Bjorn Copeland is a Los Angeles-based artist and a member of the seminal shape-shifting experimental band Black Dice. As a visual artist, he has mounted solo shows at China Art Objects, Los Angeles; Jack Hanley Gallery, New York; and the Green Gallery, Milwaukee, among others. Since their formation in 1997, Black Dice have continually blazed their own path within art, punk, and electronic music communities, developing an influential musical and visual identity along the way. Copeland has a forthcoming exhibition next February at Cooper Cole in Toronto.
A week with Copeland in Los Angeles starts with a minor medical scare, but from there gets much more mellow. Refreshingly, no social media is consumed, but that doesn’t mean Copeland is a lightweight. The man’s simultaneous polymedia consumption at times borders on heroic, with films, music, and even some live drum machine action sometimes all at once “in the mix” at his home. That, and a lot more below. —John Chiaverina
Monday, June 29
I woke up to a small medical scare (luckily nothing major). The day started by googling urgent care facilities in my area, then reading Yelp reviews. In the end my friend suggested a place he used to go to in Pasadena. He offered to roll with me, so I started getting my day going, and waited for him to swing by.
There’s a small shelf in the back of my tub that stays dry, so I usually put my phone there and play music off of it. This morning I listened to the Squeeze Pandora station in the shower. I always enjoyed their hits, but thought of them as a little unremarkable? Recently a friend was playing “Up the Junction” and it sounded amazing, so I started digging a little bit, and have been getting into some of their “deeper cuts.” I’m embarrassed by how much I listen to music on Pandora. Pretty much every station plays a rotation of five bands, and on the Squeeze station I don’t like any of the other stuff that comes up.
10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Fox News is playing in the waiting room. I haven’t had a television for a while now. I watch TV programs online, but it’s not the same experience that I grew up with. I miss the limited options and commercial interruptions. It had a rhythm to it. Fox News probably wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I felt like I got the fix I needed.
A bunch of old mix tapes have found their way back into my life, so I’ve been mostly listening to those when I’m driving. The two best ones are from the late ’90s. One is mostly super phased-out glam and psych (Pretty Things, The Marmalade, Milk n’ Cookies, Winston, Iron Virgin, etc.); the other is mostly post punk. My favorite track being Crass’s “Fun in the Oven.” It’s funny that both tapes were made by friends who are now both dj’s.
Listening to music in the car is one of my favorite things. I’m sure the novelty of being back behind the wheel will soon wear off, but in the meantime I love driving around and adjusting the soundtrack. I recently started hanging out with someone who insists on mixing her records on her laptop while she’s driving around. She goes headphone out into a tape adapter. It’s dangerous as hell, but after having survived several rides in which she was busy doing this, I started to see the genius of her system.
11 p.m.–1 a.m.
Someone the other day mentioned Lilyhammer, so I checked out a few episodes on Netflix. I love the fact that it’s little Stevie. I kept my eyes peeled for references to the boss.
Most of the time when I’m home I’ll have a few things going at the same time, like a movie, a record and a drum machine, or some combination of things. My brother’s the same way. I got a little sidetracked after a few episodes watching these ridiculous YouTube butterfly knife tutorials. Not really sure how I got there, but I’d like to see them really slowed down.
Tuesday June 30
Woke up to a much mellower start to the day. Listened to Arthur Lee’s “Everybody’s Gotta Live” in the shower, and then again while I was making breakfast. I usually try to leave my apartment within a half hour of getting up, so there’s only time for a handful of tunes. I checked out Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata” pitchshifted down a few octaves, and with a super slow auto wah effect on it right before I took off.
8:45 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
There’s a lake/park a few minutes walk from my place, so I usually will head down there and have a coffee, and make calls to people back East. Today there were no calls to make, so I sat in the grass and looked through the New York Times online. I also checked out this 5 Everyday app. It lists potentially fun things to do in L.A. each day. There’s usually something of interest on it. More often than not, I won’t make it out to these listed events, but it’s nice to know what’s going on regardless.
10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Went to the studio for the day and listened to Primal Scream’s Screamadelica and The Fall’s Nation’s Saving Grace before descending into a Pandora abyss. I kept it on an Allen Toussaint channel for the rest of the time.
I have a hard time working in silence, and I have neighbors who have shit taste in music and insist on blasting their stereo, so I have to have stuff going just to drown that out. I got so used to listening to music at a super quiet level, because my old neighbors constantly complained. I like making loud music, but it can stress me out when I’m not the source of it. How the tables have turned.
8 p.m.–2 a.m.
Went out for the night. Listened to The Meat Puppets in the car. Started watching Night Crawler on Netflix when I landed. Only made it as far as the scene they shot at Bob’s Market, a block from my place, then sacked out around two. I’ll probably finish it tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 1
I had a near phone/shower disaster, so I aborted that set up and turned up my stereo loud enough to hear a room over. Listened to Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits record, then put on the Sunday painters In My Dreams.
I face timed with my two-year-old niece (who has figured out how to call me on her own) for a few minutes. She showed me how she likes to dance to “Jeepster,” proving she may have a severe case of “T-Rextacy.”
It’s been years since I’ve walked around with headphones on. I checked out The Saint’s first album on my walk to get coffee. I forgot how amazing it is. Unfortunately I was listening to it off YouTube, and kept losing the signal. I rechecked out the whole thing once I was parked for a spell.
I looked at the New York Times for a bit, took a peak at Contemporary Art Daily, and then ended up watching the first few minutes of a Saints documentary from a series called Great Australian Albums, or something like that. Made it to studio by 10:30. I listened to Elli and Jacno in the car.
At around 1 I took a break, and finished up the Saints doc. I noticed there was a Go-Betweens one from the same series—that I will be checking out. I listened to live shows of Sam and Dave for the bulk of the afternoon, and then switched to my favorite podcast, Doodcast, with Fitz at the controls.
11:00 a.m.–2 p.m.
I watched the rest of Night Crawler and was glad that I did. I finished reading The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, which I had started two years ago, lost the book, and then rediscovered it in a box of random crap last week. I can now return it to its rightful owner.
I’ve been killing bits of spare time messing with these cheapo drum machine apps for your phone. It doesn’t really sound very good, but I like how unapologetically cheap it sounds. Downloaded a new one, then spent the remainder of the night running it through this beautiful sequencer/filter bank that Gavin Russom built for me a lifetime ago. It still sounds amazing, and is fun to run records or samples through. A lot of times I’ll leave things like that going as background when I can’t decide on a record to put on. I let it ride til I went to sleep.
Thursday, June 2
Woke up and YouTube’d the clip of TSOL playing “Wash Away” from Suburbia. I haven’t seen that movie since I was sixteen, but now think I might have to reinvestigate.
A friend recently gave me a copy of the Everly Brothers Roots. He buys every copy he can find so he can give them away to friends. I’d been looking for it forever, so it seemed like a real score to have it fall in my lap out of the blue. I listened to it in its entirety, and got ready to play music with Joel Kyack. Black Dice and his band Landed played our first show together back in Providence in 1997. This was our first time playing together.
12:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
Played with Joel for a few hours, which was super fun, then went to studio.
I listened to an unreleased record my brother made called Black Bubblegum that pretty much blew me away. Hook filled. I actually listened to it a couple of times, while I looked at Al Taylor’s Early Works.
I checked out a YouTube clip of The Equals “Mystic Sister” that Jimi Hey (the mixtape from way back) forwarded along. I’d never heard this song before, but am assuming it’s the same Eddie Grant Equals. Played it a few times.
Rented Inherent Vice on iTunes, and texted for a while.
Friday, June 3
For some reason I had Bow Wow Wow “Do You Wanna Hold Me” stuck in my head when I got up, so I YouTube’d that while I got going.
Met up with a friend for breakfast. Dove into some emails while I was waiting.
Listened to KROQ in the car. Their entire playlist seems to be comprised of songs that are all built on the same skeleton. The same moments happen at the same time throughout each song. It’s a science to milk maximum payoff on the changes. I listen to a good amount of soulless pop radio, only when driving. It’s hard to do too long a stretch, but the radio has a similar kind of rhythm to the television, which I like in smallish doses.
I switched gears once I got to working in studio, and listened to Cleaners From Venus for a bit off YouTube, then some live J Geils. I’ve been in a sort of dad rock phase for a minute now.
Looked up a recipe on marthastewart.com, then went to the store to grip the ingredients I needed. Heard “L.A. Woman” on the way over there.
4:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m.
Unpacked all grocery acquisitions, and read an article that was on the 31G website that someone forwarded to me. It interviews someone I’ve known through music forever, and delves in-depth into shockingly bad behavior that was taking place in this sect of the Southern California punk scene. This was right when we met. Its pretty entertaining and amusing now, since everyone survived, but I had no idea.
That sidetracked me for a bit. Made dinner while watching Baker 3 and running some drum loops. That was the last media consumed for the night.