Introducing First Word Records family member, Producer, DJ and Radio Plugger Neil Bopperson. Based in Paris, Neil holds down a show on Le Mellotron as well as handling radio promotions for the seminal First Word Records (home to the likes of Children Of Zeus, Darkhouse Family, Kaidi Tatham and many more. We caught up with him for a Q&A delving into his background as a chef, and joining the dots between the two.

So Neil, you currently look after radio promotions for some really great artists – but your background is in cheffing. Can you give us a synopsis of your journey thus far.

As a young kid I always washed dishes in restaurants, they were the first real jobs I had, the money was quickly spent on skateboards or guitar strings. It wasn’t till I wound up in New Zealand at around 18/19 years old that I realised how much exposure I’d actually had to food and kitchens, so subsequently I got more serious about cheffing as an actual trade.

It took me literally around the world, working and travelling all over the place; Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand all over South East Asia. I quit the food industry a while ago to follow my true passion of music, I’m now writing this from my studio apartment in east Paris where I run my own PR company.

What made you want to get into cheffing?

I fell into it really from those early dishwashing days, then I realised that it was a ticket to travel and see the world, so off I went.

To learn culture, language, meet new people and work (pretty much,) wherever and whenever I wanted.  It was a great way to grow up throughout my twenties and it opened my mind to so much.

How did you make the decision to move into music?

It was about 7 years ago now, I was becoming a little jaded from hospitality, I was teaching cookery in London at the time. Pop up restaurant culture was becoming the thing, chefs were getting their names on music festival line ups and being labelled as these new rock stars. It just seemed to be who shouted the loudest was winning, I was over it and felt it had run it’s course with me, I’d done all I wanted to do so I got out. Plus it’s not the healthiest of lifestyles.

People told me at the time that I was mad to get out of it, saying “you could be this, you could be that etc etc” but I chose to follow my heart. I’m not the type of guy to keep doing something if I’m not into it.  And besides, music had always been a major part of my life too, having played in bands and DJed from a young age. So in when it came to a work change, it was clear choice for me really.

Was it difficult to balance these two disparate career paths?

Cooking and managing professional kitchens is a short fire, quick fix type of environment where results are quickly realised. Raw ingredients are delivered, prepared and rattled out on pretty plates all within a matter or hours. Whereas with music, PR, releasing albums and building artists is a far slower and more strategic process. It’s taken me a while to grasp that, but in turn it’s taught me a whole different type of work approach.

Has moving to Paris opened up a new world of culinary / music possibilities for you? Can you give us a few tips?

Musically yes some great possibilities, I’m in a fortunate position where I work with French artists assisting with their promo to the UK and then visa versa from the UK to France. Food wise, Paris is definitely behind London on trends, but I’m cool with that, as Paris seems to be too.

Food wise, Paris is definitely behind London on trends, but I'm cool with that, as Paris seems to be too.

Trends are trends by definition and for that very reason they come and go. The simple things done really well will always be around though. Give my some tomatoes from my mother in laws garden with a bit of rock salt any day of the week over the latest overpriced flash fad.

One thing I also admire here, is how working in hospitality is a respected trade and for all ages too. Take a father of three in his fifties perhaps, he could serve you lunch and be telling you about seasonal produce or the cooking methods used. All this whilst looking after a terrace packed full of hungry people and he be doing a really damn good job of it too… Where as back in London you maybe served by a slap dash forgetful student who doesn’t care less as to what’s what, it’s just a part time job for some pocket money. There’s an honoured sense of tradition here in Paris which I’ve come to admire.

What’s been on your playlist recently?

So much….  Lots of good stuff coming out of Australia right now, Mildlife, Godtet and Laneuos all releasing great music. The new jitwam LP, the recent Jouis album is great a more psych tip. The recent Al Dobson Jr LP is amazing example of the current beats scene but with an earthy feel to it.

Djeuh Djoah & Nicholson are a great act out of France, as are Dowdelin. Then in terms of club stuff, all the CoOp Presents releases are bang on point.

What tracks would amp you up for long dinner service?

I’m still in touch with some chefs who I worked with in a rowdy place in Manchester, I was head chef there for a while. Whenever I’m up there DJing nowadays, the boys will always swing by the dance and ask me to play Can, or Nine Inch Nails or something equally as abrasive. So it was that sort of stuff we were listening to I guess, to get us through those busy Sunday lunch services!

In other parts of the world I’d listen to more mellow stuff during the daytime before we went into service. The majority of kitchens I worked in wouldn’t have music on during service, so throughout the day, it was a nice time to get inspired when preparing the food. I remember listening to Jarope de Palo when I worked in Seville and a lot of Pedro Abrunhosa or Cesaria Evora when working in Portugal.

What’s the most memorable gig you’ve been to?

Seeing Roni Size/Reprezent project live in 1997 springs to mind. I was studying music tech at college at that time, so seeing how computerised dance music could be performed in a live jazz format like that was pretty game changing for me at the time.

Any guilty musical pleasures?

I’m not a fan of the word guilty pleasures in the musical sense, but I get what you’re after here.

Blondie’s greatest hits LP is sing-a-long gold if you need to do the housework in a hurry.

Who were the most interesting people you cooked for?

Will Smith and his whole family were very complimentary when I cooked for them once in Mayfair. They were in town as Jadan Smith was premiering The Karate Kid film, so around 2010 I guess. They asked me some pretty informed questions that I wasn’t expecting about how I’d made the fresh pasta, they put me on the spot which caught me a little off guard!

Can you send me a track choice to add to our Spotify playlist?

About The Author

Josh Byrne

Josh Byrne

Head chef at both High Praise and XVI Records, Josh has been involved in releasing and promoting electronic music for the past ten years. Currently handling PR & Radio for a number of labels, Josh also DJ's by night - and consults for creative agencies on trends within music subcultures, providing up to date insights from the forefront of the scene.

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