October/November 2014

by Chloe Cairncross

Ex-pat Files: Darryl Coppins

by Chloe Cairncross

Ex-pat Files: Darryl Coppins

When Darryl Coppins first got in touch with NZM from Canada, where he has been living since 2007, he was playing rhythm guitar in a punk / ’’70s hard rock band called Sound and Fury. Coppins’’ biography is filled with intriguing tit bits and Chloe Cairncross was keen to learn more about how this young Kiwi broke into the international music scene.

A year after joining Sound and Fury (from Melbourne) Darryl Coppins had played the Warped Tour, recorded most of an album, toured the East Coast of USA and was about to tour UK and Canada in support of SUM 41. The band were back in the UK at the end of 2008 supporting Airbourne. Living the dream.

A few years later ‘Kiwi-Daz’ Coppins was signed to Nelly Furtardo’’s management as a session musician, playing guitar and keys with Fefe Dobson and bass with Canadian Music Award-winning guitarist Derek Miller. He’d started working with singer/songwriter Marella Jane, writing for their own project and songs to sell. Drums, percussion and vocals are also listed among his skill set. In 2012 his focus became his own Toronto-based rock band Hard Honey, as this Facebook post reveals.

‘‘I have finally found my bearings in music and have decided to put all of my efforts into pushing my new project, Hard Honey. Although I don’’t play an instrument in the band, I am working hard with them to break them into the music scene. This is my band and I’’m going to do everything I can to make it happen.’’

In April this year Hard Honey was born again as The New Electric. Nothing’s ever as easy as it looks right?

expat on stage nzm157There was not a lot to do in Katikati for a kid growing up except surf and play music with classmates. It is a familiar story for a lot of Kiwis in small towns. ‘’Daz’’ Coppins seems to come from a lineage that is particularly comfortable with both the songwriting and performing aspects of music though.

Avid pianist? That would be his mum. Songwriter? That would be Uncle Darryl, Daz’’s namesake. His younger brother plays with Tauranga metallers Shedd. But it is dad, Paul Coppins, who seems to have exerted the most influence.

“My dads a rock and roller. His band is still playing – Iceberg. They were around in the late ’70s and they reformed 32 years later and they are smashing it. They just released an EP. They play shows all around Auckland, all original tracks, and they’’re all in their 60s.””

Music was always a natural choice for Darryl.

“Having music around me at such a young age was an influence. I think the core of it for me was having Dad send me to concerts. He took me to Def Leppard and Guns n’ Roses when I was 12 years old. Being exposed to my heroes at such a young age was the biggest influence and made me realise that that was what I wanted to do.””

Coincidental connections have since helped to progress Darryl’’s story from five years touring NZ with Mother Guru, to opening for such acts as Sum 41, Nelly Furtado and Kiss. His first job out of high school was to build and execute a music curriculum for 150 students at Omokoroa Point school. Phil Rudd (yes, the AC/DC one) had two sons at this particular school and Darryl ended up teaching them guitar, piano and music theory. A nice little vignette that anyone would enjoy relating.

His CV around that time also includes founding The Cusp New Year’s festival in Nelson and running the event for three years.

Darryl moved to Melbourne in 2005 after the dissolution of Mother Guru. He and drummer Tama Brightwell managed to network into a tight circuit of musicians and producers, including associations with Australian singer/songwriter Pete Murray. In April 2007 he was flown to Toronto to audition for a band called Sound and Fury. The successful outcome of that story becomes even cooler when you learn that 150 others tried out for the role.

“It turns out that the lead singer of the band in Toronto was a huge AC/DC fan. When he realised I’’d taught Phil Rudd’’s kids, his mind blew!””

And therein starts the journey of “…tour buses, five star hotels… the whole dream,”” with Canadian rockers Sound and Fury.

For Darryl it felt like a natural progression. He was convinced that he was already in the band as soon as the initial connections were made.

“I feel really lucky. Toronto is such a multicultural melting pot, so I didn’’t feel too alienated. I was very much welcomed in as soon as I arrived. I think the biggest challenge was being away from home. That really kicked in after the initial buzz. Also, things like friends’’ weddings and events happening back home, and I’’d just been booked on a four-week tour, so I’’m missing really important events, but it’’s everything I’’ve been working towards. Fortunately, I have really awesome friends and family who are understanding and supportive.””

In fact, it is his father’s word that continues to influence Darryl.

“My dad is my biggest supporter. He’’s always the first one to say, ‘’Just go!’’ I remember coming back from Canada at one point. I’’d been there a year and I was missing home. He saw me off again at the airport and he said, ‘‘Keep going, man. You’’re in the right place.’’ It’’s awesome just having that positive affirmation from home, it’’s priceless.”

Networking and a work ethic that involves “…keeping the human element alive in music,”” has kept Darryl active in many projects and collaborations over the years. At one point, he was in seven different bands in Canada.

“As a working, independent musician, it is much easier to sustain a living over in Toronto. I was a full-time professional musician in Canada which is a very hard task to achieve in NZ.””

expat dazz coppins band nzm157

Now married, he has pared back his commitments to focus on his collaboration with Janey Brown (Marella Jane) and his recently re-branded original band – as revealed to fans in April.

‘’The Hard Honey sound is something that we lived and breathed for so long… but it’’s time for a change,’’ the band’’s website explains. ‘’We feel that moving on from the ’’80s rock sound makes most sense to us all because we’’ve grown so much as musicians over the years, and it’s not what we’’ve found ourselves writing. Rather than completely changing the sound of Hard Honey, we want to move forward with our new direction as The New Electric. It’’s the most positive way to close an amazing chapter in our story and turn the page to a new one.’’

The New Electric expect to release their debut EP shortly, and Darryl’’s album collaboration with Marella Jane will be released in early 2015.

He’’s a guy who started with the foundations, organising his own shows to generate interest in local music. Now a widely endorsed professional musician he has had a great time of it in Canada – though wider fame and band success has perhaps been elusive. His advice for any kid wanting to follow in his footsteps?

“Do as much as you can in NZ. Tour as much as you can, it’’s a beautiful place to find your feet. And if you have that calling at all to travel the world, go for it, 100%. Have faith in it, buy that ticket and go, because, once you’’re there and amongst it, it doesn’’t take long to get involved. There will be that one gig and it will build. So keep writing, keep creating, and don’’t hold back.”