At the culmination of her UK tour, Legendary Godmother of Japanese Electronica, Coppé rounded things off with a special post-tour party in London. The location of choice was Rudy’s Revenge cocktail bar, a hidden gem amongst London’s nighttime venues. Guests included former Sneaker Pimps collaborator Kelli Ali and Finnish performance artist Heidi Kilpeläinen aka HK119.
Coppé’s tour was about fun, friends and also to promote Null (digital download EP) and Void (Coppé’s new full-length album).
Once again, Coppé has surrounded herself with a variety of collaborators for the new material, including Kit Clayton, Mickey The Cat, Hilothoshi, Nononum and Henry Collins. Void also features a lyrical contribution from the legendary Chris Mosdell.
If there’s one thing that makes Coppé’s releases stand out it’s the impressive packaging of her albums, which in this instance consists of a white finish with precision cuts in the lamination process to reveal elements such as the album title. Along for the ride is a bonus 5” vinyl 2-track release. It all looks very polished and swish and probably cost an absolute fortune to press.
As an album, Void offers up textured soundscapes interspersed with fragmented percussion and Coppé’s particular vocal treatments. The effects can vary from track to track with more than a few surprises turning up during the listening experience.
Take the album’s title track, which weaves together the unlikely components of a wistful electronic melody and discordant percussive fills with breathy vocal elements from the Electronica Queen herself.
The throbbing beats of ‘U Gave Me A Heartache’ are overseen by the echoey vocals of Coppé, giving the track a particularly dub sensibility. Meanwhile, ‘Strawberry + Tuna’ offers up a sprightly piano-led tune augmented by bassy rhythms.
‘Underwater Fireworks’, Coppé’s collaborative piece with Ariel Gross, gives us lush beats and dream-like washes of sound. The track is broken up with layered, fragmented vocal elements from Coppé that serves as a rhythm bed. This element of employing treated vocals as rhythm is something that Coppé revisits often, such as the fractured beats of ‘He.Who.Me.Yo’, a collaboration between Coppé and Japanese Glitch musician Nanonum.
As an album, Void also offers up some surprising gear changes, such as the wind and string instrument-led ‘Red Baccarat Waltz’ whose fragile beauty serves as an intro of sorts to the denser, layered ‘Hadaly’s Waltz’ (a previously unreleased track which dates back to 2011) with its nods to Drum ‘n’ Bass and unusual percussive effects.
A highlight of the album is the minimal tones of ‘Only U!’ which delivers a hypnotic series of dub beats and subtle electronic effects that conjure up a trance-like atmosphere. ‘Fire + Ice’, meanwhile, invites you to slip on your dancing shoes for an energetic slice of grungy electronica.
The music box melodies of ‘Swan Song’ features lyrics care of former Yellow Magic Orchestra collaborator Chris Mosdell (and who also enjoyed a partnership with noted composer Yoko Kanno that led to anime soundtrack work, including the likes of Ghost In The Shell and Cowboy Bebop).
For the post-tour party, Coppé offered up a performance for a more intimate audience, helped along by a guest performance by HK119.
Post-performance also provides the opportunity to quiz Coppé on her latest album. Label boss of Bit-Phalanx (who are distributing Void in the UK) stands by to offer his own insight.
Tackling Coppé on the subject of themes and inspirations behind the Void album elicits a very straightforward response: “Everything inspires me”. It’s a topic we’ve visited before when we interviewed Coppé at the end of 2012 – and she was equally direct then.
Amongst Void’s musical collaborators is Kit Clayton, who penned the cavernous bell-like tones of Void’s opening number. “Kit Clayton and me we go back many years” adds Coppé, “The guy who masters all my CDs, his name is Twerk in San Francisco and Shawn (Twerk), Sutekh and Kit Clayton are all in one clique in San Francisco”.
“Sutekh, we’ve done loads of tracks together and he’s even done my videos and stuff. Kit Clayton always hung out, but we’ve never did any tracks together. So, the last time I was in San Francisco I was ‘Shall we do one?’ and he was ‘You know what? I’m just going to give you a track’. So that’s how it happened. No punchline here, sorry!” (laughs)
The connection with Chris Mosdell occupies similar territory on the well-connected Coppé grapevine. “Do you know the artist Atom Heart?” offers up Coppé. An article on Atom Heart aka Uwe Schmidt would be a lengthy piece. Schmidt has collaborated with a number of notable people over the years, including YMO founder-member Haruomi Hosono, although he’s probably better known for his electronic/latin stylings as Señor Coconut. “He’s pretty big in Japan” suggests Coppé, which seems about right.
“Chris was Atom’s friend. Don’t know if this is correct or not, but I’m assuming Atom told Chris: ‘Chris, I know this crazy Martian artist, we collaborate together sometimes. She’s a brilliant musician, but her weak point is her lyrics!’ (laughs) ‘No one can understand what the fuck she’s singing about! So will you help her out?’. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s what I’m assuming. All my lyrics come from my dreams: jelly omelette, strawberry & tuna and then.. you name them”.
“The original idea was to do a CD and vinyl hybrid”, remarks Léigh on Void’s planning phase, “but unfortunately they don’t make them anymore because apparently they’re a complete ball ache to produce and manufacture and they don’t play very well. And we found the one company in the world that did them and they don’t do them anymore. And HK119 – her label commissioned a promo 5” a few years ago of a few of her tracks and that’s kind of where we ripped the idea off. That was just a promo for her last album and so we decided to press that as part of the package for this one because we’ve kind of done USBs. Coppé’s done 2 USBs now so let’s move onto vinyl”.
Léigh muses on encountering Coppé for the first time: “When we first met, it was through Kelli and basically she turned around and said ‘You have to hook up with this crazy lady’ and I’d heard of Coppé, I’d seen the name but I didn’t really know her music. Kelli basically turned around and said ‘You need to hook up with her because she runs her own label, but she doesn’t know what she’s doing and you run a label, maybe you can help her’. So three years later that’s what we’re doing”.
From there, the topic turns to the fact that Coppé’s record label Mango + Sweetrice will be 20 years old in a year and a half. “There’s so many special plans for Mango +Sweetrice’s 20th” suggest Léigh, “there’s going to be a beautiful big box set and hopefully some kind of big huge party in London and maybe Arizona, where she’s also been based and maybe Tokyo, we’ll see. But yeah, Sweetrice 20, that’s going to be epic. We’re going to do something very special”. Apparently the plans may also include Mango + Sweetrice tea, courtesy of Manchester-based artist and tea producer Mr Scruff – another musician on the Coppé grapevine.
Coppé’s wishes for her label’s anniversary are quite straightforward: “I want to perform in a castle. If I can’t perform in a castle, can I perform in a clear bubble, please?”
The 2013 Null + Void Tour had Coppé visiting Scotland for the first time – a venture that came about via Matt Longhurst aka Wire Mother (an artist that Coppé had collaborated with a few years ago) as Léigh explains: “Because my label’s never gigged in Scotland and Coppé’s never been to Scotland, we asked Matt who’s never actually met Coppé in person, ‘Can you help us get this Scottish gig?’. All of our UK tours have never actually left England and I’ve had a few criticisms in the past saying ‘It’s not really a UK tour is it?’ and this year it is, we’ve gone to Scotland, we’ve done it”.
“We spent the weekend in Glasgow and I’d never been to Glasgow before, you’d [Coppé] never been to Scotland before and it was bizarre. We got kicked out of a bar on the first night, which was funny. They didn’t like what I was wearing, so they kicked us all out”.
“Because he was showing off his Astro Sugar tattoo” jokes Coppé. The tattoo, which Coppé also sports on her person, requires some back story as Léigh explains: “After the first tour it was like: ‘Let’s get matching tattoos!’ and we didn’t quite manage it and I really wanted it and my boyfriend was getting a tattoo anyway so they kind of slipped me in and I got Astro Sugar done on my hip (laughs). It’s a love sperm from Mars and it’s a logo that’s been on all her CDs for like the last 20-odd years”.
For Coppé, taking time off from her music isn’t something that happens often. Aren’t there days when she feels she’s tired of writing and performing? “Well I’m not sure if I ever feel like I’ve had enough of music” suggests Coppé , “But my mama is a pretty demanding sort, so I spend loads of time with my mama and family. We have two turtles in our Japanese garden. Sometimes I have to feed them. My brother is taking care of the family business. I come from a real estate family and he really wanted to become a professional guitar player, but he’s the only boy in the family so he had to carry on our real estate family business”.
“He’s a brilliant jazz guitar player, so we do like twice, three times at my home doing jazz gigs, just so that Hiro, my brother can play guitar”.
At this stage, Coppé is starting to feel tired and takes a welcome nap on Léigh’s lap. With the tour done, Void available on UK release and the international release on the way, there’s nothing to do but relax briefly and set sights for a flight home to Japan.
Void is now available as a CD + 5” vinyl set from the following sources:
– Amazon: Void
– Bit-Phalanx Store (UK / EU / US): https://bitphalanx.bandcamp.com/album/void
– Sweetrice Store (JP / Asia): http://www.sweetrice.com
Digital versions can be ordered from:
– Amazon: Void
Text by Paul Browne
19th November 2013