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.

Interview
Words: Matteo Bordone





Continuing our content swap with the leading Italian culture/music site Kalporz, the Monolith Cocktail is excited to be hosting Matteo Bordone‘s recent interview with the Canadian mask wearing alternative country artist Orville Peck.



Matteo Bordone: Tell me about the writing of Pony: in previous interviews you stated that the texts are self-referential. When and how did you decide to write these songs?

Orville Peck: They are songs about my life experiences. People I’ve met, places I’ve been. I wanted to make a classic country album, which is exactly that – a collection of stories.

 

MB: The sounds of your record range from shoegaze to the most classic country: if you had to explain your music through fundamental artists/groups, what would they be and why?

OP: I am of course influenced by the outlaw country musicians like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard. I combine that classic sound with a few more contemporary sounds or production feelings but to me that is just the natural evolution for country. Country has always evolved and changed and incorporated different sounds and instruments as it grew.

 

MB: The night is a recurring temporal element in your songs. What role did the night play in the writing of Pony?

OP: I guess a lot of what I do is in the night. It’s definitely easier to be yourself in the night.

 

MB: The masks you wear helped to create the aura of mystery that characterizes your character. What is your relationship with these?

(no answer/silence – ed)

 

MB: In a short time your project has seen its fanbase grow, to the point that some of your fans have tattooed lyrics from your songs. How do you manage your relationship with your fans and this sudden wave of popularity?

OP: I think it’s really special. My fans include everything from alternative culture, LGBTQ, older country fans. It’s a really broad spectrum. I think they all connect with it for the same reasons that I do – because everything I sing about is universal. These are struggles and instances that everybody has gone through.




Interview: Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea




Beauty Stab are Dan Shea and Buddy Preston, two former members of the, highly tipped at one time, Goth rock industrial folk band Vukovar, who left to share their love of post punk, disco and 60s/70s/80s pop to the world. Their current three track EP has been one of this year’s musical highlights a stunning release bringing back the much missed and much needed glamour, heartbreak and bedsit seediness to the pop world.


Why did you leave Vukovar? 

Buddy: For the love of music and art, we needed a change of scenery. For a while, I fell out of love with producing music and was finding myself feeling so emotionally detached from it. Upon leaving Vukovar, I initially didn’t want to do music anymore and concentrated instead on other artistic ventures for a while. But music is where the heart is.

Dan: I’ve no desire to dwell on that or air dirty laundry. All that needs to be said is that I did.

 

What made you form Beauty Stab? 

B: The need to carry on pursuing making art and music with a close friend. I know that anything Dan writes is genius and I hope he thinks that my contributions do them some justice. Whilst in Vukovar, I wanted to record Dan’s rejected songs because I always saw something in them in a way I knew I could make them work.

D: The current landscape musically is devoid of sex and danger. Our society is moving backwards at a frightening rate. Even though we are at present operating on a very small scale, I really want to one day be to some confused queer kid living in the middle of nowhere what Marc Almond or David Bowie was in years past (or John Balance from Coil was to me). I am queer in both senses – I am gay but more crucially I am fucking Weird. Our homos should not be homogenised. We are not milk, although Harvey was. Queer is not just about sexuality – I’ve been lucky enough to know straight people with very queer sensibilities and cursed enough to know gay people who are cripplingly pedestrian. There are others doing this at the moment – SOPHIE would be one that’d spring to mind, she made my favourite singles of 2018 (It’s ‘Okay to Cry’ which is a beautiful song and ‘Ponyboy’ which is just sheer filth).

But no one is doing it in the field we operate in. It’s full of hopelessly glamour-less people with beards who make the right noises and have the right political opinions but they’re making sexless facsimiles of records made by people who, shock horror, listened to stuff by people who didn’t look and sound exactly like them. Or maybe they are but I’m not meeting them. If you’re out there please get in touch with me through the obligatory Beauty Stab social media because lord knows I need a friend. If you’re not already doing it, put some makeup on however badly, wear some nice patterns and poke at a synth ineptly and I would love to share a bill with you. I’m into the idea that left-wing politics doesn’t have to be austere and devoid of joy. Bronski Beat strike a chord with me far more than some dullard with an acoustic guitar telling me what I already know in a way I don’t want to hear.

I know it’s also an ABC reference but Beauty Stab is a powerful combination of words. A shard of luxury you don’t actually have to be able to afford because we’re there, you’re here, it’s now and this is the only time we have. In my current crop headed state, Buddy’s the Beauty and I’m the Stab. Bad news from a pretty mouth.

 

 

What are your influences?

B: Life experiences, tales of old, people we appreciate. Musically, whatever we’re listening to at that moment. We’re creating mixtape style playlists for various streaming media to let people know what we love right now, and maybe we can enlighten some people.

 

Dan: Quote Clothes – “girl group hymns and jackboot disco”.

Different movements really. Musically, all the people listed in England’s Hidden Reverse with Coil being the best. We like lots of Italo disco and Chicago house and Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Prince, etc. Those people were emulating. We’re also massive, massive fans of Rowland S Howard and pretty much anything he touched. Then there’s all the obvious Bowie, Iggy, Roxy, Lou Reed. Then there’s girl group records and by default anyone who has the sense to plagiarise them.

Then we’re also influenced by how shit everything is, and also the ethos that riot grrrl bands and people like Crass had even if the artwork and the ideas are invariably more interesting than the music which is a bit sonically conservative and paint by numbers.

 

 

You worked with many established artists with Vukovar, have you any plans to collaborate with any with Beauty Stab? Or are going to rely on your own talent?

B: We’ve played with some people that have really inspired us as artists; so to call those friends now is incredible. I wouldn’t want to rely on those with an already established fan base, we wouldn’t say no to the right people, of course.

D: That’s a bit of a pointed question isn’t it? We’ll see what happens. There are people I’d love to work with but whether it was as Beauty Stab or part of their project or something else entirely is another consideration. We’ve both got a very definite vision and aesthetic for what we’re doing and that may morph over time but anyone who we did work with would have to fulfil two criteria.

 

  1. If we can do it, we do it. If we can’t then we’ll bring them in.

 

  1. This ship has no passengers. I only want to work with people who have ideas of their own and can contribute to the creative process: not a glorified plug in we’re scripting or trading on the value of the name of. An example of someone I’d love to work with would be Karl Blake. I keep asking him. He’s not released a record in decades. Mick Harvey plays on about half of my record collection but that’s never going to happen. We’re obviously going to collaborate with the Mekano Set because they’re our friends.

 

 

Are you going to stay as a two-piece or have you any plans to expand the line up?

B: We plan on having quite an interchangeable line up depending on what type of gigs we’re attending. For now, we’re using all sorts of machines, synths and tapes to help us get the live sound we want. But in the future, we would love to play our songs with a full band.

D: I’m open to ideas.

 

 Any gigs planned? Plans for the near future?

D: Our live setup is mostly composed of broken equipment, also utilising drums and sequenced bass tracks played off a tape recorder a la OMD. As such there are no dates to announce – we are in talks with several different venues and I’m looking forward to making everyone of any gender in the audience pregnant solely through the means of my voice and dancing. If that doesn’t work Buddy is categorically the best looking man in the world so there’s always that. I can only imagine that even blind and deaf people could develop a crush on him.





The recently released Beauty Stab EP, O Eden, can be downloaded from all usual outlets or from Metal Postcard Records bandcamp.


Words: Brian Shea


Kalporz interviews Stella Donnelly 




As we announced earlier this week the Monolith Cocktail and Italian publication Kalporz will be sharing and exchanging reviews, interviews and articles. The inaugural post from our Italian penpals is an insightful interview with the Australian musician Stella Donnelly, who’s debut album Beware Of The Dogs is being re-released this month ahead of a second LP later in the year.





Stella Donnelly is a revelation, a lightning bolt in the clear sky and her second album, coming in a few months for Secretly Canadian is already one of the most anticipated works of this season.

Due to her incredible frankness and disruption in her lyrics, we chose to interview her to get us to talk about the genesis of “Beware of the dogs”.

The image that came out is that of a record born in a universe extremely homemade and personal, but that manages to be very suitable to photographing reality, even in its darkest and most violent part.


– Hi, Stella. In the last year you have experienced a huge leap, you have finally

reached a much wider and international audience. How are you experiencing

this change? When such a thing happens, how do the priorities of an artist

change?

I’m taking every day as it comes and constantly pinching myself that I get to travel the world, meet amazing people and eat amazing food! My priorities haven’t changed, to me music is first and foremost about the writing, no matter how many people do or don’t hear that writing, it has to be honest and authentic to me.

– How has your approach to work changed since your first EP?

Other than having the resources to playing with a band, there hasn’t been any changes to how I write and do my work. In fact it’s even more important to me that I work with integrity and awareness of others around me in everything I do.

– You wrote and recorded the album ( if I’m not mistaken ) near home. How

does your city influence your work? Would you like to work in a foreign studio

in the future or do you need your local?

It was so nice to be able to record at home, the things that I was writing about felt so real because I was surrounded by the place where those experiences had or were currently taking place. It was magical. I would be open to recording somewhere far away in the future but for the purpose of this record, it was perfect to stay in Fremantle.

-What song in the record makes you think a lot about your city? Why?

The song Lunch is about the strange feeling when you’re trying to adjust your body to being away from home and then readjusting again when I return. I shot and edited the music video for this song myself because it really is such a personal and ‘home’ song for me.

– What signal do you see behind the choice of some festivals, such as

Primavera Sound, to completely fill the gender gap?

I think it’s amazing that massive festivals are stepping up their game when it comes to gender diversity, it has to be done now so that in the future it can be something we don’t even have to think about.

– Which song on the record did you write with the most anger and urgency?

Why?

Beware of the Dogs was written very quickly and I recorded it the next day.

– Important themes such as violence and discrimination, how do you prefer to

deal with them? How is the music changing from this point of view in these

years?

I deal with them by opening up a conversation in the songs, providing my point of view and hoping that people can learn from it. Music like this changes depending on what is happening in the world, when our governments don’t do anything about it, people need to find a way to speak out.

– What is the social responsibility of an artist today?

There are so many artists who live such different lives. My own personal social responsibility is to use my platform to help others but it cannot be expected of all artists to do the same, art would become very one-dimensional.

– You are very explicit in your lyrics. Which artist do you admire for their

sincerity in telling their stories?

I admire Billy Bragg, Janelle Monae, Courtney Barnett, Jenny Hval, Julia Jacklin, Solange.

-I read in an interview that you like very much to read. What readings have

accompanied you in writing the record?

I was reading Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado

Flights by Olga Torkarczuk

Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval

and Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

– One project that fascinated me last year was definitely BoyGenius Would

you like to do, sooner or later, such a project? Do you already have some

artists with whom you often feel like collaborating?

There are so many artists I would collaborate with in heartbeat but I don’t want to say them in case the read this and laugh at me!!!!

– Stella, Im very afraid of dogs. How do you overcome this fear? (and fears in

general?)

There are so many people that should not own dogs so I understand your fear but my experience with dogs is that they just need love and care! I have a fear of flying that I overcome by getting on lots of planes all the time! Maybe find a sweet dog and spend some time with it!





Kalporz writes about music, with his own musical vision, since 2000.

Kalporz is a careful observer of news, trends, emerging scenes, but without chasing the dominant taste: he is in search of “beautiful things”. He hopes to publish articles well written and carefully, in an original way, without filters and, of course, independently.

The editorial project is under the Creative Commons regime (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 IT) and in 2018 it was voted as the best Italian music site by the Meeting of Independent Labels (MEI) and Musicletter (https://www.musicletter.it/index.php/2018/08/27/kalporz-e-reverendo-lys-vincono-la-targa-mei-musicletter-2018-premio-speciale-a-umbria-jazz-come-miglior-festival-musicale-italiano/).

The Kalporz family is composed of the founder Luca Vecchi, the editors Paolo Bardelli,Monica Mazzoli, Piero Merola, Enrico Stradi, Matteo Mannocci, Gianluigi Marsibilio, and about twenty other collaborators, as well as three photographers.

The collaborators are from all parts of Italy, even if the main base of Kalporz is between Reggio Emilia, a town near the “famous” Canossa, the Adriatic Sea and Florence.