JFC TALK NEW WORK, THE DEATH
OF THE MUSIC SCENE AND 'HEAVEN
IS A HALFPIPE' WITH OPM
Chances are that if you walked into any room filled with 80s or 90s kids and sung the famous chorus though, the rest of the room would sing the song right back at you. Either that or you’d get some seriously strange looks for walking into a room full of strangers and airing out your vocal chords, anyway.
The song was more than just a commercial success and an award winner. It became the anthem for a generation of skateboarders, an inspiration for a new generation to buy themselves a board, and more importantly, evidence of the size and weight of the skate movement at the time.
Since the release of ‘Heaven’ 15 years ago and OPM’s iconic debut album ‘Menace To Sobriety’, the group have dropped three more albums, three more EPs and shared stages with the likes of Iggy Pop, Limp Bizkit, Wheatus, The Bloodhound Gang and Linkin Park.
I just tapped into my childhood for inspiration when I was writing 'Heaven is a Halfpipe'. Literally daydreaming of my youth. Skating had the biggest impact on my childhood. It was my culture...
We caught up with frontman John E. Necro to talk new OPM, old OPM, and how the scene has changed since the famous release of ‘Heaven is a Halfpipe’ some 15 years ago. Needless to say, that was where we had to start.
“When we wrote [Heaven is a Halfpipe], I felt like it was going to be a hit,” admitted John. “But then again, I think every song we write is going to be a hit!
“At the time we were writing, a record label had offered us a deal based on two or three songs, but they wanted to hear a whole record. I just tapped into my childhood for inspiration. Literally daydreaming of my youth. Skating had the biggest impact on my childhood. It was my culture.
“My best memories of my childhood were spending summers out in the fields building and skating half-pipes, listening to cassettes on my boom box. I had no idea at the time I was writing a song that so many other people would relate to though. Being at the centre of that was like a high. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
While it’s been a long time since the “Heaven is a Halfpipe” release, OPM still run on the same principles. The new EP features the same feel-good, relaxed, irresistible looping reggae-meets-rock-meets-pop beats that their music has always had – it’s the SoCal way, and it’s the OPM way.
John continued: “I spent the last 15 years producing and writing professionally, and I still try to learn something new every day. I have grown a lot in that respect, which is helpful for OPM in ways, but the concept of OPM’s music is about a place less complicated. It’s a care-free, fun place. So it’s actually a challenge to not let all that growth affect it in a way that might complicate things.
“The writing and production is incredible. They are timeless tunes. They just make you feel good about yourself and aspire to do that.”
While the music of the band may still be travelling in much the same direction as it always has been, it goes without saying that the music scene as a whole is in a much different place than it was in the year 2000.
With that change, the rise of piracy and the fall of money as a result, John believes that it’s become much harder to establish any truly distinctive, stand out scenes in the modern game – to bring any identifiable sub-culture to the forefront of popular culture without contaminating it.
“People now have no idea how much money used to be around when people paid for music,” he continued. “It created empires and those empires created the scene. What exists today are not really scenes. Heavy metal in the 80’s was a scene. New wave was a scene. Punk rock was a scene. In the 90’s, alternative was a scene. Hip hop was a scene.
“Before me the 70’s had disco. The 60’s had rock n’ roll. The scenes spawned full on cultures that defined full generations. It’s hard to explain to someone who wasn’t there without sounding like an old, bitter guy talking about the good old days, but it seems like at the turn of the century, the culture started knowingly cheating, and we all know when we cheat that we only cheat ourselves.
Money created empires and those empires created scenes. Those scenes spawned full on cultures that defined generation. What exists today are not really scenes.
It’s an interesting question, and a perspective that would likely have as many backers as it would opposition. One thing is for sure though, there are still a lot of people who could look back on their CD collections from the early naughties now with pride; and see OPM among the collection.
Next for the SoCal artists? Well, the new EP drops on 25 August, and the guys will be embarking on a mega 18-stop tour of the UK shortly after, starting in Wokington on 28 October and including stops in Edinburgh and Glasgow on 2 and 3 September and in London on 18 September.
You may not have heard from OPM in a while, or more likely, you may have only been reminded of them when ‘Heaven is a Halfpipe’ dropped in on your iPod shuffle, but give the new EP a listen when it drops and we’re confident you’ll be hooked.
It’s fun, it’s feel good, and it’s catchy as hell. John and his bandmates are still making music that they love in a world where that’s becoming less and less common. That simple fact shines through in their music, and if the new songs translate as well to the live stage as they sound like they will, their tour is going to be a carnival occasion you won’t want to miss.