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Jon Hopkins’ Quaint Electronica
You can hear an audio version of this interview with Jon Hopkins’ music.
You may not know Jon Hopkins, but you’ve heard him on albums by Coldplay, Massive Attack, Imogen Heap and Brian Eno. On Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, one of his tracks, “Light Through the Veins” was transformed on into the albums lead cut, “Life in Technicolor.”
Jon Hopkins seems like the most plugged in musician you could imagine, but he says much of his music begins on piano.
Jon Hopkins: This track ended up becoming the intro and the outro to the album. I wrote it about a year before I met them, actually. I think I was in the studio with them and I just played it to the band, and they just seemed to be really into it. And I worked out a version with Chris [Martin] where there weren’t any drums, and it was kind of — it felt like an intro to something you know, and it just — that’s how it came about really.
Jon Hopkins: A lot of this album was written on the piano, as almost every track has piano in it.
And not just any piano.
Jon Hopkins: This is a piano I’ve had since I was about six, actually. My parents got a piano for me. And on It’s a small upright and on this album . this album, it’s all about this piano and the certain creaks. Every time you press the left pedal, it creaks.
The debut album by Jon Hopkins, Opalescent, was beautifully melodic, but on his third CD, Insides, he goes for glitchy, angular lines and stuttering rhythms. He gets a lot of these effects using an electronic instrument called a KAOS Pad. It allows you to manipulate sounds and sequences in real time by sweeping and tapping a touch pad with your fingers. In our studio, Hopkins starts up a groove and instantly mutates it.
Jon Hopkins: So like I’m trapping that bit of sound and you can change the speed in which you trap it and how much you trap. Every time you let go it adds a new bit of sound. And then if you take it down to the right quadrant it reverses like that. You kind of play it like a drum machine, but that’s only one effect, there’s a 100 different things you could do.
Jon Hopkins incorporates these moves into a composition like “Vessel.”
Jon Hopkins mixes poignantly beautiful melodies with head-snapping glitches, a sense of quaint nostalgia with post-most modern angst. His latest album is Insides on Domino Records and he also has a very avant-garde download EP called Seven Gulps of Air. Jon Hopkins plugs in and plays live on Echoes this Monday, including a new, unreleased track. This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))