Five years ago, John Johnson and Henry Kammerer decided to make music together, with Johnson playing the role of drummer.
But in reality, he wasn’t a drummer, didn’t have real drums and couldn’t afford to buy any.
“So I grabbed buckets, boxes, soup pots and the like from the restaurant where we worked at the time and dug a few things out from under my basement stairs,” Johnson recalls. “Once I started banging on that stuff along with Henry, it seemed to make sense with the music, so it just progressed from there.”
Eventually, Johnson added a real kick drum to add “a more substantial stomp” to the music he and singer/guitarist Kammerer were making as the raw blues/country duo Hillstomp.
Playing a nonconventional drum kit has become “ridiculously specialized,” says Johnson.
“As far as the buckets go, there are certain tones that I look for,” he says. “There are about 10 or so makers of plastic buckets that I’m aware of. I have my Top 3 favorite brands. I’m familiar with how they sound and like to stick with them for my main drums.
“As far as all the other stuff goes, it’s just a matter of what I like the sound of — whatever gives me a satisfied feeling when I hit it nice and hard.”
The kit Johnson used on After Two But Before Five (Fuzzmonster), the latest Hillstomp album, features a five-gallon bucket, connected by a bungee cord to a metal lock box lid full of rivets, that serves as a snare. Other elements include a restaurant-size soup pot, a hot plate lid and a washboard.
It takes Johnson about 30 minutes to set up his gear for a Hillstomp concert.
“A lot of the kit is taped, clamped and screwed together before each show,” he says. “It’s kind of a hassle, but if I don’t break it down, it doesn’t travel so well.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Hillstomp on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Dec. 21: Nectar — Seattle
* Dec. 22: Bishop’s — Vashon Island, Wash.
* Dec. 28: The Ratskeller — Government Camp, Ore.
* Dec. 29: Mac’s — Silverton, Ore.
* Dec. 31: John Henry’s — Eugene, Ore.
* Jan. 3: Tractor Tavern — Seattle
* Jan. 4: Aladdin Theater — Portland, Ore.