MUTEK.ES Previews: Interview with Jon Hopkins
Jon Hopkins presents his new album and live show on Friday February 8th for the Nocturne 3 event held at Nitsa Club.
Chris Mann - January 21, 2013
Q1: How and when was the new album recorded? Did you wait until you had finished “Diamond mine” with King Creosote or were the processes intertwined? Did you have to turn down other collaborative offers or remix work to focus on the album or were you able to get it done by balancing different projects?
JH: It was recorded throughout 2012 and will be finished in about 2 weeks. This time round I wanted to write it in one block as much as possible, so that the overall sound was unified. I think I've spent about 8 months on it. "Insides," I had to fit around all my other projects, and as a result the writing time was spread out over 3 years.
I have turned down a lot of things, mostly production offers really, as that's something I'm not interested in pursuing. I did do a couple of film scores and a couple of tours but otherwise have focussed on this since the beginning of last year.
Q2: Your collaboration with Brian Eno and Leo Abrahams was recorded as a series of improvisations whereas you stated once that your previous solo work generally comes from you recording every little idea and then reshaping and refocusing the details of the material slowly over time. Which end of this spectrum did the creation of the new album fall in?
JH: All the starting points on this record were from improvisations, which then were developed and evolved into finished ideas. I like to capture the energy I feel for a new idea as it forms, and then refine and improve later.
Q3: How does the live set-up you will use at MUTEK differ from how you recorded the album? Is it important to change the technology with each album to help catalyze a change in sound?
JH: I have always used different systems to record as I do to play. I did feel after "Insides" that i wanted a massive change in sound and direction, so I bought some real synths - an MS20, an SH09 and a Voyager. I haven't got much experience in synthesis so I had to learn these instruments from scratch, and I found having different starting points very inspiring.
Q4: How do you go about building a set and adapting old material to play live when supporting a new album?
JH: I've been going through the older tracks and building and adapting clips from them that will work within the beats of the newer tracks. I will then be able to integrate them into the set with Ableton.
Q5: You seem to love the Kaoss pads a lot. When I watch you play I cannot help but think there is an important physical approach to them that is critical for your music as you sometimes seem to play them almost like a piano. What is it about them that you like so much?
JH: Exactly that yes - you can hit them as hard as you like, they aren't buttons you have to be careful of, they're much more like real physical instruments. They sound awesome and are extremely versatile if you use several together.
Q6: “Insides” was a clever parallel mixing the idea of external landscapes and places with inner feelings, whereas the new album seems to be a lot more physical in presence and idea. Was that an emotional/personal decision or a conscious decision to push towards something more 'external?'
JH: The new album is just as concerned with inner experiences. The first half of the record is a lot bolder and more rhythmic than anything I've done before but still concerned with states of mind and conveying emotions. The second half is much calmer, focussing on the hypnotic. I am never aware in advance of what a record will be like, I just follow instinct. This record more than ever has been done this way.
Q7: What sort of creative decisions are the hardest to make when switching from working in collaboration to working solo?
JH: Solo work is infinitely more difficult and time-consuming, but also infinitely more satisfying in the end. It's in the solo work that I really get the chance to force myself out of my comfort zone, to move my sound on and build new working methods. I don't really find myself making decisions exactly, just working on instinct - quite often discarding things as although they work, they aren't different enough from things I've done before.
Q8: You have worked composing for cinema and your music also has many references to place - and a strong emotive quality that also evokes images. How do you approach making video for your tracks and what is your perspective on using visual elements in live performance?
JH: My solo music is actually very abstract - to me anyway - I don't have any places in mind when I'm writing, it's all internal. So when the time comes to get videos and visuals made, I talk to directors / VJs whose stuff I admire. I let them get on with it as much as possible, then contribute once they have some ideas to show.