Darren Speaks


My article/interview with Cocktail Nation’s Koop Kooper…which appears on his fabulous website.  Listen in to his podcasts every weekend…the finest in Lounge & Exotica music…and sterling interviews and fun features!!     www.cocktailnation.net  


Koop Kooper: Lounge Titan Of The Airwaves

By Darren Long

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Koop Kooper for a Tiki Magazine article called, “Q & A With The Podcast Kings.” Due to space restrictions, many questions and answers ended up on the cutting room floor. I’m here to remedy that right now. Pour yourself a Blue Martini and enjoy the ride through Koop’s’ cool world.

And of that world, Koop says, “It’s me at my finest and worst. From a swank lifestyle with nice cars, swank apartments, and the Boeing Boeing lifestyle. But I don’t just throw on a smoking jacket and get a picture with some pinup gals to make me look cool.” Koop takes his image seriously, stating, “Too many people play at a lifestyle and don’t actually live it day in and day out.”

Of course music plays a huge role in Koop’s life. And that can be swingin’ or sad…just like one of his favorite artists, Frank Sinatra. “The music is often very sad, very isolated and really can touch you when you are feeling down. It really compliments the sadness and it sits along side of you as it helps you justify the lonely times. Of course it can also perk you up when it’s time to shake the shackles and throw on a tux and get swinging.” I bet Frank and Koop would’ve been best of pals, based on that shared philosophy.

I asked Koop what makes his home of Sydney, Australia such a cool city. “Sydney is the most happening place in Australia. It’s the place with all the money; it has the best views and really has the best of everything Australia has to offer. I’m not a native of Sydney, but it’s a place I fell in love with as soon as I came here. It does have its bad points like most big cities, like its high crime, some government corruption and God awful traffic. I often think of it as a pretty girl who hasn’t had to work on her personality. Nice to look at and be seen with, but the reality is that she is only interested in herself and has very little substance. It’s also the entertainment centre of the country and has a little of LA in her and a little NYC in her. Makes for an interesting place to live.”

Speaking of Sydney and its Tiki scene, Koop responds…”Sadly, we don’t have a Tiki Bar in Sydney anymore. A guy started one briefly a year ago and it failed terribly. It’s mostly because he refused to listen to me and really embrace the culture. Instead, he bought all of his fittings from ‘Square Joe’ stores and filled the bar with the hip young things and their chill out music. There was no Tiki, no Exotica, and guess what?…no money. I’m pretty sure I saw him outside the lobby of my building pan handling with a Tiki mug. The Tiki Gods can be pretty harsh on people who screw up their product.”

“The main place I like these days is the Tiki Bar and Lounge in Richmond Melbourne. Great people who are the real deal.” Koop’s favorite cocktail there? “They do a mean Mai Tai, but then who doesn’t! I love Tiki drinks but my choice drink is always the Blue Martini.”

Swinging back to music for a minute, Koop mentions some favorite vinyl LP’s he’s currently enjoying. “Picked up Bob Thompson’s “Sound of Speed’ album as a re-release recently, and I just love its cover and sound. It might be a repro, but it’s nice to have in the collection. I also love the recent Martini Kings compilation, “Palm Springs Serenade’. Great sounding album, plus I was asked by the guys to do the liner on the back of the album, which was a real honour.”

It seems only fitting to wrap up this article with a question regarding another smooth, suave gentleman in a tux; James Bond. “I wouldn’t say I have a favourite movie, I have enjoyed them all. I am a sucker for Roger Moore. Most people don’t like him as Bond, but I’ve always rated him highly. As I’ve said to many people…Bond IS Lounge.”

Summing up in his own words, Koop Kooper distills the whole Cocktail Nation experience down to this credo: “I just knew I could do it better than anybody because this is how I make my living. I’m not playing at being a radio host, this is my real life, my real vocation, so why not use my God-given talent to bring people the best Lounge & Exotica from new and old bands and make it blend? All of these aspects are things that make this the Number One Lounge & Exotica show on the planet.”

Well said, Mr. Lounge Leader. Pardon me, but I need to shake up my Blue Martini and dial into Cocktail Nation right about now. Koop is playing one of my songs this show, and I’m not going to miss that cool experience! Cheers, Koop.


Here’s my web-only article/interview on Quiet Village Podcast Host…Mark Riddle.


Mark Riddle:  The Man From Quiet Village


By Darren Long

In the recent Spring 2013 issue of Tiki Magazine, I had the cool task of interviewing Mark Riddle as part of a feature on podcasters.  Mark was quite forthcoming with excellent and lengthy answers, but due to space requirements, I had to savagely pare down the original ten questions to five..leaving so much good Q & A on the cutting room floor.  Mark has graciously allowed me to remedy that occurrence here and now.

Mark Riddle seems to have multiple personalities (in a good way, of course).  There’s Mark Riddle whose day job is at a non-profit that treats children with emotional disturbances.  Then he morphs into ‘Digi Tiki’ as Captain of the QuietVillage podcast and 24/7 Quiet Village Radio.  Then he takes on the larger-than-life persona of one tipsy ‘Marty Lush’; the ‘not-feeling-any-pain’ vibes player with Tikiyaki Orchestra and a star in his own right with smokin’ Latin Jazz offerings.  Yet Mark feels totally at home with this set-up.

“When I’m doing the show, I am Digi Tiki—on an uncharted island having a Mai Tai.  When I’m with Tikiyaki Orchestra, I really am Marty Lush.”  He’s also a pianist, composer, session player, music lover, musical historian, and a cocktail expert, too.  Case in point…his tasty libation creation, the ‘Quiet Village Mai Tai’.

When asked about his mission statement regarding QuietVillage, Mark expounds, “I want people to be able to escape for a short while.  I see Quiet Village as an almost real place where all of us can escape our fast-paced, boring, and at times, angry world and disappear into a beautiful jungle island where messages only come in a bottle, the weather is perfect, and the only worry is who’s going to bring my Mai Tai.”

“The show also gives me the opportunity to play songs that I like and hopefully introduce others to.  I liken it to friends getting together and playing records they found at swap meets or thrift stores.  One of the best things about the show is that listeners turn me on to new music, too.  I love that.”

Professor Riddle then gives us a perfect dissertation on the ‘Essence of Exotica’.  “Exotica was presented at the right time.  Hawaii and certainly the Orient were as far away as the moon to most people.  Musical concepts and instruments from those lands were new and strange.  People like Martin Denny were introducing Americana to new timbres.  To me, Exotica was ambient music.  It was not really meant to be closely studied.  It was meant to be background music that would help create a mood that would take the listener to another land.”

“In a way, some of the new electronic-based genres like Ambient Chill and Downtempo do the same thing.  They are atmospheric music that fuses new timbres with bits of musical ideas and rhythms into something that is solely designed to set a mood.  It’s not meant to be in the foreground.  That is why some of that music fits wonderfully back to back with vintage Exotica tunes.”

Well said, Professor…but class is over and I’m getting thirsty…so let’s talk about Tiki drinks.  “I love cocktails.  All kinds.  When it comes to booze, I don’t discriminate.”

“I guess my all time favorite cocktail from a particular place is the one in the Tiki Bar of my mind—The Quiet Village.  I started with a simple recipe of my own, calling for everyday Rums.  But I have since raised the bar with more top shelf Rums.  It’s a wonderful thing to mix up a Quiet Village Mai Tai and sit down at the microphone and do an episode.”

Asked to expand on his favorite Tiki establishments, Mark replies….”I don’t remember who coined the phrase, but I’ve heard Tiki Bars described as ‘emotional bomb shelters’.  That is a very apt description.  They should be places that filter the outside world and let you relax without a single care.”

 He mentions the Mai-Kai in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  “It comes the closest to achieving that ‘miles away from civilization’ feel.  The second those doors close behind you, you really are in another world.  Every drink I’ve had at the Mai-Kai is amazing.  The fact that the Mai-Kai is one of THE last largeTiki temples left in America, makes me wonder what some of the other long gone establishments must have been like.”

“Of course Los Angeles offers one of the best Tiki Bars: the Tiki-Ti.  What’s not to love about the place?  It’s a real connection to the heyday of Tiki.  The atmosphere is wonderful and the drinks are top notch.  I would have to say the Ooga Booga is my favorite drink there.  I love the tons of dark Rum in that cocktail.”

While on the subject of his home, Mark explains why Los Angeles is a cool city.  “Quite simply, its size.  Most people buck against the overwhelming size of LA, but I see it as a strength.  A city this size can support many niche things and places; like multiple Tiki Bars.  There are enough people here interested in something that a viable group can usually be put together for an event or get together.  That diversity is exhilarating.  The other thing has to be the weather.  It can be a luxurious seventy-four degrees in mid-winter here.  I love that.”

Swinging back to Mark’s love of music, he talks about his favorite vinyl LP’s.  “Arthur Lyman’s ‘Bahia’ because it got me into Exotica.  But there are so many that are simply amazing.  A very very close second would have to be Gene Rains’ ‘Rain In The Tropics’.  That was one of the first Exotica records I purchased when I started officially collecting.  I fell in love with every song on that album…as well as the cover.”

Changing the subject a bit, and knowing that Mark loves James Bond movies…I have to ask what his favorite flick is in the long running series.  “’The Spy Who Loved Me’ because it was the first Bond film I ever saw in a movie theater.  It had everything in it that captivated me—the mega-villain, the amazing lair, the suave hero, and of course, the submarine Lotus car.  But I must say the recent ‘Skyfall’ has to be one of THE best Bond movies I’ve ever seen.  It just needed a Lotus.”

As Mark Riddle declares at the end of every glorious hour-long Quiet Village podcast…”Well, my Mai Tai is empty, folks, so that means the end of another episode.”  Mine is empty as well, so I’d like to say a big Mahalo to all of Mark Riddle’s awesome personalities.  And I can hardly wait for the next Exotica Excursion Mark will take us on.  Cheers, pal.