Advertising man by day, a rocker by night

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2012 - 5:31 PM

Chris Hill of Columbia Heights is a truck-driver-turned-ad-copywriter whose rock band will be playing a charity next month.

Chris Hill, in full 80s retro mode.

There's a school of thought that says cities do well if they have lots and lots of creative people. There's another school that says nonsense; you need real jobs that involve lifting things and putting them over there. Some say you need a rock-'n'-roll underground subculture; others claim that the mark of a good place is the communitarian spirit, the sense that we're all in this together, and we shall be judged by our charitable actions.

While those groups fight it out, let's talk to a truck-driver-turned-ad-copywriter whose rock band will be playing a charity next month. Meet Chris Hill. He works as a copywriter at Solve, a local ad agency. How did that happen? Well, he moved here from South Dakota to go to the University of Minnesota, drove delivery truck for a while, then ...

"I was managing a coffee shop in Dinkytown, and I realized I didn't have anywhere further to go, except to buy my own. I've always written for fun, and I wanted to do something creative -- and since I was involved in the local music scene, there's a large connection between advertising and rock and roll." Who knew? Why? "I don't know." After schooling at Brainco and some internships, bang, he's an ad man.

Also a rocker. "I was in a band called Mercurial Rage -- we played '80s English pop, Depeche Mode, emo styles. I'm playing a show next weekend at Hell's Kitchen." It's a charity event for the National Kidney Foundation, and it's called -- apologies to Pete Townsend -- "The Kidneys Are Alright." Four bands; he's in Deep Shag.

Back to the job. Is there a Minnesota style of advertising? "I see so much varied work that can compete with anything anywhere else. It's interesting, though -- a lot of friends who were students at school, they tried to get jobs here, and they didn't get any traction. But when they sent their work out to other cities, they were more successful. It's like an accent, maybe -- you don't hear it if you live here. In other places, they hear it and say that's an interesting perspective."

Yah, sure, you betcha, etc. He won't be heading to those other cities. "I love Minnesota. We've had people who've helped us do some work come from L.A., and they like to be snobs about us -- we're backwater backwoods flyover land -- but then they come, and they're really surprised it's such a hip, open community, [with] killer bike trails, art, culture."

This would be the point where the interviewee notes that the winters could be less than half the year, but Chris says, "I'm actually looking forward to winter. I'd have the people who complain about the cold deported."

He adds one other attribute you rarely think about: "No earthquakes. It's geologically stable."

If you're in another state someday and you see that tagline on a tourism ad, you might have Chris to thank.

(Hat-tip to themplsegotist .com for alerting us to Chris.)

JAMES LILEKS

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