Jon Hopkins is a bit of a musical enigma. Classically trained yet deeply electronic, his style varies from melodic and trippy to heavy dig in your heels techno. Currently touring the US - we caught up with him while performing at Webster Hall and in Williamsburg.
CGNY: You trained as a classical musician. Was it hours of torturous piano practice or something you enjoyed?!
JH: it was pretty enjoyable and exposed me to some amazing music, though I got tired of learning to perform other people's work and was more interested in learning to write my own stuff.
CGNY: Whereabouts in London did you grow up?
JH: Wimbledon, in South London.
CGNY: When did you make the transition to electronic music and deciding that was going to be your area of focus?
JH: There wasn't really a transition. I had always been fascinated with it since I first heard some, back around the age of 7 or 8. I encountered things like Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys and early house music on the radio, and was immediately transfixed by the sounds.
CGNY: What was the first track you ever made yourself and on what instrument? Were you composing on the piano before you decided to use electronic wizardry?
JH: I started playing around on my home keyboard and layering up parts on an old second hand 4 track cassette recorder my parents gave me. I continued to experiment with that whilst starting to learn the piano, and once I could afford my first PC, I started really learning. I was I guess composing stuff on the piano from as soon as we got one at home.
CGNY: Your music is very sweeping in range from the very evocative like The Low Places to the bouncier remix you did of the Wild Beasts –Two Dancers. Do you consciously decide to make a livelier track if you’ve just done a slow one or is it more dependent on your creative mood?
JH: I never make conscious decisions about anything musical. I just go on instinct. The Wild Beasts track just suggested that kind of New Order-esque rhythm to me, whereas the pizzicato string part that I had written for The Low Places inspired what I recorded to go around it.
CGNY: You’ve definitely got a big fan base in the States as evidenced by your multiple FB commentators on your recent tour flyer! But I feel the broader reach of electronic music is still somewhat contracted here versus Europe. What do you think?
JH: There's certainly a longer history of love for it in Europe, but the US has totally caught up. Club nights like Low End Theory are world leaders in electronic music, and the US has spawned one of the most influential movements in years with the whole LA beatmaker scene.
CGNY: Scoring for movies which you did for Monsters (solo) and The Lovely Bones (collab with Brian Eno) – how is that different from writing tracks for say an album that you’re releasing? Is your approach creatively the same? Did you get to read the script beforehand?
JH: I was working directly to picture. I had the whole film (with the exception of some of the FX shots) to write to. I find scoring a less high pressure situation - when you write a record you are creating the whole world for the listener, whereas when scoring the world is already there, you are just adding to it.
CGNY: Its interesting you chose (or did you?) Monsters, a sci-fi movie as your first solo scoring experiment. Are you a sci fi fan?
JH: The film was just screened to me by Vertigo, the company who made it. I fell in love with it instantly. I really don't see it as a sci-fi film; it's more of a road trip which happens to have sci-fi elements. Those elements are always secondary to the human interest side.
CGNY: Who or what inspires you? Musically and in life?
JH: Musically - everything I experience in my life. In life - food, people, travel.
CGNY: You had a plethora of machines on stage with you last time at Webster Hall! I was dying to take a look! What did you use to perform that night?
JH: I use a Korg MicroKontrol, three Kaoss Pad 3d, Ableton live, a DJM.
CGNY: Do you watch the League of Gentlemen? - “Are you very kind, kind, fairly kind or not at all kind to animals?”!! (Don’t know why that popped into my head!)
JH: I have watched most of it yes. I'd say "fairly kind".
CGNY: Electric Zoo is NYC's only electronic music festival and you played there last year. How was that experience? Given the good craziness of the event - did you find the crowd receptive?
JH: The crowd was supportive but I was on quite early so it could have been a little better-attended! I’m not used to playing in the daytimes. But everyone was very friendly, it was a cool thing.
CGNY: Is there any genre of music that you can’t stand?
JH: Not really. Any genre has the potential to spawn something amazing or something shit.
CGNY: What’s next after the U.S tour? Any more plans to work on movie music writing?
JH: Next I have to write my next solo album. I also have a collaboration with the Scottish singer King Creosote coming out soon on Domino - this is something we've been working on, on and off, for nearly 7 years now so it's very exciting to have it finally come out. Its miles away from my usual electronic style, being mostly acoustic and vocal-based. I'm not in discussions about any movies at the moment, my plan for that is just to wait and see what comes along. I need to write my own record first.
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