By Kelly King
I’ve interviewed so many famous drummers. From Mike Mangini to Ronnie Vannucci, Thomas Lang to Jason Sutter, Dave Elitch and so many others; they all comment about the struggle of pursuing a career behind the drums, as well as the passion that compels them to do so. Because of my “inside” look to the experiences of these great drummers, I’m fascinated by how many other great drummers are out there among us. In particular, the determination of those whom travel from an entirely different country and continent with the goal of cracking into the American music scene has peaked my interest. It’s become a preoccupation that has resulted in an awareness of this talent within the US and led me to people like drummer Ivan Copelli. Brazilian born, Copelli experienced the momentous Sao Paulo KISS concert in 1983 along with over 120,000 other attendees. He was inspired by Eric Carr’s playing and the excitement of a proper rock show. Since then, Ivan’s successful path in Brazil led him to Los Angeles. His story is relevant to any drummer reading this in their hometown who wonders to them self, “Should I take a leap of faith and pursue my dream?”
Ivan is adamant that the only avenue he considered was that of a rock drummer. Growing up on a steady diet of Ian Paice, Nicko McBrain, Vinnie Appice, Alex Van Halen, and of course John Bonham; he auditioned and won the drum chair for numerous successful bands in Brazil. In the mid 2000’s his band Motores was featured on the MTV Brazil series RALLY MTV. This Punk Rock band’s elevated notoriety led to them playing venues such as Ciudad Cultural Konex (Buenos Aires, Argentina with a capacity of 5,000) and the Jose Carlos Pace International Autodrome (Sao Paulo, Brazil with a capacity of 10,000). Copelli’s talent was recognized by numerous bands and he left Motores in 2010 to become the drummer for Kiara Rocks. Ivan was brought in quickly to replace the previous drummer for those first concerts. Proof of Copelli’s world class level rock drumming is found in the fact that he shared drumming duties on his first Kiara Rocks album (“Todos Os Meus Passos”) with Matt Sorum (Guns N Roses, Velvet Revolver, The Cult), with Ivan recording all but two of the final tracks. (Singer Sebastian Back also contributed background vocals on the album). Copelli recalls, “I was never threatened by it. In fact, it was really cool to see Matt play up close like that. You can’t be overly sensitive about sharing tracks on an album, especially when it’s someone as respected as Matt Sorum. We both recorded on the same kit with the same cymbals and using the same engineer; it was really interesting to see how we approach the songs.” That kit was Ivan’s DW Collectors Series with 10”, 12” 14”, 16”, 18” toms and a Ludwig Black Beauty 6½ x 14” snare. Though Copelli continued to play in Brazil, recording with his own group Banda Burlesca, the experience in the studio with Kiara Rocks cemented his resolve that he had the ability to perform and succeed in the US.
Since moving to Los Angeles, Ivan has been playing, recording, and filming music videos with a number of different artists like the Voodoo Kills, Stranger Things, Brandon Keropian, Cassandra Long, Syang, George Foster, Hexx Henderson, and others. While he was performing in theaters and stadiums in his home country, his artist visa has allowed him to perform at legendary venues in L.A. like The Roxy, the Viper Room, and others where Bruce Springsteen, Jane’s Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’ Roses, and so many other legends have also performed. This adjustment is a welcome one as the drummer relates:
“Trying to be a drummer in Brazil was a dead end road for me. I wanted to play rock music and I wanted to do it every day. That is seen as strange there but no one ever thinks twice about it here in Los Angeles. Because I’ve met so many other musicians who are driven in the same way, there is a true sense of community and belonging here. It feels like finally being home. Of course, the difficulty of being here is real but also very welcome. There are so many incredible drummers here. In addition to all of the famous ones whom everyone knows about, places like Musicians Institute brings new incredible musicians in every year. It pushes you, in a really good way.”
We drummers are a part of a very special community. We know it and all of the other musicians also know it. Other instrumentalists are aware that drummers love to share and to positively push each other to become better players…and people; these two are directly connected. Speaking from a personal place, I can’t imagine a life that doesn’t include the gifts of so many musicians from other parts of the world. We can simultaneously be proud of what we have to offer as well as what we can borrow from other people and cultures to expand our influences. Drummers like Ivan Copelli are a benefit to our drumming community in the United States.