Ben Gautrey (lead vocals)
Dan Fisher (guitars/bass/lyrics/vocals)
Tom Bellamy (guitars/synths/programming/trumpets/lyrics/vocals)
Didz Hammond (bass/vocals)
Kieran Mahon (keyboards/piano/synths/guitar/backing vocals)
Jon Harper (drums/percussion/backing vocals)
The Cooper Temple ClauseTurn off the headlights. Throw away the roadmap. Take your hands off the wheel and just coast, heading everywhere and nowhere. Thereâ€™s a crash coming soon, oh yes, a spectacular crash, but just savor the weightlessness, the anticipation, the thrill of surrendering control. Thatâ€™s what it feels like being in The Cooper Temple Clause. Every fucking day.
â€œWe discovered, doing this record,â€? says Ben Gautrey of Kick Up The Fire, And Let The Flames Break Loose--croaky from his 374th festival appearance today--â€œthat we were a lot tighter and could play our instruments a lot better than we could two years ago when we made our first album. We do seem to be getting slightly better. We were having a big conversation the other day about guitarists who can't really play their instruments but just try to get a sound out, and it comes out fresher. We see ourselves as bad musicians who just get a sound out.â€?
A Cooper Temple Clause who couldnâ€™t play their instruments managed to rip the heart, soul, guts and genitalia out of every venue, festival tent and aftershow bar in the known universe while simultaneously having Top Twenty hits and producing a Top Six debut album. A Cooper Temple Clause who 'do seem to be getting slightly betterâ€™, therefore, are frankly dangerous.
And all this beautiful chaos from such ambition-throttlingly mundane beginningsâ€¦During the late-nineties Britpop fallout TCTC were a bunch of Reading freaks drawn together by three vital factors: 1) they went to the same school, 2) they were all, according to the Reading lager fascists, â€˜weirdo'sâ€™ (i.e. they were the only six kids in Hertfordshire with any semblance of personalities) and 3) they or their brothers or their brothersâ€™ matesâ€™ dentistâ€™s dog knew synthâ€™nâ€™sample contortionist Tom Bellamy, who in turn knew that he was a rockâ€™nâ€™roll Messiah in search of disciples.
Aside from keyboardist Keiran Mayhem (who, legend has it, was recruited because â€œhe owned a really good keyboard and we wanted to use itâ€?), the members of Team Cooper were selected less by ability and more by social deviances. Tom was the shadowy backroom, mastermind; Ben the fuck-you-cool smoldering front-god with the exotic past (born in Tokyo, schooled at the same Swiss college as The Strokes); guitarist Dan â€˜Fischerâ€™ Fischer the quarter-Afghan, son-of-a-circus-performer tortured poet who wrote a religious rock opera called â€œArmageddon Cityâ€? when he was seventeen (best line: â€œThe boy who fell from the sky just to look for his intergalactic motherâ€?); and drummer Jon Harper the whispering heart-throb with a big yellow van covered in bubbles, a man so sweet he was surely in Travis in a former life.
The Coooper Temple ClauseOh, and did we mention Didz? Oh, come on, you know about Didz. Chances are heâ€™s already jumped on your back and tried to ride you like a racehorse while you were trying to watch The Futureheads. Yup, that was Didz.
In 2000, with nothing but five songs, a yearâ€™s supply of Bellâ€™s and the rampant desire to shaft the wheezing carcass of rockâ€™nâ€™roll every which way but Wednesday, TCTC entered their home-built studio on a pig farm outside Reading. There were a couple of EP warning flares sent up that year (the Hardware and Warfare EPs). In January 2001 they came over the top, all guitars blazing. â€œLetâ€™s Kill Musicâ€? grazed the toes of the Top Forty, â€œFilm Maker/Been Training Dogsâ€? and â€œWho Needs Enemiesâ€? were perfect head shots on the Top Twenty and then came their Hiroshima: the debut album See This Through And Leave. Concerned with the stifled desperation of satellite town non-living and tragically absent friends, it was a schizoid musical freak-out of rock, punk, techno and electronic kitchen-sinkery.
The Coopers were flying, sound barrier history, destination Chaos. For eighteen months they gigged, drank and stage-dived themselves delirious: Europe, Japan, Australia, Wigan, Oblivion. Some days theyâ€™d play three festivals in three different countries, all in 24 hours and all of them riots. And when the road ran out in September 2002, they barely paused for crumpets before they hit their newly refurbished Studio Of Swine and cracked the cap on album number two. What else could they do? Theyâ€™d smashed in the headlights, torched the roadmap. There was nowhere to go but up.
â€œWe didn't want to make the same record twice,â€? says Ben, â€œand we wanted to maybe test where we could go melodically, whereas with the first album we tested where we could go sonically. We didn't write it in a conventional sense because we wrote it in the studio, whereas with the first album we'd spend hours sitting in a room because someone kept forgetting their part. This was a lot more efficient. Everyone was pulling together.â€?
Fueled by a surreal four-month recording stint which featured hauntings, fancy dress nights (best costume: Fischerâ€™s â€˜Elephantâ€™) and Didzâ€™s much-reported near death hospitalization when a routine appendix operation led to some frankly foul, shitting-from-his-sides complications, the new album makes See This Through and Leave, sound like David Gray chancing his arm at a set full of Starsailor covers. Concerned, this time, with the fuzzy, semi-living of being in a touring rock band--the petty falling outs, the empty, award ceremony back-slaps, the dissolving ties with those beloved Mates Back Home--it takes the anything-goes vivacity of their debut and rockets it into the mad, wild yonder.
Mississippi bar-room jazz melts into brainmelt techno during â€œWritten Apologyâ€? (Dan: â€œThat's the closest weâ€™ve got to The Cooper Temple Clause in one songâ€?). â€œBlind Pilotsâ€? is post-Chernobyl ABBA and first single â€œPromises, Promisesâ€? takes the Egyptian snake-charming groove into realms of sonic insanity that neither the Pharaohs nor Holly Valance ever dreamt it could go. Unpredictable, intensely euphoric and utterly without limit, boundary or compromise, this is not so much an album as a test of faith. You can only buckle yourself in tight, turn off your agenda, throw away your expectations and let go of the wheel. There are crashes coming, oh yes, lots of crashes. Sensational crashes.
Then pray The Cooper Temple Clause never learn to play their instruments properly.
Interview by Roxanne Blanford
Itâ€™s got me going insane/ I think itâ€™s happening again
I think thereâ€™s gonna be some action
Cuz itâ€™s got me goinâ€™ insaneâ€¦â€¦..
That itâ€™s still difficult to put a definable label on The Cooper Temple Clause after two major releases (2002â€™s SEE THROUGH THIS AND LEAVE, and 2004â€™s KICK UP THE FIRE AND LET THE FLAMES BREAK LOOSE) may end up being both the bandâ€™s strength and its undoing.
A cursory listen to the searingly edgy and tumultuous rock orchestrations emanating from this Reading, UK band might lead one to easily dismiss the music of The Cooper Temple Clause as simplistic macho rage against everything in general and nothing in particular.
Conversely, TCTC can also be esteemed as a profound band struggling to strike a lyrical balance between sincere sentiment and prurient decadence.
Q Magazine calls the band â€œdefiantly unorthodox..â€?,
Kerrang! chimes in with â€œ..genre-defying soundâ€¦uniquely their ownâ€¦â€?
and NME points out how TCTC â€œâ€¦laughs in the face of genreâ€¦â€? by releasing â€œthe most brilliantly ambitious record of the yearâ€¦â€?
And yet, no one can precisely â€œgetâ€? The Cooper Temple Clause
Didz Hammond, bass player for the band, is aware of this dichotomy as well.
â€œ[Itâ€™s been said] our music is quite dark and that we focus on the bad aspects of thingsâ€¦but, [lyrically] thereâ€™s always something optimistic as well in the endâ€¦..â€?
Didz went on to more fully explain the nuances of The Cooper Temple Clause to MusicEmissions while in New York City during a brief break from touring North America and promoting the new release. Sitting in the Times Square offices of RCA records (with whom the band signed in 2000), the Boys From Reading were low key, yet excited and in good spirits, slightly overwhelmed with a fascination for New York City, America, eating real pizza and having a smoke atop the corporate roof. There was nary a hint of the brooding disaffection with their humble beginnings about which the band has not made a secret.
â€œReading (ironically, the home of one of Europeâ€™s longest-standing rock festivals), in itself, is an average satellite town with few artistic outlets. Thereâ€™s no real art scene there at allâ€¦which can eventually become stifling and oppressiveâ€¦itâ€™s a place where people go to school, university and get a job in an insurance company. Those are the recommended steps which none of us in the band chose to follow and thatâ€™s a big part of what first brought us togetherâ€?.
In the late 90s, six misfits found themselves out of step with the maddening crowd and hearkening to a drummer of a different beat. They put this band together -- forged out of shared disdain for the local climate and bad music on the radio. Since that time, Ben Gautrey (vocals), Tom Bellamy (guitar, synthesizer, bass), Dan Fisher (bass, guitar), Kieran Mahon (keyboards), Jon Harper (drums) and Didz have committed The Cooper Temple Clause to the creation of music unlike anything and anyone else.
Says Didz, â€œWeâ€™ve always respected bands that change from album to album, and try to do different things with their songs. For us, the most important thing is that we donâ€™t have a specific styleâ€¦unlike the Strokes and Oasis, who have a specific sound and stick to it. Certainly, our sound has developed and grown in the time between our two releases. If you chart our progress, as it were, from the first album..that one being sort of schizophrenic with a lot of different sounds in the mix, and where all the sounds could have been played by different bands. We liked that, actuallyâ€¦it was right for the time, ..growing up different in Reading, being under fireâ€¦ but weâ€™ve been away from that for some time now. Much of what was on the previous release is no longer relevant â€¦[KICK UP THE FIRE] is more introspective, exploring personal situations, relationships and what causes conflict in situations. Itâ€™s about learning and developing, and using the music to tell the storyâ€?.
â€¦.. I've had questions of conscience
Of what this is about
Can anyone hear me these days?
Have I lost my tongue?
Did I lose the battle sweet stuff
Before I'd begun?
Cos I am a private man
Or am I a whore?
We'll settle the bill first,..then
Well, we'll settle the score
â€œOn this disc, thereâ€™s a real natural progression in sound. We seemed to have simply happened upon those ways to make it all work .. And when you make it work, ..I donâ€™t know know..but, you just keep going and keep going and try different things. If it doesnâ€™t work, then you kind of go back to the start and put it together a different way.
â€œA lot of times, it does happen quite naturally, quite subconsciously, maybe. Sometimes we have to go back and work on it, but itâ€™s not often. Most of the building blocks are actually kind of right there at the startâ€?.
Combining palpable strains of Pink Floyd, Primal Scream, and even Radiohead in the mix, The Cooper Temple Clause have managed to create a schizoid fusion of rock, punk, techno, synthpop and sheer phantasmagoric abandon. There are hints of The Cure, U2, The Psychedelic Furs and the psychedelic Beatles , Depeche Mode, Finger Eleven, Beck, Virgos Merlot andâ€¦â€¦..well, the list just goes on and on.
The songs on KICK UP THE FIRE run the gamut from psychedelic reverie (Into My Arms), turbo-charged ( Promises, Promises) to techno pop poetry (New Toys). Itâ€™s all one sweeping maelstrom of succulent synth rock sensualness from beginning to end, propelled by the raspy romantic ruminations and thrusting vocal presence of lead singer Ben Gautry who forcefully embodies the more earthy aspects of Liam Gallagher melded with the cock-swagger of Richard Butler. This is all top loaded with a highly developed sexual intensity that is unmatched by most bands today.
â€œThis disc took about 10 months, from start to finishâ€?, Didz comments. â€œFrom going through the phase of not having any songs really written to going to great lengths to make the disc cohesive, so it makes sense in that order. You see, weâ€™ve been in â€˜big moneyâ€™ studios where we didnâ€™t really enjoy itâ€¦we found if difficult to translate our sound in a place we felt uncomfortableâ€¦the only real place we felt comfortable and sounded like ourselves was inside our practice room ( a converted pig farm just outside Reading) and we basically recorded the disc thereâ€?.
Far from the pig farm, The Cooper Temple Clause sets its sights on North America for several weeks in Spring 2004.
â€œItâ€™s a long time to be away, but itâ€™s a great adventure.â€?
Different from the bandâ€™s previous tour (which started in the UK, took the boys to Japan, then back through Europe) this particular spring 2004 tour will see them navigating through North Americaâ€”by far the most extensive CTC tour to date. Yet, from the way Didz tells it, they have few, if any, preconceived expectations about whatâ€™s to come.
â€œIâ€™m fully prepared to play in small pubs before three dogs and a blind man.â€?
But that is hardly the case set before a young thriving band who has seen its popularity steadily rise and grow as more and more music lovers get turned on to the brash, yet emotionally powerful sound.
And as The Cooper Temple Clause, in turn, get turned on by life across the Big Pond.
â€œIâ€™m quite looking forward to being in like a stereotypical kind of deliverance kind of townâ€?, Didz says. â€œIâ€™m looking to experience what we havenâ€™t experienced beforeâ€¦to take in all the subcultures in this country. In this city alone (New York) weâ€™ve been making quite a lot of recordings of sounds and thingsâ€¦of traffic, building work, the sirens of ambulances (..my big favorite at the moment), and of people just walking down the street and saying mutha fucker in a different way or accent than weâ€™ve been used to hearingâ€¦ Last night, we saw this woman tap dancing on the street, I think she was waiting to meet her husband for the evening, and there she was...quietly tap dancing down the street. Where would you get to see a tap dancing woman going to dinner with her husband? And here we are, just documenting all this experience,..not laughing at it, really, not with a circus mentality,â€¦ you donâ€™t have to look at it that wayâ€¦.its just kind of experiencing stuff that we havenâ€™t yet experiencedâ€¦it doesnâ€™t have to be a freak show, â€¦it can just be kind ofâ€¦.experiencedâ€?.
It's not being able to be explain
Or get your feelings across
It's in the pain that won't leave you
It's coming straight back for us
It's in a new lease on life
And a search that ends well
It's in finding that change
It's being happy again