Imagine being a mechanic but people only ever ask you to change the tyres. Imagine being a chef but only making sandwiches. Imagine having a full pilot’s licence but driving Uber for a living.
Marvin Coppa Hay can relate. Due to years of prominence and dominance on the harder, techier drum & bass frontiers – and over 100 club-bumping features on some of the biggest labels in the genre from Eatbrain to Audioporn – he’s not always felt he’s been able to express himself as creatively as he always set out to when he cut his teeth MCing in the Leeds scene years ago.
Until now. Earlier this month saw the release of the first EP from his third album Leap Of Faith. Released on Korsakov Music, written and created by Marvin and a team of talented singers, musicians, producers and engineers he built up himself, Leap Of Faith is entirely his own vision. In his own words, it’s the first project he’s put together from the ground up… And it shows a whole other side to the longstanding Bradforn-born/Berlin-based vocalist.
That’s not to say he hasn’t teased us with his versatility before. Both his previous albums – 2015’s An Act Of Aggression and 2018’s Poetry In Motion – were laced with deeper elements and spacious and musical productions that allowed him to explore more contemplative lyrical themes and musical MC styles. Aside from drum & bass he’s also worked with labels such as Kruder & Dorfmeister’s G-Stone and Bob Sinclar’s Yellow Productions, but until Leap Of Faith, those rare moments have always been overshadowed by his major league weight. Both on stage, especially across Europe as one of neuro’s most consistent and in-demand MCs, and on supersize club collaborations.
With the rave situation still looking dire for this side of the world until at least spring 2021, there couldn’t be a better time for Coppa step away from the crowds and bangers and show his deeper musical side. But the timing is pure coincidence. A project that involves multiple talents on each track – ranging from Enei, S9 and Dean Rodell to main collaborators and co-writers N-Dread and Tom Sutcliffe – takes a lot longer than six months of pandemic. In terms of the project itself, he’s been working on it since his last album in 2018. In terms of the lyrics, the creative process and the musicality, he’s been working on this all his life.
Here’s how Coppa took the biggest leap of his career so far…
I have to ask… Is Leap Of Faith the sound of Coppa getting deep on lockdown?
No no. This was all done before lockdown. It’s the start of my third album but I realised the full album concept would take longer and these were the tracks I had ready to go. I wanted the world to hear them before the year 2035 or whenever.
True! EPs give more time to digest and give the music more longevity anyway…
And it’s a great time for that, too. The concept of the record was never to be DJ food. I have plenty of releases which have been specifically for DJs and clubs. I really wanted to put something together that I could put my artistic self into and put my own vision on. You’re limited on what you can say in a club or on a club record. It gets lost. People won’t listen to the words and nuances. I wanted to make something that connected with people on a whole different level. Then the corona sit-down happened and I felt it was a good time to push something like this out because it will be received well.
People are listening differently. Now is the time for deeper stuff.
I hope so. Korsakov felt that too when I went to them with the album and everything aligned so I could get it out this year. That was important for me.
Interestingly the last time you were on the site it was the Lights Out project with L 33 so that’s the two contrasting sides of Coppa in a way. We’ve spoken about your range in other interviews, too. When we spoke about Poetry In Motion you said you hadn’t had the opportunity to make that type of music before…
Yeah that’s right. This is the first project I’ve put together from the ground up. Putting together different producers and singers, building the songs with different engineers. It was something for the first time I had full control over and I’m really happy with how I’ve been able to express myself. I have to big up Ben Nelson, N-Dread. I told him my concept and he was very instrumental in helping me to connect with different people. He also wrote a lot of the music which we brought to different producers. Ben was very instrumental in me helping make my dream become a reality.
I think it’s really interesting how you built a team of artists and talents on this. There are many people all working on each track.
I took inspiration from the wider world of music. If you look at commercial production project credits there are multiple names on each song. Up to five or six people, sometimes more. I wanted to get that feel for this music. I know a lot of really talented people who have different strengths, so the idea was to get everyone together in a collaborative way. Mission accomplished.
A real range of artists are on board. From Madface to The Outsiders and all the singers and vocalists. You’ve all brought something different out of each other.
Yeah. A lot of the musical elements and influences were brought in by Ben and the singers as well. On the opening track Fuel, Tom helped out with melody and toplines. Between me, him and Ben we formed that song before it became a drum & bass production. Then we brought in Dean and he shaped it. I think it took eight months to take its final form.
It’s interesting. The MC is always a lone soldier but you are especially – you’re northern, you’re now based in Germany, you’ve worked in a subgenre that doesn’t have many MCs. This must have been so refreshing.
Totally. A lot of the people I worked with on this aren’t 100% associated with drum & bass all the time and that’s really important to me because you’re getting influences from different styles and cultures and backgrounds. It makes it so much more interesting.
Is this the music you’ve always wanted to write? And have you been stashing these lyrics for years waiting for the right project?
Exactly that. Nail on the head. You know the type of music my voice has traditionally been on and the topics don’t fit the soundscape. There’s no way I could articulate that over those sonic dynamics. But because of that no one really knew I was writing bars like these so wouldn’t send many beats that would fit them. So in the end I had to build the music myself.
You must have pushed yourself as a writer with these lyrics?
I had a lot of inspiration from Tom Sutcliffe. The conversations I had with him and seeing how he works was a big influence on me. We vibed with each other and he inspired me bring a lot of things to life. I’ve never collaborated with another writer before and he helped me tap into a lot of emotions that maybe I wouldn’t have tackled quite the same way. That was a very interesting aspect of collaborating that I hadn’t really anticipated.
This isn’t a new chapter – it’s a whole new book! I’m guessing by the time the full album is released it will reveal every shade and style of Coppa you want to present to the world?
Totally. Not just that but I will feel I have achieved what I was aiming to when I set out putting vocals on drum & bass music.
That’s got to be a great feeling!
It really is man. I have to make some shouts… Shouts to Patch Edison, Jess (Foreign Bloom), Apprentice and Madface for their participation and of course Korsakov Music. They were really great as label to bring the project to. They were very receptive to the concept of an vocal artist lead project. I’ve known Elmar for quite a while and he’s always super motivated and on job as a label manager and A&R which makes it an even more enjoyable experience for me as an artist working with the label. So yeah, shouts to all of them and shouts to everyone who’s supported me so far. There’s plenty more to come.