Duct tape and domination

Hillstomp brings homemade dreams to Steamboat

John Johnson and Henry Kammerer of the band Hillstomp are not morning people.

"Especially not this morning," percussionist Johnson said at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. "It's early for us; we're a little punchy."

They were up late Tuesday night playing ping-pong and drinking wine coolers after a gig.

"I always have one wine cooler before bed, but I had half of a second (wine cooler) last night," said Kammerer, a slide guitarist and vocalist. "The mango-flavored one always makes me so crazy."

The two band members say they typically are mellow when on the road from Portland, Ore., for three months of the year.

"We are a little too old to be acting the way we did last night," Johnson said. "We're normally not so crazy."

At 33 (Johnson) and 27 (Kammerer) years old, the band members of Hillstomp have been playing hillcountry punk blues for four years. They met eight years ago at a seafood restaurant in Portland, where they are both bartenders.

Johnson played the saxophone and bass guitar in previous bands but always wished he was a drummer in a rock band. Kammerer helped make his dreams come true.

"When Henry and I decided we wanted to try to play together, we were at work and decided to get together that night," Johnson said. "So I gathered some stuff from the kitchen and liquor room."

Johnson's drum kit is made from things he took from the restaurant's kitchen, including various sizes of buckets, a room service plate cover, a washboard, barbecue lids and vintage microphones he bought from the restaurant manager.

The drum kit fell apart during the band's first open mic night performance.

"My drum kit was a cardboard box. I had one bucket and some barbeque lids, but it was all in pieces after a couple of songs," Johnson said. "I decided more duct tape is what I needed."

Duct tape seems to be a theme for the band. The art on the cover of its second album is made of colored duct tape and attributed to Miss Mona Superhero.

One of the band's CDs is called "The Woman That Ended the World," though Johnson doesn't think there is just one woman to credit.

Kammerer said it is about a stripper.

"It's about that look you see in some stripper's eye, because it can rip your soul out," he said. "There is a mechanism at work with strip clubs where something is out of her control, and she doesn't want to be doing that on some level. If she had a button, at some point, she would push it."

Although it may be considered a serious message, Johnson and Kammerer don't take themselves too seriously.

"We are like an old married couple," Johnson said. "We love each other but fight quite a lot."

Despite their differences, Hillstomp has figured out the key to success.

"Where we came from, really successful bands didn't have a plan. They played music just for fun, and success happened to them," Kammerer said. "The more we enjoy it, the better chance we have."

Their plans after the tour include going back to the basement where it all started and hanging out, drinking beer and playing music.

"Hopefully, we will get a new album out of it," Johnson said. "And our next plan is world domination immediately following."

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