The following interview with Swoop appeared in BMA Magazine ahead of their concert in Canberra of March 1996.
Friday afternoon and Phil Donahue is discussing the benefits of mushroom tea. As the credits roll down the screen too quickly to read, my telephone rings. The voice of Swoop’s kinetic frontman Roland Kapferer explodes out of the earpiece. He talks wildly, leaping between subjects and barely finishing sentences. Life flows out like a list of pop references, Valentine’s Day has left him feeling like Robert Smith from The Cure. His throat sounds husky (“Oh, I just can’t stop shouting” he explains) and perhaps it won’t survive the interview - there is no choice but to take a hold of the conversation and get some answers.
Define the funk for me Roland.
“What is the funk? The funk is like woxo. We called our album The Woxo Principle for exactly the same reason, because it’s a kind of nonsensical word. It means absolutely nothing, and so therefore it can mean just about anything. As a word it’s like the non sense that sits at the birth of meaning, and I ‘spose, for exactly the same reason, funk is a great word for us too. I’ve had arguments with people for saying anything can be funk. That’s one of the greatest things because it creates a sense of freedom. There isn’t an attitude or a physicality involved, it’s more often associated with some kind of rhythm, or dance sort of thing, which is very much what we are interested in. ...The main thing is it can mean anything...It can also be Oasis, y’know ‘What’s the story (morning glory)’, that can be a funk song as well, if you just break down some of those barriers. Prince showed that...a lot of his songs really broke down what is rigidly defined as funk music, and I ‘spose we tried to show that as well. That’s why we called the album The Woxo Principle, it’s a kind of paradoxical, non meaning, zero signifier, sort of thing we try and do”.
So the title is open space for the listener to put their own meaning of woxo?
“Yeah. I guess that’s one way of looking at it. It’s all things to all people. As long as there’s a kind of tension. Josh, the guitar player in Swoop, and I are thinking of writing a PhD on it, working on the notion of tension in music, we’re going to try and write a thesis on it. I don’t know, I’m going on about nothing at great length here”.
Which is exactly what you would have me believe the funk is all about. Do you think Freud would have connected funk with sex?
“Yeah Freud would say it’s about sex but I’m starting to disagree with Freud, even though I used to be a big psycho analysis guy. I was constantly worried that everything I was trying to do was to have sex with my Mother. I still think I’ve got a pretty big Oedipus complex and I’m just going to try and get away from that. I am worried though, has every girlfriend I’ve ever had been a replacement for my Mother? In some ways I suppose they have”.
I’d say most of my girlfriends remind me of my Mum at least a bit. It could be worse though, she’s a great standard to compare them against.
“That’s awful. I’m not putting your Mum down or anything Jason, but that’s awful”.
Speaking of girls, you should see the two beautiful examples walking down my street at the
“That’s what I hate about not sitting there doing this interview with you, it’s not interactive like that. I’m into this whole multi media thing. I need to have the words but I also need to have the vision. I need to be able to click on two hot babes walking by your window, who look like my Mother”.
So do you miss your Mum on tour?
“Yeah, I’m going to write one of those funk road songs like Bon Jovi. The film clip will have me staring out the window of an aeroplane with the rain pouring down, going on about how hard it is on the road sort of thing. That’s what I want to do next”.
Swoop’s touring schedule makes them sound like a nomadic tribe.
“Yep, we’re nomads. A band of nomads on a winding flight across Australia...”
...No, I like the idea you keep moving with the seasons, on to better harvests, picking up the fruits of your labours...
“This is great talking to you Jason. I’ve found myself”.
Flattery will always get you a good article Roland, but tell me, what is the highlight of your career thus far?
“Gee, I’d say meeting Billy Joel. I just recently did some parascending with Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise, that was great. I’d say the highlight thus far, other than meeting the big stars you read about, that is before they tire of me and flick me off, Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise that was a great one but I’d say the real highlight, the ultra highlight, is actually playing to increasing numbers of people. That’s great. We’re getting very big audiences these days and that’s what I’m doing it all for, aside from the huge millions of dollars that don’t seem to be coming my way...We are very much oriented towards playing live, that is our thing. We’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s very difficult for us to get used to studios and recording things, we’re still learning about that. Playing live and getting some sense of performance, that’s the ultimate high I ‘spose, oh other than Ecstasy”.
What a coincidence I remark and my next question starts Roland on a very long winded and tall story about how Michael Gudinski, head of Mushroom records, phoned up the other day and ordered him to develop Peter Andre style abdominals or quit the label. He soon catches up with himself and tries excusing himself to make a dozen more calls this afternoon.
What already? I whinge. You haven’t given me a chance to ask my tough question. You’re wimping out on me Roland.
“All right, give it to me. Give me the big one” he dares.
OK, if I was to be really mean and harsh, I’d argue that Swoop plagiarise chunks of other people’s music. What would you say?
“Of course! The great Boy George from Culture Club said that’s all that pop music is, and we are all Boy Georgians in way or another. No, to be quite serious for a second, I think the notion of originality in pop music is really outmoded, and very 70s. The difference between originality and creation is that originality is to do with god, and Christianity, earth and all those things to do with unique and self foliation and narcissism or something like that. But we are actually very much into creativity, which happens in a group, where different things are combined. Different combinatory forms is what we’re interested in and that’s what we do. There’s a song on The Woxo Principle called ‘Ethemora’, which everyone always says “Oh that sounds like a Jackson Five song”, which it does, there’s no doubt about it. We went out to sound like a Jackson Five song. But it also sounds like other things that other people have put in. All the lyrics are fiendishly ripped off from a poet called W. B. Yeats, and there is actually a poem by him called Ethemora. Which no one else seems to pick up. All these people who accuse us of ripping things off aren’t well read or well listened enough to pick up all the references. We’re quite happy for people to go through and find references to things, just as long as they don’t do it in the kind of negative sense of “These guys are just doing that”, because we’re not just doing that. We’re putting things together in different combinations and that’s the really important thing we do. That’s what creation is”.
Is Swoop a big blender?
“A huge blender in many ways, hey do you want some champagne Jason? We really do need an interactive interiew. It seems you’ve got the girls and I’ve got the drink”.