Solar Music: A Solar-Powered Recording Studio

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Photo by Paul Parks
Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Todd Park Mohr, front man for the band Big Head Todd and the Monsters, takes alternative energy seriously–and gets it right from the source.

BIG HEAD, LITTLE FOOTPRINT: Mohr–the band’s songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist–built a solar-powered recording studio in his off-the-grid log cabin near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. There the group recorded portions of its latest CD, Crimes of Passion (Sanctuary, 2004). Best known for alternative rock staples such as “Bittersweet” and “Broken Hearted Savior,” Big Head Todd and the Monsters features Mohr, Brian Nevin on drums and percussion, and Rob Squires on bass.

KARMIC CROONERS: “I like to tell people in fun that audio equipment powered by alternative energy sounds better because it has good karma,” says Mohr. Big Head Todd also donates time to causes including EarthFest, the Taos Solar Music Festival, and the RiverReach Rendezvous. Says Mohr, “I think it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that renewable, clean energy is the most pressing issue of our age.”

SOLAR SOUND: Here’s how the recording studio stacks up.

Building: off-grid, 2,000-square-foot log home built in 1998

Recording equipment: Apple computer, pair of speakers, vacuum-tube compressors, and microphone preamps

Power: Pole-mounted 640-watt Solarex (now BP Solar) array, with 4-kilowatt Trace (now Xantrex) inverter

Studio’s total electrical draw: less than 2 amps

Photovoltaic system cost: $20,000

Estimated cost if Mohr had extended the electrical utility grid to his home (several miles): $100,000 to $150,000

For a full interview with Todd Park Mohr, see “Big Head Todd’s Studio in the Woods,” by Regina Johnson, Solar Today, September/October 2004.

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