Speaking to the ‘Godmother of Japanese Electronica’…
Even from an early age, Coppé had a desire to pursue music. From the age of three she studied classical piano and also won a Nihon Record Taisho award for her song ‘Peke No Uta’. From there she embarked on regular TV appearances which later resulted in presenter roles on both radio and TV, including Poppers MTV where she interviewed the likes of Ray Charles, Bob Marley, James Brown, Madonna, the Police, Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson.
Meanwhile, Coppé was still pursuing her own music dreams and released her first album in 1995 on her own Mango + Sweetrice label. Her music weaves in a variety of sounds and influences to produce unique electronic compositions. She’s also collaborated with a wide variety of musicians including Kris Weston (ex-Orb), Plaid, Q-Bert, DJ Vadim, Nobukazu Takemura, DJ Kensei and Hifana amongst others.
Coppé closed out her UK tour with a packed performance at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and kindly took time out to talk after the show…
Can you talk a little about your influences?
Everything. Your eyebrow, air, blue sky, colours, drinks… sighs… Everything.
What is the process for recording your material and how does that differ from live shows?
The live thing is completely different from what I record. When I record, I record everywhere. On this trip I’ve been recording with Ed and Andy from Plaid, we have some un-finished tracks and stuff, but back home I love field recordings. I kick elevators! (laughs), I hit guard rails, I love field recordings and noises, so I implement those noises into my music all the time .
So you’re a big fan of natural noises?
Yes, indeed. Noises are beautiful. Everywhere. I’m hooked on noises. One time I tried to record my tummy noise! (laughs) Sometimes it goes like “oiiiiiiiinnnnnnggg!” (laughs). Yeah I’m hooked on noises and sounds. I don’t know why but I really like recording those and implementing into my music.
You used to have your own radio show
I used to yeah. I used to be a DJ. I used to interview loads of people who come into town, but I don’t do that anymore! (laughs) But I still love interviewing people. Like interviewing James Brown was really interesting. My film crew was late, about 45 minutes or so, so I had to keep his focus so he won’t leave the room and it was the bestest 45 minutes ever !!! He was trying to teach me how to say “Mmmph! Uhhh!” (laughs).
What are your thoughts on contemporary Japanese music and J-Pop?
I don’t know enough about it, but I’m not into creating something to sell if it doesn’t make me happy. I need to be happy with what I create and the J-Pop thing… basically you pick the cute kids and you let them do what needs to be done and the span of their career is maybe 2 or 3 years, maybe up to 5 and when they get older they graduate. Nothing to do with creating your own music.
I grew up in Arizona and Hawaii so it’s really different. But I was born in Tokyo. I went back to Tokyo because my papa passed away and my family wanted to be there, to be with my mother and stuff. But what I’m finding out is you have to fit in one category. You have to do *this* and if you don’t want to be doing this, you’re an outsider. When you want to be composing a hit tune, the BPM needs to be 120-something and this and that and this and that. The way I make music with various people is completely different. Sometimes there’s no beats, sometimes there’s no lyrics, sometimes there’s no nothing.
The whole thing is completely different from the very beginning. I have a very dear friend, his name is Kazu. He used to manage Bay City Rollers. I used to interview all those people for my radio and TV shows in Japan. When I completed my very first CD back in ’95 from my label Mango + Sweetrice Records, I flew to L.A.to meet with Kazu, who at the time was working for Virgin. So I asked Kazu, “Kazu, so what do I need to do?”. All these years, people come to me, “Coppé play these for your radio shows and TV shows”. Now, I’m doing my own and I have to do this: “Oh please play my stuff”. And Kazu asked me, “ Coppé what is your aim? Do you want to be making your own music? Or do you want to be big and famous?”. “Mmm,.. I definitely need to be making my own music, but I would like to be big and famous as well if I don’t have to change what I create … not losing my creative control”. And Kazu said “if you go major, you have to listen to what they say and you might have 1, 2 year span. If you don’t listen to what they say and if it don’t happen in that span, your career is done”. As far as what I create, I don’t want to listen to anybody because I know what I want to be doing, I know what music sounds good to my own ears. So that was it! I decided to do my own and carry on with my own label.
That makes a lot of sense. What country would you say your music career is based in? Is it the US? The UK? Japan? Or global?
I’d have to say globally because I travel a lot. I’m not good at staying in 1 place …
cross-cultual-ing is very fresh !
You have your own record label. That obviously gives you more freedom and creative control.
To keep the creative control is the most important … I think all the people who come back to me + purchase my music from my site believe that I am makin’ what I want to be makin’ at the time …They are so loyal to me because they know what I make is what I believe … what I want to be making at that moment … this is very important to me ….
You appear to be gaining a broader appeal here in the UK, particularly with the recent live review in Electronic magazine.
Yeah at 2.5D, which was webcasted live thru out the world, that was my release party (for my new album Rays and USB boxset, Coppé In A Bloc) and I played with Maywa Denki, the maker of that otamatone, and 1 of Hifana guys / juicy – two dear friends of mine ! Hifana + me, we go back for many, many years. Juicy was my manipulator and also cutsigh from Audio Active joined on guitar. Maywa Denki, he makes very special one of a kind instruments. It was a packed house, brilliant gig, very, very wonderful, energy… We had sooooooo much fun fun fun… brilliant gig.
You have some quite amazing costumes. Do you design and make these yourself?
Well this is Comme des Garçons. I’m really into Comme des Garçons right now. I do design my own clothing. I think this is how I live. I want to be looking how I want to be looking. I want to be wearing what makes me feel good when I wear it. Usually I have to design my own, but I have encountered with Cyberdog and now with Comme des Garçons and they’ve been wonderful. This is how i want to express myself right now .
I’ve also noticed that you release your material on USB as well as CD. You’ve also thought about the packaging, you’ve thought about how this sort of thing looks.
I have. I can’t do anything on my own, so I have loads of my precious buddies around me throughout the world, and with 1 of my dear friends in Japan, his name is Reijin… CD’s are not really moving in Japan so we were chatting during din-dins, “Coppé, maybe it’s not a CD thing anymore. So what can we do? Maybe USB!”. Cute little USB! Yeah let’s do it!!! This is how I decide most of the things… wining and dining with my dear buddies.
The first USB that we did, it was pill-shaped (2010’s Coppé In A Pill), capsule-shaped and it was so cute. 2 gigabytes – and not only music, we can put visuals on it. Yeeeah!! So yeah I’m really into poppy-looking things. Because I love those cute little things
And for the first one Atom did this Mango + Sweetrice megamix. Atom and me, we’ve been working together for a while and he knows all my music from CD 1 to CD 14 and using only the Mango + Sweetrice music adding his flavor,he created this megamix of 1 hour and you know how brilliant he is. Now Coppé In A Bloc, the second USB, which was released not too long ago, that megamix was done by Sutekh, my dear friend from San Francisco .And yeah it was again just brilliant… this time with Sutekh flavored Mango + Sweetrice.
You also digitally reissued your first few albums?
Oh yeah Léigh at Bit-Phalanx (a UK electronica label I have been collaborating with on various projects and my last two tours) did that. Because not many people have heard of my older stuff and Léigh was chatting with the Bleep.com people and they decided to do that to coincide with this tour. We also just released a 17 track ‘Best Of’ digital compilation called Coppé Who? (Aloha From Mars!) exclusively through Bleep.com, for those who might not know where to start with my catalogue otherwise.
Do you enjoy playing the UK?
I love it. I get to record my new tracks. I love going to Bristol. I love going to Brighton. I love going to Birmingham. I love, love, love every bit of it.
How is your Disney collection?
(laughs) With my grandma! Growing, growing. But at the same time I’m selling loads, just to come back here once a year! (laughs) I must say that I have kinda graduated from Mickey Mouse… Now I’m looking for my dream prince!
Main photo: Photo: Jean-Paul Berthoin – www.berthoin.com
This interview originally appeared on J-Pop Go on 18th October 2012