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A Dirty Dozen with TOM JORDAN from 20 WATT TOMBSTONE – May 2021


According to a recent press release: “They have played hundreds of shows over the past few years, and are now looking at embracing European shores this summer. Fusing the sounds of ZZ Top with Kyuss by way of Robert Johnson and Black Flag, the band has continually outdone themselves since their formation in 2011. The band built their name on the road, but it was a split with Left Lane Cruiser that propelled them to the next level. Now they seek to grow upon all of this and bring the entire stoner rock scene to a new frontier. This is the sort of band who remain devout to their community no matter the consequences. The stoner rock underground has allowed them to make a living from this, and they are determined to give back. Frontman Tom Jordan is even stepping in as an organizer of Wisconsin Doomed & Stoned Festival. Their DIY aesthetic has impressed fans across the world, all of whom are eager to see the band’s next steps.” We get Tom to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

It’s pretty straightforward, we just basically wanted to release something during Covid and the idea of a cover was something we both really liked. At the time Covid was in full swing and we wanted something light, easy and fun that people could get into easily. Originally we planned on just doing a single for ZZ Top’s Just Got Paid” but then we thought why not do another cover and release them both as a short two song album. With no touring happening, money was tight, so a full album just wasn’t in the cards. Fans had been patient and we wanted to give them something. Out of that was born “Year of the Jackalope.”

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

My dad played guitar but I really didn’t get interested in guitar til much later. My parents paid for me to take classical guitar lessons as a kid and I just couldn’t bond with the instrument because that wasn’t what I wanted to play. Later on when I had a different teacher it started to click, but it was when I saw the video for ‘Hot for teacher” by Van Halen that it all came into focus for me. I knew right then and there what I wanted. Eddie was the coolest man on the planet to me and he always looked happy.  No matter where or when Eddie played, it always looked like it was the happiest moment of his life. I wanted that.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Really I am all over the place, I am influenced by so many different artists and styles it is really hard to pick one. I have a deep love of early blues musicians like Robert Johnson, Bukka White, Son house, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Memphis Minnie and Etta James, but I also like old school country, metal, punk and hip hop. It’s not uncommon for a playlist in the van to skip around from Lamb of god, Prince and Waylon Jennings to The Wu-Tang clan, RL Burnside and Lamb of God.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Another really tough one! Ha! I guess purely based on influence I would say Waylon Jennings for his dedication to the road and being an artist. Not just a singer or guitar player.  When Waylon wrote about the road or even just talked. You listened. For front man factor I would have to say Iggy Pop. In my opinion, few people are in the category he is. Not only is he smart as hell and capable of some of the best intellectual banter you can find from a musician, he’s also one of the best frontmen to ever live. Iggy IS punk rock. For talent and raw skill, being a slide player I really love a lot of the killer slide blues masters, but Sonny Landreth, Ry Cooder, and Greg Allman really brought slide playing to another level. Most people you see play slide respect the hell out of those three and Duane is responsible for most of the licks you hear modern slide players doing.  One of my biggest influences though has to be the man that taught me how to play slide (Howard “Guitar” Luedtke”. He took me for a ride in his Studebaker once, before a lesson and drove like he stole it, then after that adrenaline was still going, we sat down and he gave me my first slide guitar lesson on an old vintage dobro from the 70’s. After the lesson was over he told me to take the guitar home to learn on and said “You’ll need something to practice on.”

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

There are so many but I will try to limit it to three. #1 Brother Dege – I am actually lucky enough to be working on a song right now with him and it is something I have wanted to do for some time now. Dege is a Louisiana legend, and was nominated for a Grammy for his song on the Tarantino film Django Unchained. His song “Too Old To Die Young” off of that soundtrack is what first got me listening to him. Been a fan since and now thanks to being able to meet all the people I have on the road I am proud to call him a friend. #2 would be Shawn James. Shawn is a force of nature, one of the best songwriters I have met. He’s a phenomenal musician as well as an amazing songwriter and arranger. His solo music and his band Shawn James and the Shapeshifters are both way up there on my list of people I would love to work with. #3 would be Amigo the Devil, or Danny as he’s known by some. I had the pleasure of meeting Danny a few years back after being a huge fan. Turns out we know mutual people and became friends, his performances are awe inspiring and his music speaks to people in a way that very few people can. He’s a genius songwriter and if I could, someday collaborating with him would be great.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Well, Freddie J IV from Left lane cruiser once called us “Death Blues” and the term kind of stuck. We never know what to call our music. There is rock, blues, country, folk and metal in what we do but none of them are prevalent enough to call it any one of those. I always just tell people to listen and form their own opinion. The “Death Blues” moniker has stuck though, so now a lot of reviewers use that and we are ok with that.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

There are just two of us in the band, but usually on the road if we cook its probably me. Mitch (the drummer) is a bit more of a drinker than I am. I don’t really drink much these days. We aren’t really the sing along types I guess. hahah.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I don’t get star struck often but We played the Majestic theater with Reignwolf in 2019 and I was very star struck when I met Jordan Cook. I had been a fan for a long time and when we got the chance to play with him we jumped at it. Turned out we had a mutual friend and chatted a bit. Super nice guy and one of the best live shows I have ever seen a band do.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Since we usually tour so much for me the answer is touring and traveling. Getting to meet so many cool people out on the road and having all these people show up, buy merch, let us crash on their couches, etc. It really refuels my faith in people and how good they can be. I guess if I ever quit touring I will most likely book bands full time. I am a lifer, I don’t think music can ever NOT be part of me… its in my blood. Doing TM work and or booking would probably be my focus, that way I would hopefully not lose my mind!

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I really don’t have an answer for either of these. I like the spontaneity of where an interview can go when the interviewer is leading. I do like to have some idea of where the conversation could go so I don’t ramble, but I like to let interviewers and writers do their thing. I think any creative process is better when you allow the person to do things how they are comfortable.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I don’t really have a lot of regrets, everything led me here where I am. Both good and bad helped me along the path. My only “sort of” regret is not getting started earlier and learning more sooner. I didn’t have a ton of teachers and learned a lot of things on my own and as such I could have been further along in my career.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

If I could be part of any recording anywhere anytime, I would probably choose Chicago in 1956 with Howlin’ Wolf on “Smokestack Lightning”. Just to be in the room and be present in the creation of the blues among one of the masters would be amazing to me.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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