The man on the Keys!! Lots of fans have been asking about this bearded guy on keyboards for Rival Sons. Todd took some time and answered a few questions for everyone. Todd has really added so much to the band with his electric keyboard playing, filling in holes perfectly and just getting down right groovy on the keys. I have seen Rival Sons two times with Todd and he fits in so well with the guys and the sound has become more dynamic. He is one hell of a keyboard player!!
1. Tell us a little about Todd Ögren-Brooks? On my downtime, I’m usually hanging out with my wife and dog, exploring new music, people watching and continue my forever quest for the truth. I’m a big tech nerd, love good wine and better tequila. I might as well let this be known as I get asked all the time… I’m not Jewish, not Amish, not trying out for ZZ Top and my last name Ögren is Swedish, which means “Ocean Branch”.
2. What is your background in music? Well I grew up in a musical family, both my parents played in bands back in the 60’s, my uncle was a concert woodwind player in a few orchestras and symphonies across the states and my brothers, sister and I had a gigging band when we were kids, all before the age of 10. I’m classically trained on piano, studied a variety of woodwinds and brass in my teens, taught myself guitar and bass and my brother Jason is a drummer so I picked up a few tricks from him. In my early/mid twenties I was heavy into punk rock and funk, played in a few bands in and around the Philly area, worked as a recording engineer in a few studios and produced records for local bands. In my late twenties, I moved to Los Angeles and honed my songwriting skills, sold some tunes and played in a band called Paloalto for a couple of years. I’ve been living in NYC for the past 6 years working as a session musician, writing and producing songs for bands, composing background music for commercials, scoring for independent films and playing gigs around the city whenever I can.
3. How did you hook up with the band? Kind of a cool story. Back in 2004 I moved to Los Angeles and lived there for a few years. In that time I became friends with Michael Miley. I remember one day I picked him up from the airport from a tour he was coming off of with Veruca Salt and told me that there was this band he was going to join called Black Summer Crush. He was all stoked, saying he could let loose in this groove heavy band and rehearsals were gonna happen in a couple weeks. About a month or so later I went to their first show at some club in L.A. and was really impressed, not just because one of my bros is playing in the band but I genuinely dug the tunes. Then when Jay joined and Rival Sons was born, which brought it to the next level, it TOTALLY blew me away and knew that there was something really special about this music. After three albums and an EP, the Great Western Valkyrie was recorded which is pretty keyboard heavy, more so than the previous records. So, one day Miley gives me a call and said that Rival Sons want to bring out a key player for their upcoming tour and suggested that I fly out to Long Beach to audition. I get a copy of GWV, learn all the songs along with all the other tunes that have keys on them, fly out, audition, get the gig, rehearse a couple days and two weeks later, I’m in France playing Le Grand Journal. Funny enough, me and the guys realized that one of my old bands I played for in LA and Rival Sons went on a small tour years ago. Full circle man.
4. What has it been like to play live and tour with Rival Sons? Every night I sit on stage right with my two keyboards and tambourine. There’s a monitor to my right, a microphone in front of me and over to my left, what do I see? The best rock and roll band in the world!! I know Miley has the best seat in the house, so since I’m the only other one on stage sitting down, I have the 2nd best seat! Trust me, each member of Rival Sons know their craft and know it well. It’s awesome to see Miley chugging away on his kit, Beste thunderously blowing everybody away, seeing the Fuzzlord himself (Scott) ripping it up and Jay throwing the hammer down night after night, after night. For lack of a better word on what it’s like to play live with RS?…amazing. Touring with the guys has been a gift. My time spent traveling the world with the band and crew in a bus, it’s like a badass gang of brothers. We work hard, we play hard and everyone has each other’s back.
5. What are your 3 favorite Rival Sons songs? At the moment, in no particular order – Secret, Where I’ve Been, Radio.
6. What has been your favorite live performance? I don’t really have a favorite performance but I can tell you one of my favorite moments. We were playing the Scala in London and we’re all grooving the shit out of Gypsy Heart, and Jay hits this insane note and we were all like “What the EFF just happened?!”, we all look at each other, gave the nod equivalent of a high five and proceeded to destroy the night. Shit like that happens all the time come to think of it.
7. Name a few of your favorite bands? The Meters – CAN – The Cars – QOTSA – Parliament – Fugazi – Prince – Deep Purple – Beastie Boys – Otis Redding – Johnny Cash – Tower of Power – Scream – Frank Zappa -The Zombies – Tame Impala – Flaming Lips – NIN – The Psychic Paramount – The Brothers Johnson
8. Who are your favorite keyboardists or pianists? And why? Jimmy McGriff – Funky, funky funky!!! Damn this guy knows how to groove like nobody else in my opinion. His chops are so tasty and fierce, it makes me want to punch myself in the face. “All About My Girl” is a prime example of his prowess.
Rick Wright – He’s not a showoff. He knows when and what to play all the time but better yet, he knows when NOT to play. Serving the song is the key in any band and creating space by not doing anything takes discipline. Respect.
Jon Lord – He’s the heavy hammond God! This guy basically started metal with his classical riffs and his thick nasty tone and downright evil playing, it gives me the chills every time. I wanna party with THAT guy.
Muzio Clementi – A classical Italian composer known for his sonatas and sonatinas. He has a really impish style that has always appealed to me and is extremely fun to play.
Ikey Owens – I love his style. His hip-hop roots transferred to other genres gives his playing a unique and recognizable sound. It is never quite predictable but always palatable. (by the way I want to say it’s an honor to play his parts from GWV)
Stevie Wonder – because he’s Stevie Wonder.
Ian Peres – Those big fat tones he uses in Wolfmother, beefing up the main riff to give you this freight train of awesomeness is so good – to the point, no frills. I was fortunate to hang out with him at the Oppikoppi festival we played in Sun City South Africa, really good dude.
Mark Mothersbaugh – I’m really into movie scores, and Mr. Mothersbaugh is extremely effective setting the scene’s emotion from simple synthy pop-tunes (hail Devo!) to aggressive classical lines.
Steve Winwood – I hear a lot of jazz, primarily dixieland in his playing. We all know that this guy is a genius, not only his work in Blind Faith and Traffic but his solo stuff is so damn catchy! Tell me you don’t get all inspired hearing “Back in the High Life”.
Rostam Batmanglij – His use of harmony and counterpoint in a contemporary band like Vampire Weekend is refreshing. The movement he creates in his playing keeps their songs interesting.
Interview by Mike Scott