Joe Plummer of Mister Heavenly on "doom-wop," Michael Cera and Johnny Marr
Mister Heavenly (due tonight at the hi-dive with WATERS and ManCub) came together when Ryan Kattner approached his friends Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse and Nick Thorburn of Islands with some songs he'd been working on in a kind of doo wop style and asked if they'd like to help him work them out.
Without really trying to form a band, the trio nevertheless fleshed out those songs and more throughout 2010 and performed an early tour with actor, and it turns out talented musician, Michael Cera on bass. Since then, the band has recorded and released its debut album, Out of Love on Sub Pop.
Jokingly calling its music "doom wop," Mister Heavenly has maintained its playful spirit from its beginning, even as the project became much more of a serious entity than perhaps it was initially conceived. In advance of his band's show at the hi-dive tonight, we spoke with Joe Plummer about his musical background, the various projects in which he's played and the most important lesson he's learned about being a drummer.
Westword: What kind of music did you grow up hearing when you were a kid and a teenager?
Joe Plummer: My dad was into the Outlaw scene. So I heard a lot of Willie Nelson and stuff like that. My mom liked The Beatles. My older brother listened to Devo a lot, The B-52s, Led Zeppelin and Kansas, which was kind of a pretty crazy mix for the early '80s. That the first kind of stuff I listened to because that's what was around the house.
I slowly discovered punk music. SST bands, mostly. More like The Minutemen and Saccharine Trust and stuff like that. But that was back in the day when record label catalogs were very intriguing. I'd buy records, there would be a catalog in there and I'd spend weeks looking at the catalog and then order stuff. Probably the same with a couple of Rough Trade records I got, so I got into some British punk, as well.
What initially sparked your interest in playing drums?
My cousin was a drummer. I'd seen him play quite a few times. He was quite a bit older than me. It sounds cliché, but people like John Bonham, of course. I think I sat down at my cousin's drum set when I was visiting once and liked it. I was fascinated with it. I studied drums a little bit in school early on. I took some music classes, but I didn't retain much of that technical knowledge.
What kind of bands did you play in when you were starting out, and how did you end up meeting and coming to play with Blackheart Procession?
The first bands I started playing in was crossover bands -- punk metal bands. That's what I was doing at about fourteen in garages in northern California and Seattle as well. Then my band opened for Three Mile Pilot, and I got to know Pall Jenkins in Seattle. Me and Pall just became friends. I moved to L.A. and I had played with them a little. One time Mario Rubalcaba couldn't play a show, so I drove down to Portland from Seattle and filled in for Mario. That was in '99. Then I moved to Los Angeles, and it was easier for me to play, and I started playing with Pall and [Tobias Nathaniel].
How did you meet and start playing music with John Atkins?
Just living in Seattle, me and John were really good friends. We were in separate bands at the time. A lot of times we'd spend Sundays together. I forget why. We just hung out. Eventually we wound up going to his practice space, making up silly songs. He had the band name, the Magic Magicians, ahead of time. It's kind of a story somewhat. He couldn't remember the name...He'd seen a Spin Doctors' video and to a mutual friend of ours he said, "Man, I saw the most ridiculous fuckin' band." "Oh, what was it called?" "I don't know, the Magic Magicians or something stupid like that."
You played with and still play in Modest Mouse. How did that come about?
Portland. Isaac Brock and I hung out a lot, and there was a point in between Benjamin Weikel and Jeremiah Green coming back and they didn't have a drummer, so me and Isaac talked about me playing drums. Somewhere in there, Jeremiah decided to come back, and Isaac still wanted me to play. So I just kind of stayed in there and played percussion and eventually drum kit on a couple of songs. Eventually, me and Jeremiah started playing the drum kit together.
How do you feel Johnny Marr changed the sound of Modest Mouse, and what is it like working with him?
Everyone's going to change it a little bit. But the real Modest Mouse sound is Jeremiah, Eric [Judy] and Isaac, the original dudes. I don't think you could change it. When they play together, not even Johnny Marr can really change it. Johnny added to it. It was nice working with him. He's nice, and we became friends pretty quickly. Our friendship overshadowed it a little bit in the early part, but once me and him were just playing because no one else had showed up yet, I then realized, "God, this guy's a good guitarist." Stupidly. "This really nice guy is pretty good at guitar, too."