Originally Published September 2022
By Liam Reynolds
Joshua Bowden’s “Audio Cirque du Soleil” is something truly out of this world.
David Copper: ‘Don’t be afraid to reach out, and just know that other people want to help your art come to life’
As you sit there on your chair, or on your sofa, or on the park bench, or perhaps you’re standing on the street waiting for your bus to arrive. You can feel it. A scent in the atmosphere, a stirring in your soul. Your spine cracks open and your eyes begin to fade. Your legs descend into the soil they rest upon. Your weight recedes under the pull that perspires from the pit which nests inside your chest. The world around you disappears. Like a veil being lifted from your bride, you can now see her face clearly. This is the “Otherside”. A place deformed and twisted. A reflection of a reflection. Similar to its counterpart, yet infinitely warped. Nonetheless, amongst the expanse. Lurking in the crevasses and cracks. Amongst the smoke which bellows from the trees, lay hordes and masses. Masses which demand only two things: Rock and Roll. But they do not demand just any old ‘Rock and Roll’. They demand it from the best damn band the “Otherside” has to offer… Babe Charlie.
It was an average winter day in Parry Sound for the young composer and musician Josh Bowden. This is where the story of ‘Babe Charlie” begins. “In the woods” he told me as we sat in my studio, chatting away the morning. Josh was staying in a remote cabin pondering all the various ways he could harness his musical gifts and passions, when, as all revelations do, it hits him. “Babe Charlie,” he said. “I was living in Parry Sound and there's not many people there so I didn't have any people to jam with, or like, have a band with. So my idea was… okay, so if you did have a band, what would that sound like? What would it be called? Where would they play?” He explained with a smile on his face. His answer to these questions is, as we know it today “Babe Charlie: Live from the Otherside”.
“Babe Charlie is a Fictional Band. The record is eight songs that play out as a concert by this band.” A fictional band, playing a live show in a fictional place, recorded in a real studio, put onto a real album. This is Josh’s vision. Josh, who currently resides in Guelph, Ontario is working closely with David Copper of Coppertone Studio to bring this fantastical, imaginative, and auditory “Cirque du Soleil” to life. To do so they are going to be accompanied by many musicians and collaborators to “elevate” this project into something that will be not only unique but truly special. Guelph musicians like Adam Bowman, Tyler Wagner and even the G.C.V.I Orchestra are all going to be working on the record alongside David and Josh.
So exactly what is the “Otherside”? I was wondering the same thing. “I mean, I guess I really needed a place for the band to play live,” Josh told me as we sipped our double doubles, “I didn’t wanna give them a spot in the real world because they’re just not actually playing in that place. Live From the Otherside for me is like… this psychedelic-esque place.” Josh goes on, “It’s a bit weirder. This place is weird, it’s not our world. It’s a flip of our world… the Otherside”. This “Otherside” would seem to be the perfect place for this intriguing fictional band to perform.
The band, made up of four core members: Levi Flounders, Cherry John, Rosie Murphy, and Jodi, will not only be accompanied by the finest orchestra in the “Otherside”. They will also have a couple surprise appearances on stage. One, Lady Osyamy, which Josh describes as being akin to “seeing the Beatles play and then they bring out Aretha Franklin''. And two, the “Boyapig” which Josh has requested I leave out the major details of its appearance. What I can say is it will be a spectacle to behold. Your ears will be eyes and you will be shocked at what you see. “The structure of the band would be… you’ve got someone on drums, you’ve got someone on guitar, piano, and bass. Yea. Some songs you'd have maybe two guitars and no piano…It’s all kinds of different sounds. Like, there are moments when it's like super ‘Pop-y’ and super like ‘okay this is catchy’ or there's moments it's a bit more, orchestral or classical. I really wanted to be diverse”.
While Josh takes lots of inspiration for this project from rock and roll artists like Zappa and Zeppelin, this album is going to be totally something else. There will be jazz influences, spoken word, and performance art littered throughout. It’s not just about music to Josh. “It’s a big outlet for me, a big creative outlet”, he describes the project as “capturing his soul”. Not only is this album a collection of amazing songs and outlandish skits, it’s also extremely personal.
“I’ve got one song that's very much like a self portrait…this whole record serves as a form of identity”. Major themes on the album include mental health, specifically depression, the war on drugs, self expression, poverty, and equal love. “There’s a song on the record that’s called The Well…it’s a commentary on mental health, specifically depression and suicide. So you’ve got this boy who falls into a well and gets further and further down this hole in the ground. And through years of being there kinda develops into something that's not… as human.” An “epic climax” in the album, the story of the boy in the well is an important crux that will really resonate with audiences. It is a story of peril and anguish, yet through this tale is born something truly splendid and equally as horrifying. I’ve been asked not to go into detail.
When asked to elaborate on the war on drugs: “I’m a firm believer in drugs. You know I think if you can use caffeine to boost your energy and make you focus more, I don’t see why you can’t take magic mushrooms and sort your shit out or find some shit that's just creative to you.” The war on drugs is another theme tackled within ‘Babe Charlie’. “So, that's called ‘Kid Culture and the March of the Sunshine Friends’.” Josh said that the goal of this song is to reduce the stigma surrounding the use of illicit drugs, as well as to encourage safe use and their decriminalization. “It's ignorance that kills”, he said. While he is an advocate for the freedom of substances, he says “I don’t think everyone should use drugs.”
“You got songs about self love…a lot of my beliefs and values are there,'' Josh iterates as our coffee supply dwindles. “If other people don’t like it, well fuck 'em, I don’t care.” Within the calamity which manifests as ‘Babe Charlie’, Josh makes it very clear that there is a concise message. He explains he’s simply trying “to make some new shit”, while stressing that it will be experimental sounding at times. “I don’t like very jarring experimental music, I’m not a fan of that. But I do think you can make those experimental and abstract choices in a sense that flows.”
To touch more on the recording process of this rapturous project, Josh introduced me to David Copper @coppersoundstudio on instagram. “We’re gonna do all the recording here [coppertone studio] and make creative decisions together about sounds and sonics and instrumentation.” David, who has been working in the industry for just over twenty years, praises the project saying, “Josh has written some really cool songs, and has a really solid idea and concept for that whole album. So it’s just about us helping him bring that to life”. Coppertone Studios, which is a Guelph-based studio, is located in David’s home. “I had moved to Guelph, and realized that Guelph is the perfect place to do what I wanted to do…we’ve really got something special in this town for sure.”
“We're also gonna be working together with a bunch of other really cool session musicians like Adam Bowman and Tyler Wagner. And so when we work together with them it’s gonna be a really nice process of having everyone in the studio together to create the backing tracks, create the atmosphere, throw out ideas and work organically like that.” David stresses that while modern recording has in some ways made things a lot easier for artists. One of the challenges to this project will be creating that “live sound” that Josh desires. “It’s not like we’re in one massive room - you know the way Sinatra would’ve made a record or something” he goes on, “We record each piece separately, and so especially with a project like this where Josh is trying to capture a very live sound, you know as if this were a concert. When we’re doing it piece by piece, we’re trying to bring that kind of energy.”
Although there will be many challenges to recording a project of this stature, David and Josh are both advocates for taking creative risks. Both Josh and David had a plethora of advice to give regarding artistic projects and passions. “I would definitely say that the myth of doing it alone is something that a lot of people have…most of the time our favorite projects, our favorite art, is like a team of people coming together to support somebody’s vision and bring it to life. So I guess part of it is like, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to lean on other people." As an artist myself, this was an unexpected and impactful take away. Oftentimes we have this idea of doing something alone. Not needing anyone else's help or ideas. A sort of artistic pride. However the interview with Josh Bowden and David Copper shed light on a more realistic image of what it means to be a modern day creative. “Don’t be afraid to reach out. And just know that other people want to help your art come to life…It really can elevate your project to a new level when you start trusting other people. In the early days of our music career sometimes we didn't.”
Josh is currently working day and night to complete this record as soon as possible. His goal is to have it out by mid 2023, however this is a tentative date as the nature of this project comes with many variables. That being said, regardless of when this comes out, Josh is a brilliant and passionate creator and “Babe Charlie” is something any music lover will be blessed to hear. You are able to keep in touch @bowchickabowden on instagram and @babecharlielive to keep in touch with the project. For the renowned David Copper you may find him @coppertonestudio on instagram or the website www.coppertonestudio.ca.