Interview with Guitarist Tom Jordan of 20 Watt Tombstone

By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Tom! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.

CV: Do you feel that it's still possible for an unknown band today to be plucked out of obscurity and make it to stardom? Can a dedicated core of fans sharing their music make that possible or has the internet and social media changed the game?
Tom Jordan:
The internet has definitely changed the playing field for music in general. I think that so-called "fame" is subjective these days. It can mean a lot of different things. Social media fame is one area where many of today’s BIG artists thrive; you can be a content king with music as a secondary thing. Then there are the big label signings and touring acts. I think fame is reachable for many, but with the over saturation of bands and the internet giving every one of them a voice it’s tough. Now more than ever there is no substitute for elbow grease. There are so many talented bands out there; it’s hard to separate yourself these days.  I truly believe the work is the only way to do so. My good friend Mark "Porkchop" Holder told me once: "The best thing about the internet is it gave everyone a voice, but the worst thing about the internet is also that it gave everyone a voice". I find that to be very true. It is a blessing and a curse.

CV: Do you feel that given the accessibility and social awareness of modern times that a music underground still even exists today as it once did?
TJ: I do. I think you'll always have those bands and fans that don’t fit into the mainstream scene. The world will always have misfits and art in general has always held those types close. You'll always have the more commercial side of anything, but long as that side exists the other does too. I also think it’s a matter of pride for some of us. There's just something awesome about finding that underground band that is amazing and YOU can introduce people to them.

CV: What do you see as the biggest difference in music and how it is perceived from back say 35 years ago compared to music today? Has both the music and the artist evolved from your point of view?

TJ: Music has definitely changed, some for the good and bad. However, I think we can’t dwell on what "used to be". In any business you have to change with the times to a degree or be left behind. Don't get me wrong, there are some things that we should cling to in order to keep our own identity. I can only speak to what I have seen in my lifetime, I have been touring, writing and playing music as my main income for 15 years and in that time I have noticed a lot. Many of the bigger labels for instance no longer want to invest in a band’s future. They want hits right now and a cash machine, before they will take a band on. Then when a band can’t produce, they drop them and move to the next sure thing. This has created a ton of "one hit wonder" type bands. It's unfortunate; a lot of great talent is used and then discarded. Another thing is the streaming market. Streaming has become one of the most used methods of listening to music these days. Some bands don't like the payment structure and refuse to be involved. It definitely needs some work, but my opinion is that it’s too large of a market to ignore…especially if you're touring. We all have to adapt and play ball a bit in any job, and if you want music to be a’s no different. Rock n roll takes sacrifice!

CV: Do you believe bands and artists who have the biggest impact on fans and other artists are aware that they are or is there more of a tunnel vision sort of process for them keeping them somewhat in the dark? Can influential artists see past their own work to be aware of the ripples they make?
TJ: I think they can and should! I think that in the world we live in, it’s important to be aware of others as well as your own actions. I believe this should exist for everyone, not just artists. For me personally, the more an artist seems aware of their audience and peers the more I want to support them. Social media has given us a window into our favorite artists’ lives. If they use it properly they can connect in a huge way.

CV: Does music need to be influential to be considered worth listening to in your opinion? Or can music simply be just an enjoyable auditory experience devoid of substance?
TJ: I think both are possible as long as both types of listeners exist. Many people listen to music to feel and be moved....but some people don't put that much thought into it and that's ok. Music and art in general should be whatever YOU the listener needs it to be…each experience should be unique. 

CV: The world has been rocked by the COVID pandemic.  The economy has been sent into a tailspin in its wake, unfortunately.  Bands worldwide have been restricted with performing live and some it seems, restricted from earning a living.  How has the pandemic affected your band? Are you hopeful that 2021 will see many of the restrictions lifted?
TJ: We were on tour in Texas when the pandemic hit. We stuck it out for a while and then we decided to head home. My drummer and I rely on this for most of our income. I didn't have a day job other than playing ‘til the pandemic hit. Mitch worked at a restaurant part time when we were home, so for us we essentially lost our jobs for 9 months. We went from 150 shows a year to almost none in 2020. We made the decision to be smart and safe though and buckle down and stay home. We had a couple of offers to play, but nothing like what we normally do. We focused on merch and eventually we both got jobs again. Mitch works in a factory and I worked from home for a local distillery. Rock and roll is in our blood though and we hope 2021 brings good news, but the unfortunate part of all this is that we have watched so many of the smaller venues we play all over the country close down permanently. The music biz took a huge hit during this. Hopefully we can all bounce back together. Only time will tell.

CV: What do you feel artists and bands can do right now to stay relevant, especially in an environment, such as the present, where performing in front of a live audience is being restricted? What immediate options do you see available?

TJ: ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE! Social media has given people a means of engaging without leaving home, bands need to use this! It’s a tough distracting time for everyone though and sometimes it’s hard to think in terms of your band or fans when you’re worried about rent or the house payment. I know I have struggled being as active on social media as usual during this pandemic. But I think it’s important we connect, not only for our own sanity but to keep our relationships with fans and friends moving. Seclusion isn't good for anyone.

CV: As an artist, what have you learned from the events of 2020? Are those lessons learned different for you as a person than as an artist or are they one in the same in your opinion?

TJ: I personally have learned a lot about the value of humility and understanding. I think 2020 showed us not only how great people can be to one another but also how cruel. Sometimes it’s hard to understand others point of view when you don't share it. We saw a ton of fighting about politics, masks, COVID, etc. in a time when unity should have been our focus. I personally decided to do more listening and less talking in 2021…more learning, rather than trying to teach. I think we all got scared and showed our best and worst, so now it’s time for us to heal and connect. It also reminded me of the value of supporting local. Now more than ever it is important we support our local businesses, many are on the verge of closing. In general I think it’s taught me to be more conscious of those around me and what they need.

CV: What's next? What can fans expect to see coming in 2021?

TJ: Well, with so much uncertainty in the world right now it’s hard to say, but our plan is to finally release a full length album hopefully by summer 2021. We have been working on it for the last 9 months since COVID started and are about halfway done. It's been way too long since our last album and we know fans are eager for new material. Other than that, no plans to tour ‘til COVID has subsided a bit more. Hopefully the vaccine will help in that regard. In February we will be celebrating 10 years of doing this band, so we plan to have some new merch and cool stuff to thank fans for 10 years of supporting what we do.

CV: Thank you again Tom for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. It was such a pleasure. I wish you all the best.

TJ: Thank YOU so much for asking us to be a part of this! These were great questions! Appreciate your time and consideration! All the best. Stay safe and well.

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The Cosmick Voice
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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, show host, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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