Biff Cooper seems to have more musical aspirations than his body has room for. Between offering the most affordable professional music lessons for Orange County’s youth at Beach Cities Rock Club, recording young bands for free at Power Plant Records, and broadcasting the weekly sermons of some of SoCals biggest bohemian rock fanatics on Reactor Radio, there’s no argument that the long haired beach dweller has his foot in more arenas than anyone else when it comes to supporting and encouraging the blossoming musicians of Southern California, and it all started less than three years ago with a modest record store.
“I opened the shop in February 2014 with the hopes of nurturing an otherwise absent music scene here in San Clemente,” Cooper says. The idea was simple, record store in the front, and recording studio/music school in the back. Luckily their sentiments were shared by local art Philanthropists Jennifer and Rob Newton, who helped Power Plant co-sign an otherwise impossible lease agreement. “Since then it’s been a wild ride,” Cooper says. “All kinds of kids are learning to play, records are being sold, shows were had (for a very limited time). It's been glorious.”
Power Plant’s owner says that the music lessons have thus far been able to finance the recording studio and his ability to record and sponsor local bands for free.
“The music school really took off once parents found out there was a safe, fun and professional place for kids to learn and experience the music industry in an affordable and authentic way,” Cooper says. Power Plant’s music student numbers soared to almost a 100 kids a week receiving lessons, which helped Cooper to expand the recording studio and build more lesson rooms.”
With the record store and music school finally somewhat stable, Biff did what anyone else would do and threw launching a full-fledged internet radio station into the mix.
Cooper’s sister Kristin came on board to give him a hand with everything and help launch the station, dubbed Reactor Radio, hosted on their website. They currently have six different DJ's including Cooper.
“I’ve always thought being a radio DJ was one of the coolest jobs, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized most DJs are forced to play whatever big labels lobby them to, which, more often than not is just a bunch of watered-down populous bullshit,” Cooper says. While Pandora and Spotify are great, nothing tops discovering new music that somebody hand picked for you, like getting that mixtape from your close friend or older sibling when you were a kid. “In the overwhelming ocean of music available to stream these days, it’s nice to have someone there to help you navigate the currents.”
Each weekly show on Reactor Radio has a different DJ with specific themes, including “Meltdown Metal Monday”, with Andy Miller, “Thirsty Thurdays” with Kristin Cooper spinning Glam and Garage Rock, and “Freak Show Friday” where Biff himself spins Post Punk, Goth, Death Rock and everything in between. But ultimately Cooper’s real passion is his role in the changing landscape of the music business-specifically giving others a voice when they are otherwise unheard.
“I know what it’s like struggling in music. It sucks. But it’s getting better as technology improves and education is at your fingertips.” Cooper and his team at Power Plant are motivated to teach younger people how easy it is now to put out an album from your bedroom. You can save up a few hundred bucks, use your mom's laptop, borrow a friends mic and record yourself. You can take the recordings to an engineer to mix and save yourself hundreds or thousands of dollars.
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“Last year I scored an entire film that was featured in the Newport Beach film Festival and a swim trunks commercial almost entirely by myself,” Cooper says. “That kind of thing wouldn’t have been possible 15 years ago for a broke 28 year old like me.”
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Power Plant Records is located at 73 Via Pico Plaza, San Clemente, CA 92672, (949) 463-1968