[News] Exclusive interview with Zopp

Dear readers, we are pleased to offer you in this article an interview with one of the most eclectic and original bands in the current music scene. With their new album “Dominion” released on February 03, 2023 and positively reviewed in our webzine, we welcome Zopp.

Hello, how are you?

I’m good thanks, a bit tired; I had a late night last night hanging with some mates and practising drums in a rehearsal room I go to in Nottingham, U.K.

Your genre is a blend of various genres and styles, with a Prog matrix, with forays into the Canterbury Scene and Avant-Rock where does your passion for this music come from?

On one level I think that this a deep question, and on another level it maybe isn’t. In one sense, my dad likes some of this music, so I suppose I got into it through my dad’s record collection; since my teenage years I’ve been fascinated by this ‘left field music’. But, the reason why it also appears to be a deep question to ponder, is because, for some reason, I’m blessed with a musical ear ( again maybe genetic – my dad has a similar ability) and I can deeply appreciate the melodies, the harmonies, rhythmical and sonic qualities of some of the more interesting original progressive rock bands. Maybe I’m an old soul, as some people have told me. But I do think it’s like a calling; I feel like I want to contribute my own take on this music, which is what I’m doing at the moment in my life. I say that the reason why I’ve made these Zopp albums is to please myself first; I make music because I enjoy listening to my creations. Period. Sharing it with other people is a bonus!

Progressive Rock, Avant-Rock and Canterbury Scene, which of these genres do you identify with most?

‘Identify’, I mean, I don’t think too rigidly in terms of genre. To be honest, I think the concept of genre is dead really today. I’m not being pretentious here, I just think in terms of elements from all types of music, not genre, when I’m creating music. So the ‘fuzz organ’, for example, is an element, or ‘washed out’, ‘psychedelic guitars’ is another element; so one could argue that psychedelic rock, ambient and folk are also evident on Dominion. I like a lot of different music, and Zopp is a synthesis of everything I resonate with or unconsciously have interacted with. The task is to make that synthesis sound cohesive on an album. The sound of Zopp will hopefully change and morph over time, but I can imagine largely staying in the general ‘rock’ or ‘prog’ category, at least for the next couple of albums. But, at the same time, there’s no point planning anything because when I sit down to write, the music just happens. It’s not like I’m there with a checklist thinking ‘right, I need to incorporate all of these aspects from x y z band from 1972’, you know? It just happens. I’m drawn to music that has some creativity behind the arrangements, melody and harmony; this can even mean being inspired by good pop music. No doubt, however, to directly answer your question, there has been a strong ‘Canterbury’ influence on my music..

Your new album “Dominion” was released on February 03, 2023 how would you describe this work?

I would describe it as a more confident work, more eclectic, more ambitious, and a more individual sounding work than the first one ( I’m still proud of the self-titled Zopp album 2020 obviously ). This new record is a varied musical journey for the listener, like the first album. I’m committed to making albums.

Some guests collaborated on the album, what did they bring to the sound and compositional stage?

I composed the parts for the guest musicians, but all the musicians added their own feel or vibe to their performance, which is what the composer would want, really. For example, Andrea learnt the drum parts from the demos that I wrote, but we adapted the songs and changed things during the rehearsal stage; he added his own touch to the performance. Like the start of ‘You’, Andrea came up with the tom drum part, playing the accents from one of the organ parts. I like the freedom to invite any ‘colour’ to the song, and thus the contributions of guest musicians results in more of a ‘band sound’, as some critics have mentioned. There are only 2 out of 7 songs on the album with just myself and Andrea performing; namely Reality Tunnels and Wetiko Approaching.

Your music is full of tempo changes and elaborate passages, how does the creative process of the tracks take place?

I demo the songs in my home studio and I work on them until they’re finished. Then me and Andrea rehearse the music together. We recorded the drums for this record in a cottage in the countryside over a few days in May/ June 2021. Then I went away, back to my home studio for another year and ‘produced’ the album. These terms like ‘write, produce and mix’ are interchangeable these days, or the lines are blurred in these processes, considering that digital technology allows one to write and piece the song together bit by bit, over time. But the period from June 2021 to the summer of 2022 was a period of ‘getting it sounding right’ in the mix, changing lyrics, swapping arrangements etc. It’s a lot of work when you’re the producer, mixer, performer, writer etc, but it’s worth it to achieve my vision; compromise is a horrible word and I don’t like to compromise my vision.

Refined sounds and intense vocal parts, what themes do the lyrics deal with?

‘You’ is about a character who finds that he is alienated from how the mass of society behaves and thinks. Ultimately, it is a story of an outsider in an insane world. Seeing that we are all mostly programmed beings who behave and think in a certain way, the character I’m writing about veers off from the programming exuded by the masses, and he realises who he really is: ‘there’s a victory in knowing who I really am, leave the programme’. It’s a song about contemplating and watching inner thoughts, separate realities, individualism and alienation.

‘Wetiko Approaching’ is inspired by the concept of the ‘mind virus’. ‘Wetiko’ is a native Indian term for mind virus, or ‘sickness of the spirit’. I also got into this concept through British philosopher Colin Wilson’s book ‘The Mind Parasites’ which is a novel he wrote. Whether fact or fiction, I find this idea fascinating, looking at the state of the modern world. Another book which inspired the lyrics or theme for this song is called ‘Dispelling Wetiko’ by Paul Levy. The lyrics for ‘Wetiko Approaching’ could be described as whimsical. The character ‘John’, realises that he has control over the negativity invading his mind and he can shape his own reality and face or banish the darkness if he chooses to.

The last song on this album ‘Toxicity’ ties in with ‘Wetiko Approaching’ and ‘You’ – a character dealing with the frustrations of people living in low states of fear and insanity – he questions why people, from his perspective, accept insane offers and choices, and he’s left there with questions to ponder on the nature of reality, why people believe what they believe and who are some people really, deep down.

Ryan plays a wide range of keyboards and more, what artists inspire your style?

I’m not sure who really inspires me to play, and I’m not sure what my playing style is, to be honest. I suppose it’s a vaguely jazzy sound; I like the sound of the piano. This might sound strange to you, but I don’t consider myself to be a good, ‘proper’ musician, as I just move my fingers in certain shapes on the keyboard to achieve the sound in my head. Same thing with the guitar. I’m self-taught and don’t know the name of the chords I’m playing. I really pushed myself as a musician on this album- and I had to compose it in small chunks- particularly the song ‘Toxicity’ which took a long time to get right. I suppose at some stage I should probably brush up on my theoretical knowledge for the sake of communicating ideas with other musicians; the ideas inspire me basically. Where do the ideas come from? I feel like a conduit for the ideas.

Andrea has energetic and elaborate drumming, what artists do you draw inspiration from instead?

I love drums since I met progressive rock. I’m not interested in keeping the rhythm as in pop and rock music, but exploring the drumkit as an element of an orchestra, which serves the big picture of music. Progressive rock gives drums the possibility to explore the powerful role of percussions within the melody and harmony, has magically happens with Ryan’s music.

Apart my idol and mentor, Stewart Copeland, my inspirations are coming from great prog rock bands and drummers of the 70s and 80s: Bill Bruford, Terry Bozzio, Neil Peart, and Phil Collins; but also from a more jazz-rock oriented background, which includes Chad Wackermann (with Allan Holdsworth), Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Phillips, Billy Cobham, Mark Craney and Gavin Harrison.

Elaborate drumming always needs to be balanced with music though. In the last two-three decades, with drummers more and more skilled especially in prog-rock, there is a tendency of playing too much, as in a perennial drum solo. Music should come first, drums are already in a visible position and don’t need to take the whole scene… unless you are soloing!

Many of your fans and our readers wonder if there will be a chance to hear your music live, do you have any plans for that?

Currently I’m trying to get a band together. I first need to learn the guitar and bass guitar parts and teach them to the musicians; then I need to learn my own parts on keys… ( once I record the song, I forget how to play it). I’m really trying to get a few gigs for Zopp at some point in the next couple of years.

Music and the market have changed over the years, how do you see the future of the Progressive Rock genre?

I have no idea, I try to live in the now. I’m optimistic that a new generation will attempt to combine inspirations and music from different sources into something that sounds fresh. For me, this is one pertinent definition of ‘progressive’ – combining things and filtering it through an individual’s personality to create something that sounds innovative. I think that now is a good time for music – from my perspective, I see jazz being embraced by a younger, sometimes ‘mainstream’ audience, which is very positive to witness, considering the complexity and musical sophistication from the jazz tradition. From my perspective, younger people are more open-minded today with music.

What advice would you give to young artists who decide to come up with a more refined musical genre like yours?

All I can advise is to be true to the ideas. There are different scenarios here – I am the archetype of a composer I think – I know how it should sound, so as long as I stick to the ideas and I love what I have created, then that is all that matters. It might be different for other artists who are working in more of a democratic band scenario. So there is no template. Like any art form, just stay true to the ideas – that’s my philosophy.

Do you have any passions or other artistic activities outside of music?

I try to spend as much time in nature as possible, walking my dog and to keep healthy. I like watching movies and eating good food. I read sometimes. I don’t watch TV or the news – that stuff is bad for you ( I suppose more time spent being creative when I feel like it ). Other than that, I would say I’m a music nerd. I prefer a simple life.

As always, I leave the last question free to talk about any topic not covered in the previous ones.

I have nothing to add, other than, thank you for your excellent review of Dominion for these great interview questions.

You can support directly by buying Dominion from my own label, Flat Circle, or listen and support on Bandcamp. All of the monies helps to fund printing and completing more Zopp records in the future!Flat Circle Records here: https://flatcirclerecords.bigcartel.com

I thank Zopp for the pleasant interview, wishing them the best in the continuation of their artistic career.


Read our review of the album “Dominion” here: https://progrockjournal.com/review-zopp-dominion/

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Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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