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Jon Hopkins: Monster Mixes

The British electronica artist on working with Brian Eno, Coldplay and playing his debut show in India

Jessica Kilbane Nov 06, 2014
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Jon Hopkins | Photo Credit: Sarah Ginn

Jon Hopkins | Photo Credit: Sarah Ginn

It could be argued that electron­ica began with the groaning synthe­sizers of Kraftwerk and will end with the sonic experimentation of Jon Hopkins. Over the last decade, the 35- year old producer, who began his career as a keyboardist in English synthpop art­ist Imogen Heap’s backing band and con­siders influential producer Brian Eno to be his mentor, has developed an inimita­ble style that combines both organic and programmed sounds. Says the artist, “I don’t really think about it too much, it’s all just a big melting pot of ideas for me. I do have a clearer voice now.” While work­ing with Eno, Hopkins learned to sculpt sounds, often recording samples of in­struments or ambient sounds and modu­lating them until they sounded distinct­ly electronic. He adds, “There are a few principles that I think I’ve absorbed from his music a while ago, which has definite­ly changed the course of what I was doing. But I’ve taken them from there and moved on in a way that you prob­ably wouldn’t recognize it anymore. Eno would never make any techno for exam­ple, but I do include some of the principles of his music in the more techno tracks that I write.”

Releasing his first album Opalescent in 2001 with minimal fanfare, Hopkins has developed a huge following over the years. By the time he released his fourth record Immunity in 2013, he was already an artist celebrated by fans, musicians and critics alike. Says Hopkins, “I try to make my sets as best I can for the audience but I don’t like to give them the tracks that they want to hear. I want to make the most of those tracks, obscure them or avoid playing them. That’s why it took me a lot longer to get an audience and I feel that I’m quite lucky to have one.” His live sets are often inventive, which begin with percussive patterns and evolve into cinematic synths. This is not surprising since Hopkins also works extensively on f ilm soundtracks, most notably on supernatural drama film The Lovely Bones, which released last year. Says the artist, “For that one in particular, working under Brian [Eno] and being a sub-composer, there wasn’t a particular opportunity for me to express much of my musical ideas, it was more about serving the story. On [science fiction monster film] Monsters which I did after that, [writer/ director] Gareth Edwards was a fan of my own music, so I got a more definable voice than the Hollywood world of Bones.” Hopkins has also remixed tracks for a range of influential electronica artists such as British post-rock electronic musician Four Tet, American electronic musician Nosaj Thing and even f ilm director David Lynch.

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Known for his work on British rock band Coldplay’s last three albums Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, Mylo Xyloto and Ghost Stories, Hopkins has also established himself as a capable producer. Speaking about how his sound influences another artist’s music, Hopkins mentions that he tries to strike a balance. He adds, “With Coldplay, there were opportunities where Chris [Martin] would say, ”˜What do you think should happen here?,’ so I’d make a sound that he’d really like, and it would sound very much like one of my sounds. It may have stuck out on the album, but ultimately these are peripheral things, they’re not the core.” He has also worked with artists such as British-Australian pop star Natalie Imbruglia, Scottish singer-songwriter King Creosote and Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring, among others.

Hopkins, who is currently working on his next studio release at Sundlaugin Studio, where Icelandic post rock band Sigur Ros recorded Kveikur, will make his second trip to India this month. Says the artist, “My dad lives in India so I spent a month there this year, in March. I’ve been to Delhi which is where he lives, and also to Agra and Kerala. It’s my first time playing live there so I’m not sure what it’s like from a work point of view, but as a country I already love it a lot.” He will perform at this year’s edition of NH7 Weekender in Bengaluru.

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This article appeared in the November 2014 issue of ROLLING STONE India.

 

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