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20 years of play

BY CAROLINE BERG | AUGUST 20, 2009 7:05 AM

“Good time Dammit” is not just an order, it also the name of the New Duncan Imperials’ drummer.
Bassist/balloonist/vocalist Skipper Zwackinov and guitarist/vocalist Pigtail Dick are also integral components of the band’s rock ’n’ roll flair. According to the band’s MySpace profile, the group’s peculiar sound is best categorized as “Johnny Cash jammin’ with Black Sabbath in the Brady Bunch’s basement.”

Pigtail is excited about celebrating the Chicago-based band’s 20th anniversary at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., at 9 p.m. Friday. Admission is $8.

“Iowa is good to us,” said Pigtail. “It is completely rock steady every time.”

With song titles such as “Loving You is Like Running with a Fork in My Mouth” and “Funny Daddy Sleeping on Mommy,” the New Duncan Imperials prefer a more playful approach to life. The band finds inspiration in chance eccentricities of otherwise everyday scenes. Pigtail says he and his bandmates could be jazzed by a scenario as bizarre as a car lot with babies crawling in and out of the vacant vehicles while chickens cluck around in the mud.

“It’s just a cool scene that matches up with loud rock ’n’ roll,” Pigtail said. “Writing a good song is hard, even if you’re trying to write a bad one.”

Pigtail said the band members have achieved all their goals during the two-decade run: They have toured the world, sold 60,000 records, become semi-famous, and had a ball doing it all. But despite the band’s achievements, the title of the New Duncan Imperials’ 2008 album, End of Phase One, suggests the beginning of a new path.

“The new phase is a lot like the old phase, but louder,” Pigtail said. A new set of tuxedos and a tour bus tune-up are on this phase’s checklist, but the band has no long-term goals. Eventually, Skipper imagines he will own a yacht, Goodtime will run a repair shop, and Pigtail will live in the jungle.

At present, music and entertaining are all the band knows to do. The New Duncan Imperials may not take its songs’ messages seriously, but the members are determined to leave a lasting impression on the audience. Pigtail said he tries to emulate the “raw, easy sound” of his favorite band, AC/DC. As long as someone is humming one of his band’s songs the morning after a performance, Pigtail is satisfied.

Jaci Parks, a barista at the Coffee Cellar shop in Bigfork, Mont., has never heard of the New Duncan Imperials. She prefers the sounds of John Mayer and Jason Mraz. Upon listening to the End of Phase One track “High School Soul,” she said, “They’re good; they’re upbeat, and I like the lyrics.”

Over the course of 20 years, the New Duncan Imperials has played to its fans all across the globe. But after forming so long ago, Pigtail has difficulty remembering how exactly the band came together. The members’ relationship has always been more business-oriented.

“I would say we have a love-hate relationship,” Pigtail said. “But really, we just hate each other.”


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