OPM join a distinctive list of musicians in denial of their substance related wordplay: think XTC while they’re making plans for Nigel or Lennon claiming that ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ (LSD) was about a painting by his son Julian (it probably was). According to lead singer John E. Necro, OPM stands for “Open People’s Minds”. We caught up with the man responsible for ‘Heaven is a Halfpipe’ in anticipation for the band’s gig at Exeter Castle this Tuesday.
For a band that precedents the ideology of freedom (he tells me about his Bob Marley tattoo, “he is such an inspiration to me”), getting high and being somewhere a world away from regulation and leadership, a castle might seem like a strange venue to play. Despite its building on the grounds of rebellion. Exeter is a regular stopping ground, though: “We are good friends with the band Idiom who are from Exeter so we have spent a lot of time with them here. We’ve played the Cavern a few times over the years too. We love it there!”
“Heaven is being somewhere warm with family. Surfing all day and drinking rum all night.”
The reputation of OPM in the UK is something quite different from their reception elsewhere. Their debut single ‘Heaven is a Halfpipe’ charted worldwide and won Kerrang!’s Award for Best Single in 2001, above Weezer and Linkin Park. They are somewhat untouchable in the hearts and minds of a generation. I can’t help but ask about the song, and if being a part of so many current teenager’s musical childhood will ever really be normalised for the band: “The song’s still a trip for us. It’s so cool to be a part of something that has had that impact on so many people.” I then asked him if he believes in heaven, and a fitting answer followed: “Heaven is being somewhere warm with family. Surfing all day and drinking rum all night. Yes, I believe in it.”
A massive European tour has just been announced, and having played everywhere from Dover to Japan, he still says its the UK where he feels most at home: “It’s the best for us just because of the support we get here. And we love traveling here, it’s a lot of fun.” But an EP is scheduled to be released very shortly, so I ask how the studio and the road weigh up against one another: “I really love the studio, it’s my home, but the road is like a drug, and getting on stage every night is like a dose. The hangovers are brutal though.”
“The studio is my home, but the road is like a drug, and getting on stage every night is like a dose. The hangovers are brutal though.”
The LA quartet define themselves somewhere in the crossover between hip hop, rock and reggae, flirting with and combining a lot of genres. Necro doesn’t relate to this genre shift purposefully, however, more personally as a natural progression: “I’ve never really thought of it as keeping the fans on their toes but more just to keep pushing ourselves in expanding our horizons.” I ask what the new EP’s like, he laughs: “It’s really good. I think it’s a good representation of where we are now in our lives. We plan on releasing one of the tracks on the re-master release of Menace to Sobriety as well. It was track we did that never got released but I just ran across it and thought it would be cool to do.”
Once the tour’s complete, it’s back to the studio to work on some more music, before setting up for the road once more. But before we wrapped things up, I had to ask once more about ‘Heaven is a Halfpipe’, does he still skate? Immediately, it became a solemn metaphor for “all things go”, childish fancy slowly being beaten down by the altruistic, abrasive realities of the real world: “I blew out some discs in my back and have scoliosis. Skating is too hard on my body now.”
OPM play Exeter Castle with Idiom, I Divide and guests on Tuesday 22 September. Tickets can be purchased here.