Jody Cooper – Interview
“With everything that’s happening in the world, the time has come for people to start engaging with the problems around them in an attempt to make a positive change. This album is my attempt”, says singer/songwriter, multi instrumentalist, Jody Cooper about his new release, “Serenades and Odes to a Cracked World”, his first crowd funded concept album on the themes of disintegration ( part 1) and integration ( part 2). Eileen Shapiro interviews for Louder Than War.
I spoke to Jody about his music and his concepts, and about the world in general. He had a lot of fascinating things to offer. Hailing from the UK he now lives in Germany, and makes music for a better world, using themes from his Baha’i beliefs.
Louder Than War: Your music is interesting, do you consider yourself musically political?
That’s a good question. There is definitely an element to that in my songs. I don’t really think of myself as political, but there is an element of that in quite a bit of my songs. I’m very vocal about certain things when I write. I guess it’s a lot to do with injustice really. That’s what kind of provokes me a lot of the time when I see an injustice, whatever subject it is, I want to write about it. I guess that can be seen as a little political. It’s more about raising people’s awareness on certain issues and making them think about other’s issues rather than necessarily being overtly political. At the end of the day when I write a song I always start from the music side of things, and then it’s from that the theme of the song comes out. Sometimes I am inspired by a specific subject and want to write about that.
Do you believe that music can change the world?
Yeah, I mean I’m a pragmatic, so I know that there are many things that can change the world. I guess music has a great power to influence people if it is done the right way. There is a lot of music out there that is very positive, so I like to think through my music I’m conveying the message that will influence people in a positive way.
How many instruments do you play.
Quite a lot. For me an instrument is just a tool to write a song. I’ll often pick up an instrument that I’ve never played before, and if I hear something in the sound of that instrument that inspires me, I will quite often then base the song around that instrument.
Do you have a favorite artist or band?
For the moment I’ll say no. It depends how I feel from one day to the next. I’ll just randomly look at my records and decide what I want to listen to today. Definitely the biggest inspiration for me was the Beatles. Definitely without a question. When I was very, very small they completely blew me away. I definitely sight them as my biggest influence, in terms of what put me on this path to be a songwriter. I guess the Beatles were good teachers because they had such diverse styles. So that was good for a child to be exposed to all these different influences. I also listen to other things, because most of my record collection I stole from my parents.
What’s a house concert?
It’s what it sounds like. It’s going into someone’s house and playing concerts for them. I did one where there was only five people, and then the same weekend I did another one where there was like 50 people. I think for that one they had to hire a hall because so many people wanted to go. It’s actually one of my favorite types of concerts, because you have a lot more dialogue with the audience, you have much more interaction, and you can get them playing along with it if the host has some instruments. I recommend anyone who plays music to do it.
What’s the largest venue that you’ve performed at?
I once did…. it wasn’t really a concert….I did a performance in front of 3000 people. That was in London actually, it was for a big conference. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, the Baha’i faith. I grew up in the Baha’i faith. It was a conference all around the world throughout the year. I went to the London one.
What is the Baha’i faith?
Good question. It’s a world religion, it’s the most recent of the biggies, and it believes that mankind evolves to various stages of evolution. We are at the most recent stage now where we need world unity. Mankind has evolved to the stage of maturity when we are ready for that.
That sounds very heavy.
All the teachings are inspired around this theme of unity. We believe that all the world religions are one, and come from the same source, and that science and religion are two wings to one bird, that men and women are equal, that all types of religious, racial, and sexual intolerance needs to be removed.
Do you write songs about that too?
Yeah, definitely. Being Baha’i is a big part of my influence, in terms of the themes that I write about. Baha’is are not political, or at least they shouldn’t be, but you know we are humans and we have an opinion. For example in my first album there was this song called, “Home Sweet Home”. It plays for the idea that the world is home sweet home. We all have our own image of what home sweet home means, but wouldn’t it be great if the world could be like that? So that song was inspired by the fact that we all have the same basic needs and problems, and that we need unity just to sort the bigger issues out. On the new album there’s a song in it which is definitely inspired by this theme of unity. That’s a song called “One”. No matter what problems there are in the world they can all be solved if we just realize that we’er just “one”. We are “One” human kind, living on one planet, and if we want to solve our problems, we need to get together and unify, otherwise this great catastrophes going to come along and sort it out for us.
I’m not religious, but that seems like a very cool religion. I just think you’d have to get everyone in the world to agree.
Yeah, it’s a very slow process. There are Baha’i’s in the world that are working together with United Nations and different religious groups to try and help speed this process along. I want to talk about one specific theme on the album which is really important.
I would love for you to.
The album is called, ” Serenades and Odes to a Cracked World”. The sub-theme is going to be done in two parts. The first part I’m releasing in a couple of weeks time is this theme of disintegration, and the next part which I will release probably in a couple of years, that’s going to be on the theme of integration. These are the two central themes, in the Baha’i faith. The reason why that is because, in order to have unity, the world has to go through a lot of trials and tribulations. We can either help speed up the process like by agreeing, like in that song I was talking about, or we can do it the hard way, go through lots of world wars, nuclear disasters, natural disasters, and after all that’s happened we realize that shit didn’t work. We need to find a new solution. So the theme of this album is disintegration. One of the Central figures in this religion is a guy called Shoghi Effendi, who is the grandson of the person who founded the religion.
Where does this region originate from?
It originates from Iran, which is quite controversial. The Baha’is in Iran is one of the largest religions, but are oppressed in that country. They are denied access to education, and their governing bodies put in prisons, people are randomly rounded up by the secret police and they are imprisoned and denied access to legal counsel, their businesses get close down, cemeteries get destroyed, so it’s a big problem for the Iranian government. They are trying to destroy the religion.
So go on about the album.
A lot of people when they think of the theme of disintegration, it’s a negative thing. Actually in the Baha’i faith they see two forces which is disintegration and integration. You need both of them to create any kind of change. The world at the moment is going through such rapid change that we can’t really keep up with it. So you have these two forces that are kind of rubbing off of each other, but a lot of the things we are seeing in the world right now, with the destruction of natural resources, with the destruction of values, there are a lot of these negative things associated with it. But there are also some positive things that come out of this disintegration. For example, because you have all these things happening, people are looking around and they are looking for a solution. Through this quest to find a better solution, you then get integrations. Inevitability, there is going to be a lot of good things that will come out of these disintegrating systems, just like the financial markets, and just like the current political corruption, which is all over the world.
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.