Music and Meditation with Greg Cipes at the MCM London Comic Con

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Taking to the MCM London Comic Con’s Pop Asia Stage on Saturday, voice actor, surfer and musician Greg Cipes (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teen Titans) treated fans to an hour of music, meditation and musings on life, work and the importance of doing what you love.

“So what are we gonna do today?” asked Greg casually, sitting down on stage with an acoustic guitar and removing his shoes. “Hang out?”

Almost immediately, an excited audience member in the front row piped up with a song request for ‘Fade Away’. He laughed, saying that he’d start with a few questions before getting stuck into the music – though, as it happened, the first question was about that very song.

“Is it true you wrote a song dedicated to Beast Boy and Terra?”

“It’s true and you’re gonna hear it!” Greg replied. “I’ve actually been working on a new song dedicated to Beast Boy and Terra, too.”

Turning things around a bit, he then decided to ask the audience some all-important questions of his own.

“Do you guys like pizza?” he asked, starting up something of a running theme. “What’s your favourite kind of pizza?”

A few answers came back, but his next question sparked much more passionate replies:

“What’s your favourite show I’m in? Titans or Turtles?”

The verdict was pretty evenly split.

“People keep asking me which is my favourite and I don’t have one,” he went on. “Although Beast Boy was my very first character. I went along and this voice just kind of came to me out of nowhere,” he said, before giving a brief demonstration.

Going back to the earlier request, he then played ‘Fade Away’, a song apparently inspired not only by Teen Titans, but also partly by Bob Marley.

“I love him because he inspires freedom and individuality and doing what you love,” he explained. “You know, you should always do what you love. Who here always does what they love?”

Few hands in the audience went up.

“Who wants to always do what they love?”

A few more hands rose, tentatively.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“Well you should!” he urged. “When I was a kid, I used to love watching the Turtles and I wanted to be Michelangelo – that was like a dream for me. Now, I’m not saying all of you can be Michelangelo. But you know what? You could. Anything is possible. Does anybody here meditate?”

Perhaps surprisingly, the unexpected question was met with an enthusiastic response. When asked about why they meditate, one audience member described it as helping them to “feel the energy of the universe”.

Greg recommended that those not already converted try giving meditation a go:

“Whether you like it or not,” he said, “you’ll feel the energy of the universe, and that will help you to control things. You know, the way to control reality is to let things go – isn’t that crazy?”

“Love is also a kind of meditation,” he went on. “If you love someone, you have to let them go – let them be free.”

It was time for another song.

“This is a song about pizza,” he explained. “Maybe they’ll animate an episode for it.”

“I find peace in every piece of pizza…” the song began, but it seemed that was as far as it went.

“Anybody here rap?” he asked, after a pause. ‘That’s a kind of meditation too, you know. Anyone ever freestyle? Anyone wanna try? You can freestyle while I jam!” he suggested, looking around hopefully, but volunteers were unforthcoming. “You guys are chickens!” he exclaimed, disappointedly, before proceeding to make a few of his own freestyle additions to the pizza song.

“I find peace in every piece of pizza….but no meat,” he finished. “Is anybody here a vegetarian?” he asked, and when only a few hands went up, he continued, “Maybe that’s what’s going wrong. I mean, I’m not saying that eating meat is wrong, necessarily. But it’s not good for you, and it’s definitely not good for the animal. It was different back when we were cavemen and you had to go out and kill a wildebeest or something, but now you can just go to the store and buy things.”

Just before the discussion strayed too far into an examination of the ethics of meat-eating, however, Greg lightened the tone with another song rendition, this time dedicated to anyone who is “a goddess, an angel, or a princess. Or a queen.” After that, it was back onto the subject of meditation.

“With meditation, all things are possible,” said Greg. “You can empty your mind of all the thoughts about things like stress and work and bills.” Letting go of those things, he explained, allows us to create the kind of world we want – to make our dreams real.

After another song, he began to talk about “those guys in India who can float. You know, they sit like this,” he said, lifting his legs up onto his chair and crossing them in front of him. “It’s true! They can really do that,” he insisted. “But do you know how long it takes? It takes a long time! They have to sit in a cave and do breathing exercises for like, thirty years. I don’t think it’s worth it. Life’s too fun!” He grinned. “But you can do that – you can float, if you want to.”

“Everyone close your eyes,” he instructed. “Now think about what you really want. If you do that for one minute every day, it will come to you. You guys are all into magic and anime and stuff, right? Well, it’s all real. You have that power.”

After this, the floor was opened up for another Q&A session.

“How long have you been a vegetarian?” came the first question. Greg thought about this for a moment. “Since I was about twelve,” he said, “but I haven’t always been a strict vegetarian. Up until I was 12, my parents gave me meat, and the body gets addicted to things like that….Sometimes, I’d get cravings, so every once in a while, I’d let myself eat meat, but over time, you start to not want it any more…..Forcing yourself to do things is painful, but if you do it slowly and wean yourself off it, you’ll want it more.”

The second question was about his voice-acting career.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“You’ve loved the Turtles since you were a kid. Was there anything like that for you with Titans? Were you a fan of comics growing up?”

“I had comics,” Greg replied, “but I was more into surfing. I liked being outdoors. I stopped playing video games when I was about ten….I grew up near Disneyland so that helped. When I was a kid, my dad used to take me out in his car. I’d mess around with the radio and he said to me, ‘You’re gonna do cartoons one day.'”

“Was acting always something you wanted to do, or did it just happen?” came the next question.

“I’ve always loved acting, but then I’ve always loved many things. I got the acting bug when I was really young. I did children’s theatre from I was about five, and I’ve fallen deeper in love with it as I’ve got older. Now I have my own production company…..I get to hang out on the beach and work on scripts and things.”

“It’s all a stage, though,” he went on. “We’re always acting. You know, the word persona comes from the Latin for ‘mask’? You can always change that mask and change who you are. You can be whoever you want to be….The best actors are the ones who are present, who are in the now….You have to decide to enjoy every part of the performance so you don’t end up with your props falling apart, feeling like you missed it. Your body is a prop, too.”

There was just time to answer one more question about which voice actors had inspired him before Greg invited the audience up onto the stage to take part in a meditation.

“I’m inspired by everyone I work with,” he said. “But mostly by my animals – by my dogs and my cats.”

Members of the audience then joined him on stage to meditate, clearing the space and sitting in a circle holding hands. Those who joined in were instructed to put their hands above their heads and breathe deeply, before holding their hands like a bowl in front of them and picturing any negative thing inside that bowl. Greg then told participants to release all that the negativity and to “free up their minds”. After repeating this exercise, he asked the group to think about something that they loved and to focus on it. To finish the meditation, he began to sing one of his own songs about relaxing and letting go, which the group on stage joined in with towards the end.

Greg then urged other members of the audience to stand up from their seats and join him and those already on stage in the next activity, which involved jumping up and down, screaming and shouting to relieve stress, which, according to participants, was strangely effective. After doing this, those on stage squashed themselves up in order to lie down and relax together. Finally, Greg finished things off with a request for a massive group hug.

Whether or not you’re into meditation, singing and hugging, one thing is for certain: Greg Cipes’s talk was definitely amongst the most unusual shows we’ve ever encountered at an MCM Comic Con, leaving con-goers with some very interesting memories to take away!

Photographs and additional content by Caitlin Jenkins.

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