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Progressive Rock Interviews


Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Copernicus from 2009

Copernicus’ music is made up of varied groups of musicians from 5 to sometimes 20 all improvising their parts. The music is inspired by the lyrics and the music inspires the lyrics. In one nonstop recording session, the group will record from 20 to 45 separate pieces. Copernicus picks the recorded pieces and mixes the music. If the recorded piece does not inspire Copernicus, it goes into the bin. There is a closet filled with hundreds of recorded pieces of lyrics and music that no one has ever heard except Copernicus. Copernicus’ music attempts to be unique and moving and intelligent with no thought of pleasing any audience. Copernicus’ job is just to tell the truth as he sees it. The reactions of the audience are irrelevant to that expression.


You are billed as a poet – does the poetry come first for you then?

Copernicus’ work is not poetry, but it is poetical. Poetry is a difficult discipline unto itself. Copernicus has poetry in his blood and strives to use poetry in the ultimate expression of his ideas just because in many cases poetry is more effective than prose. Also, great poetry is often so complicated that very often poetry specialists fight with each other over what the poet was trying to say. Copernicus wants to be easily understood. Any great lines of poetry in a Copernicus album come from the demands of his poetical subconscious and are appropriate additions to the ultimate statement of the theme.


How much of a hand do you have in the actual musical creation portion?

Sometimes, Copernicus will give a hint to the musicians at the beginning of a piece as to where the lyrics are going and sometimes Copernicus might suggest a specific musician to start a piece and sometimes Copernicus will take over the lead direction of a piece. Other than those items, the musicians are on their own of course always with the ultimate direction of Pierce Turner, if he is present.. Larry Kirwan, considered to be the mother of Copernicus music and Pierce Turner, the father, often is also a substantial influence in the direction of a piece. In disappearance, George Rush, the tuba/bass player actually took over a portion of the piece, "Revolution," and gave direction to the piece with the full respect of the 13 musicians in the room.

In disappearance, there were 23 pieces recorded that session. It was Copernicus’ job to pick the pieces that would go on the album and then supervise the mixing of the pieces. On this album, we were fortunate to have the great James Frazee as both recording and mixing engineer.


If you weren't involved in music, what do you think you'd be doing?

I would be writing books of real poetry and also books of prose on philosophy something like my 2001 published book, Immediate Eternity.


Copernicus is really not about music or poetry, but about ideas and the evolution of thought. Music and poetry are a byproduct of the thought. The musicians often inspire the thought and feed the thought. However, I have no special individuals that I would like to work with other than the ones that I have worked with already and the ones that I will come to know and do not yet know who have the talent to be intelligent improvisers.


Who do you see as your musical influences?

Copernicus is ignorant about music. I do not especially listen to music or think about music. I think about the atom and its importance to the human illusion. This is why when you listen to a Copernicus record, you are listening to improvised music chosen and mixed by a musical ignoramus. Voila. Great improvising musicians under superb direction having a musical ignoramus mixing their sounds who is not able to copy anybody else equals original music.


What about your influences as a poet?

I recently gave a credit to Larry Kirwan who had stated that my lyrics appeared to be influenced by the poet, Dylan Thomas. I asked him how he knew that. He said he just knew. He had hit the nail on the head. Now, everybody knows. I hate being influenced. It’s like an inescapable aggravating addiction subconsciously attached to your brain like a magnet. It’s a form of slavery. Honestly, if you want to be an original artist, no matter in whatever form of art, it might be better to never see, listen, or hear other artists. I have always known this from day one.


Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It’s been said by the major labels that it’s essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales – would you agree?

Are you asking me if theft is harmful? I answer, "Yes. Theft is harmful." Just as in the 18th century, you could be placed in a European prison for stealing a piece of bread; today, I would place in an American prison any thief who stole the proceeds of a struggling artist. These marauding insatiable downloaders or freeloaders are stealing the seed that creates the light that reveals the many paths to travel. They are stealing the seed that has the power to show them the many paths to travel. When you steel the seed of your artists, all you will get will be entertainers and intellectual paralysis. I would put these downloaders in prison for a week and then hang them in prison with a televised hanging on CBS. Let’s see how quickly the downloading would stop. Illegal downloading is a very destructive crime and must be stopped. The above punishment appropriately fits the crime.

I would also put the heads of all major labels into the same prison. When these major studio chiefs had their chance, they could have taken some of the money made by their entertainers and encouraged real artists, but they concluded, real artists do not make much money. (They were wrong about that.) The public has become more sophisticated. They continued to create the corrosive "pop" culture with all of the tattooed clowns and colorful clothing and tall black boots with metal rings hanging from their bodies.


In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

All fans should be searched when they leave a concert for possession of illegally made recordings. If found possessing such recordings, they should be placed in prison and hung.


What’s ahead for you? How has the new CD been received so far?

If you Google Copernicus disappearance, you will see the enormous amount of global reaction to the CD. From Uzbekistan to Rome to Buenos Aires to Paris to London to Los Angeles to Romania, this CD and the availability of the Internet has given Copernicus hope and a ray of light coming through a dark tunnel. I hope to find another album in the Water Music recording session and also another album that I recently noticed in a 1998 recording session with Harlem musicians which I had previously discounted. In January, 2010, we will be releasing the remastered first three albums, Nothing Exists and Victim of the Sky. Deeper will come later.


Since you are a poet, I would think you are a literary person. What have you been reading lately?

My reading is the Wall Street Journal every day, and all of the science magazines like Scientific American and Science magazine and I am finishing up Understanding the Universe by Don Lincoln and about to start the Holographic Universe by Leonard Susskind.


Who are your favorite poets? What about your favorite authors and/or books?

I do not regularly read poetry anymore or books other than anything to do with science. I do read a history and world archeology periodical. I am presently discounting the so-called past production of writers because they all have the same mentality of defining reality through their bare senses and all the dribble which that fallacy produces. I am trying to understand the microcosm and am presently really reading the production of my own thoughts as this wobbly bowl of jelly on my shoulders interprets the microcosm. The productions of my mind are really interesting to me. Most of the time we do not know what we know. It is necessary to get what we know out so that it can be seen. Sometimes, poems that I had written years ago, I only come to understand now. There is an element in our brain that the mind does not have contact with and that element is smarter than our mind. This really is the payoff for being an artist.


If you were a superhero, what music person (or literary) would be your arch-nemesis and why?

I am a superhero and my arch-nemesis are the bureaucratic heads of all organized religions without exception. If we cannot legally cut off their heads, then we must require them to pay taxes. The second action for them would probably be the most painful. They are holding back the intellectual and philosophical evolution of humanity! And, they are holding back globally. This cancer is not only in the U.S. The time to stand up against them has come.


If you were to put together your ultimate band, who would be in it?

Pierce Turner on synth, Thomas Hamlin on drums, Fred Parcells on trombone, Raimundo Penaforte on violin, Cesar Aragundi on guitar, Dave Conrad on bass, and Larry Kirwan to do whatever he wants to do.


If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view, who would be playing?

I really do not listen to music and do not know about bands. I generally do not find the music produced by today’s copycat bands to hold my attention. Sorry. I would just let Copernicus go on stage for 4 hours and blow the crowds away.


What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?

The last CD I bought was a CD by Ray Charles. I bought that because a buddy of mine from Ecuador asked for it when he was in my home, and I did not have it to play. Basically, for good or bad, I only listen to Copernicus and sometimes, Pierce Turner.


What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

The last concert I went to and enjoyed was Pierce Turner at Joe’s Pub in New York City.

MSJ: Your new album, disappearance, is a concept album - and the concept if I'm understanding it correctly is in a way looking at science as a religion and finding that as a scientific reality we are so insignificant as to not exist at all. Is that fairly accurate? And if so, isn't that a bleak and depressing way to look at the world?

Finally, you are getting into what Copernicus is all about – thought - ideas. First, every Copernicus album may be considered a concept album in that Copernicus strives to work around some theme that unifies the album. Copernicus albums are not just a collection of individual unrelated pieces. Copernicus tries to say something with each album and that something is summarized in the discography page of Copernicus’ website.

Now, here is your choice. Jesus was born of a virgin etc., or, you evolved from an explosion called a Big Bang where all of the matter of the Universe was concentrated in the amount of space that a proton takes up. Which do you choose - ancient religion or modern science? Or, do you have a third choice?

For me, I would rather believe in the first. It is sort of believable that Jesus, who was the Son of God, would not have to have the penis of some sweaty carpenter stuck into his mother and have to undergo the union of carpenter semen to the virgin mother’s egg in order to get onto the planet. It is believable that God would send an angel and the angel would put the whole embryo into the virgin mother’s womb and she would carry the growing embryo around for nine months as it grew and then was born. That is a class act. I mean God did a lot of things and certainly could send his Son to Planet Earth to save the human creatures on that planet from the fires of Hell because those creatures were not fulfilling the will of God. They were all being born with sin, the sin committed by the first humans who had disobeyed God’s will who had by such disobedience condemned their children to Hell by causing them to be born with sin on their eternal soul. This is believable.

Certainly, the above story is more believable than the current scientific story starting the Universe with the Big Bang which after 300,000, years atoms evolved which atoms composed all of the observable matter in the Universe including the fleshy bodies of humanity. And of course, these atoms are spinning around at the speed of light forcing every human body to never actually remain the same ever. That reality was in the subatomic, a place that bare human senses could not perceive. Up to here, I go with virgin birth etc.

And then, incredibly, six years after my birth and with six years of mind control in my head, humanity invents the atomic bomb. They take the amount of uranium contained in a paper clip and split apart the atoms in the paper clip and release the energy in that insignificant amount of matter and first, blow up Hiroshima and then, Nagasaki, both large and important Japanese cities. Now, this is unbelievable almost mythical. This is more than mythical. This is crazy! Only a drunken moron would believe that the energy in the matter in a paper clip could create an atomic bomb. Yet, I have been to Hiroshima and those people have photographs that something bad happened there in 1945. 100,000 dead in a moment - more burned by radiation. In 1905, this physicist named, Albert Einstein, said that energy can actually be measured by multiplying the amount of mass you have by the squaring of the speed of light. The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second so squaring that is a really big number and multiplying that by a small amount of mass shows that mass has a lot of energy in it. In fact all mass is just another form of energy. Mr. Einstein gave a formula, E=MC2. All of this is provable stuff, provable by our bare human senses. It was proved by the making of the atomic bomb and of course by using that bomb on people.

 Then, these scientists starting making atomic colliders where they would take small subatomic particles and smash them together and predict ahead of time what would happen and when they collided the particles, protons, together, their predictions came true! Holey moley Andy! This atomic stuff is predictable and can be observed by bare human senses with the aid of special instruments.

 Now, once you can think up an idea and predict the future outcome of that idea and that future outcome is observable by the bare human senses with the aid of special instruments, that world becomes more believable than virgin birth etc. because only Egyptian pharaohs and Jesus Christ were ever born of a virgin, but modern man has never experienced virgin birth other than the arguments of many modern young "virgins" who have given birth and swore that they never had experienced sexual relations. Virgin birth and rising from the dead are really just theories that have never been proven by observation.

 So this group of guys, called scientists, who theorize and then prove their theories through direct observation begin to kick the butt of ancient mythical creative thinkers whose myths cannot and have never been proven by observation. The trick here is the proof. Who do you believe in- the ancient mythical writers who have never proven their myths or the modern theoretical scientists who have proven their incredible theories? That really becomes the choice. Mythical religions or modern science really become the choice if you care about knowing the truth. Of course, if you do not care about knowing the truth, then it does not matter. Just fill your belly, accumulate as much material wealth as possible, and make as many babies as possible.

 However, if you give up on the myth and go the way of the modern scientific road, you have to believe that your body is made up of atoms spinning at the speed of light that your body never remains the same which thus prevents you from existing and thus if you do not exist that means that you are not here because there is no you and therefore you cannot die because you are not here because there is no you and therefore you are now free of a lot of false baggage like current concepts of life, death, present, past, future, and identity.

 All of the above sounds like freedom to me. It represents the freedom to be the expression of every moment without carrying any false intellectual baggage. It’s like having two computers. One has a virus in it and the other is free of the virus. The virus is the false intellectual baggage placed into the computer by whomever for whatever reason. Being free of the virus, creates a freedom that makes every moment a heaven of expression just letting the atoms do their thing with no illusionary "you" virus to get in the way. It is an exciting pure liberating event at every nonexistent moment like eternally making love to the atoms. This is a paradise. The trick is to find the paradise and understand the paradise through the muck of 5,000 years of imposed viral ignorance.

 Consequently, sir interviewer, when you ask, "And if so, isn't that a bleak and  depressing way to look at the world?" I answer that it is bleak and depressing to not free your mind from the outmoded thinking of determining reality with your bare human senses to not enter into the microcosm even though the world about you is lost in their bare senses blind like zombies of ignorance never taking the reality of the microcosm and all of its implications into account. Wake up! I have just brought you to the water. All you have to do now, is drink.


Are there any final thoughts you’d like to get out there?

Yes that Copernicus is about thought and the evolution of thought, and music and poetry are just a byproduct of the expression of thoughts. The full discography of Copernicus can be found on Copernicus’ web site.

Nothing Exists (1985)

Victim of the Sky (1986)

Deeper (1989)

Null (1990)

No Borderline (1993)

Immediate Eternity (2001)

La Eternidad Inmediata (2001)

Immediate Eternity II (2005) -5-


La Eternidad Inmediata II (2005)

Die Sofortige Ewigkeit II (2005)

L'Éternité Immédiate II (2005)

disappearance (2009)

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at
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