Humans of Stumptown: Tim WenzelApr 22, 2020
Wondering who the mad genius is behind our Cold Brew ads? Meet Tim Wenzel, aka Weazbag. You may recognize him from his years behind the bar in our Portland cafes, although he's been making videos, writing songs, and collaging ads for us full-time for a couple of years now.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters: Hi Tim! Tell me how and when you started working for Stumptown.
Tim Wenzel: I started working for Stumptown at the Division cafe in 2001 -- I had worked as a dishwasher and a cook for way too long, and I had promised myself I’d never do that again. I started working at Stumptown because a coffeeshop seemed to run at about the same pace, but was a lot easier than being a cook. It was way easier -- and better money -- so I stayed.
SCR: How did you start making ads for Stumptown, and what did those first ads look like?
TW: Right around when I started (2001-2), I put some weird collages in an employee art show -- I think there were about 10 employees at that point. Duane saw them and laughed, and I think said, “What’s wrong with you? Also, would you want to do ads for Stumptown?” The first ads were a lot of oily men in banana hammocks -- old body builder photos that I had found in a book. I just thought they were so funny, and worked well with jokes about how, “the coffee is strong.” I ran them in the back page, ADULT section of the Mercury with just a phone number, and… they got some attention.
SCR: When did you start making videos? What about writing songs?
TW: I started writing songs when I was in late high school, probably 16, and videos around the same time. Mostly skateboard and goof off skits that never amounted to anything, and I remember making a music video with my friends using a Jane’s Addiction song. I made my first video ever when I was in a history class - must have been in 1987 or ‘88 -- and for a midterm exam, there was a group of girls that shot a video with someone’s mom’s video camera and just presented a video to the class instead of writing a paper. I remember thinking, “You guys just got to do a video! It must have been so easy!“ So I looked at my buddy and said let’s do that next time. We made a spoof video about wars, and did almost no research - it was all just jokes -- and I got an A! And I thought, that’s such an awesome way to get out of doing the work I don’t want to do. I never got into digital, so I stopped for a few years when that was taking off, then got back into making videos with my band White Glove. We made a video about Portland changing that got some attention. Shortly after that, I made my first Stumptown video, the Nitro Cold Brew in a Can video with my coworker Bryan and my friend Jon Humphries, who went on to make most of the Stumptown videos with me.
SCR: Where do you get the inspiration for your videos? How do you go about writing the songs that go with them?
TW: I worked in coffee for so long and I’ve always just been able to write funny music, and would get inspiration, or ideas would come to me, working behind the bar, which I did for sixteen years. I always wanted to write more serious music, but the funny stuff just comes to me easily. The video idea usually follows the song.
SCR: What video project are you most proud of?
TW: Breaking the Crust! It was always a dream for me to be able to do a skate video, since I was in high school, and I thought I could do something different than what’s been put out in the skate world. I got to work with four amazing skateboarders, including Elissa Steamer who was someone I always looked up to, admired and just thought was about as cool as it gets. And I got to bring my filmmaker buddies along for the ride with my weird vision. Everyone just put their trust in me, and I’ve never worked harder on a video. I wrote the whole soundtrack, which was another goal -- I always thought it would be so cool to score a skateboard video.
SCR: What are you scheming up for your next Stumptown video?
TW: The return of Tristan and Gunther! Also a promotion of charcoal underwear, and I’ll probably play a cop again -- I really like playing cops and soldiers, because all the other men in my family are that kind of guy and I’m really not.
SCR: How has being a dad influenced your process?
TW: I don’t think that it’s changed songs come to me, but I do have an immediate audience with absolutely no filter -- if they don’t like it, they won’t pretend to. Nova could barely talk last summer, but he could sing the entire Breaking the Crust soundtrack -- he’s screwed for sure, I think he’s gonna be into music. One thing that’s definitely changed since having kids, I mostly just write songs by singing in my car -- no guitars or keyboards in the house to wake up sleeping kiddos!