Entertainment

Big Head Todd and the Monsters dig deep as they make new music

Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters performs during the “Last Summer on Earth Tour 2012” in West Palm Beach, Fla. They’ll perform at The Ritz in Raleigh Jan. 31.
Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters performs during the “Last Summer on Earth Tour 2012” in West Palm Beach, Fla. They’ll perform at The Ritz in Raleigh Jan. 31. Invision/AP

Big Head Todd and the Monsters have been known for years as an easy-going jam band.

But they’ve cranked the amps up to 11 with their latest release, “New World Arisin.” The fresh material is more muscular than most of what the act has recorded during its 30-plus year run, which includes hits “Bittersweet,” “Broken Hearted Savior” and “Circle.”

“Everybody in the band wanted to make a hard rock album,” vocalist-guitarist Todd Park Mohr says while calling from Chicago. “It was that simple. It was something that was fun to do. I always loved hard rock.”

Mohr, 52, came of age listening to hard rock in the Rockies. The Denver native was weaned on the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix during the ’70s.

“I loved those groups and some metal (acts) when I was a kid,” Mohr says. “That sound just hit me in the gut.”

But Mohr graduated to blues and R&B when he hit his late teens. He formed Big Head Todd and the Monsters and has often mixed rock with blues and a hint of jazz.

“That’s what I was feeling at the time,” Mohr says. “We’ve always been true to ourselves in this band. We never played anything that we weren’t into playing. The cool thing about what we’re doing now is that it happened organically.”

Big Head Todd and the Monsters, who will perform Jan. 31 at the Ritz, aren’t trying to fill a hole in the market but they are cognizant that hard rock isn’t as ubiquitous as it was a generation ago.

“There is a gaping hole where hard rock used to be,” Mohr says. “There’s no doubt about that. It’s not something we’re thinking about. We’re just made this album for ourselves. We made something heavy that’s also a little bit funky. We’re just going through this journey right now. We do what we want.”

Playing only what they want likely has contributed to the band staying together.

“I think there’s something to that,” Mohr says. “Not everybody at our labels were crazy about us making eclectic music but that’s who we are. If we tried to write hits, we would have broken up years ago. But we want the same things. So we’re around all of these years later.”

Mohr has been flanked by bassist Rob Squires and drummer Brian Nevin since the group formed in 1986.

“We’re on the same page, and that’s special,” Mohr says. “We want to accomplish the same things musically. We’re good together in the studio.

The members of the band, which also includes keyboardist Jeremy Lawton, perform in a manner that is almost telepathic.

“We usually do know what we’re going to do,” Mohr says. “We don’t need to speak with each other onstage to communicate. Often, just a nod of a head will do the trick. Maybe I’ll raise my hand. We easily follow those signals.”

Each night Big Head Todd and the Monsters takes the stage the group can draw from more than 200 songs in its canon. But the band is anxious to make more music.

“We’re just going to add to what we’ve done,” Mohr says. “It’s never enough for us. Making new music that’s viable is what it’s about for us. We’re not going to live on what we’ve done. It’s like with this album. We decided to dig deeper. We’re going to continue doing that as we make new music.”

Details

Who: Big Head Todd and the Monsters

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1

Where: The Ritz, 2820 Industrial Drive, Raleigh

Tickets: $27

Info: 919-424-1400 or ritzraleigh.com

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