Hot Water has been a jigsaw since 2006. It didn’t start out as a normal band with 5 dudes jamming and sweating in a dingy room. Donovan Copley (DC) used to be a waiter. One day he was asked what he did for a living, and he responded by saying that he was a waiter, at which the gentleman who asked him responded, “What are you waiting for?” The question clearly resonated with the Hot Water frontman and he started pursuing his music career. It was an experiment in trying to earn an income by following his passion. That was 10 years ago. Today he plays full-time for one of the more popular South African bands. What’s on in Cape Town (WOICT) caught up with Donovan after Hot Water’s show at the Cape Farmhouse in Scarborough on April the 21st 2012.
WOICT: Great show today. You must be happy with the 500 strong crowd?
DC: Yeah. This is the furthest venue south for music on the African continent. It has a really good atmosphere. Where we’re rooted is in the south, the deep south.
WOICT: You’ve played here a few times…
DC: We’ve played here for a number of years. Music has been happening at the Farmhouse for a long time, but there was a revival around 6 years ago, and we were one of the first bands to kick start it.
WOICT: Hot Water is a hybrid of musical styles, mixing blues with traditional African music. How did that come about? What inspired you?
DC: Blues comes from the south. It’s the root. There’s a lot of energy that stems from that root, in both America and Africa. It started with a feeling. It’s about drawing out that feeling – as if from deep in a well – and presenting it to the listener.
WOICT: What bands/musicians/artists brought about that feeling?
DC: On my way driving to the venue I was thinking about peak experiences in my life related to music. I remember being 9 years old, and my family lived in the States for a brief time. We were on this farm and I put on a traditional African record and something happened, like a spiritual experience. I questioned that feeling. I never used to listen to much African music when I was younger. It was an isolated and life-changing experience.
WOICT: Does the song Going Home have something to do with that scenario?
DC: Uhh no. Going Home took 3 years to write. The first line questions my sanity. Am I crazy to follow this passion, this calling? People around me were saying that the industry is tough and one can’t really make a living. I make a living from playing original music now, so that’s not entirely true.
WOICT: Can you elaborate on the use of unique instruments in your live show?
DC: It’s a coming together of like-minded people. Everyone brings their own flavour to the sound, and this includes bringing various instruments to enhance that flavour, like the steel-pan drum or the extensive percussive section.
WOICT: From what I can tell, you are the music you play. You live it. It’s nice to see such passion in spades.
DC: The core of Hot Water is about what it means to be South African, and we are in a transition phase I feel. It’s a very interesting place… There’s an energy but there’s also a darkness. It’s a mix. Something is going on here.
WOICT: You try to encapsulate that in the music?
DC: I think it happens naturally. It starts out on a personal level and gets reflected into the band. I have a diverse background. It’s about integrating ‘me’ at the very primary level. What am I? That’s reflected in the music. I’m not English, Afrikaans and African… I’m in the middle, somewhere in between.