The emotional underground heartbeat of Jon Hopkins
Jon Hopkins matches the polish of his electronic production with the emotion of a fine songwriter – and he might just have forged the next missing link in music
Jon Hopkins performing in London in 2011: ‘For live shows . . . It’s quite physical – it certainly isn’t just me sitting quietly behind a laptop. And it’s very loud, very dancey.’ Photograph: Hayley Madden/Redferns
Many people may not have heard of him, but Jon Hopkins could well be the missing link between humanity and electronic dance music (EDM). It might seem like a glib outline, but Hopkins’s expression of the human spirit throughout his ambient, chillwave and (keep still thy throbbing heart) neo-romantic techno music evokes deeply profound reactions.
“There have been a few occasions when people have directly mirrored my own thoughts on particular pieces of my music,” says the highly affable Hopkins, a London-based musician and producer. “And there have been others where they’ve gone the exact opposite. One guy wrote to me about a track on my new album called Abandon Window – he told me how he felt it was like watching a sunset after the end of a satisfying day at work. I had to restrain myself from writing back that it’s actually about death.”
Of course, you’ve probably heard of the people that Hopkins has collaborated with (these include Brian Eno, Coldplay and David Holmes) and you’ve possibly seen the movies he’s helped score the music for (including 2009’s The Lovely Bones and 2010’s Monsters). For the large part, however, his melodic, easily accessible solo works remain, in his own words, “underground” – even with the addition of his latest album, Immunity.
“Ironically, my tastes aren’t that experimental, and I wouldn’t describe my music on the surface as being overtly experimental, either. There is concealed experimentalism in it, though – I like music that is listenable, and not challenging for the sake of being challenging. I love truly forward-thinking music, and I’m not even sure I’d describe my work as that, even. I suppose I meant underground in terms of not being very well known.”
Is that because some of his solo work extends beyond the usual length of a pop song? “Probably,” he nods. “I love exploring the hypnotic elements of music, and because of that there are very long tracks on Immunity. And you might as well not worry about radio play for the longer tracks – some radio stations and presenters will play the longer tracks, but most won’t.
“It isn’t a conscious thing, but looking back on the making of the album it seems quite obvious that I didn’t want to cater for short attention spans. In fact, I actually wanted to challenge them.”
The 33-year-old Hopkins started writing music at a very early age. Describing his younger, precocious self as “slightly arrogant”, he remarks that he could play piano from the age of four, and then received structured tutoring from the age of eight.