Photo of Hein Cooper by Maya Garcia. Taken in Hamburg in September, 2017.
How can I describe someone like Hein Cooper? Based on my observations, his presence is both energetic and calming, contemplative and gentle, yet passionate, introverted, yet sociable, complex in his emotions and observations, yet simple and consistent in his tastes. He's both a bit irreverent, and a total gentleman- a realist and a dreamer. In other words, he is a walking contradiction, and difficult to pin down at times. But certainly fascinating to get to know!
He is, I believe, a hidden old soul, disguised as a still very young man.
In the interest of full disclosure, I don't believe in just your standard, rote interview. If I'm taking the time to interview someone, it's because they are someone who's done something I really connect with, or someone who genuinely fascinates me. In the case of Hein Cooper, it's both. Although I didn't know very much about the artist behind the exquisite song "the Art of Escape" the first time I'd heard it in early 2015, I was immediately enchanted by it, and knew I had to learn more about who this artist was.
Although there's still relatively little information out there about him, I did become a fan of his music, and like any good journalist, I did my homework.
And boy, am I glad that I did! I can honestly say that this was one of the most interesting conversations I've ever had, let alone a brilliant interview! Thank you to Hein for taking the time to speak with me, and to Gautier Villette and Franz Schuller for arranging it. Here is the transcript of the recorded interview, which you can hear on my podcast series, 'Sips, Swirls and Life Bites.'
By MAYA Garcia, Niche Quitte.
MG: “So, you deal with themes like escape, idealism and displacement in your album, 'the Art of Escape.' Tell me, conversely, what, if anything keeps you grounded?” HC: “Umm I think that any kind of time off in nature is what really keeps me grounded and alone time, definitely time by myself, as much as I can get, every day, which hasn’t been a lot lately because of this crazy tour (laughs).’ MG: “Yeah. Right” HC: ‘But that’s really the recipe for me.” MG: “Excellent. I think alone time is actually a really important thing, it’s a good way to sort of recharge, and to sort of, revitalize. So I've seen that you have a penchant for a lot of really cool music, like Joy Division, Jeff Buckley, Bon Iver- I think I even saw a Bowie mention (Hein: “mmm hmm, yeah”) which is pretty awesome, being a Bowie fan myself (Hein: “yeah, yes, very cool”). How does that inform your music, having such a cool, eclectic taste in a lot of different artists?" HC: “Umm, well, I just---I feel like, uh…that’s a hard question, honestly. I find an artist that I love, and then I listen to them all the time and then eventually they just seep into my music. It’s just like, it’s kinda, I don’t even know how else to put it. But I like having a big, broad range of artists that I’m inspired by, because it creates a new kind of recipe for what my music is.” MG: “Cool. Do you ever go on sort of listening binges of like, one particular artist?” HC: “Yeah, definitely, yeah. I’m going through a binge, well I’ve gone through a Radiohead binge for the last two years where I just like, have not really listened to any other artist as much as those guys, but I’ve been getting into Bowie lately a lot.” MG: “Cool, yeah. Amazing. Yeah. Umm, and I know it was just recently the anniversary of his passing, one year, it’s hard to believe it’s been a year already.” HC: “Yeah, that is crazy, it’s been a year!” MG: “Definitely. So…I read that you started out in Sydney. So, when you first started performing, out there in Sydney, what was your greatest wish at the time, your vision for the future?” HC: “The vision for, I suppose growing as an artist into something bigger. But for me it was more of a selfish thing, like, I wanted to be playing with good sound, and like, good instruments, and as long- for me, it wasn’t that important where I was playing as much as it was- has always been important to be really enjoying the music that I’m playing and the whole, like setup, and so that’s just led me here, I suppose. Yeah, yeah. I’m not too fussy. (laughs) “I’m fussy with the music. Yeah.” MG: “But you have pretty simple needs, would you say?” HC: ‘Yeah. Just, you know, like, this is my life, everything in this room right now. All of this equipment, and the clothes, y’know, like, that’s literally all of my clothes, that I own", (looks at a very small, neatly-folded pile of clothes, on the end of the settee.) MG: “Oh really? Wow, wow…” HC: “But, as long as- but that’s because I spend all the money *scoffs gently* to travel with the equipment. That’s way more important to me.” MG: “Yeah, I can understand that. There’s been times where, when I was between jobs and things like that. When I was doing ‘freelance work,’ (laughs) which I’m sure you can imagine. Umm, I basically was like, ‘do I eat, or do I buy art supplies? Hmm, let me think about that. Was never really a question as to what I was going to spend my money on.” (laughs again.) HC: “Oh, I know. I feel ya.” MG: “Umm, ok, so. So, if you can actually- I kind of jumbled up my questions here, umm, the song that you wrote, ‘Curse My Life,’, I thought it was really interesting. I feel like it was a really good sort of way of kind of like encapsulating the feelings of loss, and separation, and heartbreak, and things like that. You mentioned about being able to paint the picture, so you’ll never forget it. Do you think you would ever actually want to sort of erase those memories, even the bad ones, or do you think it’s part of the whole experience?” HC: “Umm, I think it’s definitely just part of the whole experience.” MG: “Ok.” HC: “Yeah. The ups and the downs, always.” MG: “Ok. Even the tough stuff, right?” HC: “Yeah, because it makes the ups feel so much better.” MG: “Ok. I was just thinking back to when you mentioned about painting the picture- about the film- I don’t know if you’ve ever seen ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?” HC: “Yeah…yeah.” MG: “That’s actually, like, one of my all-time favorite movies” (chuckles) HC: “Aww, it’s incredible. I still don’t get it.” (both laugh). MG: “It’s amazing though, right? I mean the whole concept of just being able to completely erase your memory, good and bad…” HC: “Yeah, well, there you go, you see? We can’t take away what we are.” MG: “Exactly. Because when you take away your memories you take away a really important part of yourself, for sure.” HC: “Yeah, I’m actually terrified of losing my memory.” MG: “Really?” HC: “Yeah, I wouldn’t like that, that seems like the worst thing that could ever happen. That’s all I have.” MG: “True. It’s true. I guess it’s a really good inspiration too for when you’re writing and things like that, so…” HC: “Yeah, and it’s just- yeah- it’s the notebook that we all write.” MG: “Definitely. Umm, ok, so, having said that, conversely, if you could take a picture, like a Polaroid, of just one moment of your life, what would you do? What would you take it of?” HC: “Surfing a wave. On the wave. F' down the line. That would be- yeah, what I would always like to see.” (chuckles.) MG: (laughs) “Nice. I imagine it must be a pretty serene, kind of experience?” HC: “It’s ridiculous. It’s actually ridiculous. Surfing, it’s you know- people can get all hippied out on it- but it’s crazy, you know? You’re riding energy that’s moving through water.” MG: “That’s a really cool way of putting it, I-“ HC: “(interjects) That’s what it is. You know? Caused by wind. And energy, moving through water. And you can…ride it.” (Both laugh.) Maan, it’s so cool, maan!” (adopts a California surfer, American accent at this point. We both laugh.) MG: “Excellent. I guess that’s a really interesting point, because if you think about it, you know, a lot of, you know, neuroscientists, and what have you, they think- they believe that everything is made out of energy.” HC: “Yeah. Hundred per cent.” MG: “Excellent. And really, music is a form of moving energy too, if you think about it too, so.” HC: “Mmm hmm, yeah. Definitely. Absolutely.” MG: “ Ok, so, it seems to me that with everything that’s going on in the world lately (not getting into politics or anything,) it seems that actually, it would be good to be better versed in the art of escape, as it were. Given everything that we’ve been going through, again with upheaval and so forth, where would you escape to right now if you could? Anywhere in the world.” HC: “I’d want to go home, where I’m from. I’m from three hours south of Sydney, like, a really small town, but it’s on the ocean, on the coastline. But even when I’m there I don’t really feel like I’ve escaped, do you know what I mean?” MG: “Yeah.” HC: “I don’t know, I haven’t found that place yet.” MG: ”Hmm, ok.” HC: “Yeah. I’m not sure.” MG: “Interesting. (Pause for thought). ‘Maybe that’s the whole point of travel, if you think about it, is to sort of find that home away from home, you know?” HC: “Yeah, yeah.” MG: “Yeah, excellent. Umm, ok so you’ve already noted the outdoors, and you know, things that you’re umm- it being a form for you of sort of rebalancing.” HC: “Yeah.” MG: “But what’s the most serene place you’ve been to so far?” HC: “Honestly? It’s Australia. Never been to a more, like wild- it’s really- because there’s not that many people, so it has that untouched, thing where it’s like- you can- you know, really can see a deep forest in Australia. You know? And it’s like- waah- and the ocean water’s so clean. Western Australia is like, as raw as you can get. When I went there and I went swimming in the ocean there the water was just so clean, it was just like, ridiculous.” MG: “Excellent.” HC: “Yeah. I just feel like, any time I can get off I wanna just go home and like, dive into the ocean (chuckles.)” MG: (laughs) “Nice. Umm, what can you never leave home without, besides your equipment? Is there anything else?” HC: “Umm. Good clothes. I need to have like, not many, but like, things that I feel like I look good in. (chuckles.) I need to have that as well.” MG: “Excellent. Things that maybe are versatile, or that you could wear in different weather, or?” HC: “Yeah, exactly.” MG: “Nice. Umm, ok, so, there’s a really interesting lyric that I want to sort of, highlight. In your song, ‘All My Desires,’ When you talk about, “I want telekinesis and super ability.” That’s very intriguing to me. You want your lucid dreaming to become a reality. That’s pretty cool that- that to me reminds of sort of, like, law of attraction, and things like that,” HC: “Mmm hmm, yeah.” MG: “Umm, what super abilities would you have, if you possibly could?” HC, “Aah, I just wanna fly. That would just- I, I had had dreams where I’m flying," MG: “Cool.” HC: “Umm, but then I always- they always end when I lose- when I can’t do it anymore. “ MG: “Yeah.” HC: “Umm, it’s really strange. But I would just love- I would absolutely love to be able to fly.” MC: “Excellent. Like teleportation or something?” HC: “Just jump off the ground and into the sky, you know what I mean?” MG: “(laughs) nice. Kinda like Spiderman, or-“ HC: “Like Dragon Ball Z.” MG: (laughs.) “Excellent.” “Umm, ok, so, this is kind of a weird one. I’m gonna give you a list of ‘M’ names, for places, and you tell me which one you prefer.” HC: “Ok.” MG: “Montreal, Melbourne, Milton, or Mars?” HC: “Aah, (sighs) they’re all great!” (laughs) “Umm, right now I would say Montreal. I’d like to go to Montreal again.” MC: “Ok. What it is about Montreal that you love?” HC: “It’s pretty outside, you know? It’s got that real outside vibe to it, and I like that.” MG: “Nice.” HC: “It’s, it’s this random city. It’s very loose. The rules are quite loose there.” MG: (laughs) “That sounds like fun.” HC: “Yeah. (laughs) “And everybody’s kinda- like just got, like, a real respect for each other.” MG: “Nice.” HC: “To a certain extent.” MG: “Sure.” HC: “Yeah, it’s nice.” MG: “Excellent. I actually have a few, umm, really good friends, who live there, and they keep wanting me to come and visit them, so I guess I’ll have to do that. (laughs)” HC: “Aww, yeah, you would love it.” MG: “Excellent.” HC: “Yep. It’s beautiful. And climb the mountain if you can as well.” MG: “Cool.” HC: “In the middle of the city. Yeah.” MG: “Aah, hmm. Excellent. Ok, so, I don’t know why I get this impression of you, but I just kinda do, from everything I’ve learned about you, but you seem kinda like an old soul, you know? Umm, what’s the lesson that you would like to teach us all, from your music? Is there anything in particular?” HC: “Umm. Well, just to stop listening and watching television.” MG: “(laughs) Right.” HC: “Cause it’s so bullshit.” MG: “Yeah. What about, like, social media, and things like that? Do you have a-” HC: “Well, I think that social media is not a bad thing, because, like for instance on Facebook you can, you can choose to follow things- that umm. I don’t know, you know, you can- it’s like, it’s just for me it’s just like- a source of information, like a book.” MG: “Sure.” HC: “Because of the way I’ve tailored my things that I follow. So I find it great, because it’s like, and- it’s information.” MG: “You’re here, because, umm, I have actually been waiting for you to tour the U.S.” HC: “Yep.” MG: “So, I’m glad you’re here.” HC: “Yep. Very cool.” MG: “Umm, where’s the best place that you’ve been to so far?” HC: “Umm…I liked Denver.” MG: “Hmm. Nice.” HC: “Yeah, I liked Denver. And I like where I stay in Los Angeles. I’ve got a friend up there, in Malibu.” MG: “Oh cool!” HC: “And that’s really nice up there.” MG: “Yeah.” HC: “So. It’s good to be there. Umm, San Francisco was cool. Umm…I liked Orlando too. Just the weather. I like the weather. The sun was out. (laughs)” MG: (laughs) “For sure. It’s always good to get a bit of sun.” HC: “I appreciated the sun.” MG: “It’s always good to get a bit of sun, right? Especially looking outside today in Chicago, it’s not, uh… (Laughs)” HC: “Well, yeah. It’s winter.” MG: “Yeah, absolutely.” HC: “Umm, but yeah. That’s pretty much it, I suppose.” MG: “Excellent. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today. I really appreciate it.” HC: “Thank you.” MG: “It’s been a pleasure to speak to you.” HC : “No, thank you. It’s been very cool.”
Written for UBlush magazine: Tokyo Police Club's Forcefield is a blend of pop, post punk, and indie. It's energetic and youthful, with plenty of hooks, and the obligatory, Interpol-laced bass lines to keep it suitably indie, though it arguably has more pop sensibility than their 2010 release, "Champ."
I have a theory that the third track is usually the strongest on any album, regardless of genre, and this is certainly true for Forcefield. "Miserable," track #3, has the ironic lines and pop-tinged catchy guitar hooks reminiscent of the Killers' "Spaceman." Which makes sense, as it is clearly an "escape" anthem, advocating either future travel, or moving to the Bahamas (natural transition), to remove oneself from a life of excess, "act nice but my body is falling apart, dress nice but my body is falling apart."
"Feel the Effect" has an interesting crackling static electricity "effect" in the bridge. It is a more mid-tempo, contemplative track, lamenting the perils of a bad breakup, "I know you've got the world on your side. What did I expect? I made a lot of bad decisions. I feel the effect."
"Hot Tonight" is arguably the most radio-friendly track on the album. It's a touch of OK Go, with just a vague hint of Matchbox 20.
"Tunnel Vision" is an Offspring meets Wire mashup, punky and spiky. It is an infectiously catchy rummage through the perils of dancing dangerously close to the knife edge of addiction, "I just want to make it through one more night, tonight." Kind of says it all.
While it might not be earth-shatteringly innovative, "Forcefield" is an enjoyable listen nevertheless, and certainly one to tune in to when you need a little burst of indie-flavored Pop Rocks.