Interview: Joss Cope

February 7, 2020

Interview Special
Words: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea





Sibling to arch druid polymath of the ‘head’ community, Julian, brother Joss Cope shares an equally colourful CV; serving and rubbing shoulders during his formative years with a number of famous and cult figures from the Liverpool music scene, including Echo & The Bunnymen’s Les Pattinson, Wah! Heat’s Peter Wylie and Spiritualized’s Mike Mooney. Not before fleetingly spearheading Bam Caruso label favorites Freight Train – releasing the modestly pivotal album Man’s Laughter in 1985 – before splitting and joining ‘rivals’ the Mighty Lemon Drops, Joss left Liverpool to be absorbed into the Creation Records mayhem of London. During his spell in the capital he played with Crash, The Weather Reports and Rose McDowell before carving out a solo career, releasing two albums under the Something Pretty Beautiful banner.

Inevitably Joss would at some point cross paths with his elder brother, contributing famously to the Fried and St. Julian solo albums; co-writing with both Julian and his former Freight Train band mate Donald Ross Skinner the album tracks ‘Pulsar’ and ‘Christmas Morning’.

Joss would go on to form and play with many more bands during the 90s and noughties – The United States of Mind, Dexter Bentley and Sergeant Buzfuz among them -, balancing music with a careers as a video director for MTV, narrator for a children’s BBC animation series and as an online producer/activist for Greenpeace.

The most recent chapter in a checkered backstory of affiliations sprung from Joss’ regular sleepovers in Finland, home to his current partner, the cartoonist Virpi Oinonen. In 2016 he began collaborating with the guitarist Veli- Pekka Oinonen, bassist Esa Lehporturo and percussionist Ville Raasakka trio of Helsinki talent, and the (what must be the most Irish of Irish sounding names in history) keyboardist O’Reilly O’Rourke on what would become the Unrequited Lullabies album; his first release for Ian Button’s estuary romantics label Gare du Nord.

Ahead of his upcoming album of soft bulletin psych for the same label, Indefinite Particles (released on the 28th February 2020), our very own one-man cult Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea puts forward some questions.



Brian Shea: What was the first record you ever bought? 

Joss Cope: ‘Ride A White Swan’ by T Rex after seeing Bolan on telly. He definitely had something.

 

When did you realise that you wanted to be in a band, or did you just fall into it and it just happened?

I’ve been in bands in some form since I was 14, but long before we could play instruments my brother and I would spend hours making up imaginary bands, complete with all their members and song titles. Eventually we graduated to writing and later recording the stuff we made up – it was generally on the surreal/absurdist side.

I tend to think of ‘the band’ as a default human unit – and not just for music. A small group of people with disparate but overlapping skill sets who come together enthusiastically to focus on making something which each individually could not achieve. When it works, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Once I figured that out I always wanted to be in a band – who wouldn’t?

 

You have been in and around the alternative underground indie (whatever you want to call it) music scene and music business for quite a long time now, and I feel it is currently struggling due to a lack of a figure head – be that John Peel – or there being no music weeklies. Do you agree? And can you see a way of it once again rising into prominence, or will it shift still further underground becoming a minority art? 

Someone with the (eventual) cultural clout of John Peel was only possible because media options were so limited in the 70s and 80s. Everyone was listening to the same shows and there was more of a shared conversation.

That has been fragmented by new online media, and at the same time the digital revolution has given access to almost anyone to record and prove themselves online. This is a very positive development in terms of the sheer numbers of people fulfilling themselves through their own music, but the explosion of production means in practice an ever more fractured audience for genuinely indie music.

Genuine indie music has always been a minority art, but the best examples will always have an appeal precisely because it’s ultimately more human and personal than anything the mainstream hit factory commercial complex is capable of producing, Outsider art is unfettered commentary with no bottom line considerations to temper its visions. The power lies in people telling their own truths in their own ways, always has done.

 

Your debut solo LP, 2017’s Unrequited Lullabies, was a sparkling psych tinged pop LP (one of my faves that year). Is your latest album more of the same?

 Yes I hope so. There’s definitely a continuity of sound, the backing tacks were recorded live in the same way with same musicians (Veli-Peka Oinonen on guitar, Esa Lehtopuro on bass and Ville Raasaka on drums). I was very pleased with the process the last time around and happy to repeat it. And hopefully there’s more mixing of the sublime with the ridiculous, at least that’s the intention.

 

I understand that you will be touring with the lovely but crazy [in the best possible way] Rose McDowall this year. Will you be performing any of your songs or will it be as part of her band?

Rose recently asked my to play guitar with her for a few gigs, but there are no plans to play any of my tracks at this stage. She and I were in a sort of proto-band together back in Creation days; Alan McGee put us together. But then she got loads of solo work in Japan which she couldn’t really turn down, so nothing came of it. But I’ve always thought she had a great voice, and coincidentally my old mate Dave Morgan is drumming for her, so it’s been a lot of fun for me.

 

And to finish, what was the last record you bought?

Happy Endings by Crayola Lectern. Pastoral British psychedelia of the highest order, for my money. Well worthy of a listen! (MC: We agree Joss, as you can see from our review, here…)





Further Reading From The Archives:

Unrequited Lullabies LP Review From 2017


Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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Words: Dominic Valvona
Photo Credit: James Kriszyk



Simon McCorry  ‘The Nothing That Is’
(Close Recordings)  Single/7th February 2020


Following on from last year’s acclaimed (especially by us) ambient album of field recording manipulations Border Land, classically trained cellist and composer Simon McCorry is back with an equally evocative, though far less supernatural and mysterious, work of atonal art, ‘The Nothing That Is’.

Created from the musical ideas that informed his involvement with the original score for Javaad Alipoor’s play Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran – which premiered at the Traverse as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019 -, ‘The Nothing That Is’ peregrination is a subtly airy and stripped back performance that builds upon McCorry’s use of live looping and computer processing: processes and technologies that transform the cello to sound ever more ambiguous.

As McCorry explains it: “Each layer [on ‘The Nothing That Is’] has one sustained note followed by silence. As one note finishes the next is added. An overall harmonic motion is established that pushes the piece to its conclusion. There is no melodic solo line to tie everything together. The cycling individual tones all together create an emotive power. By themselves they are just looped individual notes and reveal nothing.”

Imbued with Brian Eno’s pioneering long tape loop works of Discreet Music and in part by ‘Fratres, Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten and Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt, The Nothing That Is – which takes its title from a line in the American modernist poet Wallace Stevens’ seminal and empirical ‘The Snowman’ poem –The Nothing That Is continues McCorry’s exploration of compositional techniques that perfectly marry sound, space and silence.

Expanding on the track and accompanying video, McCorry explains, “My thought is being influenced by reading David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World or rather I’m finding a lot that resonates in how I’m thinking at the moment. The Nothing That Is video looks at diverse processes and their cycles in time and how they are all similar, whether “artificial” or “natural”. They all ‘flow’ and ‘ebb’ in similar ways. There is also an underlying theme of the anthropocene and the decay of civilization, the tension between our dominant ‘modern’ logical positivist approach to the world around us and dislocation from ourselves as other animals, as living breathing entities in a living breathing environment.”

The Monolith Cocktail is pleased to share with its readers the precursor video version of this track ahead of its official release tomorrow, Friday the 7th February 2020.


 







Background: Having worked as a composer for theatre, contemporary dance and circus, McCorry has channeled his experiences of creatively supporting the conveyance of a narrative or theme and laid down a series of responses to what he sees in the world at large. Originally born in London to mixed Indian/British heritage, McCorry trained in cello at The Centre for Young Musicians & Morley College then studied philosophy at Durham University. He is now based in Stroud, Gloucestershire. As a performer McCorry is well travelled, he has performed at many prestigious events and institutions including in Orlando Warrior with Julia Cheng at the South Bank as part of China Changing Festival 2017 and more recently supported luminaries such as ambient electronic legends The Orb.

Further Reading From The Archives:

Border Land in review from 2019

Album Review
Dominic Valvona




Pulled By Magnets  ‘Rose Golden Doorways’
(tak:til/Glitterbeat)  LP/28 February 2020


Prime motivator/instigator behind a myriad of acclaimed experimental jazz outfits, Seb Rochford’s influences and scope could be said to be wide-ranging and highly eclectic. This is due in part to the prolific and very much in-demand polymath’s Anglo-Indian and Irish-Scottish heritage; all of which has been fed, transduced into contemporary luminaries Polar Bear, Sons Of Kemet and Basquiat Strings, his collaborations with such notable doyens as Patti Smith, David Byrne and Brian Eno, and his soundtrack work. Though it might not be initially obvious, but the Indian part of that heritage informs his newest and most dark, murky abstracted project yet, Pulled By Magnets. Imbued by that and recent travels to India itself, the pacing and timings of the improvisational colouring ‘raag’ permeate the serialism subterraneans of this new trio’s debut LP, Rose Golden Doorways.

Featuring fellow Polar Bear Pete Wareham on contorting inpained and withering saxophone and Zed-U and Empirical’s Neil Charles on stalking, menacing bass guitar duties, Seb instigates, sets in motion opaque industrial post-punk rituals and esoteric jazz moods from his drum kit on an album of both the primal and mysteriously cryptic – adding another layer of mystique and interpretation through the album’s artwork, Seb visually offers a number of numerical value symbols to decipher.

Recorded in a Stoke Newington church (of all places), the atmosphere is not so much godly as supernatural, often even chthonian. No holy communion here, rather a recondite performance of searching and roaming about in the darkness under various stresses. The album starts with a howl of machinery and industrial wanes; a heart of darkness oscillation of piercing quivers and Bish Bosch style Scott Walker mood accompaniment. From this the staccato and strung-out evocations move with a certain menace through a suite of pendulous tribal witchery, lurking leviathans, lunar prisms, dungeons and cosmic doldrums. Between the churning maelstrom and river Styx voyages you may hear shadows of Andy Haas, Arthur Russell, Massive Attack, Mani Neumeier, Faust and a sedated King Crimson. All of which is of course undulated with that transformed vision of classical Indian music; a melodic framework that has no direct translation to the classical ideas of European music, and so encourages this kind of experimentation that Seb’s new project grants it.

Not a jazz album in the traditional or even avant-garde sense, Rose Golden Doorways is Seb’s most amorphous dark exploration yet; a total escapism from the tangible. It will be interesting to hear where he goes next.






Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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