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20 years a rock star | Celebrity entertainment and news

Twenty years ago, Anchorage didn’t know a bigger rock star than Matt Hopper and his Roman Candles.

Over 100 members of the orchestra, performances in 48 states and three tours in Europe later, the rambling troubadour who borrowed his group name from Kerouac’s ode to the “fools” in “On the road”, finds himself in his hometown, serving tables at Glacier Brewhouse and is set to release his 12th album next Saturday night in Williwaw.

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The title song ‘Outskirts of my Mind’ has been in the hopper for over 15 years. Co-written with prolific poet Cameron McGill in 2006, “Outskirts of my Mind” offers Hopper the kind of space to play as a road-weary existentialist that, in another universe, might have made him the one. sixth member of the Traveling Wilburys.

“I can’t believe I’ve been sitting on it since 2006,” said Hopper of the noise of the Monday Night Football festivities at Humpy’s and the harassment of his drummer Derek Mangrobang, the oldest of all Roman Candles, now in its 12th year. “Firecracker is a good song. It’s also the name of my first EP. It’s still a nod to Kerouac, a nod to living fully and not being afraid of failure. It is also getting lost in this world; not knowing what to do, what’s next and persevering to make things happen … ‘Sentimental Love’ has been written in a whole bunch of melodies. I wrote a whole bunch of emo shit and a beautiful love song.


Recorded for three days at the studio of Matt VanDenburgh in the Seattle area, who built it to record what ended up being Soundgarden’s last record, “Outskirts of my Mind” probably best shows the diversity of the music. Hopper’s range in rock and pop, country and folk.

“It’s my Portland album,” said Hopper, who lived in Rose City from 2016 to 2018 before “a few missteps with some band mates” interrupted this period of semi-stability and sent him back on. the road until COVID comes back to that road. house in Alaska. “Chris Cornell sang on some of the microphones I sang on. It was a cool place to make a record.

Raised on the alternative rock songbook of the 1990s, Hopper began his music career as a teenager recording pop albums in his bedroom, aptly titled Bedroom Pop 1 and 2. In 1999, when he was UAA student, he and a drummer opened for a band. called Joy Electric a night at the musical theater for all ages. The next day, its drummer (Steven Ward, remembers Hopper like it was yesterday) left the band, becoming the first of what to date has more than 100 former band members to become a proverbial gash on the post of Hopper’s group leader.


Undeterred, Hopper quickly found new companions and in 2001 the Roman Candles were a hit, especially with the under-21s.

“We went from a simple band from Anchorage to playing Senior Prom in Seward. We played in Homer and Kodiak, so we started to get popular all over the state, ”Hopper recalls. “We had a show in Fairbanks and there were 200 kids at the show. We said to ourselves, “How did they find out for us?”

As the Candles gathered momentum, another group rose through the local ranks. Anatomy of a Ghost, which would become Portugal’s Grammy-winning The Man, was scheduled to tour Lower 48 with Hopper’s band when disaster struck.


“My group broke up. We totally imploded about four weeks before this tour, ”Hopper said. “We performed with this version of the band at the Borealis Theater at the Alaska State Fair. Anatomy was headline, but basically, by then, we had already broken up. We played the show and went our separate ways. “

It was now 2004 and Hopper was more committed to the Kerouac Gospel than ever and was heading out of state to get out of the game. Seventeen years of rock and roll wandering later, Hopper didn? is still not installed on a “real job” for longer than it should have.

“Anytime you settle in for too long you run the risk of becoming a ‘local group’ and once you become a ‘local group’ your value decreases,” he said. “I lived in Boise, I worked as a music booker, I had a bar, I was a graphic designer, responsible for updating websites, but it was just because my music wasn’t paying the bills. I hit rock bottom on my first European tour and only had $ 42. I just got broke. Europe was amazing. Italy was my first show, in Milan, but we were in full swing. It ruined my whole relationship. I lost the love of my life, someone I lived with for three years. It was financial. This is what started the whole problem.


Taking a $ 42 European tour would undoubtedly make Jack Kerouac proud – and Matt Hopper too.

“It’s not like I’m ahead of the game, but I’m successful in maintaining (the wandering lifestyle),” Hopper boasts. “I’ve been to Europe three times on my own, released my 12th album – the 12 self-funded albums and all paid for with money made playing music.”

Why so many ex-companions?

“Ask them.”

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Have you thought about a reunion concert with all the old Roman Candles?

“I thought about it. About 60% might show up; the other 40 don’t care.

Why isn’t there Ms. Matt Hopper?

“The road is a hard mistress; she doesn’t like competition, let’s put it that way. I have fallen in love many times and wrote songs about the women that I have fallen in love with, but at the end of the day they are in their own little world and I am in mine.

What advice would you give 20-year-old Matt Hopper?


“Don’t let your fame fade.”

Are you as famous as you would like to be?

“No, not even close. I love seeing John Gourley (singer from Portugal The Man) succeed; he’s a brilliant guy. He is Alaska’s most famous artist at this point. I would love to be on stage with 4000-5000 people with a great video behind me.

How has the rise of Napster and music streaming affected your career?


“It used to be that you could take out a CD and recoup some costs, but now you take out a record and people listen to it a few times and then 300 things that they’ll never listen to again. People would give you $ 10 for a CD, and if you could sell 300, you could cover your costs. Now you are not really recovering your costs. My costs are low because I am a wise businessman and always looking to the future … I don’t want to put my shit on Spotify just yet. I’d rather put it on Band Camp and ask people to support us for $ 10 before it’s free forever. The musical dream is dead.

How has Anchorage’s music scene changed over the past 20 years?

“I’ve completely lost track of what’s going on here. Back in Anchorage, nobody knows who we are, except the old people who don’t really go out anymore…. I’ve been gone for too long. I would love to be famous in one place again. I have some OG bluster here in Anchorage, but the scene is totally different. None of my fans live here anymore. All of my friends want to go out and see some dubstep or EDM. I see old friends of mine and they don’t want to hang out; too busy with two kids and a wife and they don’t go out at all. It’s something for people in their early twenties.

Have you reached your peak?

“I’m able to write great songs for the rest of my life, I think. This record is cool. It’s a bunch of stuff I wrote in Arizona, New York, Anchorage, a couple in Idaho, Oregon – all my trips, you know. These songs have a worldly view of them. So, no, I’m not at the top at all. I am sitting on four full discs.

What did having over 100 ex-employees teach you about management?

“You can’t control your employees. They will do whatever they want.

Have you thought about translating this management experience into better paid “real work”?

“Yes, I thought about it. I’m just not ready to give up on my own dream… I’m not about to give up for someone else’s dream. I’m 42 now, so I think I have 16, 17, 18, 30 years of life left as a performer. I don’t want to sit in front of a microphone in a recording studio. I am still very vital and relevant.

Perhaps Mangrobang best summed up Hopper’s career.

Every record he released has been good, ”Mangrobang said. “He never released something that sucks. It’s a very good record, really fantastic. He’s a fucking jerk, but he has a great catalog.

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