Artist Name: Zopp
Release title: You (single from upcoming album Dominion)
Release Genre: Psychedelic rock, left-field jazz prog, alternative
Band Members: Ryan W Stevenson
If you enjoyed these thoughts by Zopp and would like to find out more about their work, visit their official channels below.
Single “You” from the upcoming album “Dominion”.
Zopp music on Spotify. Enjoy while reading the interview.
About the Artist
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started playing musical instruments around the age of 13 or 14, self-taught. Pop music was the first music that i really got into- the likes of Green Day, Slipknot, System of a Down, Stereophonics, Good Charlotte, Avril Lavigne – all sorts of popular music in the early 2000s, which i’ve recently returned to (I suppose due to nostalgia). I really got deep into various obscure progressive rock music in my mid-teens, which became a central part of forming my identity – and the sound of Zopp. What drew me in, really, was recording and overdubbing my own music. I’ve never really been into live music so much; I’m more of a studio animal.
What would you say are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
The key idea behind my approach to making music is simple – I make music that I want to hear myself. Artists should be selfish, and please no one but themselves first.
Could you describe what part of the creative process is particularly dear to you?
Writing and recording musical ideas; when the initial ideas fit into place quickly, when I’m working in my studio – this is when my relationship with the music is at its most magical.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Do you have a preference?
Private is my preference. It’s fun to play with people, as you learn and build a different energy. But like several authors writing one book together, it can get messy with ego clashes. So if I had to choose, I prefer the solitary experience – just me and the music, basically because I know what needs to be done, like an architect knows how a building needs to be designed. As a kid, I used to enjoy playing with my action figures and Lego all by myself, lost in my own worlds which I created; now as a grown man, I still get lost in my own worlds but use music to achieve that same bliss-like state.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way has music – either your own or that of others – contributed to your understanding of these questions?
On a conscious level, honestly, not much. I think art generally is very powerful, and movies have probably helped me more to reflect on these big topics of life, loss, death etc. Generally I don’t read into lyrics from artists that I listen to. I think instrumental music can evoke strong emotions, just as well as music with lyrics. And I have enjoyed the company of different types of music in my life journey – through different emotions and experiences. For me, the sound of the words and the music (tone / melody / feeling / vibes) is more important or paramount over lyrical meaning. That being said, on the new Zopp record I sing on a few songs and I wrote about things that were on my mind when I wrote these songs. If some people get what I’m writing about, and relate to the sentiment, then that’s great! If some people don’t get it, then that’s cool too.
About the Single and upcoming Album
Tell us about your new single “You”. Is there a story behind it? What were the influences or inspirations to write it?
‘You’ will be featured on the new Zopp album which is finished (but doesn’t have a release date yet as of writing this). Essentially it’s a song about my commitment to becoming an individual and going your own way in this life – if that’s one’s calling; it’s a song about my observations of this world in this current time and my experiences in it, dealing with the frustrations of relationships with people, generally, who appear to live in different realities to me.
Could you describe your creative process behind the album? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into a finished song?
The new album was written over 2 years – I started in late 2019 and finished in August 2022. I start recording into a computer and I piece the song together bit by bit, swapping instruments quickly during the writing and recording process. Some of the material was rehearsed and morphed over the 2 years of writing it. For example, ‘You’ started out as an instrumental piece, but during rehearsals, I had ideas for vocal melodies, and so the rest is history. All of the songs started from my own ideas, either an idea for an entire song or starting out with a melody / riff.
What’s your view of lyrics with “messages”? Is there a main message you want to be delivered within the SINGLE/ALBUM?
As I said earlier, the sound / phrasing and emotion of the singer is more important than the content or meaning of the words for me personally. For example, I like and don’t mind listening to foreign music, sang in a language that I don’t understand – but I can still get a feeling from the music nevertheless – that’s all that matters to me. There are messages in the lyrics on the new Zopp album and ‘You’, but I don’t like the idea of explaining the lyrics too much, as it ruins the magic of interpretation – some will get it, who have the eyes to see, and some won’t.
Releasing music is such a mammoth effort. What are the biggest challenges? What things did you learn in the process?
There are a few tunes on the new Zopp album that are complex, with many notes, so I had to practice parts before I recorded them. Getting the music to sound like how it sounded in my head was the biggest challenge, which required more advanced technical knowledge in mixing, engineering and producing techniques to achieve certain sounds. A lot of trial and error and a strong will basically got me through it. There’s a 14 minute song on the new album called ‘Toxicity’, which took 2 years to get right; I had the idea of doing a continuous, epic song with very little jamming, and to get it to flow seamlessly from section to section; this was a big challenge; I finally got it right after 2 years of experimenting! It’s well worth it though, as I thoroughly enjoyed the journey of making this record, and I can now listen to it and be proud of what I’ve created.
How did you go about choosing your recording/mixing/mastering engineer? Any advice for anyone else currently going through the process?
When I work with people, I like to work with those who are genuinely interested in what I’m doing. If everything is merely transactional, then the commitment to getting good results for the project might not be 100%. So, like yourself getting in touch with me to master the record, that was nice, as I had just about finished mixing the latest Zopp album, and I was thinking that I needed to find someone to master this album – and I got an email from you! Synchronicity right there. So it had to be.
Advice? I decided to mix and produce this new Zopp record all by myself, so I could get it sounding how I wanted it to sound quickly. That meant putting more time into learning how to achieve the sounds that I wanted. If you have the will and determination to realise the sound in your head, then learn to do it yourself, as no one else will likely get as close to your vision as you will. For me it’s an issue of confidence too. On the first album I got some help with the mixing, as I didn’t have the confidence to finish the first one by myself; I remember Peter Gabriel once said something like ‘reach out and try to work with people who are better than you’; there’s always room for learning from people who have more experience than you.
What formats will the release be available on? What is the best place for people to find and support your music?
The next album will initially be available on CD and digital. I’m currently discussing vinyl with a label. No release date yet, but people can get ‘You’, which will be on the new album, on all streaming platforms and you can support directly via Bandcamp.
What’s next for Zopp?
I’ve just finished editing a video I made for a new song from Zopp 2, with loads of footage I compiled during the making of the album. Not sure when that will be released. Currently, I’m preparing a campaign for the new album. The release date for the album is likely start of 2023. Other than that, I’m currently working on Zopp 3, and I’m mixing and producing the second Somalgia album.
Where can we check for upcoming gigs? Links?
I’ll be doing a tour of England as a keyboard player for a band I’ve previously collaborated with called Guranfoe, end of October 2022. There will be a gig in London, Norwich, Kent and others to be confirmed. A Zopp tour will likely take place in the future, but I want to find musicians who are genuinely interested and capable of playing this Zopp music; very difficult to find them locally from my experience so far…
Anything else you would like to say/add?