We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick Cooper, the drummer and producer of Free Radicals, and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
On stage, Free Radicals is usually pumping up the crowd with instrumental music, but on our recordings, we take strong stands against racism, war, and injustice.
Other musicians might try to lay low on controversial issues so as not to alienate potential audiences and listeners, but that’s never been our path. Even when we talk about political issues like racism, we’ve chosen not to just make safe, easy, ‘racism is bad,’ type statements, but to explicitly denounce white supremacy.
We may lose some fans, but it connects us with the social movements in the streets that we want to support. We were hired to do a marching band performance for an oil industry dinner one night, and then we played the protest outside a board meeting of one of the same oil companies the next morning!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
For musicians, like anyone else, there are some universal things to avoid, such as heroin, cocaine, and motorcycles Then there are the universal things to embrace such as dental floss, vegetables, and exercise. But in particular for bands….
We have musicians in their 20s, musicians in their 90s and every decade in between, and one thing that makes it possible for us to create together on stage and in the studio is that were all trying to make each other sound better. The idea of a rockstar personality who wants to be the center of attention, and treats others badly, simply wouldn’t cut it with us. We don’t care if you’re the greatest soloist since Coltrane — uplift your band mates!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
One of the first things you’ll want to do when you hit the streets in Houston is to go to a protest at the house of our local corrupt Senator Ted Cruz who lives in the River Oaks neighborhood. We have performed a couple times at protests on his sidewalk, hosted by environmental and human rights groups for his various failings for all Texans, including his infamous secret escape plan to Cancun during the deep winter freeze that killed Texans in their beds, thanks to Ted Cruz’s donors’ deregulated power grid.
Next you want to head out to the Break Free Hip Hop School where young people learn incredibly valuable lessons on the five elements of hip-hop, especially break dancing. Break Free is a Houston treasure, with caring and supportive teachers and a nurturing environment.
In the evening, make sure to hit up Houston Food Not Bombs, where volunteers have been sharing vegetarian and vegan food with hungry people in the streets for over 25 years. Houston mayor’s have criminalized many aspects of homelessness, but Houston Food Not Bombs has stood strong, delivering nutritious meals to desperate people.
For live local music, make sure to hit up Avant Garden, which has been a home away from home for Free Radicals for decades.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Free Radicals would like to share our spotlight with three other incredibly funky bands in Houston. First, we’d like to mention the Kashmere Reunion Stage Band. They have been holding down the heavy funk since before we were born! Next, our brothers Bayou City Brass Band (https://instagram.com/bayoucitybrassbandofficial) are incredible musicians and really incredible guys. Lastly, The CITY (instagram.com/thecityweparty) can bring the party like no one else!