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An interview with Coppe', one of the most original, creative, and raddest musicians of our generation... a prism in the murky waters of today's music.
One of the many impressive things about Coppe’ is that, despite her relative obscurity, she’s already produced albums featuring the likes of DJ Swamp, Vadim, and Plaid, to name a few. Furthermore, people seem to be anxious as what to work with her- and rightfully so. Her music is a fresh sound amid the monotony of Pop Culture and all its wretched disguises. She does her own thing, finding Beauty in all levels of the world surrounding her. A wizard in the flavor of BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW, albeit with a much different hat, Coppe’ is Music, plain and simple.
Her newest album is a wonderful compliment to her dish, as Nauru floats between playful and eerie, to deep and pondering, a reach down to the depths of your soul that gives you a little tickle, and then flicks that hanging-thing in your throat on the way out.
“Humu Humu Picasso Fish” is reminiscent of Mr. Spock’s motherland, only on a noble amount of mushrooms. Then there’s “sin . coppe . ted .” with a completely pimpin-ass beat, crawling into the boundaries of PJ Harvey. 'Blue' and 'Audiolly' drop down into mellow land, and tracks like 'Durango' flaunt a remarkably talented piano. And while the album is eclectic in its offerings, her sounds always gyrate around raw Passion, putting you directly in touch with the Beauty that Coppe' has found in her world.
To make it all more incredible, the sounds she uses for her albums are often those she's collected around the way, tossing more conventional clamor for things like broken wine glasses falling down a duster shoot, and that sort of thing. But this is not just random noises spliced into beats- she tweaks the various sounds she gathers for the beats themselves, and whatever else she can use them for. The result is immaculate, driving the listner's heart and soul like Music is supposed to do.
I got lucky one day, and got to talk with Coppe’:
Coppe': Guess what, Jake? Nauru just came in, yeah, my brand new one. I'm looking at the whole thing right now. It's a very special day. It's beautiful; I'm very, very happy with it.
How have you grown from your last album to this one?
C: Mmm...I took lots of big & deep breaths since my papa passed away...so my lungs got bigger. My papa passed away a couple years ago, and I dedicated my 5th album, Papa...My Buddha, to him. It's got a lot of noise/sounds I collected with my MD recorder at the hospital in Tokyo where my papa was staying for a while. He was hooked onto this gigantic oxygen tank for about a week after the surgery, and this blue tube was coming out from his mouth going "koooh koooh"...he sounded so peaceful...I recorded that, and it became the beatz to the last song called "bones+ashes." It's all about that moment, when my papa's body went into that ragin' fire (when he got cremated), it sounded sooooo rich & lush...he was probably going thru his life tunnel, that "baby universe" at the moment...that was his life choir!
When my papa's body went into that fire, he...flew into me...lots of papa came into me...he became me...so I grew tremendously at that moment.
Are there any underlying themes and/or emotions on this new album?
C: Yeah. "Nauru" is the theme and emotions on this album, since most of the tracks on this album were recorded right here at Nauru (Nauru is the name of the tower where I live in Hawaii). We live on the 22nd floor of this building, and we have a duster shoot that goes all the way down to the lobby. Basically, it's a long "shooo." It gives a beautiful natural echo.
When Nico and Terry D. were here recording for Nauru, we went everywhere in this building, and we were throwing lots of shit down the duster shoot, like some broken wine glasses, coins, styrofoam, and made some really kick-ass noise. It was beautiful.
In "Pakalolo" I'm singing, "Channel bags...Gucci shirts...No thanx...big big titties...rich sugar daddies...no thanx," and the rest I'm goin' "pakalolo." Pakalolo is the Hawaiian word for weeeeeeed. "Paka" is "weed," and "lolo" means "crazy"; weed that makes you go crazy.
"Ala Moana" is the name of the beautiful beach across from where I live...yap, Nauru flavor is all over this cd. It's got a bit of Hip-Hop, too, and Nico's track is a pretty darked-out Drum & Bass track, it's very intense, and Dr. Jacobson played piano on that, so it adds a really nice dimension.
One of the tracks which Terry D. produced, called "Audiolly," is sounding very sexy to me right now. Most of the voices became like sprinkle & storobo, kinda like Tinkerbell's pixie dust. I like whispering, mumbling, breathing, sounding like Cruella Deville even, sometimes...becoming like essences & frequencies, rather than singing with like "voice voice" voice...you know.
Terry always tells me to put "vocals + atmospheres" rather than just "vocals"...like David Sylvian's world...that's sexy! Also the words are sexy. You can't just look like Beckham and give me a huge diamond ring, and expect me to say "yes." You've got to love me AUDIOLLY! That's sexy to me...at least for now.
Some of the songs, even though I'm doing a lot of vocal tracks, it becomes like an instrumental track, because we've tweaked my voice to where it's unrecognizable. I love it when that happens.
It's all about pushing boundaries, because there aren't any boundaries [laughs].
Especially when you're talking about expressing yourself. I mean, you find what kind of physical limitations there are, but that doesn't really mean it's a boundary.
Who are your biggest influences?
C: My mama and papa. If I was to name a few gurus of mine, it would be like Brian Eno, David Sylvian, um... there's so many of them... Richard D. James, Julie London, so many of them, I don't know [laughs]. It changes every day. Billie Holliday, the way she sings, the way she...I don't know, what can you say?
You grew up in Tokyo, right?
C: Yeah, going back and forth here [Honolulu] and Tokyo.
How would I say something really cool or romantic to my girlfriend in Japanese?
C: If you want to tell her you love her, you want to say "Aishite-masu."
Proper. She's gonna think I'm one of those "cool guys" now.
C: [laughs] Somebody's gonna get busy tonight.
What does Music mean to you personally?
C: Everything. I don't come from the left-side brain; I'm all right. I could never do debit and credit things, but I have no problem drawing pictures or doing music. My background is 200% music. Basically, I can do nothing except music. Well, I dance pretty ok, and I cook ok, but other than that, I live in a bubble. I don't have TV, I don't read newspapers. I basically get up and do music.
My first encounter with music was when I started to take classic ballet lessons, when I was 3 or 4. So, my first encounter with music was classic music, and I was dancing to it. Then I started to take jazz vocals, and I started to listen to Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald, but this was still when I was in elementary school.
What was the first instrument you started playing?
C: Piano and then... I'm pretty greedy when it comes to music, so I've done guitar, sitar, bass, drums, duster shoot, meat grinder...I've been using this thing called a waterfon, which is a silver...bowl, with lots of wires sticking out, and you can put water inside. I've been using bows a lot lately.
In this apartment, we have two Baby Grands. Mine's silver, and is full of cut-up erasers, and screws and nuts and bolts, stuck in those strings in the back, because it makes brilliant noise.
I'm a noise junkie over here; I always listen for kick-ass noise. There's so many musicians who tend to think the millions of dollars they spend on gear means they can come up with better music. I completely do not agree with that [laughs]. There's so many noises all around you.
I think it means so much to be able to do kick-ass shit with no budget.
Absolutely. It means a lot more, 'cause you're not doing it for any other reason than that's what's coming from you.
C: Exactly. I think Music is for somebody who cannot quit doing Music. If anybody can go on their life without doing Music, they should, because they'll be making a lot more money. But I am such a junkie, I can do nothing but this, so that's why I'm doing this.
And I think my sincerity, my passion, my energy, relates to the people around me, and if they like to do something with me, then they will.
When I completed my first album (which I did everything on my own, using my 8-track open reel machine), I quickly learned, "Oh, Coppe', you need some help." That was the reason I formed Mango & Sweet Rice, plus I knew I'm not good at working for somebody, so this is going to be my thing.
I have so many people around me that I want to keep collaborating with. But at some point, if we get enough budget and everything, I'd love to pull other artists onto the label.
Do you think the whole Napster/Audiogalaxy phenomenon helped Music grow as a whole, or do you think that it hurt Music?
C: I'm all up for it. I love for people to be able to listen to my stuff, and I would love to be able to listen to their stuff. But when you get into the music-business thing, then they probably get hurt, but I don't have a freaking clue about business stuff. I'm made to create, and I love to be able to share music.
Do you play out a lot?
C: We are beginning. Starting from last year, yeah, I'm kind of hooked on doing live things. Jacob Koeller (aka. Dr. Jacobson) is a really, really talented, classically trained, serious jazz pianist. It's like fucking magic to me; he's a very strong reason why I'm so into performing live right now. Then we have Corey on drums, and Andrew on the bass- that's the lineup on this tour. I think we're going to fucking kick ass, and deliver something really fresh.
In order to be able to do something live, I'm going to be using two microphones, both of them hooked onto different effect processors. And my meat grinder is going through one of the effected microphones. Yeah, I think it's going to be really fresh.
And it means so much to me to be able to tour with these solid, classically-trained jazz people.
When you play out, do you get a better reception anywhere in particular?
C: San Francisco, for sure...but the last gig we did in Tokyo was so special. It was right on the beach, and it was so beautiful. They created this stage for this farewell beach party event, and by the time they got done building the stage, it was dark outside, and the moon was right there, and right next to the moon was this orange, orange Mars. And I was singing right underneath it, and there was like 1,200 to 1,300 people there. It was so beautiful.
What are your plans for after the tour? Are you going to record another album straight away?
C: Yeah, we actually have two other albums [laughs]. We record every day.
I have so much gypsies in me, I have to be in Tokyo, I have to be here, I have to be in Arizona, I have to be in San Francisco, I have to be in London. And each and every place you go to, you meet with new people. I do music with people wherever, and I need that.
Hawaii is basically like paradise every day, but then, musically, I really miss being in San Francisco, because the creative juice...you always meet with people who are doing things that make you say, "what the fuck?!" You know, creating cool, cool noise. Over here, basically 80% of the people are on vacation, so they're pretty content to listening to 50-year-old Hawaiian music every day. Which is nice, 'cause every time I come home, it's Home, and the beach is right there. It's beautiful, but I would go crazy if I had to be here 24-7, 365 days a year. I couldn't do that.
Mango & Sweet Rice is definitely my mission, though. It means so much to me that people actually listen to my weird stuff.
How do you feel about Rob Zombie starring as the next James Bond?
C: That would be cool! He's cute! I'd love to meet with him; he does some really cool shit.
Check out her website for more info:
©Jake McGee - Get Underground
for more on Coppe' visit filosophy.com