Vocalist. Guitarist. Gentleman & Scholar. Soon to be author!? This edition of Fistful of Questions goes to 20 Watt Tombstone’s Tom Jordan.
What is your full name?
Thomas Vincent Jordan III
Do you have any aliases?
Not really, no.
What bands are you actively involved with?
Currently I am only in one, 20 Watt Tombstone
What was the first instrument that you played?
Guitar, It's really the only instrument I play.
Tell me about one of your first musical memories?
As a kid I grew up in a religious home. Rock was looked at as a bad thing, so my exposure to mainstream music was somewhat limited. My Dad taught me how to play old stuff like Bob Dylan and The Ventures, Neil Young, stuff like that. From there I discovered bands like Kiss, Van Halen, Black Flag and Metallica through other kids. Eventually, I got a record player from my grandpa and an elder in our church gave me old blues records like Taj Mahal and Muddy Waters. His influence was huge and I owe a lot of the influence I have to the old records he would loan me every week. The hot for teacher video from Van Halen was probably the reason I wanted to play at that age, to me that video was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
What was the name of the first band you were in?
I honestly can't remember! It was a 15 year old me, a drummer who was a senior and a singer who was older and graduated. We practiced out at the older guys house and at one point I snuck out on a school night to go play a bar with them. We were awful and didn't get paid but I remember at school the next day all the other kids thought It was super cool.
Tell me about the genesis of 20 Watt Tombstone.
I was in another band, a three piece called Meantooth Grin and Mitch (My drummer now) was filling in, we discussed starting a duo since we had a hard time finding people that could tour and play as much as we wanted to. Eventually we started this band as a joke, side project to do on the side for fun and it ended up getting a lot more attention than we intended. So we decided to record a record and take it a bit more seriously.
What inspired the name 20 Watt Tombstone?
Well, it's a long story but I will try and condense it a bit. When we started out, our name was "the Goddamns". When we started looking at touring and tv and movie placements, the name became an issue. The biggest issue became when we tried to trademark the band name and were told by the U.S. Trademark office that you cannot legally trademark a curse word. Also around the same time, our booking agent told us that she was having some trouble booking us with the name in the bible belt. We also had several tv and movie placements get rejected because of it. So we decided to change it, however...we had no idea what to call ourselves. In an effort to seek help we asked our booker and lawyer and they recommended we ask our fans and get them involved. Make them part of the process, so we took to social media asking for name suggestions and after about 3 months of 1000's of suggestions we narrowed it down to a few we didn't hate. After running them by our lawyer and booker again we decided that the one that worked the best with our current logo would be best for branding and that name was 20 Watt Tombstone. We gave the person who chose the name a big merch package and a public post about them choosing the winner and the rest as they say, is History.
You picked two amazing songs to do covers of. What’s the process that you go through when you are picking songs to cover?
I have a weird theory about covers, I don't really choose them as much as they choose us. Our originals are always the priority but sometimes a cover just stands out to me. Our style is fairly odd so a lot of stuff doesn't work so well, but some lends itself really well to what we do.
If you could insert yourself into any one band what band would it be and why?
I'm pretty happy with where I am, but If I had a chance to play with anyone it would probably be some of the old blues guys like Muddy Waters, RL Burnside, Howlin Wolf. I think the level of creativity those cats brought to music would be a blast to just be around and maybe learn from.
Have you ever heard a song and immediately wished you had written it? If so… What was the song and artist?
Not really, though I am jealous of some of the amazing songwriters out there like Amigo the Devil, Shawn James and Brother Dege. Those guys draw from something that few people do anymore. It's truly a gift to speak to the soul the way they do and just to have a small piece of that level of artistic creativity would be pretty great in my opinion.
Do you have any non-rock/metal musical inspirations?
Absolutely, most of my musical inspirations are not metal honestly. Metal was a huge part of my childhood and I am a metal head at heart but there is so much great music out there I have a hard time not enjoying all of it. I love old country by the greats like George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, WIllie Nelson, etc. Those guys were bad asses in a time that music was changing in some cool ways. I also love hip hop and soul, funk, and blues music. I am as likely to be listening to Mos Def and Charlie Patton as I am to listen to Lamb of God and Prince. I also love women like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald. I am really all over the map. Only thing I hate really is pop country.
What’s a pop song that you'd like to do a cover of?
I have always wanted to cover "Bad Guy" by Billie Eilish.
What band have you played with that has really impressed you with their live show?
Man, there are so many. If I had to pick one I would say Mothership. Those guys are on point every damn night and their live show might be one of the best out there. Super nice guys too. There are so many great bands we have had the honor to play with though, it's hard to pick just one!
Do you have a favorite venue to play at?
This is another tough one. We play so many cool spots all over. I would say at home here in Wisconsin our local dive bar Polack Inn is home. They are family and we love it there. Otherwise Burns Alley Tavern in Charleston SC, The Thirsty Devil in Tupelo MS, Limelight in San Antonio TX, The Skylark Social Club in Charlotte NC, as well as High Noon Saloon and Lyric Room here in Wisco are all great spots too. Again it's really tough to pick one. We are very blessed to work with all really great venues lately.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Not really, vocal warm ups sometimes. Mitch has one for sure. He has become somewhat infamous for his "Pre-show dump." He takes one before every show and posts from the bathroom about the show. We have rolled up to shows and had total strangers ask if he's taken his pre-show dump yet. It's Crazy. He's become famous for pooping.
What is your favorite thing about touring?
It's hard to say. It's definitely not something that's for everyone. It's a lot of driving and sleeping in odd places, getting lost and dealing with some very unique problems, but I wouldn't change anything. I've been blessed to be able to do what I love for a living and even on its worst day it's better than any day job I have had. For me it's the travel, the adrenaline of a good show, the burn in your skull from loud amps when you fall asleep at night. Mostly I love the fact that we get to meet so many people and hear their stories, get to know them. We have really seen the best and the worst of people out on the road but it's refueled my belief in humanity. I have met strangers who have fed us, helped us fix our van, given us gifts, and let us stay with them. There are truly some amazing caring people out there in the world if you look hard enough.
What is your least favorite thing about touring?
Easily missing my Wife. The hardest thing I do every tour is say goodbye to her but she is amazing and supports what I do. She's a lifer like me and gets it. I lucked out finding her.
Is there a city that you love to hit while on tour?
Tupelo MS is probably our favorite spot in the U.S. outside of home. They love us there and have embraced us like family. We now have a ton of very close friends and road family there and it's always a spot we look forward to. My wife and I plan on renewing our vows there after travel is safe again.
What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had on the road?
The year is 1991. Where are you at and what are you listening to?
Motorhead and Prince most likely.
What advice would you give young musicians that are just starting out in the music business?
There is a lot I would say but I will keep it to the basics. I am 44 and it took me years to learn what I have but I still have a ton to learn. Biggest thing is lose the ego, that ends careers quickly. Second is be nice, to everyone. You never know who is going to be that person that can change everything. Be nice to the drunk guy in the front row, the booker, the other bands, all of em. Be the band that when your name comes up people say "wow those guys are sweethearts". Nobody likes an asshole. Third thing I would say is there is no substitute for elbow grease. Work hard and someday someone will take note. Nothing in life comes easy and that is especially true in the music biz.
What is an absolute band killer?
Ego probably, that and shitty girlfriends. Those two will get your ass in trouble quick!
What’s the longest time you’ve gone without bathing?
Oh boy hahaha! I think two weeks?That was way back when we first started touring. Now it's much easier to shower than in the early days. We actually have a hazing list we make new merch guys do before they can get paid at the end of the tour and on that list one of the things is to not shower or bathe for a week, if we had to do it we figure they need to experience that too.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I actually am 3 credits from a bachelors degree in behavioral psych and 4 credits away from one in Religious studies.
What are two things that people absolutely need to know about Wisconsin?
1) Our winters are brutal
2) Our winters are brutal
Is the Fistful of DOOM show in the top 10 of your favorite music podcasts?
Do unicorns sleep standing up?
I heard they build cocoons out of dead kittens and party liquor and dream about murder and cotton candy in them, but that is all "alleged", you understand. Remains to be seen.
What are a couple of bands that Pete the dog likes to jam to (outside of 20 Watt Tombstone, of course)?
Hahaha! Pete hates loud noise (except when he is making it of course) but he seems to enjoy Beyonce and Slayer in equal measures.
You’re driving cross-country and you can only listen to one album the whole time. What album will it be?
That is a tough one! I would have to go with good driving music and for driving you can't beat Waylon Jennings. I will have to cheat a bit and say the Nashville Rebel Box set for that one. :-)
You are writing a book about your life thus far. What is the title of that book?
No title yet, Still working on it. Hopefully I will have a title soon though.
What is your favorite song by Taylor Swift?
Probably "Love Story", I'm a sucker for a good love song and say what you will, she does love songs and break up songs well.
Motorhead or AC/DC (if you had to pick one)?
Motorhead for sure, although Mitch and I do love to scream the words to "Let me put my love in you" by AC/DC while in the van.
Doobies or Boobies (if you had to pick one)?
Boobies, long as they are my wife's, but really...You should be able to have both. :-)
Waffles or Pancakes (if you had to pick one)?
Waffles. Especially if they are from Waffle house.
Star Wars or Star Trek (if you had to choose)?
Star Wars, the defense rests.
Favorite band t-shirt you own?
Ha! Another tough one. I would have to say either my Goddamn Gallows one that says "Y'all motherfuckers need Jesus" or my Kiel Grove one that says "If you don't like Randy Travis Fuck you"
Vietnamese or vegan food is something I am always on the lookout for. Having no gallbladder I don't do a ton of meat.
I have a few, American Psycho and The Last Temptation of Christ are probably the two I have consistently loved the longest. Lately, I am loving Cab Log by Dege Legg.
Scarface with Al Pacino, a close second would be Taxi Driver.
It's so hard to pick Just one! Lately I would say Sturgill Simpson's "Sound and Fury" has been on constant repeat. That would be my pick currently.
This has been one of the most entertaining interviews that I have had the pleasure of doing. I laughed out loud several times. Massive thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer my questions. I appreciate it. If you are looking for some top shelf bluesy rock (and why wouldn’t you be?) then look no further than 20 Watt Tombstone. Check out their latest ep Year of the Jackalope to wet your whistle and chase that with their split with Left Lane Cruiser... Death Blues vs. The Dirty Spliff.
~El Pedo Caliente (aka Uncle Jameson from The Fistful of DOOM show)