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Meet Joffen Hopland

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joffen Hopland.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
When I was 11 years old, I found out what the password was on my older brother’s computer. So one day he was out with his friend I snuck into his room, logged in to his computer and found a lot of videos of the band Blink-182. I started watching and I was blown away by this music, how much fun they were having on stage, saying the dumbest jokes in front of one hundred thousand people and not caring about what people were thinking. But what blew me away the most was the drummer, Travis Barker. I was doing gymnastics my entire childhood and Travis Barker was basically doing gymnastics behind the drums, which really caught my attention. It’s safe to say that this moment changed my life.

I started taking drum lessons soon after, and when I had been playing for only a few months my teacher said I should perform a drum solo at the Norwegian Youth Festivals of Art (UKM). I didn’t want to do it at first since I had just started playing, but he eventually convinced me. In UKM there are three rounds of festivals; the local festivals, the regional festivals and the national festival. Performing at the national festival is a big deal, but to get there a jury from the local level has to send you to the regional level, where another jury sends a select few to the national level. I remember I was so nervous the days leading up to the performance. I had just picked up the sticks and now I was going to perform a drum solo on a real stage in front of 500 people. But I did it, and the jury sent me to the regional level. That was a big deal and a huge accomplishment at the time. I came back every year with a new drum solo and always went to the regional festival. I didn’t proceed to the national festival until the last year I was allowed to participate because of the age limit. That was also a huge accomplishment as that had been a goal of mine through my entire teens.

I grew up in a super small town called Stryn in the fjords of Norway. It’s so beautiful there and the nature is so stunning, but the population is only about 5,000 people. That means there are limitations to what you can do and achieve. It was an amazing place to grow up in, but I always had this feeling that I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t a lonely kid or anything. I did every single sport I could do, was very social and had many friends, but on the inside I knew I was here for something more, or something different, than what my surroundings were offering me. After finding the drums I started dreaming about moving to Los Angeles to pursue it. It felt so right and I couldn’t wait to finish high school so I could finally go. I love Norway, but my gut was telling me to go to Los Angeles, so I applied to Musicians Institute in Hollywood, got accepted and flew across the pond at the age of 20.

I had only been in LA for a couple of weeks before I performed for a man named Barry Squire. He is known in the music industry for holding auditions for some of the world’s biggest artists. I had done my research and knew about him before I moved, and shortly after playing for him I got an email from a guy who used to play in a punk band but was starting a new band and was looking for a drummer. We started the band Raw Fabrics and we were going to be the biggest band in the world. We started building the band from the ground up, playing at local bars and clubs. Sometimes we played for like three people, but then we were lucky enough to record our first EP with producer Stephen Street (The Smiths, The Cranberries, Blur) and our second EP with producer Joe Chicarelli (U2, The Killers, Elton John). We rented a van and toured all over the country and we got opening slots on great festivals. We did photoshoots, music videos, interviews, we got played on smaller radio stations and eventually we sold out The Roxy on the Sunset Strip. I didn’t make a single dollar, but so many of my dreams came true. I got to be part of starting a band from scratch, going on tour and achieving a great deal with it.

Raw Fabrics lasted for about three years and when it ended I had no idea what to do. I had put all my focus, time and energy into the band. I hadn’t been playing with any other bands in a good while and I started having thoughts about giving up and moving back to Norway. It was really tough. For the first time in my life, I was depressed and lost. I never thought life could drag me this far down. But of course, I didn’t give up. I’m way too stubborn, and there was no way this was how my LA journey was going to end. I set myself a new goal: to get overbooked as a session drummer.

I started posting ads on Craigslist saying I was a professional drummer available for touring, and a few days later a manager calls me asking if I wanted to go on tour with his artist. I accepted it and this was my first tour as a session drummer and my first paid tour ever. Around the same time, a friend of mine introduced me to a Norwegian Electronic duo called Lemaitre. They had recently moved to LA and had signed a record deal with Astralwerks Records (Capitol). I became their drummer, and I went from going through the hardest time of my life to performing at Coachella in just a few months. That was insane!

At Coachella, an Albanian artist from New York performed two songs with us. I was blown away by his voice and he had just signed a deal with Republic Records. At a party later on, I walked up to his older brother and manager and told him “When you guys need a drummer, you know who to call”. Eight months later, while I was on tour in Australia with Lemaitre, he called. I became his drummer and we went on to tour all over the States and Europe, opening for artists such as Jessie J, JoJo and Dua Lipa.

Then I just started playing for more and more artists. I was getting overbooked, which was my goal. Last year I also played my first arena shows. It’s pretty surreal the first time you go on stage in a packed arena and see all the lights from people’s phones. That was with a young artist called Johnny Orlando. Another artist I play with is Rafferty. We actually played a couple of festivals in Norway, as well as Corona Capital in Mexico, and this summer I’m going on tour with Kenzie Ziegler all over the States and in Europe.

A newer goal of mine is to become a good producer. The past year I’ve been learning production between tours and shows and I really like it. One of the biggest challenges as a hired musician is the unstable income. If the artists you’re playing with aren’t touring, you’re not making money, so you need multiple revenue streams. That’s where I am at right now. Figuring out how to do this long-term, using my skills to not only play the drums, and take advantage of where I am. As a musician, you always have to think outside the box, both on the artistic side and on the financial side.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. There’s been so many times and moments where logically and financially I should’ve given up, but I kept going. Especially breaking up with my band, and transitioning into being a session drummer was a great challenge. It’s important to remember that when there’s an end, there’s also a beginning, and no matter what happens you’ve got to keep going forward and not be stuck in the past. Trying to get good at something and reaching a goal is a mind game. It’s all about how you think, how you handle difficult situations, your attitude, your perspective on life and how much you let your life situation and surroundings affect you. I think the biggest challenge when trying to achieve something, is not getting distracted and to avoid wasting time and thought on things that don’t move you closer to your goal.

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Image Credit:
Maria Noriega, Brandon F. McDade, Aaron Smith

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