Photo credit: Milly Cope
Burt Cope is a 16 year-old DJ from Oxford, who’s dance tunes can make you “party or feel chill as fuck” – as quoted from his SoundCloud bio. With his musical genes – his dad and uncle were members of 90s brit-pop band The Candyskins – and his skills on the deck (ie his computer mixing software), it’s unsurprising that Burt has already got his tracks played on BBC Radio Oxford via BBC Introducing – but we can’t wait to see where he’ll go next.
I interviewed the talented teen over email, and we chatted on: (a) the constraints compulsory education has on creativity, (b) persevering to learn new skills; (c) Netflix and chill and (d) loads more. Read on and feel chill as fuck:
When did you first fall into music?
I can remember when I was very young; at around the age of 4 or 5, and I used to get up really early on weekend mornings and watch kids’ cartoon shows. I can’t remember the name of it now, but one of my favourite cartoons at the time had the song Move Your Feet by Junior Senior in the intro for each episode. This song just gripped me: the rhythm, the vocals, the uplifting vibe of it all; I just instantly fell in love with the song and I still love it to this day.
I can also remember sitting on my sister’s bed listening to her radio when I was around the age of 7 – this was when I first heard Invaders Must Die from The Prodigy. I was captivated by the amazing electronic sounds on the track; it was like magic when I first heard it. Listening to all these electronic/dance sounding records really inspired me to create my own music!
I started DJing and producing my own music in 2013 [when] I found that making music was so beneficial for me. It just allowed me to escape from everything and just express myself. Music has always been a massive part of my life since the very beginning. I would honestly be lost without it. It’s who I am.
Yes! I remember being a kid and loving the heck out of Move Your Feet! What else influences the style/outcome of your songs?
All my music is mostly influenced by things I see and hear on a day-to-day basis. Other people’s music is a big influence – my likes on my SoundCloud are all songs that I love, and these songs are definitely an influence. Cycling down beside the river on my way to college on weekday mornings gives me time to think about things and be in my zone, which is definitely an influence on me! Going to gigs and dancing with friends to good music, conceptual art pieces and good movies all have a significant impact on me!
Everything around me influences my songs in different ways; different moments create different moods which I then interpret into pieces of music!
What do you set out to achieve with your tunes?
I love creating a positive vibe in my music; I want to move people with the sounds I produce. I like trippy electronic sounds and deep basses which will make people dance like there is no tomorrow. The thought of being able to make people feel good through my music is so powerful; it really influences my style and encourages me to keep making music!
Who are your musical inspirations?
A lady called Zahra Tehrani who has given me the opportunities to play live at gigs and events to showcase my music to an audience. She is a real inspiration to me and lots of other people around Oxford (my home town). She is a musician, a youth worker and she runs a record label called BG records which I am a part of and it’s a really great community, it helps young creative people come together!
My dad and uncle are also big inspirations. They used to be in a band called The Candyskins and they toured Europe and America. They have both really encouraged me to keep up with my music, they supported me with what I do which has been really inspirational. Having musicians in my family has really made me look up to what a musician can achieve, I really would like to follow in their footsteps and be able to make people happy with what I do on a mass scale!
You also credit your sister for the cover art of your songs. Is there anyone around you who inspires you on a day-to-day basis?
My sister definitely inspires me a lot, she’s an artist and she’s always thinking outside the box. I love talking to her endlessly about music and art and just being creative with her. Her photography and art pieces really open up my mind.
My girlfriend inspires me a lot as well, she lives in London and I go and see her pretty much every weekend. The way she sees things and some of the stuff she tells me really inspires me, she’s always making me feel positive and enlightened about things.
Aside from making music, what other art-forms do you experiment with?
I used to be into illustration, like doing little doodles and making cartoon ideas. I used to want to be a cartoonist before I decided music was my real forte! I enjoyed drawing funky characters all over my school books though, escaping from everything that worried me and just getting lost in my doodling.
I took art in school and it really wasn’t too good for me, [it was] so much stress and the whole idea of being creative was just lost in that classroom! We were constantly being made to realistically draw fruit and plants, which just completely bored me. I wanted to draw things that opened my mind: bright colours and wacky figures and shapes (like Keith Haring, who’s one of my favourite artists). I wanted to produce art that people had never seen before, but I was held back from this most of the time.
I express myself fully with my music now, where I can now create these bright colours and wacky figures and shapes but in the form of sound.
What do you like to do for fun, aside from music (and art)?
I love long bike rides with my girlfriend, especially when it’s hot in the summer. It’s so freeing to just get out in the open and venture through the countryside! I love discovering new places.
I really enjoy [watching] gripping and hard-hitting movies and TV shows, such as my all-time faves Breaking Bad, American Beauty and Trainspotting!
I love going to festivals and seeing live music – they give such an electric vibe! Jumping about in a massive field shouting out the lyrics to your favourite bands! Dancing to good music is a feeling you just cannot comprehend. I’m all about living in the moment, cutting shapes in a dark hall with only strobe lights to guide you.
I also really enjoy just chilling out, going to London, seeing my girlfriend and just being in my element. Oh, and obviously Netflix and Chill – you can’t beat it.
Have you ever doubted your abilities? How do you pull yourself out of it?
I never used to think I was good at what I did. I had all these amazing ideas and I wanted to produce them and turn them into the most amazing songs, but I found it difficult. I heard about all these music techniques like mixing and mastering, it all sounds so overwhelming. The one thing I really wanted to do seemed impossible for my age at the time.
But soon after practising every day and getting to know different music software I ended up getting the hang of it all. I now feel like I have a firm grip on what I’m doing – it feels good to be able to produce a decent track that allows me to express myself. Especially after sending it in to ‘BBC introducing’ and then to hear it back on BBC Radio Oxford a few months later! Producing music and being a part of the industry at this age has been so rewarding – I never want to stop!
What advice would you give to your fellow music-makers?
Be creative – never follow a crowd! Make music that you want to hear, make music to make you happy, make music for you. If you love it so much it should benefit you just as much as your listeners! Use music production as way of expressing yourself! Get used to putting your music ideas down, create what feels right, then get used to mixing and mastering your songs, get them sounding right. It’s all very confusing at first but it soon makes sense as long as you keep trying and never underestimate your abilities!
The theme for November/December 2015 is changes – how do you feel you’re morphing as an adolescent human being turning into an adult one?
I am constantly becoming more mature and understanding social situations better. I have always struggled at fitting in and understanding other people, but I feel like I’m finally getting used to those things. I’m allowing time to change how I act, feel and understand myself and people around me. As I was saying, slowly becoming an adult is difficult – you get a massive load of responsibilities thrown at you which you have never experienced before. Less than a year ago, while I was still at secondary school, we had to ask to go to the toilet. Now we are told to get jobs, and to grow up.
When you’re young, things change so quickly and it’s all so confusing!
At age 16, do you ever feel any restraints as a young musician?
Playing in clubs and bars is a very difficult job to get while still being under-age. You try and get yourself out there, but no one really seems to care and also you worry that you will come across as someone in it for the money and a convenient road to success, when actually, it’s not like that at all.
However, for young musicians there are lots of youth groups and things to do creatively, so there is an upside to being young and being creative. It’s best to start as young as possible so that as you grow your creativity grows within you.
Being 16 is a tough… I mean, all this coming-of-age business can get complex to say the least. What is coming of age for you?
Growing up is difficult [because it’s about] finally finding out who you really are. It is very complex when you are growing up into adulthood, it’s so confusing. You are constantly changing and having different opinions and regretting how you used to be. Around 16 is a strange age, you are asked to have responsibilities and to be ‘grown-up’ about things, but yet in some ways you are still treated like a child. I can’t wait to be 18 – then I can finally live my life to the fullest and get treated like an adult for real!
In the future, and with more practice, where do you see your music leading you?
Hopefully getting more gigs and opportunities to play live, like in clubs and bars. [I want to] get more songs on the radio, make more friends with people who are in the music business, and be able to further my knowledge on everything about producing and playing live music.
I know it sounds really far-fetched, but travelling the world is one thing I really feel like I need to do in my life and if I could tour and play to people all around the globe that would just be my life complete.
Do you ever fear your music and hobbies will have to make way for *serious real life stuff* when your youth is behind you? How do you plan to balance your creative life with your everyday life?
Well, hopefully my job will be music when my youth is behind me. I’m so committed to what I do and my main priority in life is to work in the music industry. Hopefully I won’t have to balance my creative life, as what I do for a living will be entirely and completely creative. I live to make music, I live to be creative. I never want to have to be held back from doing what I love. I’m dedicating my life to music and being creative. Music is my life, and I’m going to stay committed until I get where I want to be as a creator, a musician, and a person. ℘