently using?
RS: I have a bunch of different basses. I really like Warwick basses and I had a sponsorship with them for a while. I came across the MusicMan basses and I have been traveling with them. They are really sturdy as far as being able to take a beating on the road. I have a couple of MusicMan’s I have been playing lately, but I really do like my Warwicks as well. Amps, I’ve been using SWR’s for years. When they first came out, I got one, and it’s a real road dog. I’ve never had any problems in 25 years of playing it, and it’s maybe been in the shop twice in 25 years. Last time through Nashville, I bought my first standup bass at Gruhn Guitars. I’m still feeling my way around it, but it’s been really fun. It’s definitely a challenge and a totally different instrument.
TC: Any endorsements ?
RS: I don’t know if they are current or not, but I had endorsements through SWR, Warwick, MusicMan, and Dean Markley for strings. I’ve had my instruments for so long that I don’t know if I still have those endorsements or not. I still speak highly of those companies and I still use their products but I haven’t really had a need for new gear.
TC: Who are your influences ?
RS: Growing up, I was just a kid of the radio. 70’s rock radio, classic rock, so I grew up listening to Skynyrd, Led Zepplin, Nugent, and everything that was on classic rock radio. I still like classic rock stuff. When we met Todd, he had a real deep base of roots in blues and soul, and the classics like Aretha Franklin. I had never heard most of that when we met in high school, so that broadened my influences. I think our band has elements of all that deep in there. Blues, rock, and soul, with a little bit of country thrown in for fun every once in a while.
TC: How did the Robert Johnson CD and Tour come about ?
RS: Last year would have been Robert Johnson’s 100th birthday, so there are a lot of events that kinda took place around that. Our manager initially had the concept of paying homage to him and he had a producer buddy that wanted to put a project together. Chris Goldsmith was the guy who produced the record. Chris has worked with a bunch of classics blues people and he is a grammy winning producer. We went to Arden studios in Memphis, and we were the band on the majority of the record. We had some very special guests join us. We had Hubert Sumlin, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, BB KIng, Ruthie Foster, and Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm. It was a real fun project and we banged it out in four days. We had a great time, and then we did a tour last year playing the record and we toured with a lot of those players. We got to ride around on a bus with Hubert Sumlin and David “Honeyboy” Edwards which was truly amazing and they are both gone now. They both passed away these past couple of months.
TC: Any advice ?
RS: I don’t really know how it has happened. You just play and hopefully hook up with the right people. That has been the biggest thing. We started out as friends first and playing for fun, and never really expected it to be a career. That’s the biggest thing is finding the right people because you spend so much time together. Be with people that you can enjoy and respect, and be flexible enough to work as a group. A lot of times it’s the ego’s that break bands up. We have been fortunate enough to have a similiar taste in music, a similiar vision, and a fear of getting day jobs.
TC: What are you currently listening to now ?
RS: I tend towards singer/songwriter people like John Hiatt, Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, Reckless Kelly, Jimmy Lafave. I still listen to the classic rock stuff.
For more info, tour dates, etc, check out http://www.bigheadtodd.com