On the eve of the longest day of the year, Berlin is noisy, and windswept with the sun resting on the horizon late into the night. Inside Platoon Kunsthalle it is slightly dark in the main room, and the bluish light of the midsummer is streaming down onto the decks that are being setup for London-based producer, JON HOPKINS, to work his magic.
With some impressive collaborations under his belt, HOPKINS has worked with COLDPLAY, producer BRIAN ENO and the king of the uncanny, DAVID LYNCH, in addition to producing multiple soundtracks and his own solo work. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION caught up with JON HOPKINS to talk about the release of his fourth studio album, Immunity, on British independent label Domino Records, and the striking music video for Open Eye Signal that takes you on an epic journey to nowhere.
Do you see this latest album, Immunity, as an extension of you last release, Insides?
It’s got a few common threads, but I think that it’s a more coherent thing that makes more sense.
What it is exactly that makes it more coherent?
Well, one of the main reasons is because when I was working on Insides, I was also working on so many other projects at the same time as a producer. It took me a while because I was working on the album in sporadic bursts, so it was spread out over three years, yet it was probably only about six months work.
So do you feel that Insides resulted in being somewhat distracted?
Yeah and I think it ended up sounding like three years of my life. It is set up with different tempos and ideas and they are almost a bit too fragmented. So with Immunity I was very careful to make sure to clear one thing at a time and see if the results were in fact a lot more coherent. To me it does sound much more like a single work.
What parts of your previous work did you choose to carry over with you into the latest album?
The overall arch and narrative is the same kind of idea. So, there’s the idea of building a kind of darkness and ominousness throughout the first half of the album and then going much more peacefully into the second half. That movement is happening on Insides as well, but in the newest work it is much more pronounced and developed.
I’ve read that some consider your music to be overall quite dark, would you agree?
I don’t know if I actually would, I mean it definitely has its moments.
Well, most things do…
Right, but really I think some electronic is so much darker than mine and I also think my work is one of the lighter types. There are definitely a couple of really dark tracks there, but it’s not about certain darkness. There can be sadness to it, but I would say in a general sense that, no, it’s not dark.
JON HOPKINS: “A journey that starts nowhere and ends nowhere”
Speaking of exploring a certain side of darkness, is that why you chose to collaborate with DAVID LYNCH on his track “I know”?
[laughs] Yeah, well it was more that his label reached out to me and luckily I got to meet him and he loved what I did. That collaboration was a real one-off, because what I did for that track was very guitarry, which I like, but it was a total wild card in comparison to anything I had ever really done before. But it came naturally because that’s what I felt that the track needed. It’s already such a great tune that I thought, “ok, make it dirtier” and I put in this kind of slamming metallic guitar in there.
Were you using samples for the guitar on “I Know”?
Actually no, I work with this guitarist called Leo Abrahams and he’s the only guy that I use when working with guitar, so I just brought him in.
Your latest video for “Open Eye Signal” is great and, for me, slightly haunting in its imagery. What was it that sparked the idea?
I knew I wanted to have a really cinematic video. I had received some treatments for it that I didn’t connect with, and then this one from Aoife McArdle came in just as we were about to start with a different one. I read the description of this kid skateboarding from nowhere to nowhere that would be set outside of L.A, and it just made sense and everything clicked. Big American skies, lots of colors that would be setting the background for this sort of pointless journey. I felt that the idea really went with the song, because it doesn’t have any set direction, it sort of just happens.
For me the desert is a rather harsh environment and can really set a type of spooky vibe, was there something about having it set in this huge open potentially creepy space that also drew you to McArdle’s work?
I actually didn’t think of it in that way. For me that video really sums up the track more in color and in movement. For me that song isn’t spooky or creepy, but more euphoric and along the lines of taking you on a journey that starts nowhere and ends nowhere. To me the combination of the imagery and music really works as a whole.