Words by Nick Hodgins
If you were to ask Joe Plummer what he’s doing at any given time, you’re likely to get a different answer. From 2004 to 2012 he was drummer for his friends’ Isaac Brock and Jeremiah Green in Modest Mouse, after that he’d join up with his other friend James Mercer in the Shins, and before all that he had his own band The Black Heart Procession. From solo projects with Foo Fighters bassist Nate Mendel, to his current stint in Cold War Kids, the Portland drummer has kept plenty busy in the scene, and it doesn’t end there. His latest project? Podcasting.
It began with a show called Tour Stories, true to its namesake the idea was simple – have touring musicians on to share their best stories from the road. Plummer would then take it to post production where he would add in music and maybe some sound effects to create anywhere from a 10 minute to an hour story. From tales of Michael Cera hunting down a stolen bass to Creed Bratton tripping on acid during a set, Tour Stories achieved exactly what it set out to do. Tell great stories.
“I started my podcast because I had always had these funny tour stories in my head from my experiences,” Plummer explained over the phone. “I had one I thought was epic and would think about it quite a bit and tell people the story.”
It was that story that inspired the premise for the podcast. “I realized everyone has that story. They weren’t all going to be Tommy Lee Mötley Crüe stories, and I found that to be more interesting.”
Teaming up with Chris Duryee, the two would work on Tour Stories. Plummer would host and use his connections to get guests while Duryee would handle most of the engineering side of things. The duo would go on to create Ruinous Media with the intent of creating a music licensing platform, an idea they would later set aside. Thanks to Tour Stories, one of the other services they offered was Podcast Production.
“Microsoft asked us if we’d be interested in producing this podcast, I have no idea how they heard of us,” Plummer recalled. “None of our corporate podcasts are outward facing but it’s a great exercise and gives us a different perspective.”
Now, Ruinous Media hosts at least 10 music related podcasts that are outward facing, with more constantly in the works – including one called Anti Heroes with Zac Blair of Rise Against due out in July.
“The premise of that one is to celebrate great guitarists who aren’t necessarily on the cover of Guitar Player magazine,” explained Plummer, referencing Brian Baker of Minor Threat and Bad Religion as an example.
Other podcasts under the Ruinous Media include, The High Gain – a gear podcast, Design Freaks – a design podcast that breaks down the art behind album covers, The Truth About Vintage Amps, Tomorrow We Die – similar to Tour Stories, Dr and the DJ – Dr. Amy Lindsey and her husband DJ John Richards discuss the power of music, health, and community; and more. As well as a “secret one-off thing with a couple boutique record labels” in the works.
Another Ruinous Podcast Plummer is particularly fond of is called Emergency Room: The Covid Diaries by Guy Maddison.
“He’s been a nurse for 22 years at the Trauma One Center ER hospital in Seattle,” Plummer explained. “He’s journaled not only his daily experiences but also specifically his Covid experiences as an ER nurse. It’s really good.”
“That one really illustrates how most of the Ruinous shows have one foot in music or rock and roll and then another foot in another part of life. That’s kind of our MO a little bit. Our other MO is that there’s no rules and we can do what we want,” he laughed.
It’s a fair assessment, with Plummer’s connections and Ruinous Media’s experienced skill set, they’re able to help these podcasts as much, or as little, as they need. Handling things from production, obtaining guests, licensing music, audio issues, social reach and more, they’re able to provide a valuable service so the content creators can focus on just that – content.
“We’re always looking to represent a little more diverse than we are currently, and we’re always looking for new podcasts that offer a different perspective on all the things we do,” he said.
Tour Stories has changed slightly these past few years transitioning to a more conversation based podcast as opposed to the one sided story telling it was before.
“It’s not easy for everyone to always tell a story,” explained Plummer, adding, “at the beginning of the pandemic people still had their stories from the past, it wasn’t that there weren’t tour stories anymore, but I think it bummed people out as a reminder, including myself.”
Fortunately live music is back, and there are new stories to be created. Plummer currently drums for the California based Cold War Kids. He’s not physically on the road at the moment, but still averaging shows nearly every weekend of summer. “Which is not quite enough for me,” he’ll tell you.
He explained some of the intricacies that are involved in joining these established bands midway into their careers.
“You can learn the new songs but then you have to learn all these little things that you never expected,” he explained. “Every band has these little idiosyncrasies – whether that’s the space in between songs on their live set – because you can know the set but then everyone’s looking at you because you either started too fast or didn’t start fast enough.”
He continued, “It’s usually pretty subtle, you don’t realize it until later, but yeah it’s difficult and learning the songs is the least difficult part. I think trying to grab the essence of the band is the hardest part.”
In and out of different bands since the 90’s, it’s clear Plummer has been acclimating just fine. As far as having the opportunity to be a part of all these bands at different stages of their career?
“I can’t really ask for anything more, being able to be in these bands, play these shows, and make these records as much as I have so far. Anyone who gets to do the same thing, I know what they’re in for and it’s usually a good time and experience,” he said. “I’ll never get sick of it, never not get nervous, and never get sick of that.”
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