Kurtis J. Kopp, Darren Curson: Adding fuel to the fire

If you want to be an outstanding musician, get yourself a metronome and make friends with like-minded individuals.

This is advice from two of the musicians who will be performing at Bandarama April 5 in North Battleford.

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Kurtis J. Kopp, who last year was commissioned to write the official centennial song for the City of North Battleford's 100th birthday, is the force behind Bandarama, and Darren Curson is backing him all the way.

Both believe strongly all musicians - all artists, for that matter - need to have opportunities to interact, form friendships and working relationships, and learn from one another.

Both have performed or jammed with a multiplicity of other musicians, and those are the kind of interactions that make for opportunities to learn and to open up even more doors within their chosen profession.

That's part of the plan behind Bandarama, a three band event taking place Saturday, April 5 at the Sloan Auditorium, which is the basement of the North Battleford Legion. But another aspect to the plan is to add fuel to the fire of an already developing live music scene in North Battleford.

"We want to show North Battleford a rocking good time," says Kopp.

In addition to putting on a great show, the objective is to open doors for each other, and create opportunities for friendship among musicians and fans.

"I had wanted to do something like this for a while," he says, creating an opportunity for out-of-province up-and-coming bands to expand their fan base in Saskatchewan. It's important for bands to expand their fan base outside of the Internet, he explains. Seeing a band in person helps to solidify for fans how they really feel about the band.

The lineup for Bandarama includes Jack Jones, Picky Bando and Cordulain.

The promotional e-PR (online PR) for Jack Jones reads: "Based in North Battleford, the local band delivers Classic Canadian and American rock songs to sing along and dance to. We're gonna hit you with towering bass riffs by Ryan Bater, face melting guitar solos between Laird Brittin and Darren Curson and Kurtis J. Kopp's killer drum grooves; you're gonna freak out!"

Kopp also plays in Picky Bando, this time the bass. He's been involved in the Alberta band's leader's career for some years, and has drummed on all of his albums.

Picky Bando's e-PR for Bandarama: "Picky Bando always storms in with a party, a true example of great Canadian songwriting at its finest. Every song sets off the melodic, make-you-want-to-dance, sing-along vibe you always want to hear. A serious cool energy from Edmonton's Jacob Scot and his five-piece band you will want to catch for sure!"

The third band on the lineup, Cordulain, is made up of Nathan and Cordell Anderson (father and brother to Kelti Anderson of Battleford) and Lain Sandstrom: "Cordulain is a powerhouse three-piece band from Edmonton with hooks that will hit you with a right and a left, high energy vocals, lead guitar, rock solid bass and drums all tightly knit for a variety of progressive blues and rock in both original and cover songs."

Kopp says the venue, Sloan Auditorium, is the only one he considered. He had to wait to get the place, or the event would have been earlier in the year, but it has the best acoustics and the best vibes for this show. He points to the success of the Battlefords Jazz Society events held there.

"The Jazz Society knows what a good venue it is," he adds.

Tickets will be $15 at the door, and the bar will be strictly IDed. No minors will be served alcohol. The doors open at 9:30 p.m. and things won't be shutting down until 2 a.m.

If Bandarama is successful, Kopp says there will be another one with a different lineup in the future.

Kopp and Curson also hope Bandarama (a name coined inadvertently by Kopp's dad) will whet the Battlefords appetite for even more live music events. There are Jazz Society events, and a growing house concert scene, and they would like to see music fans getting used to the idea that they could go out and experience live music any day of the week. This means making opportunities for musicians available.

North Battleford needs a place like Buds on Broadway in Saskatoon, they say. The Saskatoon pub features live entertainment every night (except Sunday), and it also hosts a six-hour jam session for all ages on Saturdays. The sessions are hosted by local musicians, and all musicians can bring along their instruments, sign up and play.

Saskatoon blues guitarist phenom Jordan Cook, who has built a stellar international career, is an example of what can happen at a place like Buds on Broadway, says Kopp. Cook got his start there, he says.

"If I were business-minded, I would most definitely want to be part of opening something like that [in North Battleford]," says Kopp. "I just hope the continuation of indie live music in North Battleford sparks the idea for someone to open a music venue specifically for live music so for every night, or every other night, of the week there's somebody playing."

With a local arts collective getting set up on the upper storey of the post office building, says Kopp, the higher profile in general of arts and culture in North Battleford is "going to be really cool." And that could include live music, he says.

"We want to create a wave so people want to ride it."

Kopp and Curson have both played with many other musicians so they understand the value of connection.

In addition to jamming with other musicians whenever possible, Kopp plays in three bands (Jack Jones, Buster Groover and Mobile Gypsy) and Curson plays in two (Jack Jones and Torn Apart).

Kopp has been drumming since he got his first kit when he was eight years old. His parents run Classic Trading Music Supply in North Battleford and are also musicians. Kopp has few hundred live shows notched on his drum sticks and has done studio work on five albums. He is also writing and recording his own music, perform all the instruments and vocals, except for some guest performances. He has drummed for acts such as Donny Parenteau, Grey Scale, Thick As Thieves, Kenny Wade and At The Stroke Of Madness. He has opened for people like Tom Cochrane, Marty Stewart, Corb Lund, Kenny Shields and Street Heart and has even performed for the Prime Minister of Canada.

Curson, who grew up in the Manchester area of England, is the son of a professional folk singer. He moved to Canada six years ago and three years ago came to North Battleford. He and Kopp met at Classic Trading.

Back in England he was doing similar things to what Kopp does here. He played in local bands, did studio work and was involved in organized musical events.

His father was a professional folk singer and he got his start with his dad's folk band. Then he went to music college and got involved in pop rock, "cabaret" as it's called in England, doing cover songs. He then attended the Paul McCartney School of Music in Liverpool, where he was introduced to other good musicians and became more involved in rock music. Eventually, he came to Canada to find new opportunities and just to see what was happening in another part of the world.

Kopp and Curson are full-time musicians, which means they eschew traditional jobs in favour of living their music.

"I'd rather be skint and happy than have money and be miserable," says Curson, but they both admit it's only because their friends and loved ones are supportive of their careers that they are able to give their entire attention to music,

"Kurtis has got nice parents and I have a nice girlfriend," Curson laughs, plus he teaches guitar.

Their attention to their careers includes innumerable hours of practice.

Kopp says he's sure his family and friends are seeing weekly and monthly advancements in his ability. Over the last year he's stayed at home, writing, recording, rehearsing and practising - which meant he qualified for the recent Pride of the Northwest Amateur Talent Contest, because you can't make more than $2,500 as a musician in the year of the contest, he says. He purposefully stretched his boundaries by entering the vocal category, which was very much out of his comfort zone, and took second place.

Curson says, "I went to support him it was great to see him up front instead of behind the drums."

Kopp says he believes it was an experience that will help open some doors for opportunity for himself and other people he has worked with. Fellow band member from Buster Groover, Kenny Pearson, won first in instrumental, he adds.

The ultimate dream, say both Kopp and Curson, is to be touring.

"I've already come 5,000 miles," says Curson. "I'm willing to travel thousands more."

But if being on a never-ending tour isn't possible, it's important to keep working, and the more people know about other people the better the opportunities.

"If you are in one band and that band is busy that's cool," says Kopp. "But if ever that band is not touring or gigging you could be doing dates with some other band and making money at it."

Downtime as a musician is frustrating, he said.

"When you are a musician and you know you are good enough to do certain things and you're just sitting there kicking your feet, you can't climb up the ladder, it's frustrating. It's all about exposure and sometimes 'shameless self promotion,'" Kopp says. "That's really hard to do when it comes from being busy, that's the most honest way to get it."

That's one of the reasons Kopp and Curson believe the connections made between musicians is so vital.

Those connections are also vital to improving musicianship, they say.

"The more we meet the better it becomes for everyone," says Curson. "You need to be out there."

This is particularly important for young musicians, he adds.

"Back home in England, I'd see 15- and 16-year-olds with so much talent, but they're stuck in the bedroom," says Curson. "They're not out there, and when they get older they give it up and take on a trade or something else. I feel that's a big shame."

Both musicians agree practising at home is one thing, but practising playing with people is another.

Kopp adds, "You could become the best guitar player in your bedroom, but the real experience comes when you start playing with people and get good at being able to adapt and instantly meld yourself to how they are if you've got the experience, no matter what situation you're in, you have the ability to mould yourself around how they are, and them to you. It's more fluid, more consistently with everyone."

A musician needs to be adaptive, he says.

"The more adaptive you are the more valuable you are."

That's not to say they don't advocate lots of basic, core practice on one's own. That's where the metronome comes in.

"It's all about timing," says Curson.

"My dad kept telling me I was off. I was whiz kid on the guitar but could never keep the time."

To get his timing down, he practised with a metronome for at least two years, he says.

Kopp agrees a metronome (or a metronome app) is a must. In addition, if you are a drummer, he says, doing basic paradiddles is a must. Paradiddles are a snare drum technique in which you practise alterations between the left and right hand.

"It's very boring, very meditative, but if you do it you will scare people with what you can do."

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