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Drummer John Johnson uses whatever works best


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.