The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world





Ron Pope is in Australia, and for the first time he has a band with him. Not only that he has also just released what must be one of the albums of his career in 'Calling Off the Dogs'. The Rockpit caught up with Ron shortky after he touched down to chew the fat...

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from The Rockpit; I see you’re already over here in Australia.

Ron: Yeah, I’m in Sydney right now.

Mark: Are you looking forward to the tour?

Ron: Absolutely, it’s always fun to come over here and play, it’s a great place, and the fans are very appreciative, because they know it’s so far from everywhere else in the world, so they’re always really excited when they know you’re coming on tour!

Mark: Brisbane is the first date, with Perth being the final date on the 13th of June, I understand you’re bringing a band over for the first time?

Ron: My friend Cam Nacson who is opening the show with his band, when I came here in 2012, he introduced me to a lot of his friends, and we had a great time all hanging out together. His friend Michael McGlynn, who owns Vienna Peoples Studios in Sydney, got together a band for me and they are all Australian musicians out of Sydney. It’s good to know people and have friends on the ground!

Mark: Interesting! I understand the Perth show is just you and your guitar?

Ron: Yeah, Perth I’m gonna play alone.

Mark: The new album is absolutely fantastic, we think it’s up there with your best, how do you feel?

Ron: Thank you. Well, I love this record, for me, the idea to create a concept album was one of those things, when getting in to making a record where I wanted to use a very unique sonic thumb print, and I wanted to compose without boundaries, it turned out to be a much larger challenge than I thought it was going to be. A lot of times when you’re making a record you can reference, and say I like this song, and this song and we’ll produce it like this, but with this album we didn’t have any kind of template. Each song I wrote was kind of an adventure, which I also tried to produce in a very distinctive way, I was trying to put together orchestral arrangements with thumping hip hop, and crazy electronic soundscapes, with big rock band elements and a choir! It was all very seemingly disparate things that we put together to make something very distinctive. So, it was an incredible challenge, but I love the record, and I’m really, really proud of it. It taught me the difference between writing a concept album, which is where you write 11 songs telling one story, versus 11 songs with individual stories; it’s like the difference between writing a novel and just writing short stories. It was a very long and intensive process, to make sure that you could follow the narrative, I worked very hard on it and I love the songs, and I’m very proud of the work I did as a composer and an arranger, a producer and a guitar player, the whole thing is very special for me.

Mark: It works beautifully as well, we like some of the lower key moments on there, our favourites being “Off Your Feet”, “Back to Bed” and “Maybe Nothing” as well. The new single is out, “Lick my Wounds” which is another fantastic track on there, was it hard to pick a single?

Ron: Because this is a concept album, it follows two people from meeting and falling in love, and out of love, and finally ends with their final interaction with each other, I thought it was a neat idea to, essentially “Lick my Wounds” is the first part of the story, so I thought it would be nice to release that first, and tell that first piece of the narrative, it seemed a great way to introduce people to the story with step 1, rather than trying to start with a single that’s like 7th on the album, and then people gravitate towards that and don’t get the story from the beginning. It made more sense to tell it from step 1.

Mark: Yeah, that makes perfect sense! So, what does Ron Pope get up to on his day off in Sydney?

Ron: Well, right now, I am sitting here in my pyjamas looking out the window, I don’t know, I guess it depends on whether it stops raining!! We always want to eat Thai food while we’re here because the Thai food here is unbelievably good! It’s crazy, I like Thai food, but it’s never one of the first things I would ask for, but we came here last time and a bunch of people recommended this restaurant and it was unbelievable, and then we had Thai in about 5 more places which was great, so I’m probably going to eat some more Thai food!

Mark: We have great Thai food here in Perth too, so you’ll have to check that out too! It’s very rock and roll, pyjamas at midday!

Ron: Yeah, I’m still kind of adjusting to the times and jet lag, I’ve been here two days now.

Mark: Here are a few questions from fans. Forgetting that this is a concept album, has the way that you approach the creation of your music changed over the years?

Ron: I would say so. I think for a very long time, I was trying to really simplify what I was doing to its absolute essence. I wanted to see if I could get stories across, and songs across that were impactful, that used as little as possible, I wanted to use very simple harmonies, as few chords as possible, and write very simple, straight forward linear narratives. So people could really get what I was saying with not a lot of flourishes. One of the reasons I really enjoyed working on “Calling off the Dogs” was because I lifted off any artificial restrictions that I had placed on myself, and just decided to reach out and try things, any idea I had, I would just go for it and chase the muse in that direction. So, that’s been very different, I think in the past there were a lot of situations where I would’ve said “no” to myself, but in this case I was willing to say “yes”. That made it very exciting for me, especially from a compositional and production standpoint.

Mark: It must be empowering too, being a major player, but also an independent, without the label being there telling you to write those hit singles, must be good not having that pressure.

Ron: you know, I think there are pros and cons to either side of that coin. It’s really exciting to be able to create what you want to create, and do it how you want to do it, but I would also say that one of the benefits that people get from having access to people who give their opinion and you have those combined people to help you along in your process. I’ve been lucky over the years that necessity has forced me to learn how to do a lot of things, but I absolutely think it’s completely valid and valuable for artists, who have a strong team in place, I believe a lot of people are making great records that are on major labels, that are dealing with teams of people, you have the combined energies and I respect that too. A lot of people who interview me, want me to be the poster child for independent artists, and I think to each his own, it’s all knowledge, you are creating art that you believe in, then however you want to do it, God bless you, go and get it!

Mark: That’s a great comment. If you could turn the clock backwards, what time would you feel most comfortable in?

Ron: I guess as a musician, if I could turn the clock back, I would probably say, I would’ve liked to have turned 21, in 1968, because then you would’ve been of an age to make music, which at that time you are at the peak of when your creativity reaches its zenith in popular music, and also being in your twenties through the 70’s when all so much great music was being created, so I think if I could pick a different time, that’s what I would pick. But, as an artist I’m really happy with right now, it’s an incredible time for someone like me, because I’ve been able to, with the help of social media, and digital access create a global, worldwide fan base, and an honest to goodness, grass roots movement that’s truly global, and that’s something that if I was making music in the sixties, or even in the nineties, it wouldn’t have been possible. So, I am lucky I exist in these days, I guess!

Mark: It is incredible what you have managed to achieve. Do you have a piece of music that you’ve created that you think most defines you?

Ron: No, I can’t say that there will be one piece of music that I believe really is the one, because my catalogue is so expansive, and there’s so many things, there’s electronic things, acoustic things, I think all of them are pieces of my puzzle, so I don’t think there’s any one that’s more significant than the others.

Mark: Taking it right back, what was it that made you first decide you wanted to be a musician? Was there a moment that triggered everything?

Ron: I always loved music, I think the moment when I realised I would definitely continue chasing music in a serious way, and never surrender was when I was playing music in the subway after college. One day, I had run out of money, and I’d been writing all day, and I realised I was hungry and I didn’t have any food or money, so I went down to the subway to play, I used to play down there to make a living, and it was freezing, it was the dead of winter. It was really cold and the spot where I usually went to, there was someone else there, so I was travelling around and it was getting later and later and I was trying to find a place to play, and I finally end up somewhere where it’s really, really cold. I was playing and no one was coming by, I was really bummed, so I sat there and became really downhearted, and I started to cry. I was like, you are a grown man, and you are sitting on a subway platform crying holding an acoustic guitar, it was like a scene from a movie! I said to myself if you don’t give up now and quit, and go home and call your parents and say you’re done, you’re never going to give up! So, I kept playing and eventually money came by and I got three dollars and I bought some hot dogs, and here I am!

Mark: That is a fantastic image and a great story!

Ron: That was a big turning point in my life.

Mark: Our final question that we ask everyone is what is the meaning of life?

Ron: What is the meaning of life, that’s a good one! Great interview, by the way, you’ve been very thoughtful and before you go, I appreciate the time you’ve taken to put together an incredibly thoughtful and well put together interview. It means a lot to me that you were willing to do that. Thank you very much.

Mark: Thank you, I always take the point of view that, what are the things I’d like to hear answered, rather than tell me about this song and that song!

Ron: You’d be surprised how often I hear that! So, thank you so much, and to answer your final, very thoughtful question, I would say the meaning of life is give love, and be loved in return.

Mark: That’s perfect! A fantastic way to end, we’ll catch you soon in Perth, and thanks again for taking the time to speak to us. Take care.

Ron: Thank you, and hope to see you at one of the shows. Bye.



Ron spoke to Mark Diggins June 2014





Interested in an interview for your band? e-mail digg [at] prefers to interview live or via skype or phone but will consider e-mail interviews