By David Stenklyft, Wausau Pilot and Review
Local rock duo 20 Watt Tombstone has played hundreds of shows since forming in 2011. Now, they’ll take their unique sound overseas as they embark on their first-ever European tour.
The band consists of Tom Jordan on guitar and vocals, along with Mitch Du’Quan Ostrowski on drums and vocals. As the group explains on their Facebook page, their influences range from Clutch and Five Horse Johnson to RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, with a sound that, according to the band, isn’t easy to describe on paper.
We met up with drummer Mitch Ostrowski for a Q&A in advance of their upcoming tour, which begins June 13 in Belgium. For a full list of tour dates, visit the group’s Facebook page.
How did this tour come to be?
Ostrowski: We have kind of been on the brink of doing this, a lot of our friends in bands have toured there before. We’ve just been waiting for our time to come. In the past we’ve been told that they didn’t want us there, but this time, we’ve been welcomed.
Who from Europe are you working with to make this happen?
We are working with Rootstown Bookings, who booked all the dates. And then we have a “handler” who will handle the transportation, translation and driving us around Europe.
I see that your first gig is in Belgium on June 13. When do you leave the U.S.?
We leave on June 12, flying to Amsterdam. The first day will be spent getting settled, meet our friends and get ready for the first show.
Does the schedule allow for any additional shows that may be offered?
We are booked solid. Which is pretty great because it is expensive to travel there and we know we have solid bookings?
When I first contacted you, you were touring in the Dakotas, is that the preferred way you guys like to do?
We were doing a tour with a band from Eau Claire called Filthy Sweet and we’ve done that before with other bands. It’s just cool to travel with people you know, helps when you are away from Wausau. We did a month with a band from St. Louis in the southeast last year.
How did the name 20 Watt Tombstone come to be?
We were originally called The Goddamns. We were originally a three piece and one member had to leave due to personal stuff. We couldn’t find a bass player at the time.
Tom had an idea that we do some stuff that we listen to in the band van. Stuff form the White Stripes, Black Keys and Left Hand Cruiser. Write some new stuff; basically go play some music and drink.
The Godamns name had to be changed because you can’t copyright a curse word. That was our problem. Our manager at the time was getting negative feedback because of the name. Venues didn’t want that name on their marquee or signage. So we figured it was time to change the name, we were a young enough band, and we could change it without too much of a problem.
The story about 20 Watt Tombstone is we really left it up to our Facebook friends. We asked them “what are some cool band names? We narrowed it down to five names and we consulted an entertainment lawyer and 20 Watt Tombstone really worked well with the logo we had already used.
How do you classify your music? I’ve heard Trash Blues, Noise Rock?
We like the term “Death Blues,” that’s the moniker we like, it was given to us by another band. We like it a lot, our music has evolved a bit, but I think it fits us well.
Who were your music influences growing up?
Definitely Metallica was the first band that jumped out to me. Slipknot was also very influential. They had a terrific drummer and with the masks, I thought it was very cool. Alice in Chains was a favorite along with Bury Your Dead, a hardcore band out of Boston.
What countries are you visiting?
Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France, and Switzerland. We’re hoping that the bus trips aren’t too far.
The band will travel pretty light as no drums will travel with Mitch as equipment will be provided.
We will be renting backline equipment. Tom has a sponsorship with Orange amplifiers and Gretsch. They will provide backline for him. For me, I have an agreement for cymbals, stands with the venue and drums are being supplied by our handler.
You must be really excited about this?
I’m very excited and a little bit scared, being the first tour of this type. I’m hoping everything goes well. It will be a great experience.
Top photo: YouTube screen grab courtesy of 20 Watt Tombstone