Record Overplayed
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Jack Cooper interview | Stockton Georgian Theatre | November 2004

Jack's Blackpool Rock

Interview and Photos by Dawn

The last time that Jack Cooper played in Stockton, he got lost en route. Today when I call him to confirm interview arrangements, he's - how should we put this? - not entirely familiar with his surroundings. Thankfully it turns out that he's not far from his destination and, thus, a combination of our directions and the assistance of a passer-by ensure that he and his band - Gareth, Milo and Ollie - have soon located the Green Dragon Yard and the Georgian Theatre within.

Following their soundcheck, Jack and jovial keyboardist Gareth join us for a chat beside the River Tees. 'We're just overlooking the Stockton Riviera,' grins Jack, setting the scene for the tape and, indeed, the informal tone for the entire interview as we commandeer a table outside a riverfront restaurant.

'There's a pleasant mist on the water... lights on the horizon...' offers Gareth as, in our slightly unusual location - complete with passing cars and the odd firework illuminating the night sky above us - we embark upon our mission to discover more about Jack Cooper.

The young Blackpool man first grabbed my attention back in July when I stumbled upon his acoustic set at the Stockton festival shortly before the release of his debut EP, Turn the Light Off. Now he returns to the Teesside town with full band in tow to support the rather stunning Goldrush - but what has he been up to since I last saw him?

'Trillions and trillions of gigs all over the place,' says Jack, who once did five gigs in two days and freely admits that his perception of time 'has gone off-kilter'. Thankfully he still remembers playing the Leeds festival in the summer: 'It was the Oxfam tent and it was pretty busy.'

'We got a lot of passing trade - people walking to other tents,' explains Gareth. 'An odd place, an odd situation.'

'But we got to see a few bands. We saw The Shins for a bit,' enthuses Jack. 'Awesome.'

They've also played numerous gigs in London, supported Alfie three times and played on 6Music to promote the single. 'We generally always get someone coming up and saying how much they enjoyed it,' smiles Gareth.

Jack's debut EP was released in July to rave reviews although, slightly unusually, it's only available on blue vinyl. 'We were trying to do something a bit more exclusive,' says Jack.

Yet more exclusive was the limited edition Jack Cooper candyfloss which accompanied the release. 'It was meant to be an alternative to rock,' explains Gareth, leading us neatly into the Blackpool part of the conversation and the fact that music journalists seem fascinated by Jack's seaside roots.

'I never thought it would be a big deal,' admits Jack, 'but as soon as you say you're from Blackpool, people think it's some sort of Northern Nirvana - which it's obviously not - but people pick up on it; I don't know why.'

Still, as demonstrated by the candyfloss, Jack has succeeded in turning this to his advantage. Promotional pictures on his website feature donkeys, the seaside and Blackpool Tower, whilst the town also inspired one of Jack and Gareth's favourite songs, Devonshire Squares.

'The whole song is about Blackpool,' says Jack. 'I was trying to write a song like Penny Lane, that sort of thing. Part of the reason I wanted to call a song after a place is if it gets out there and people listen to it and if they were to go there, they'd discover it's not exactly how they might expect. I think if you went to Penny Lane you'd imagine it to be this fantastic place, but Devonshire Squares...' he pauses and smiles wryly, 'isn't.' He explains: 'There's a really upmarket furniture shop there, then on the other side there's a sex shop and in the middle there's a public toilet.'

'A well-rounded place,' Gareth says succinctly.

'It's like Blackpool in a microcosm,' says Jack. 'And it's good fun to play.'

'Definitely,' agrees Gareth. ' It's a great one for the crowd - everybody gets into it. It's a piano stomper.'

In the past Jack has objected to being labelled a singer-songwriter. 'That's simply because I always think that singer-songwriters are just guys with guitars,' he explains. 'I play guitar and I can play bass to some extent. I can hit drums. I can't play them...'

'I can verify that!' grins Gareth.

'And I can play piano to an extent for recording and writing purposes, but I play piano and organ live. Ukelele as well. I'm like...'

'Paul McCartney,' offers Gareth, explaining that Jack has been compared to him. 'You don't mind that.'

'People say the Beach Boys and I love the Beach Boys but I don't really see it,' says Jack. 'I don't mind comparisons like Paul McCartney or any kind of power pop like Big Star. Todd Rundgren. Someone said that once and I was pleased - but only once.'

Inexplicably, talk then turns back to Paul McCartney - and Gareth's search for a DVD of The Frog Chorus ('I had an argument as I believe there's fish in the video. Somebody else said "no, there's frogs" and, you know, I got the logic behind that, but I think there's fish in the video') before we return to the Georgian to meet band members Ollie (drums) and Milo (bass) and ask everyone about the last record they bought.

'The other week I bought Joy Zipper's second album,' says Jack. 'That was the first support tour I did and they're very, very good.'

'I bought The Concretes and The Zutons at the same time on CD Wow,' says Gareth.

'The Concretes,' answers Ollie before Milo adds, 'The Concretes and Jefferson Airplane.'

And finally, before we leave the foursome to prepare for their set in the theatre below, we ask about the first record they ever bought.

'The best of David Bowie,' says Ollie, to disbelieving jeers. 'That was the first record I ever had. Second was Clannad - and it was the soundtrack to Robin Hood.' As Jack bursts into a rendition of the Robin Hood theme, Gareth admits, 'I bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on vinyl.'

'Was that the one with the rap in it?' asks Ollie, a little too enthusiastically.

'Splinter did a little piece in it,' says Gareth.

'I bought Ray Parker Jnr's Oscar-winning theme tune to Ghostbusters,' offers Jack, continuing the TV theme of the conversation.

'I ain't afraid of no ghost,' says Gareth, and as the boys launch into a high pitched but impressively accurate rendition of the Ghostbusters theme, we decide to take the opportunity to sneak out of the dressing room and back to some sort of sanity...

Many thanks to Jack, Gareth, Ollie, Milo, Paul, the Georgian staff and the Elephant and Grill for the loan of their table. Visit www.myspace.com/BeepSeals for Jack's current musical incarnation.

 

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