On The Line with Todd Morse

Todd Morse played guitar in H2O, a hardcore punk band, for twenty years. But just because he left the band, it doesn’t mean that he’s not up to much lately. Todd still plays guitar all the time because he is currently touring with The Offspring. He also performs regularly with his projects, Toddsplanet and Petty Cash. In between all this, I spoke with him to learn about his current projects, touring with The Offspring, why he left H2O and much more.

Alex Obert: So what have you been up to in music for the past couple of weeks?

Todd Morse: I’ve been doing a lot of things, man. I’m like a chameleon, multiple personalities with different bands. I recently played the Vegan Beer Fest at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California with my cover band, Petty Cash. We do Tom Petty and Johnny Cash covers. From there, I went down to Long Beach where I got to play with Dexter and Noodles from The Offspring. We flew for ten minutes to another hangar where there were two hundred contest winners. They were waiting for a band, they didn’t know who the band was gonna be. It was called “Blind Date”. So they didn’t know it was The Offspring until we pulled up in the plane right in front of them. Then we did an acoustic performance. And then from there, I got back on Dexter’s plane and he flew me to Vegas. I sang in Vegas late at night. That’s basically what I’ve been doing, the music business is so different now. I have to go play live as often as possible to make money. And also because I love it.

Alex Obert: And I understand you have something called ToddsPlanet.

Todd Morse: I do, that’s my ten-piece special event band. We’re like a variety band. We do my own songs, but we also do covers. We don’t want to sound like a cover band, so we rewrite the covers just a little bit. They sound like our own songs that way. We have a horn section and backup singers, it’s a very soulful kind of vibe.

Alex Obert: How do you pick which songs to play?

Todd Morse: I’m trying to do the songs that everyone knows, the classics. I just have this running list of songs in my head that I want to cover. I want to see which ways we can take them. We have this cover of Back in Black and it’s completely different than any other version you ever heard.

Alex Obert: How do you bandmates in this project inspire you?

Todd Morse: They inspire me because they’re all from a different walk of life than me. I’m kind of the wild card, the guy that’s punk rock and rock ‘n roll, the party guy. These guys all came up playing in church. They’re all super humble and none of them have had the breaks or experiences that I’ve had, they are just phenomenal musicians. I’m lucky to have them.

Alex Obert: Can you fill in readers in on your experiences at the Sayers Club?

Todd Morse: I’ve been working with Jason Scoppa, who created the Sayers Club, for about seven years. We used to do this night at Bardot in Hollywood where it’s basically a house band right in the middle of the lounge with people sitting on couches and whatever. It was a great mix of people and a total New York vibe in Los Angeles when Bardot was going on. People would just get up and sing. The house band could play anything. They’re still killing it, they’re incredible. All kinds of people saying there. Bruno Mars sang their before he started blowing up. Florence and the Machine. Prince just got up three weeks ago at the new spot, Sayers Club, and started playing bass. I just sing there, I don’t play guitar or anything. I go sing covers.

Alex Obert: So what do you sing?

Todd Morse: I sing the Stones. I sing the Strokes. Mostly all the rock ‘n roll stuff.

Alex Obert: You were in New York for thirteen years and got your start with H2O there. With the punk roots in music and fashion there, have you been to Trash & Vaudeville?

Todd Morse: Oh, of course. That was my neighborhood punk rock clothing store. It’s cool. I haven’t been there in a long time, but I still walk down St. Mark’s when I’m in New York.

Alex Obert: Have you noticed big changes since you lived there?

Todd Morse: It started changing when the towers fell. It turned into a completely different place. There’s been tons of changes, but it still feels like New York. There’s no city like it.

Alex Obert: How does it feel for you to now be in Los Angeles?

Todd Morse: It’s easier out here for musicians to thrive. It’s getting harder and harder in New York with the cost to live and the cost to rehearse. I think that’s part of the reason arts have been squashed because the prices keep going up and art has been pushed out of there. There hasn’t been a major New York music scene in a long time, which is really weird because there’s so many talented people in New York. Out here, it’s just a little bit easier.

Alex Obert: What would you have to say to those that are starting out as musicians in either location?

Todd Morse: It’s one of those things where a parent tells their kid and you know they’re not gonna listen. (laughs) You can’t care about getting a manager, getting signed or getting a booking agent. You should first care about your songs and make sure that they connect with people. The fans and your songs are what you’re gonna have when you get dropped from your label. All the breaks that I’ve gotten in music, what happened with H2O and all that, it’s because people connected with the songs. It had nothing to do with all the labels we were on, any of that. People that start out, they should ask themselves “Are my songs good?” And if you can’t tell, play some covers and find out what covers your fans like. Then you’ll know what to do with your songs.

Alex Obert: On the topic of H2O, what’s been going on with your situation in the band this year?

Todd Morse: Well I officially resigned this year. They’re about to do a new record and I just have so much going on musically. I’m trying to move most of my time towards music that I’m into now, as an older guy. It just wasn’t honest for me to do another H2O record. Hardcore is a special thing that you don’t want fake. I just didn’t wanna fake it anymore. It was a twenty year run with H2O. I wrote a ton of songs with them. I’m proud of everything and I’m proud of them. And I’m sure that the new record’s gonna be great.

Alex Obert: So you just realized one day that you didn’t have that punk feeling that you did when you were first in H2O?

Todd Morse: Totally. When I don’t listen to that music anymore and I don’t go to shows, then obviously I’m not into it. It’s really fun to play in H2O and they have some really fun songs and the crowd is just so great to them, but I’m a super late boomer. I’m writing my best music now for myself and I’m having the opportunity to do my thing and it’s going good for me. I just feel like you close one door of the past and you move on to the future.

Alex Obert: How did you get the Offspring gig?

Todd Morse: Offspring’s production manager saw Petty Cash play and heard me sing. I was asked if I wanted to audition, they were looking for someone that could cover Dexter’s backing vocals. So then I had to audition against a lot of people.

Alex Obert: How did you originally discover the band?

Todd Morse: I was living in New York and H2O was just starting up. Offspring took Rancid on tour and we were already friends with Rancid. I saw Self Esteem blow up on the radio. I went and saw them play at City Gardens in New Jersey, it was Rancid and Offspring. We never actually ended up meeting each other, although I think I met Noodles briefly one time in Europe when I was there with Juliette and the Licks. The first time that I really got to meet them was when I started rehearsing with them. (laughs)

Alex Obert: What was your first impression of their music when you heard it for the first time?

Todd Morse: I thought it was really cool. I always thought Self Esteem had a Bad Brains/Fugazi kind of thing and I was interested in that stuff at the time.

Alex Obert: What would you say is your all-time favorite Offspring song?

Todd Morse: This is really gonna make a lot of people mad, but I really like Hit That. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Now that you’re playing on stage with them, how do you feel about the setlist?

Todd Morse: It’s very hard for people to spend their money on bands these days where they only know a few songs. You could get dragged to an Offspring show and you’d be like “Oh I know that one. I know that one.” I see it happen on people’s faces. It’s pretty cool to have a total hits package because people are gonna know mostly every single song.

Alex Obert: What did you think of Dead Sara as the supporting act a couple years ago?

Todd Morse: I loved them. They’re great. We did Gone Away with Dexter and Emily and I got to play the piano. That was really cool moment for me. I’m not really a piano player, but it was great.

Alex Obert: Which venue would you say is your favorite to play?

Todd Morse: I really like Red Rocks in Colorado. That’s definitely up there for me. There’s some places in Europe that are just right along the water and they’re set up for festivals.

Alex Obert: Is there a particular festival that you played on that always stuck out to you?

Todd Morse: Yeah, we just did Download with Offspring. I thought that was really cool. When I was with Juliette Lewis, we did the show in Hyde Park. It was Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Motörhead, us and Angels and Airwaves. There was ninety thousand people there. One of the most memorable shows of my life.

Alex Obert: Did you get to meet any of the other bands?

Todd Morse: Oh yeah. We were already hanging with the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl actually played drums on the last Juliette and the Licks record.

Alex Obert: Has any musician made you starstruck when you met them?

Todd Morse: Oh, of course. I’m a huge Clash fan and got tongue-tied when I met Joe Strummer. I did a festival when Paul Simonon’s band was playing, met him as well. Met Rod Stewart, that’s huge for me because I’m huge fan of him. I was super tongue-tied. But I like that though, I like that feeling where you get nervous and you’re like a fan.

Alex Obert: Who are some of your favorite bands and musicians outside of the punk genre?

Todd Morse: It’s pretty much all outside of punk. (laughs) I like the blues and reggae, roots music. I love the Rolling Stones. I’m an older mellowed out dude. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Which radio stations did you listen to when you were growing up?

Todd Morse: SOU from out of Jersey. That was one we used to listen to. I guess I never really listened to one rock station, I’d just leave it on when a song came on that I liked.

Alex Obert: How are you discovering new music these days?

Todd Morse: I go and play tons of festivals with The Offspring, there’s always some of the newer bands there. They’re the ones that are starting to get played on the radio. That’s usually how I find out about stuff. I go out and see music on a fairly regular basis. But at this point, I like what I like. Sometimes I get my mind open, but it’s about a vibe for me and the way it feels.

Alex Obert: What was the first concert you ever attended?

Todd Morse: It may have been Foreigner, but I don’t know, I’m old. (laughs) I remember my first punk concert, I went to see Black Flag at The Channel in Boston when Henry Rollins was singing for them.

Alex Obert: Do you have a concert that inspired you to become a musician?

Todd Morse: I think every guitar I looked at made me want to be musician. I was asking for one before I was even in first grade. I’ve seen so many amazing, inspirational concerts. I think it’s more about me trying to be a better and better musician and trying to expand who I play with. I was just trying to find out what I sound like, just me. I think I’ve taken all those inspirations. My wife and I just went and saw Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, that was pretty inspirational. They were just up there with mellow lights, no production, just playing great songs that everyone knows. That’s all I ever wanted to do.

Alex Obert: When fans go to see you, how you want them to feel when you’re playing?

Todd Morse: I want them to feel like everything’s okay and that you don’t have to think about any worries when you’re listening to my music. Like my brother says, PMA. Musical PMA.

Alex Obert: That’s the way to be. Before we wrap up, what are your plans for the next couple of months in music?

Todd Morse: I got a bunch of more Offspring stuff. I’ve got a Toddsplanet show coming up at The Sayers Club. And I think I’ll be singing in Vegas every weekend like Elvis! (laughs)

Alex Obert: I’d love to thank you so much for your time and a great interview.

Todd Morse: Thanks, man!

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