12 Jun 2018

VIDEO: 14 year old loop pedal whizz Seven Zen plays live

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:09 pm on 12 June 2018

Talented multi-instrumentalist Seven Zen has just released his debut EP - Dark as Life. His real names is Riley Popham and he had to take the day off school to come and perform at RNZ as he's only 14.

Seven Zen has been re-creating his favourite classic songs from Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, David Bowie and more  on Youtube for about a year now, honing his skills as a one-man band. He has a repertoire of over 300 songs, and treats getting to know them as an apprenticeship for his own songwriting. 

The loop pedal, widely popularised by the likes of Ed Sheeran and musical comedian Reggie Watts, is central to his set up. It allows him to build up layers of beats, bass, riffs and harmonies.  

He comes to the RNZ studio armed with a Washburn HP35 Electric guitar, an array of effects pedals at his feet - loop, wah-wah, delay, a Big Muff and a Paul Crowther designed Hotcake

"That's a lot of busking money right there" he says. 

His local busking spots are outside the New World in Warkworth. or at the Matakana markets. 

A Mahurangi College student, he's been part of the Play It Strange program, and included on their annual compilation Who Loves Who for the past three years. 

He's just won an APRA lyric award at the Auckland Smokefree Rockquest finals for 'Preventative Measures', the first song on his four track EP Dark As Life. The song is his response to gun control and school shooting incidents in the U.S.. 

He's modest about his lyrical talent:  

"I'd say it is a bit talent and also a bit of knowledge of the world at large but also knowing just the basics of writing, but also knowing a lot about the issues that you want to talk about." 

The song he brings to the studio to play, 'We Are People' started as a book report about the novel The boy in the striped pyjamas which portrays the dehumanisation of people during the holocaust written from the perspective of a young boy.

He says in the release notes for Dark As Life that "this is no less relevant today… in places like Palestine, with immigrants in America, or displaced peoples all over the world. I believe this highlights how tenuous freedom and basic human rights can be when faced with paranoid mob mentality, xenophobia and greed."

Seven Zen (Riley Popham) - 14 year old Auckland high school student who has released his debut EP

Seven Zen (Riley Popham) - 14 year old Auckland high school student who has released his debut EP Photo: supplied

Seven Zen at RNZ Auckland

Seven Zen at RNZ Auckland Photo: RNZ

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