Alex Cooper (Katrina & The Waves)
Al arrived at Cambridge University in 1971 with the battered old £20 Ajax drum kit he had bought a couple of years earlier. He had always wanted to do two things in his life; open the bowling for England and play drums in a successful band. The complete lack of experience playing with people and of drumming lessons had forced him to the reluctant conclusion that he should sell the kit and concentrate on the cricketing ambition. But the England cricket team was to be deprived of one of the great fast bowlers (apparently). Al quickly discovered that his was one of just 3 drum kits in the whole university and that drummers were a much prized commodity. He was also to learn that being one made the 12 to 1 male/female ratio a statistical irrelevance. One of the first visitors to his room in Emmanuel College was a representative from Footlights intent on persuading him to be the drummer in the famous Cambridge University Footlights review. It seemed rather a daunting challenge for one so inexperienced and he turned the offer down. Over the next three years he was to repeatedly decline on the grounds that he was too busy playing with loads of bands….and far too cool. Wrong! Between 1971-74 Footlights featured the talents of Douglas Adams, Griff Rhys Jones, Rory McGraff, Clive Anderson and John Lloyd amongst others. However, those three years playing almost non-stop still constituted the turning point in his life. There were blues bands (they had the longest hair), rock bands (the smartest gear), folk bands (became eminent doctors) and Jazz Bands (became academics). And so it was, in 1974, that Al announced to his university Tutor, in their second and final meeting in three years, that he was going to be a drummer. Possibly privy to Al’s final exam results, his Tutor thought this a very good idea. Together with fellow Cambridge graduate, Kimberley Rew, Al formed the first incarnation of The Waves just they left the university. Based around one of the first ‘cheap’ multi-track studios in the UK, Spaceward Studios, The Waves carved out a reputation as the Power Pop trio without rival in the surrounding area. There was no money of course and record deals remained elusive. To make ends meet Al spent three months a year working as a tour guide taking american tourists around europe whilst Kimberley worked sporadically at the Post Office. After just over a couple of years Kimberley was tempted away by Robyn Hitchcocks’ The Soft Boys and so The Waves disbanded and Al started a period working freelance both at Spaceward Studios and with local bands. By 1979 Al was just about making a living as a drummer but his ultimate goal still seemed distant. In a last ditch effort to make something happen, Al hooked up with two younger US military ‘brats’ from the nearby USAF bases, Katrina Leskanich and Vince de la Cruz. When, a while later, Kimberley Rew left The Soft Boys and hooked up again with Al The Waves was reborn. Four years learning their craft playing all over the UK, Canada and Sweden, finally led to the band, now called Katrina and the Waves, achieving ‘overnight’ success with the release of their 1985 debut single on Capitol Records, Walking On Sunshine. This four piece line-up was to remain together for almost 19 years. There were hits in the UK, USA, Europe and Australasia, tours all over the world, everything you do as a successful band of international standing. They even won the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK in 1997! It was an up and down career but always founded on a tremendous world-wide reputation as a great live act; energetic, loud, fun, great singing and playing, everyone, the crowd especially, having a great time. The three guys, Kimberley Rew, Vince de la Cruz and Al Cooper, are still friends, colleagues and business partners in the business that is Kyboside Ltd, the company Katrina and the Waves at the beginning of their career. Al runs the company which incorporates their highly successful publishing company, three private but fully professional studios (two in Cambridge, one in Florida) and all that pertains to the name and legacy of Katrina and the Waves. As a drummer Al can never retire. It is what he does, what he is defined by. He gigs constantly with friends and acquaintances he´s made over 30 years drumming. His influences started with Buddy Rich, then there was Brian Bennett, Ringo, Keith Moon, Mick Fleetwood, Dave Mattacks…the list goes on and on. He is still accused by many of being one of the loudest drummers around but most will put up with with it because he still has the intense energy that, most famously, you can hear in that perennial pop classic Walking On Sunshine. "And Don’t It Feel Good?"