Jon Hopkins is an enigma. Classically trained, he has utilised his Royal College of Music education to forge a career in Electronica. He has worked with artists ranging form Tunng to David Holmes and has partnered Brian Eno on numerous projects, including his much anticipated Warp release: Small Craft on a Milk Sea. Having released a 12” in August, with remixes by Four Tet and Nathan Fake, the video for Vessel (Four Tet remix) has now been completed by directors, Bison and is being previewed exclusively here on Dazed Digital. We caught up with the man himself to get his opinion on the video, his other projects and to find out what Brian Eno is really like.
Dazed Digital: Can you describe your sound?
Jon Hopkins: It ranges from acoustic, strings and piano; up to the exact opposite, like completely and brutally electronic, with not much in between. I quite like that idea. I quite like the idea of having a schizophrenic sound.
DD: How did the video for Vessels come about?
Jon Hopkins: These guys who direct under the name Bison had worked with me before, about a year ago when they filmed my album launch at the ICA. They had the idea to strap cameras to both of my hands so that they could film exactly what was going on from a hands perspective. To try and shed some light on what was going on on-stage at an electronic show. I was really impressed by their creativity and they then cut the video and played it back through this old knackered black and white TV and then they took this industrial magnet and at certain points walked the screen, so all the effects were analogue. So I was really up for working with them again because they had all these crazy ideas.
DD: How did the concept for the video arise?
Jon Hopkins: I played them the song and they came back with the idea of using the same colours as the traditional 1950s crap 3D – but with completely different images. So if you watched it in 3D you’d see 100% different images in each eye, which is very weird. It obviously works without that by using an interesting and beautiful mix of weird colours. What they’re really into too is cutting directly to the beat so you get a lot of twitching and speeding up and slowing down and that’s the kind of thing I love really.
DD: There’s a quote from them that says: “themes of duality ran through both the song and their visual ideas”. Do you agree?
Jon Hopkins: Yeah, well I guess in my original version it is exactly that. There’s a soft acoustic piano and then this really brutal beat under it. The remix is a little bit more euphoric and a little less dark I think but it’s still got this combination of heavy bass and ephemeral kind of trippy stuff. So I guess it is probably along those lines.
DD: You’ve been involved with the soundtracks to Lovely Bones and Monsters too haven’t you….
Jon Hopkins: Yeah that’s right. Well, Lovely Bones is Brian Eno’s score and I was brought in along with a guitarist called Leo Abrahams, and we all wrote a third each with Brian being the main composer. That led the way for me to compose the score for this new sci-fi film Monsters. Which I saw at its premiere at FrightFest last weekend – it had somehow sold out which was amazing as it was like 1,300 tickets and has had no promotion on it yet. It’s been made on this tiny, tiny budget and everyone’s talking about which is quite exciting.
DD: Do you prefer having your music with a visual accompaniment?
Jon Hopkins: I do like that, it’s very hard because you always make these practical assertions that your ideas are hard to realise. That’s why I always tend to use directors who are really savvy at working out the tricks you can do quite easily or quite cheaply. But generally I like to listen and make stuff that stands on its own. You should be able to formulate your own image. The benefit of feature film is that it takes away all the pressure: half the job is done. You’re helping to tell a story, which is a completely different thing really. When you’re writing for your self then you have total freedom and you can be as loud or as quiet as you want without any guidance.
DD: How did you come to be involved in Brian Eno’s new album: Small Craft on a Milk Sea’?
Jon Hopkins: It’s still kind of slammed in secrecy so I can’t reveal too much. Me, Brian and Leo have been playing a lot of music together and this is a product of that. I’ve just seen all the presentation box set and it’s amazing to be involved in something like that. It’s a really good, traditional, physical product you know?
DD: What was it like to work with Eno?
Jon Hopkins: Great actually. He’s hilarious – I’ve known him for about seven years now, I met him when we I was 23 and I remember being terrified of him. His main approach is to get you to focus less on the tiny details and more on enjoying the process, which is really good for me because I was young at the time and needed to be told to stop fucking about with tiny details. He’s beat a lot of the excess tweaking out of me which is cool.
DD: What’s next for you?
Jon Hopkins: I’ve got a tour with Four Tet in America, which will be cool; then Monsters comes out in November, so they’ll be a soundtrack album for that; and then I’ve been working on a collaboration album with King Creosote, who’s another Domino artist who’s really cool. I’m remixing School of Seven Bells and I’ve done a Wild Beasts remix too which should be out soon. A nice blend of random stuff really.