Interview by The Kings Fool
As a journalist and a musician, I have always perceived the music created by those around me in my local community as being the biggest influences in my life, career and art. I am lucky enough to call a lot of these musicians my friends, and I tell people all of the time that I consider Newcastle to be the birthplace of the world’s most creatively talented people. It has something to do with the energy here, that only a Novocastrian can understand, let alone comprehend.
Steve Kopandy’s music has had a reoccurring role within the region’s cultural tapestry for the last decade, and as I sit hear listening to his catalog of work and thinking about the last ten years, I start to fathom the role and impact that Steve has had on the local conscience, and myself personally. They are thoughts that are pleasing to the mind and fill me with pride. Thoughts that are comforting and dreamlike in there assurance.
Steve has seen a lot of the world and has continuously bought back the sounds that have colored his journeys. Kopandy’s music has always enjoyed high rotation on local community radio, thus influencing those in the community that are tapped into the local scene.
Steve Kopandy is a songwriter where mere musicians can’t compete. His music doesn’t just capture life, it “IS”; a living, breathing entity, that touches, feels, hears, sees, smells and tastes the human experience. His songs are like a photograph; memories etched in sonic vibration that pour from the speakers, filling the ears and overflowing the senses.
Kopandy’s music has that rare quality of being able to perfectly capture a spectrum of emotion that touches memories so intimate that it taps into the souls of those who take the time to simply listen and be absorbed in his connection to the infinite conscienceness. Possessing a unique honey sweet voice, thick, smooth and rich in texture, Kopandy’s dulcet tones manage to simultaneously meld the moments where ones heart melts… and breaks.
Drawing a haunting sense of knowing and realisation from the beautiful emotional recesses of the mind, Steve’s music is one that is delivered with a softly spoken passion, like a lover whispering sweet nothings into your ear, as you slip on the headphones and go to that part of your mind that is truly your own.
You dance inside of Kopandy’s music, as well as dancing to it. You become one with its vibration, tapping in astrally and meditating in the moment. A form of astral musicality that gives one total recall, materialising memories, making the intangible tangible. His music captures parts of the matrix of life that, individually, we have all experienced at one time, because we are all one.
Music allows musicians to “get it all out”; to attain a certain cathartic sense of external internality. Musicians strive to make music that is not only the soundtrack of their own lives but the soundtrack of the lives of those men and woman that experience it. Kopandy’s music is such that you can imagine yourself walking down the road with your thumb out, singing, moving on, and looking forward to life, giving you a minds-eye view of your life as a movie, with someone else doing the music.
Steve Kopandy’s music is somewhat of a cultural mirror, reflecting the music that he has immersed himself in; the “physical” culture created by the musicians that surround him. Kopandy’s humble beginnings commenced in Newcastle, Australia, where, at the tender age of 16, he began playing with friends Ben Hutton, Ian Hutton and Matt Slavin. They introduced themselves to the world as Real Food in 1998, before rebranding and conceptualising into Paperadio in 2002. After some mild success with their self-titled debut E.P they packed their bags in 2003 and headed to London to try and crack the big time. They released another E.P together before Steve the group in London in 2005 to pursue his solo career, which he had started in 2002 with his debut E.P Silver Things, and followed up with another E.P in 2004 called Scripted.
2007 saw his long awaited debut album released. Entitled Based On, it was part one of a double album with part two, A True Dream, coming out in the Australian spring. A truly cultured troubadour, this multi-instrumentalist Novocastrian is back in his hometown to recharge the batteries, and add the final touches to the music that has chronicled his life thus far.
I invited him around to my place for a jam and a casual chat about where he is at now in his career.
“Oohhh, where am I in my career? Back in Newcastle. Back to where it all started really. Umm, It’s a big question”, he rhetorically comments, professing, “I could go on for hours about that. Umm, 28, being doing it a long time now. Been through a hell of a lot of ups and downs, and ahh”, he tsks and pauses to collect his thoughts, contemplating his answer, before cautiously yet confidently expressing the realisation of exactly where music has lead him to. He speaks enthusiastically. His tone, whilst not laborious, is expressive of his sense of exhaustion.
“Starting to get a bit restless,” he continues. “Starting to want to do different things and create different types of music, and go to different places that I am less familiar with, cause I feel like I’ve done a hell of a lot this year so far. I’ve been in the UK where I did heaps of shows, met heaps of people, been networking, playing and writing. I’ve written about 30 songs this year so I feel a little bit tired so I think I’ve come back for a holiday”, he laughs wryly.
“Do you come home when you get restless? It seems to be a bit of a reoccurring theme,” I probe him.
“Well I keep coming back. I have family and friends here, and I like this place it’s a good place. And i don’t have a visa for the UK so I can’t legitimately earn money there anyway, so I have to come back every once and awhile to make some cash, because music doesn’t quite make the ends meet unfortunately.
“I’ve got my own solo career. My second album is so close to being finished its not funny. I’ve booked to go to Melbourne in two weeks to mix it, and when thats all out of my way it will be a huge weight off of my shoulders, because I’ve been working on that for ages, way too long. I just want it out. I’ve just done too much work on this thing”.
I concur that he just wants the concept out of his head, to which he adamantly replies, “I want those songs released. I want to stop making changes. I want them finalised. I want to stop deciding I do like something and then deciding I don’t like it. So its got to be put out,” he states sternly, as if drumming it in to his own subconscience, that it will be completed by the deadline he has given himself, whether ‘he likes it or not’!
“It will be a huge weight off of my shoulders”, he exhales. “So I’m kind of happy plugging away at that one. It’s only a couple of more weeks. It’s becoming a little bit hellish, but it will all be worth it,” he confidently assures both himself and I.
“Who are you releasing that through? How are you doing it,” I ask him.
“All myself. CD’s are dead. People talk ab
out, “oh who is distributing these days?”, and some guy in LA is like “oh who is your distributor” and I’m like “what the fuck are you talking about? It doesn’t work that way anymore”. You don’t get a distribution deal with MGM and no budget for promo. Unless you’re touring and the shops in the towns you’re touring too are going to stock it you’re not going to sell jack shit. So I’m doing it all myself on the Internet, just trying to find my niche that way, its the way that the business is going these days, so it’s easy enough to do it myself,” he shares eagerly and adamantly.
“I’ve got a side-project called Hide & Spy, and that record is almost done. The album is called Words Count, and it will be released in early July. I’m going to Sydney this weekend to be present at the mixing of that one, and that one is much easier. I don’t kind of ‘stress out’ about that one at all. I just kind of chill out and let that one be what it wants to be. So, that will kind of look after itself. The guy that is working on it, James Hariman, is a champ and he’ll make it sound really good. I really trust him with it, so thats a nice break from doing my own record”.
The calming influence that Hide & Spy have on Steve’s soul and current musical temperament is felt in the gravity of the tonality of these particular words, as they fall out of his mouth with a free flowing ease. It is evident that he grasps the concept of everything having its time and place. Without taking a breath, he moves onto the final piece of his musical trinity, and by far the most intriguing.
“I’m also demoing 20 songs for a musical,” he pulls from out of nowhere, as if everything else wasn’t impressive enough already. “For this guy in Arizona called Bill Rich, and ahh, he’s written a script and I’ve written the songs, and he’s looking after me and getting me to do the demo work, so there is a bit of money there which is great. Just a little bit”.
“A musical… Wow! How did that come about,” I bleat in wonderment, sending him off into storytelling mode, reliving the moment, describing his journey in the way that only a man who lived it himself could tell it?
“He found me on a songwriters directory on the Internet, cause he wrote the script and he just needed a songwriter to write the full score for it,” he offers humbly. He emailed me, I read his script and I liked it. So I contacted him over email, and it ended up that when I was in LA, he flew me out to Arizona to work for a few days, to get all of the songs written. So I wrote about 20 songs in two days,” he shares proudly. “It was nuts! It was really, really hard work! He basically said “that you’re coming out here to work! You’re not doing any touristy shit,” so he pretty much locked me in a room and I wrote for two days”.
“Wow”, i mutter impressed, equally as dumbstruck as i was starstruck, brimming with pride because I had “grown up” on the Newcastle scene with Steve. I have seen every incarnation of his musical career (at least in Newcastle) to date, observing his growth as an accomplished artist, and once again, he has shown us what is possible with music, if you just open yourself up to the possibilities.
(It was hard work) “But it was good, it was good”, he assure me. “When I got back to Australia, I couldn’t remember these songs. I had put it all down in my phone and on paper, so I had all the melodies recorded and all the lyrics written, but i had completely forgotten them, because I had written them so quickly. I got back and I started playing them back and I’m like, “oh shit I remember this one”, and some of them I really like. Some songs, just sometimes, I’ll spend a month reworking a song till I think its perfect, and then it wont be as good as a song that I wrote in half an hour”, he concludes puzzled yet not looking a gift horse in the mouth..
“Wow! How did you build your energy for that, because its so exhausting, and as you said it’s like a blank memory after it. So you’re not really there are you?”
“No”, he agrees, nodding as i continue.
“It’s a muse like experience. You were definitely tapping into something, but you still need the energy reserves to hold that connection for as long as you possibly can. So how did you prepare?”
“Oh gosh, well I rested up a couple of days before. I decided to rest up for two days in L.A, because I knew it would be hard work. So when I got there I pretty much had no distractions. Had a good nights sleep the night beforehand, and just got into it I suppose”.
“So what is it all about?”
“It’s an Irish American musical, called The House of Flaherty. It’s about this guy who is an ex-Broadway star, who has pretty much come of age. He is an old guy now and he’s got a grand kid, and you know, lots of family stuff goes on. A lot of shit goes down, people come back from his past. Things transpire in his life and his family life. It all kind of works around this guy’s life story. There are a lot of flash backs to his Broadway days. You know, it’s pretty much shaped around this central character”.
“Wow! Interesting! So you have pretty much written half a script. Are you just writing the music or as you said you have melodies there, were the lyrics prepared, So how did it work?”
“Well he wrote the story line and then I looked at it. He had ideas for what he wanted. So the script was pretty much done, and he said “there has to be songs here, here and here, and this is what they are about, and the style I want them in,” and basically I went about filling in the gaps, as per his spec. I didn’t really have that much creative control. Well, I mean I had creative control; I wrote the songs from the start”.
“So there were parameters?”
“Well it was easy, instead of me sitting down and writing a song and asking myself, “what do I write a song about?” He was like, “well this song is about this. It’s this character. This is this character’s background and this is the style I want it in”. So I didn’t have to do any soul searching. It was, Okay… Alright… BANG!!! Write… It was so much easier,” he assures me. “It was a really fun exercise. So I didn’t have to think too much”.
This certainly is an interesting approach to songwriting. I mention to Steve that when I personally write songs, I will start playing and then ask myself, “what is this song about?” It’s like music has a story within its being, and a song’s lyrics tell that story. When you are writing music you channel (often a desired) emotion and feeling and relate your experiences to the colour and texture of the interpretation you are tapped into, which can only ever be your own.
Art is the etherical world’s manifestation of our conversations with conscienceness, our interpretations of the Akashic records, the infinite storehouse of memory held in the collective subconscience. Where all that is known and unknown is accessible to those who channel it. There are as many different languages spoken as there are artforms, and with this metaphor we can see how music can be broken down into dialects, and ultimately, how an individuals character is colored by their own unique accent. Conscienceness is the one constant that is always present, and the depth of creation that an artist plunders, reflects the depth of conversation undertaken with conscienceness.
So the almost third person approach undertaken by Kopandy had me contemplating which way the dots were connected.
“It was very different for me,” he elaborates. “But I tell you what, I loved it. I think it made me a better writer because I didn’t realise I could write like that. I suppose if I was writing for commercial purposes then that is the way I would have to write. You gotta write to spec,” he postulates. “It was really fun I had no trouble with it. It was great!”
Steve proceeds to play me a song called The Rock & Roll Life from his soon to be released second album A True Dream, a song “about rock & roll, city folk and shitty coffee”. It’s a song that resonates with myself personally and gives hope to those of us that choose this path in life.
“I totally get that pushing on no matter what, chasing that dream and not stopping, because the dream is living it, and as long as you’re living it, you ARE living that dream,” I pose to him.
“Yeah as long as you work out what it is that you’re here to do, then if you’re doing it, then you’re in the right place. I don’t like going with the flow. I’m very different to most of my friends my age, most of them are married some of them have kids, they either have mortgages or are in a position where they need full time jobs, and I’m like “well you know what I’ll do that if it comes to that, but at the moment, I am supposed to play music,” which is what i want to do!”
I can certainly relate to that brother.