TEN TON MOJO

TEN TON MOJO
interview
christopher duda - mayor of tiny town – sugarbuzz munchkin land
Photography by Alan Rand

TEN TON MOJO is a rock band on the rise! For East Coast rock fans, TEN TON MOJO has become a game-changer. They are being called “easily the best rock band in New York City” by the regional press. Don’t be fooled by the grass roots marketing campaign. Their strong social media presence is helping to turn them into a national contender! Their newly released self-titled album has secured them supporting slots for touring artists like The Supersuckers, The Dirty Pearls, Jesse Malin, John 5, and the late Scott Weiland.

Mojo is a spell or an amulet carried on a person’s body, often in the form of a prayer bag containing an assortment of magical items. Ten Ton Mojo has created their own magical mixed bag of rock that immediately grabs you with an unapologetic guitar driven sound. Catchy melodies and hip-shaking rhythms blend classic rock, soulful blues and southern charm to create an exciting new brand of street wise rock & roll.

Individually, these players have experienced past successes which have taken them and their music around the world. Now operating as a team under the moniker TEN TON MOJO, guitarists Scott Lano and Gabe Mera, singer Ernie Papp, drummer Paul Kane and bassist Chris Laubis insist that this is the band that has come to save rock & roll!

While in the throes of a fresh recording session, the band took some time out to introduce themselves to us and to answer a few questions….

1) Silly first question, but what fictional band most closely resembles Ten Ton Mojo?

Chris: I say the Lone Rangers. Those guys cut through the industry roundabout by taking over a radio station! Today’s formatted radio networks won’t play a record until it’s a hit, but you can’t sell a million copies unless it’s pushed on radio. Likewise, we’re always finding unconventional ways to overcome obstacles!

Ernie: I see us more as Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, the Muppet rock house band!

Scott: Probably that band Stillwater from the movie Almost Famous.

Gabe: Yeah, I agree, Stillwater!

Paul: How about the Banana Splits?!?

2) What’s your favorite song on your album? Is there a story behind it?

Scott: Pinball Girl, the song was written for a small independent film starring Jane Weiland of the Go-Go’s. I was approached by the producer/director Anna Newman to write a song for the soundtrack. I ran the idea past the band and together we wrote Pinball Girl. It was a really fun experience for the band and the filmmaker.

Ernie: My favorite song on the album is One and Only. It reflects the uniqueness of the band, heavy yet swaggering. It tells of someone’s loss of trust, and how losing someone’s trust can spin around on you.

Gabe: It’s hard to pick just one. ‘High Forever’ is the song that drew me to this band before I joined, and ‘Got The Light On’ is one of my favorites that I wrote with the band.

Paul: Southside Of Heaven. It was such a collaborative effort and it just captures our spirit as a band.

3)  What other artist would you most like to hear cover one of your songs?

Ernie: I would love to hear Bonnie Rait perform Come Tomorrow. When it comes to the blues, I love her voice and delivery.

Scott: I would love to hear Willie Nelson do Come Tomorrow!

Gabe: Dave Grohl!

4) Young rock bands have always known they were struggling against the odds because there was always a great deal of competition. Now, young rock bands are struggling against the odds because they feel the industry isn’t supporting the rock format. Do you agree?

Gabe: I do, but the bigger picture is the industry itself which reshapes, markets, homogenizes and over exposes a creative trend in an effort to make profit; and then spits it out, only to consume and regurgitate the next hot thing.

Paul: To an extent. The focus has been on pop and pre-fab music. Recording studios are bereft of real live people making music.

Scott: I think there are just too many choices out there right now, you really need to do something to set yourself apart whether it’s rock, blues, soul, rap, or whatever.
The upside is people are going out to discover music again, they’re doing the research online to find the bands they really want to go see, so your fan base winds up being truly dedicated.

Ernie: At some point any genre of music can exhaust. The industry just needs to put it down for a bit, but then will pick up on it again later. In the long run, good songs and high energy will demand attention!

5) Is there an audience for what you’re doing?

Ernie: Absolutely! Our fan base is constantly growing, and it’s great to see that our audience is comprised of all different ages and trends.

Paul: I see packed houses and audiences digging what we do.

Scott: Absolutely, see you at the next show!

6) How do you feel about rock icons like Steven Tyler doing Burger King commercials or Ace Frehley doing Dunkin’ Donuts commercials? Does it compromise the integrity of their art?

Gabe: There’s is a large grey area between creative integrity and commercial applications.

Paul: It’s tough to throw stones. We licensed our song One and Only to Suzuki for ATV ads. I see it as another opportunity for people to hear the music.

Scott: I don’t feel like we’re a sell out, I think we’ve expanded our audience.

Ernie: It sort of depends on who the artist is. I might feel differently if Bob Dylan did a Burger King commercial.

Gabe: Everyone needs a dollar in their pocket.

7) When you’re on stage, how do you know when the audience is in the palm of your hand?

Scott: You can just tell. When the audience has the same enthusiasm as the band’s performance – then you know you hit the bullseye.

Paul: As the drummer, when I see heads moving and bodies shakin’, I know they’re feeling what we’re doing!

Ernie: I know when I have their full attention because I can see their facial expressions change with mine.

8) If you’re not getting the right response from an audience, what do you do to turn them around?

Scott: Luckily for us we’ve never had that reaction.

Gabe: If we were ever to have an off night, or the crowd just didn’t get it, I wouldn’t change a thing. People get it or they don’t. I think staying true to yourself is always more respectable than kissing ass.

Ernie: I’d look right into their eyes. You really have to have confidence up there. The audience wants to know you’re for real and that it’s coming from your heart.

Scott: I think people can tell we’re the real deal.

9) You had the opportunity to share a bill with Scott Weiland just days before he died. What were your impressions of him?

Gabe: He was a recluse until after the show. His performance seemed detached.

Paul: I thought he nailed his performance and it was great to see him up close.

Ernie: He pulled it off, but you could tell there was an emptiness. He was alone with his demons. I don’t know if any life line could’ve helped him, but you’re still never prepared for that. Such a loss.

Scott: Scott Weiland was a real rockstar and artist, and will be truly missed.

10) Ten Ton Mojo is a band on the rise, yet you’ve already had several personnel changes. What do you look for when auditioning players? Do you think you’ve finally found the magic line-up to go the distance?

Paul: We looked for someone who has the playing ability and personality to mesh with the band. Both are equally important. We now have the line-up that will take the band further.

Scott: Yeah, I think we’ve found the magic lineup. Chris has been a friend and a fan of the band for a while. It was a logical and easy choice for us. His audition was a formality, we really wanted him in the band, but he was always busy, or we were always busy, but finally things lined up for us.

Ernie: Yeah, for a band like TTM, It’s very tricky. We thrive on chemistry. Getting 5 competent players on the same page has taken a while, but we finally have the crew, and it really shows in our latest material.

Gabe: Life is a series of moments & circumstances that can stop and change on a dime. I never believe anything is set in stone. There’s still time for us to screw this up!

11) Many bands are built around a prolific songwriter or songwriting team, (Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, etc). Is there a primary songwriter or writing team in Ten Ton Mojo?

Paul: Often it’s Scott, Gabe or Ernie who bring in a fresh riff or an interesting lyric that’s gets us all excited, then the whole band forms the tune. It’s largely a collaborative effort.

Ernie: Yeah, Scott and I previously played together, so we brought in most of the initial songs to get us going, but now we write with input from everyone. Gabe has brought in some great stuff and Chris has just started adding to the mix.

Gabe: For the most part it is democratic. Scott and I may come in with a riff, but the arrangements come from the band. The outcome is always the result of the entire band’s contribution.

12) Everyone in Ten Ton Mojo has a resume of notable previous projects. How have those experiences shaped the way Ten Ton Mojo is approaching the road to success?

Ernie: NYC is a tough town. You really got to work that much harder to get noticed. We’ve each played in a lot of bands and have all have gotten our cuts and bruises along the way. Now to be big news in the biggest city in the world feels great!

Paul: With the past experiences each band member has had, I think we have the tools to make good decisions for the band.

Chris: We’re also now working with experienced management and producers who share our vision and have helped us sidestep a few landmines.

Scott: Our experience has definitely affected our decision making in the band. Listen to AC/DC’s “Long Way To the Top” and you’ll understand.

13) Your single Pinball Girl was released on vinyl. Was that done for audio quality or as a statement about the industry?

Gabe: The idea for a 7″ single was mine. Pinball is a retro interest, and many pinball aficionados have turntables & vintage stereo setups. We also wanted to create something collectible to have on the merchandise table.

Scott: It had everything to do with releasing a cool rock and roll single.

Paul: And because Gabe’s artwork on the sleeve is amazing!

Ernie: It’s also a statement. We want to remind people that having something tangible to put on a turn table adds to the experience of sound and vision.

14) What’s your prediction for the Guns n’ Roses reunion – a laughable parody of a once great rock band, or the comeback of the century which will reinvigorate America’s passion for rock & roll?

Ernie: Although its status has slipped in America, rock still thrives worldwide. America has been pop starred to death and I think now the next rock generation ttm7needs some inspiration. Guns n’ Roses has the chance to make that impact.

Chris: They’d have a bigger impact with kids on the street if their ticket prices were affordable.

Scott: I think it’s exciting. I can’t wait to see what these guys have in store for their fans.

Gabe: No Izzy? No Steven? No GnR.

Paul: I think it’s is gonna be great!

15) What’s next for Ten Ton Mojo?

Paul: To save rock & roll!!!

Chris: Beer-run first, save the planet second.

Scott: New record, tour and video this year. Stay tuned!

Ernie: With the perfect line up and strong new material, the greatly anticipated TTM sound and power will be shot from the cannon! We’re comin’!!!

Thanks to Ten Ton Mojo for taking the time out to chat! Find out more at TenTonMojo.com and look for them on Facebook, ReverbNation, Spotify and Twitter. Their powerful CD, 7” single, and plenty of other merchandise is available at BandCamp.

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