Das Kope sits down with Atwood Magazine to discuss his debut album ‘Where I Live,’ polytechnic creativity, and the allure and disillusionment of Hollywood.
I only make one promise for this write-up: that I try and write modestly about my enjoyment of Das Kope’s Where I Live.
But, to be fair, there’s a certain enjoyment in a well-done genre-fied record; a Fly Like an Eagle of a sort, where the record is solid lowercase-g good; not revelatory, not a mockery; fun and well-adapted to its rock and roll surroundings. Where I Live is a record that sits comfortably in the psychonaut’s library. Das Kope’s debut record can be compared in style and sonic to Os Mutantes and MGMT, it too can be contrasted with Tame Impala and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Yes, there’s a certain enjoyment when the artist is polychromatic in sonic. It suggests a grander lexicon than their music might show and an ear for music that extends beyond genre and musicianship.
Where I Live has everything a DIY fan wants to hear: solid rhythms, suggestions of musicality, multiplicity of like sounds, and a definitive independence; little is the filler and effusive is the killer. Each cut drip into the next and its experience is to experience a psychedelic procession. Picture every possible Electric Kool-Aid animation tracked to this record and not a single one would seem out-of-place, nor any Super-8 footage haphazardly taped.
The conversation between Atwood Magazine and George, the Brazilian artist, musician, and emigré behind Das Kope and related projects, extended over recording processes, romance languages, artistic setting, and the value of post-punk.
He describes his process of songwriting much in the same way Don Van Vliet portrayed his own: they’re sculptors. However, where Captain Beefheart played in clay, Das Kope is an artist by substitution, his recording process is simple: start with a large slab of drone and then replace drone.
But his music does much except drone; filtering in bossa nova melodies, slapping kick beats, wistful lyrics, and laser falsettos. A lo-fi fugue coats his candied vocals. “L.A.X” simultaneously maintains lo-fi aesthetic and pursues reverberating percussion, rhythm guitars dance with a flutist melody. Das Kope floats with a chillwave guitar and hypnagogic synths on “Fascination.” He hollers with a cannon blast of nostalgia in “Ready for the Summer.” Das Kope plods with cosmic gravity at each step for “Welcome,” “Don’t Be Late Tonight,” and “Kids in the Sky.” And for “Tiger” and “Imaginação” he plays jazz São Paulo-style.
What can be said modestly of Das Kope is an ample musicality made for and from the twenty-first-century summer: candied synthesizers, stadium-tailored percussion, scuzzy guitar lines, and ruthlessly low-budget as to be awash in sepia tones.
A pleasure, to say the least.
Listen: ‘Where I Live’ – Das Kope
A CONVERSATION WITH DAS KOPE
Atwood Magazine: When did you start making music?
Das Kope: I bought my first guitar when I was thirteen. My parents didn’t want to give me a guitar, it was quite a headache to get one. There were no musicians in the family and at that age, I was just playing whatever people at school were playing… I remember trying to play some metal. I was never really into that…I tried to play [metal], but never really felt it, it never came out right. When I got into punk rock, I felt at home… but when I got to post-punk that’s when my musicality started to develop more. I feel like post-punk really opened the possibilities, you find all sorts of bands like Bauhaus and Wire going so many directions. I started getting into funk, not because I was listening to funk, but because there was a song sort of like [funk], with more disco vibes or something. For me, [my musicality] all comes from that post-punk thing.
Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” essentially.
Das Kope: Exactly, exactly. There’s so many influences there.
Would you say you’re more drawn to the Wires and Bauhaus and New Orders of the world?
Das Kope: When I started listening—well I still listen to [post-punk] but not quite as much—but when I first got into that, yes, for sure. And guitar-wise, I had to sit in front of my record player and [figure out] “whoa, these are not power chords anymore” and I learned a lot of guitar parts from that. Because there were all these different [effects] going on.
Watch: “Don’t Be Late Tonight” – Das Kope
Would you say the guitar is your favourite instrument, then?
Das Kope: I feel comfortable with a guitar. If I’m in a studio—not that I go to studios a lot but—if I’m in a room making music and there’s no guitar, I actually feel a little bit uncomfortable. It’s kind of my map. For my first album Where I Live, which just came out, some songs I actually avoided the guitar for a start, I was trying to get lost on a synthesizer and the keyboards because it’s not really what I play. Sometimes that’s good for your creativity. But then I’d go back and “oh I have this cool idea, I have no idea what I’m doing” and then I’d go back to the guitar and “oh okay, that’s what I did” and then it’s easier for me to develop more.
Would say the instrument you would like to explore are your synthesizers?
Das Kope: I would like to be better on keys. But I’ve been playing synthesizers a lot, not like a musician, more like a creative person. That creativeness of just exploring it, which I like a lot. I actually like it better sometimes. Sometimes, on the guitar, when I’m not on the right path creatively, I may start playing the same thing. Sometimes having an instrument that you’re not familiar with is the best thing to get the juices flowing. I see myself as more of a creative person than a musician… I never studied music. I’m really interested in the group of the parts.
I don’t care if the parts are really simple. It’s kind of like the Cure. I want to be like the Cure. Their songs are so simple, but they are so effective. But… if you pick one part, like a synth part and it’s not the same as what musicians would learn at a music school. But for me, it’s way better.
Watch: “Ready For The Summer” – Das Kope
You actually led into one of the next questions; what is your recording process like? Is it more improvisational or do you have a set idea?
Das Kope: I don’t normally have an idea where I want to go. I have my sounds, I have guitar sounds I like, I have bass sounds I like and I have synth sounds I like. One of my favourite things to do is to sit in my studio, or my room, which can be any room as long as I have my computer, speakers, guitar, some of my pedals, and just have a blank slate. Like “okay, what am I going to do?” and normally I start with a groove, some drums and I take it from there, rarely do I start with a guitar.
Some songs I did, as if I was playing acoustic guitar, but it was just an electric guitar unplugged and I just came up with some stuff. But that’s kinda rare. It’s just messing around. There’s a whole drone going in the room and if you walked in, you’d just hear this drone on repeat.
I’m here for the post-rock drone.
Das Kope: Yeah <laughs>. But then they don’t stay in that drone. They start like that and I just keep adding things and there’s this thickness in the air, sonically speaking, and then I start sculpting it. But it’s all invisible frequencies, if you could see it would look like this big rock, but then at the end of the day or year or decade, it would be a more sculpted thing.
Your music evokes a lot of seasonality. It evokes a feeling of summer. Do you feel like that’s an aspect artists can write for or just it does it happen? Can it be part of your vision?
Das Kope: For me, it’s a reaction to California and Los Angeles. I just moved out of Hollywood, and that vibe sometimes got to me. I was just uncomfortable there. And I remember I started to discover the coastline of California, driving [the Pacific Coast Highway] from Carlsbad to Big Sur. I fell in love with it. It’s one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. And I decided I should focus on that and not the Hollywood vibe and bring that into my music.
I make visuals as well, I was taking a lot of photos and videos and I was making a lot of animations from parts of the PCH and different mountains and things and my music was being influenced by that. If you go to Instagram, my YouTube you can see some of that. If you see the cover of my album that rock is from Big Sur. I kind of distorted it. For a lot of [the single covers], I know where each is one from. One is from Santa Barbara, one is in Malibu, I’ve taken all of these photos. Even the moon on “L.A.X.” that was actually from Hollywood. “Get me out of here! Take me to the moon!” <laughs>
Watch: “L.A.X.” – Das Kope
I did not know all the singles were your artwork.
Das Kope: Yeah, yeah, they are. And they influence the music, especially when I make gif animations sometimes they’re repeating. And when I go to the studio and have one of my creative days, I just may have one or two of those repeating on full screen and then I let the droning do its own thing. I love the imagery side of it… they bring me to a location; like “oh that’s from there, that’s from there.”
But mainly you’re recording where you can fit your computer and guitars and speakers, essentially?
Das Kope: Yeah, mainly I wrote this record in L.A. but a couple of times I was moving around and I’ve written songs on the go, ideas. It’s funny, sometimes you have four tracks for an idea, but those four tracks say so much. And you may get that in a hotel room, or an unexpected place, and it’s better than if spend a whole week and have elaborate sessions. Sometimes it’s just not there.
Yeah, it’s like you’re forcing it. You can’t force the good idea, it just kind of happens.
Das Kope: Exactly, you can’t. That’s why I like writing by myself too, it just lets me do my thing. Sometimes trying to communicate with another person is not that easy for me. You want to be polite, but it doesn’t come out right. When I’m by myself, I have no marriage to the ideas. It’s like “this sucks, next!” And I feel like I get to move faster.
Watch: “Tiger” – Das Kope
Is it like a vehement “this sucks!” or is it just a “meh, this doesn’t feel right?”
Das Kope: Sometimes it’s that, yeah. You know the worst situation is when you write something and think “this is really good.” And you come back the next day you don’t think it’s that good. I went to bed thinking “wow, I had this,” and then the next day, or maybe a few days after, you go back to it like “hmm, it’s not what I thought it was.” And then you feel bad for feeling good the previous day! <laughs>
Oh, man, so many poems are written in that way. 'This is great!' Come back the next day, 'this is terrible, I can’t believe I was so kitschy.'
Das Kope: I know, even when I listen to my records, depending on my mood, I’ll love something or I’ll say to myself, “I thought that was better.” I dunno, it’s strange.
In creative work nothing is concrete. It’s all abstract. It’s not concrete until you’ve written the record. And even then sometimes you go back through it and you feel you have to edit this, you have revised this.
Das Kope: Yeah the edit is a big part. I always consider I have a song when it’s about to be released. Not even when I have a recording. I’ll have something and I’ll think it’s something and then you back a month later and “oh it’s actually something else. ”But once it’s out, I’m like “okay, yeah I have this song.” And once it’s out, it may not be great, or you might like them better. It’s when I’m like “okay, I have these songs.” It’s also easy for someone to open their laptop and just put a beat, and yeah there’s a bunch of elements there, but is there something, is there a vision.
Watch: “Kids in the Sky” – Das Kope
It’s interesting, I know for Tame Impala, when he’s recording, he usually shuts off all music, doesn’t listen to a single thing of music but only listens to podcasts because he’s worried that he’ll plagiarize. But it seems for you, it seems like you listen to be supplied ideas.
Das Kope: I kind of relate to what he says, a little bit, because when I’m writing, there are parts of my life… where I was buying records or like listening to so many records, it’s normally when I was not being very creative for one reason or another. And lately, I’ve felt like I’ve been listening to less music because I’m writing so much. So it depends. But you definitely have to have that balance. Sometimes you have to stop and listen. Most of my days where I listen to my music, I don’t want to listen to music because my ears are tired, physically, and just mentally, I need a break.
I don’t need to compare my sounds. Not that I don’t mind when people do that stylistically. But when people are mixing or mastering records, they go back to records. But I don’t even do that. I feel like that’s me embracing the lo-fi aesthetic. Sometimes I’ll be playing in the wrong key, and I know it is, but that’s okay. Especially now.
Well if lo-fi was all about perfect production then it wouldn’t exist.
Das Kope: Lo-fi for me, it opens up. Back when I was a teenager, it was all punk-rock and guitars, and now it’s lo-fi. I’m still trying to create something melodic, but I’m trying to produce something slick and that gives me confidence. I can do it. And maybe one day I want to be polished, but I like being dirty. It’s territory I relate to.
📸 © Das Kope
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