We caught up with London-based band TODGER, following the release of the superb cover single ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’, for a full interview.
Tell us about yourself?
Hello and hell yeah. We are TODGER, probably the UK’s worst named unsigned rock band, and we’ve been about for quite some time.
‘Big C’ Christian Browning (Lead Vox and Other Guitar), ‘Bitchin Black’ Jack Barber (Lead Guitar and BVs) and Hugh’ Mungus’ Fairclough (bass and BVs) formed way back in the halcyon days of our youth in 2002 at Birmingham Uni.
After a year or so hiatus in the mid-2000s, we somehow coalesced by design or by accident in London and new boy, Bart’ E. Hard’ Porzuczek joined us on the drums in 2012. And we’ve bounced around London and further afield playing gigs and writing the occasional album ever since.
Other musical friends have come and gone over the years, but the core line up has remained throughout. TODGER are good friends writing and playing the music we love for the shits and giggles of it all.
What is your songwriting process?
We’ve been writing with each other for near on 20 years, and so we pretty much know what a TODGER song sounds like before pick touches string.
The general approach is Jack or Christian will write out a rough song and structure on guitar, take it to rehearsals and then as a band build up the parts and flesh it out.
This is one of the best parts of being in a band, taking a seed of an idea and sharing it with your mates and watching it blossom out into a whole song as everyone chips in.
With the lyrics and vocal parts, that’s more Christian’s domain. He comes up with the core themes, lyrics and melodies, then working with Hugh and Jack to develop the BVs.
Tell us about your latest release?
We don’t usually do covers, but we’ve loved ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’ since we were kids. Its fast, fun and it ticks the boxes of telling a nice, tight, little lyrical Faustian tale.
And we all got a place in heart for some of that sweet Southern Rock from the 70s. Plus for Jack, there’s the added challenge translating those lightening fast fiddle parts onto his trusty Gibson.
Then, of course, we couldn’t help ourselves but add in some additional Iron Maiden-esque noodle bridges and dual guitar harmonies… We are suckers for that sh*t.
We were initially preparing this for our album later in the year and weren’t really thinking of issuing as a single, but after the sad demise of Mr Charlie Daniels, we felt it right to get our little tribute out there.
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
For this particular song, the message is that if you think you are particularly gifted at a musical instrument, you live in Georgia, and you happen to be offered a competition by the Lord Of Hell himself in your chosen area of expertise, then go for it!
Firstly you might win. Secondly, the existence of a soul is highly dubious, whereas both gold and fiddles are definitely real, so potentially you have nothing to lose, and you may even win an inconveniently heavy but valuable musical instrument. 😊
In general, we’d hope our music conveys fun, we had fun making it, we have fun performing it, and maybe, just maybe, someone out there will find it fun to listen to.
Who are your musical influences?
Well, it’s pretty clear The Charlie Daniels Band is an influence, but more generally, it’s fair to say we wear our musical influences on our sleeves.
We have a deep love of classic rock of Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden through to GnR and the 90s Stoner rock scene, Clutch, Kyuss, Monster Magnet.
But also we are fans of rock with big BVs, classic fare like Fleetwood Mac, Eagles and Foreigner plus one our new favourites The Church Of The Cosmic Skull. And we love the joy and energy Andrew WK puts into his live shows.
Additionally, Christian is a massive fan when it comes to lyrics of They Might Be Giants, Clutch, Nick Cave and that brand of off kilter storytelling and bizarrely educational songs.
Who are your non-musical influences?
Like all good classic rock bands worth their salt, a bit of love for the stories of classical mythology and old testament shenanigans, albeit in a pretty sacrilegious way.
Christian never really grew out of the pretentious, teenager-y love of postmodern novels. In the upcoming album, we’ve got nods to Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco and prevalent themes on the weirder and darker side of American culture; cults, secret society, CIA black ops, gothic cowboys, and the dark humour and absurdity of it all.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
A couple of years back we got invited to play at A Guarda, a tiny, Galician fishing town’s annual Gaelic Fiesta, where the whole town was in party mode for a whole week. We were then invited to join one of the traditional Gaelic drumming bands and march through the whole town playing snare drums in the town’s parade.
This culminated in banging drums with 50 or so other marching bands all the way up a mountain to a Stone Age settlement, where ourselves and pretty much the whole damn village started to consume vast quantities of local, sweet red wine from massive buckets over the course of many, many hours while having drum-offs. It was bloody nuts. It was bloody great.
What is your funniest gig moment?
Over nearly 20 years, we’ve played a lot of gigs and its always been important to us to inject humour and a bit of silliness into our live shows. We want to have fun and most of all we want the poor saps who’ve paid to get in to have fun.
So if that involves a nearly 40-year-old, overweight man clowning about and falling off the stage pretending he’s a 20-year-old rock star, or deliberately embarrassing other members of the band mid-set then that’s what we’ll do.
We’ve blown entire venues power supply with misplaced pints, played in breweries (after the pissup) and one time, we were stage bombed by an interpretive jazz dancer who proceeded to undulate in an alarming fashion throughout the rest of our show.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
Well, its gotta be lockdown and the death of live music at the moment. There doesn’t look like an end is in sight, and that is depressing.
More broadly, the same obstacles that we faced back in 2002 are the same today, the music industry, how music is consumed and the multiplicity of sources of entertainment has fundamentally changed. I’m unclear if it’s for the better or worse, but it is different.
In London, venues, particularly for rock and metal, have pretty much dried up which is makes us sad. And for us personally, we play a genre of music that is increasingly vintage with a reducing pool of adherents…so maybe play something more modern!?
But we love what we play, we love playing and writing together, and we love it when some random dude (or even better the sound engineer) comes up to us after a show and says “I bloody loved that”, and if you got that, and you are realistic about a lack of fame and fortune then who cares about the obstacles?
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
Easy! Join a band with your friends, make music that brings you and your buddies joy. Don’t wait 15 years before figuring out how social media works…And always be nice to the bands who you are sharing a bill with, watch em, cheer em on, and even if they are rubbish you can always tell them it was a ‘tight set’. (It sounds complimentary but it’s pretty ambiguous).
Most importantly of all, and I can’t stress this enough. Never, ever pick a band name when you are drunk, high, and only slightly older than the legal drinking age in the UK. Especially if you have any intention of keeping the band name going for more than five years…otherwise, you may end up with a name like TODGER. And God knows, no one needs that albatross hanging around their musical output.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
Firstly, have a rehearsal and a couple of beers with the band in person when lockdowns a little less fraught, secondly to be able to play to a sweaty toilet pub venue with a bunch of drunk patrons having a good time. Maybe go up that Spanish wine mountain again.
In the meantime, we will settle for folks enjoying this track and our upcoming album…and err world peace?
FVMusicBlog August 2020
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