22nd Century is a 3 piece rock band out of Vancouver offering music fans what so many new artists are missing; personality. Featuring bass player/backup vocalist Duane Chaos, guitarist/vocalist Tim Plommer, and ‘legendary drummer’ Zippy Pinhead, 22nd Century packs a serious party in to every effort they put forth.
The latest offering from the band, Where’s Howie?!! is currently going in to its second re-ordering in the States, while the band has played up and down the West coast and to sold out shows in their local scene. “Most of our music mixes rock with some tragically comedic stories like Apartment 509, about a superhero who sits and drinks and smokes all day, ” said the band mates in our recent interview… but I think there’s more to it than having a good sense of humour.
Where’s Howie?!! features some great hooks that are definitely helping to build a reputation for 22nd Century. The album tells a story, speaks to the local music scene that tempered the band’s music, and ultimately feels genuinely fun in a way where any music fan can relate.
After listening to the new album I had some obvious questions for the band... For example, who is the real Howie and why is he the star of the album?
Duane: There is definitely a story behind Howie. He is real. One day my wife and I had a knock at the door with this guy who told us he was trying to get his life in order and wanted to wash our windows. He charged us some money to wash our windows; but he used a greasy sponge that left smear marks all over the place. It was brutal.
Although we kindly thanked him, within 5 days he was back and wanted to do it again. We tried to explain to him that we had had to wash the windows after he did, just to get them back to normal; but he kept insisting he should wash our windows.
One night, really late my wife came back and he was in our yard, waiting on the front steps. He was begging to wash the windows again for more money. My wife finally got tough with him and told him never to come back.
There are countless other stories about “Howie” in the West side of Vancouver.
Tim: Despite the lyrics, which sound like we hate skids, we are actually very socially conscious.
Zippy: Agreed. We raised almost $40,000 in the last 12 months to help underprivileged brothers and sisters globally including building a school in Tanzania. This band is a band with heart and if someone calls us for charity, we’re there.
Tim: In poker terms, we’re all in. We didn’t do this for the money. If our passion for music helps anyone, we’re there.
Duane: Despite all the quirks of Howie, the character envisioned in the song has now morphed into a more humorous direction. The video will tell the story when it comes out . Howie is a smart guy, good heart, just bad at his trade. Let’s leave it at that.
So already it’s kind of clear you want your music to have an “impact”… is there any particular story behind Teenage Underwear Model?
Duane & Zippy:
Zippy: Well let’s just say there is truth to the story and it does not involve me or Chaos.
Duane: I’m not admitting to anything, even that.
Tim: Guess I am busted. When I was younger my mother got me into modeling. If you watch the video, you’ll see a hilarious photo of me at the end. I was a teenage underwear model.
Zippy: But you only did it for the money, yeah?
Tim: Ah, sure.
Duane: Hehehe. This song is becoming a favorite of many of our fans. The video is on youtube, our website, and about 20 other places. It started to go viral for a while until people realized we don’t wear cool underwear.
Zippy: What’ch you talking bout Willis??? My speedo rocks.
Tim: No comments.
Duane: We want to shout out to a really talented guitarist and songwriter from Whistler who also starred in the video. Lukas helped us out in the studio (Mushroom) and has been a real friend of the band. He was excellent in the video.
Tim: I think it really is a testament to the fact we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Music is a passion. The video reflects our love for doing stuff that isn’t necessarily cool but we think is funny.
Zippy: If I had to describe us, I’d follow that up by saying “Meet 22nd Century, Rockers who wear seatbelts. Don’t be cool, be like us!"
Duane: I think I just snorkled my drink through my nose hahaha.
Hehe, ok back to business… what was the most frustrating part of making Where’s Howie?!!
Zippy: Going into the studio with a producer who has been involved with countless albums and worked for Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Cher, The Cult and hundreds of other big acts puts pressure on you. As a drummer, I have to nail the tracks in the studio. Timmy and Chaos have the luxury of taking more time to lay down their tracks later but there is a lot of pressure on me.
Tim: I have to say it is the songwriting. My personal goal is that every CD has to better than the previous. The bar got pretty high by the time we recorded the first half and topping it was hard. The singles Teenage Underwear Model and the title track Where’s Howie?!! met that criteria.
Duane: Also finding a balance of putting in enough time and deciding which songs made the final cut vs. which ones we put on the shelf was hard. Being objective about your own music is really hard. For the CD, we crowd-sourced the preferences and it was hard to get the brutal feedback and realize that what we think is really irrelevant. The patterns emerge though when you get unsolicited opinions on your own music and once you accept that others perceptions are valid and get beyond your own ego, it does get easier. Being open about the direction of the band was an easy decision to make but allowing that feedback to overrule our own opinions in some cases was hard.
Zippy: Couldn’t have said it better. Oh wait, yes I could have...
Duane: But you didn’t cause you love me too much
If fans are helping with the direction of the band, is there a 'typical' 22nd century fan?
Tim: We really don’t know. There is so much disconnect that we inherited from the typical music release cycle that bridging that gap is hard. To be honest, we’re not doing music as a popularity contest so we’re not really tracking that.
Duane: We’re trying to incorporate as many facets of the whole “web 2.0” thing as we can into our business model but letting others provide key input is a big step. This means that we ask fans to play an important role in our future direction, but not necessarily in a way we would agree to what they want if is contradicts with our own direction. Nevertheless, we appreciate and listen to people who take the time to give us a good feedback. The typical profile is the 16-35 year old crowd who like plain old Vanilla rock.
Zippy: Concur. The typical fan is someone who wants to get back to the roots of rock and just soak up the reductive nature of our sound.
Duane: Our fans have an appreciation for the honesty of a 3 piece and we are comfortable with that. That being said, we don’t really know much more that the demographics. 75% of our fans are from the US, another 15-17% from EMEA and 10% from Europe. Only about 4% of the fans are from Canada. In Vancouver we are more or less unknown despite the fact we had #1 singles in the UK Indie Charts and are played on radio stations in more that 30 countries.
Tim: According to our online metrics, the typical fan is a female between the ages of 21 and 24.
So the chicks dig it! Personally, what do each of you feel is your most original track on this album?
Zippy: Howie the Skid for sure. The sound is a compromise of 1980’s arena rock and 2000’s era melodic punk.
Tim: I really pick U Generation for this, even though it has strong connotations of The Who’s early sound.
Zippy: ..and Read it on the Radio also is really good.
Duane: This is a hard question to answer as most songs you write are based on your influences. For me, I was worried that most of the songs sounded like someone else. U Generation really breaks that mold. Since we cover two songs, Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins and No Secrets by Angel City, those two are ruled out. The last track, Peculiar was written by Tim and as a musician, I find it has a very unique quality. Even going into the studio, I had trouble finding a bass line that fit.
Who would be the perfect band to tour with on this album?
Duane: Oooh – pick me for this!!! I’d have to say musically Turbo Negro would be the best match. Thin Lizzy would be too if they were still around. Cheap Trick is another possibility.
Tim: I’d love to do a more indie tour, but if I had to pick a band I’d say Sloan.
Zippy: I’d have to go more vintage but I’d also tour with any band sponsored by a beer company.
Duane: Yep – I’m in!!!
Tim: ...or Jack Daniels
Hehe and what is the biggest lesson learned from the release of this album?
Tim: That our band has staying power. Any band can do one CD. Very few artists stick together to do a second and third CD. The realization that I met my musical soul mates is biggest for me.
Zippy: Since this is my first CD with 22nd Century, I have to say it has to be the step up in professionalism of this band. No Mickey Duck, Fly by Night here. This band is the real deal and being in Mushroom Studios really let’s that sink in.
Duane: For me it is that enough people wanted to buy the first CD that it really motivated me to keep this project moving forward.
Tim: People who support us rock.
Zippy: They promised me free beer so I was in. I learned a lesson when they only gave it to me after I put down my tracks.
Duane: One more thing we learned is never give Zippy a mic.
Tim: < laughs> Never give Zippy a mic. Randy (Rampage – founder of DOA) warned us about that.
Zippy: Whaddya mean????
Well you've managed to generate a lot of excitement and interest around your band... any advice to other artists?
Duane: I can’t even begin to guess. I mean our release got picked up by over 1,000 mainstream media outlets including many top dogs from ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox etc. I have no idea why we got lucky, but I would say believing in yourself is key.
Tim: Same here. Crazy to think that so many people want to hear something you did. Last year when we made the top 5 finalists in UK Rock Artist of the Year and also won the popular vote in a national Battle of the Bands just blew me away. I think Duane’s advice is key: just be yourself and do what your vision is.
Zippy: Having played in several bands I think much of it is luck but in this case the songwriting is key. Having a great producer like John Webster opens a lot of doors.
Duane: And avoid shitheads like SXSW who give monopolies to companies like SonicBids who charge artist for the right to apply to work. There are a lot of people out to rip you off in the music industry. Don’t be afraid to call a turd a turd. Focus on the positive and not the negative. Love what you’re doing and keep doing it.
Also, check out more music from 22nd Century right here on Supernova.com where you can purchase songs by clicking the shopping cart in the band's profile music player.
Duane Chaos also tells me there’s a European tour planned but the dates are not nailed down. “We were to go there last year but that little volcano thingy blew up in Iceland and it put a damper on travel.” … so it takes a pretty massive disaster to keep these guys from their plans; expect lots more from 22nd Century as they take Where's Howie?!! on the road in 2011.