Mark Cope (The Candyskins, Nine Stone Cowboy) EXCLUSIVE interview

Mark Cope

Mark Cope has been around the Oxford music scene for awhile now. Most people here probably became familiar with him and his music when he played guitar in BritPop band The Candyskins …

Mark Cope

Mark Cope has been around the Oxford music scene for awhile now. Most people here probably became familiar with him and his music when he played guitar in BritPop band The Candyskins along with his brother, frontman Nick.

The Candyskins formed in 1989 and gained a worldwide fanbase, releasing singles such as “Submarine Song, “Monday Morning” and “Feed It”. After touring the US and the UK and experiencing the highs and lows of being in the music business, The Candyskins broke up in the late 90’s.

Lucky for us here in Oxford, Mark Cope is still playing music and has formed a new band, Nine Stone Cowboy. I saw them play at the Bullingdon Arms a couple weeks ago, and enjoyed a great night of music. I’m looking forward to seeing them again soon.

A bit of trivia – Mark’s dad is the very talented English actor Kenneth Cope. He played the ghost, Marty Hopkirk, on (one of my favorite TV shows since moving to England) Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

Mark very graciously took some time out to answer some questions for

Jenny May: When did you start playing music?

Mark Cope: Like most kids I started on a recorder dipped in antiseptic solution. When punk arrived, I learned how to play the drums and joined a punk band who were all a lot older than me. Our first gig was in a village hall, which got destroyed. Very exciting and very scary. I bumped into my old school music teacher a few years ago. He told me and my brother we had no musical talent at all at school. I told him we had just signed a $2 million recording contract with Geffen Records. I swore at him and told him he should not be in teaching. Very satisfying.

What was the first band that you played in (what was your role) and how did it come about?

A punk band called The Attendants (mentioned above) – I played drums. I met the others where all the punks used to meet and drink lager and sniff glue. We played Clash covers and a few of our own. I had a really old drum kit with a massive salvation army bass drum, the one you use for marching with. It got stolen from the youth centre where we practiced, so I decided to take up the guitar.

When you were in the Candyskins, you played guitar and sang backing vocals. Now you’re the lead singer for Nine Stone Cowboy. How has the experience been for you now that you’re fronting a band? Had you fronted bands before?

Being the front man in a band is so different. I understand totally what my brother went through now. When I was the rhythm guitarist and backing singer in the Candyskins, every gig was so much fun and afterwards you just wanted to party until you died. But now the pressure is intense. You feel it before, during and afterwards. You feel drained and want to lie down in a darkened room. It really does drain you and the worry of whether the songs are any good or am I singing badly spiral out of control in your head. It’s definitely not as enjoyable as being “in the band”, but a few days after, you do get a proud feeling through your body that you went through it. It is a bit like bungee jumping. But as my dad says “if you didn’t get nervous it wouldn’t be worth it”.

What is your song writing process like?

I love it, it is my favourite thing in the world. It starts in so many different ways. I will mishear someone saying something in a pub and get a lyric for a chorus, or hear some chanting at an African nations football match on TV and get a chord sequence. They do sometimes just enter your head. With computers you can just go mad now, there are no limits. I’m the boy in the bubble with my computer, two bottles of red wine and I can go anywhere with a song. Then the next day sober, I am the serious producer and make sense of it all. I love writing lyrics, little sad stories that make you smile. I always torture myself trying to make it better – changing verses here and there. The true mark of a good song when you’ve written a new one, is when you can remember it first thing in the morning. If I can’t, I dump it. If I can, I carry on working on it. But every song comes from a different angle. That’s what makes it so exciting and fulfilling.

What do you consider a great recording environment?

Me, my computer, my guitar, my keyboard, red wine and a room with the TV on with the sound turned down. And no one in the house when I do the vocals. When I was in the Candyskins we spent so much time and money in plush studios. Now with the technology we have today it is so much easier. I did learn so much just watching and listening to producers at the time.

You lived in Boston for awhile. What brought you there? How did you spend your time?

I was going out with a girl from Boston for a while. I nearly moved there. She worked for a record company, so every night we would go and see bands. It’s such a great city. During the day I would just walk for miles, lots of little adventures. The Candyskins were very popular in Boston, it was great driving around hearing our songs on the radio. There is nothing quite like that feeling.

Did you like the Boston music scene? What bands did you see while living there?

The music scene is so good there. Loads of venues and really good radio stations. I saw so many bands there – everything from Monster Magnet to Portishead. The local paper the Phoenix kept it all together. You would look for who was playing that week and try and fit it all in. And because my girlfriend got guest lists for all the gigs and free drink tokens, I was like a pig in sh**! I remember one time seeing Rage Against the Machine twice in one night, they did an under 16 and over 16 show, and then going out and getting drunk with the guitarist. Good times.

When you were in The Candyskins along with your brother Nick, how often did you write songs together?

At first we would always write together, with the guitarist Nobby, sitting around drinking tea trying to find the right chord or word. After a while we started to write separately which in a way made it better because it was a competition who could write the best song. I really miss those early days when we all lived together and it was us against the world. Being in a band with your best friends and touring, getting payed, is without doubt the best experience in the world, and we were very lucky we got to do it for fifteen years. It does make the real world very hard to live in though, when it ends. Too much fun is a very dangerous thing.

Do you get together with Nick to write or play music now?

We reformed recently to play the last night of the Zodiac, which was brilliant. It all came rushing back. He’s doing songs for kids now (he has 3) and has nearly finished an album, which is fantastic. He has always had the power to make me cry with his songs and even now with songs about little monkeys he still does. The boy is a genius.

With the Candyskins, where were some of your favorite places to play when on tour?

Touring America was the best, we did four three month tours all over on a big tour bus. Waking up at the Grand Canyon with a hangover, it does not get any better. All I remember is just smiling all the time. People would travel miles to see us, we could not believe it. New York was always fun. I always loved playing in Oxford at the end of a tour, when we were really tight and you could just enjoy it, watching all your friends going mad.

Who were some of the bands that you played with while on tour?

We played with so many bands I can’t remember all of them. We obviously played with Radiohead a lot in the early days. In America we played with Nirvana once in Boston. The Pogues in Belgium. I wish I had kept more of a record of it all. The thing I remember most was we always seemed to be having more fun than the other bands. Looking back maybe we should have taken it a bit more seriously.

Nine Stone Cowboy
Nine Stone Cowboy

How did the current lineup of Nine Stone Cowboy come about?

A long journey. I’ve sacked about ten people to get to this line up. But as I’ve always said “a band that drinks together, stays together.” I have always wanted a girl bass player, so Maria is perfect. AD is a very old friend.

Nine Stone Cowboy recently played a great show at The Bullingdon in Oxford. Do you have plans to play outside of Oxford?

Yes – we are going to get some support shows soon, and there are plans for a few festivals this summer.

Have you had your music in movie soundtracks?

The Candyskins had “Feed It” in The Waterboy soundtrack, the Adam Sandler film, and we had one song on the Legally Blonde 2 soundtrack. It’s very weird hearing your song on a film. You watch it waiting to hear it and miss it when it’s played. Everytime I leave the room to go to the toilet just as it comes on. Typical. We also had a song in the US lays crisps advert which was great. It was better than the original video.

Is that something that you could foresee in the future for you and/or Nine Stone Cowboy?

I would love it. I’m talking to some publishers at the moment, to get music in TV shows and films.

Who are some of your influences, in music and/or otherwise?

Punk, especially the late Joe Strummer. E.L.O., The Flaming Lips, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, anything with a bit of thought behind it. I love really sad lyrics with a bit of a story behind it. Not enough of that around at the moment. It seems all the eccentrics are being pushed to one side.

Where is your favorite place in Oxford?

Anywhere where all my friends are gathered with drinks in their hands and the next day off.

What CD or MP3 are you currently listening to the most?

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, “THE NIGHT”. It is a lost track that is the best piece of pop music I have ever heard. I can’t stop playing it to people. And of coarse my own new stuff, trying to make it better and at the same time trying not to destroy it.

Nine Stone Cowboy MP3s:

Jesus Doesn’t Like Me
Son Of Elvis

Nine Stone Cowboy Band Members:

Mark Cope – vocals/guitar
Maria Ilett – bass/vocals
Ady Davey – guitar/vocals
Richie Wildsmith – drums

Nine Stone Cowboy will be playing at The Wheatsheaf in Oxford, April 5, 2008.

Nine Stone Cowboy on Myspace

The Candyskins on Myspace

Author: Jenny May

Jenny May is the founder of Band Weblogs. Based in Oxford, England (originally from New England), Band Weblogs was created in 2005. With a passion for music, Jenny May has performed with bands in the US and the UK, her music has appeared in films, she was a vocal coach for the Yamaha Rock School and has worked on music projects with musicians such as Jon Fishman (Phish), Fyfe Dangerfield (Guillemots) and Cisco Adler (Shwayze). Jenny is currently publishing music news, conducting exclusive interviews and writing music commentary for Band Weblogs and writing, recording and performing music with duo Purple May.