Exclusive Interview with Broken Toy aka Sad Paradise

Local legend, James Copeland, has been ripping head-banging tracks for over 10 years under ever-popular aliases such as Broken Toy, Super Evil, Nesono and his proggy alter-ego, Sad Paradise. His musical style is punctuated by hard-hitting basslines, cheeky riffs and groovy melodies. James is set to perform two of his signature acts (i.e Broken Toy and Sad Paradise) this Saturday at Aurora presents Time Lock. We were fortunate enough to chat with him. This is what went down.

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*These questions were compiled by Batia Efrat on behalf of Psyked in the City.


Psyked:
Hi James! Thanks for taking time to talk to me today. You’ve just released Broken Toy’s new EP, Tiger Blood, featuring a popular remix of Headroom’s “Headbanger Boogie.” How has your musical influence evolved during the last year?

James:
When you’re working on music full-time, like I am, you need to give yourself space – creatively – so that you don’t burn out. Especially when you’ve been running a project for over a decade! I’ve always been a fan of pushing my boundaries, so it’s been quite easy to keep things fresh but sooner or later it does feel like you’re running low on new ideas.  For me, the bassline in Tigerblood is the result of years of exploration. I feel it’s one of my most unique and best EPs. It closes off a chapter for me but thankfully opens a new one, too! I started to feel a bit tapped out on the higher tempos, so it’s great that the scene, at the moment, is enjoying fatter, slower beats because that’s my vibe. I’m enjoying the new possibilities and grooves that are presenting themselves. Change in the trends of the genre can be really positive if you`re on the right side of them.


Psyked:
You spun a Sad Paradise remix of “Candy” last weekend at the Vortex Phoenix Festival of Fire. Tell me a bit about that. What’s it like tweaking classic Broken Toy tracks for a progressively different act?

James:
When I started off with Sad Paradise, I mostly only did remixes so for me, reinterpretation is a big part of what I’m enjoying at the moment. It’s a great challenge to take a track that rocks and figure out a way to make it rock just as much, but in a different way. It’s not something that’s easy to do at all.

In the case of Candy, that track is just oozing with cheeky character. It was cool to focus on that and to push it further into that direction with a more twisted, low-down groove instead of the high octane version it was before. I’m blown away at how well received the new version of Candy is whenever I play it because it’s just me being odd with a track and it still works on the floor – happy time!


Psyked:
In general, what’s the crowd’s reaction been like to your Sad Paradise set in comparison to the reception of the already-prominent Broken Toy?

James:
Very, very positive. I’m lucky in that I write music very quickly and I’m constantly adapting to what happens at every gig. If I feel my set is lacking in a certain direction (i.e not spacey enough for an outdoor, or not rocking enough for indoor), I just write more music and add it to the set and make sure I play what’s appropriate for every situation. The biggest obstacle for me is just having a separation between the two acts.


Psyked:
Do you think psytrance followers becoming more open to proggy, punkish sounds than in the past, or does full-on psychedelic still dominate the industry?

James:
There is no doubt that the punk prog is dominating. If one was to be unkind, you could say it’s psychedelic raver music for the ADD generation but that is actually exactly what the previous generation would’ve said about full-on itself. Haters are gonna hate but it’s the natural order of things, and it’s what the next wave of psy-fans, who are keeping the genre alive, want to hear.


Psyked:
What made you decide to rework the “Disco Balls” track? Do you have plans to rework any other pieces?

James:
I was surprised that the previous Disco Balls version worked as well as it did at 142bpm because the vocal is taken from a track that is about 128bpm. That’s a bit of a jump. I had a feeling that a slower version would work even better and it has.

As for other reworks, I’ve got a few on the go, most notably an ambient remix of a track from my first album called Fragile. It sounds pretty awesome – something different for me.


Psyked:
You mentioned that you’re unsure whether to adopt the Disco Balls 2014 rework as Sad Paradise or Broken Toy. Is it challenging to define the parameters between your different genres, or do you feel you have the freedom to blur the lines as you wish?

James:
When I’m in the studio, I normally just write and don’t push myself one way or the other. I’ll decide afterwards which project a track fits in. I do have guidelines for what a Broken Toy track is and what a Sad Paradise track is and I feel I’ve gotten it wrong in the past. For instance, one of the first tracks I released as Sad Paradise was the Bass Monkey remix which I think has the tougher vibe than Broken Toy has, but because it was a slower tempo than what I was doing at the time, I thought it shouldn’t go out as Broken Toy.

Now I realise that it’s more complex than just tempo – the slightly faster, more banging stuff with the classic sneaky humour is obviously Broken Toy – while the lusher, more spacious and sexy grooves, infused with club and techno elements, are for Sad Paradise. Sometimes there is a lot more of an overlap than I’d like between the two projects but meh, whatcha gonna do? I think most of my fans just like whatever I do anyway, no matter what name it falls under.


Psyked:
Earlier this year, you performed at Origin Festival in Helderstroom (read the review), and then went on to playing at the Soulvision Festival in Brazil in February. How does the international scene compare to what we have here in Cape Town?

James:
Even if you’ve only done a few festivals overseas, it’s clear that we have something very special going on in Cape Town. It’s by far my favourite scene in the world and keeps surprising me even after all these years. I often joke to my friends that I have to go overseas to play shitty parties! Laughs.

But having said that, of course, there is a different flavour to every country and so much to enjoy. You mentioned Soulvision in Brazil. That was such a fantastic party on every level – very similar to the vibe we have in Cape Town (which is unique for Brazil as it can be very commercial at times). It suffices to say that Cape Town is representing big time in the global-game.

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Psyked:
Earlier this month, Sad Paradise teamed up with Rinkadink to produce “We Are Noise.” Can we expect other collaborations from Sad Paradise in the near future?

James:
Rinka and I are really good friends. We even lived in the same house for a few years when we were in London so there is a great connection there. He is also going through the same renaissance that I am at the moment so we’re having a great time working on stuff together. As for others, in the works as we speak, are collabs with Zyce, Skyfall and I-tone.


Psyked:
Now that outdoor season has come to a close, do you think you’ll be gracing the indoor party-scene with more performances from Sad Paradise or from Broken Toy?

James:
It’s a fairly even race but looking at my gig calendar, it seems like Sad Paradise is a few inches ahead.


Psyked:
Before we finish up, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

James:
Broken Toy has been going strong for over a decade now, so I thought it would be fitting to have a bit of a celebration with friends reworking all the old classics. I’ve got so many good people working on it and I`m very excited to hear what happens. Look out for oldskool Broken Toy tracks being reworked by Earthling, Brainiac, Waio, Capital Monkey, The Commercial Hippies, Dickster, Gokon Rave, Mr Suit, Groove Addict, Super Evil (hehehe), Chabunk and as many others I can get on board!



ENTER to win bartabs and tickets for Broken Toy aka Sad Paradise at The Side Show on Saturday.

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