WHP FEATURE 046

JON HOPKINS

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JON HOPKINS

20.09.17
If you think about the great DJ sets you’ve heard, chances are many were as informed by contrasting elements and dissimilarities, as they were guided by the overarching need for homogeneity. After all, dance music occupies a curious position- on the one hand tracks need to work within their context- a bridge between two other tunes- and yet still inspire a unique reaction.

After two minutes on the phone with revered UK producer and, more latterly, massively in-demand DJ, Jon Hopkins, it’s clear he understands this more than most. Peaks and troughs appear to be the foundation theory on which he builds both mixes and studio work, with a new album currently having its finishing touches applied ahead of a release next year which will likely reaffirm this point.

“Last night I found myself playing something that kind of didn’t really do that much for ages, almost purposefully trying to lose people,” he explains, referring to his set at Malta’s Glitch Festival. “Gradually losing more and more of the bass, narrowing the stereo field, so then obviously it’s all about what happens next. I just love that idea- even to the detriment of the experience you hold back. You’re kind of increasing tension without anyone actually realising it. So retrospectively they feel tense about what just happened.”

Although putting those comments into proper context may seem irrelevant, nothing could be further from the truth. By this point in the conversation we’ve moved on from the standard ‘how has summer been’ (in two words- ‘busy’ and ‘fun’), to the recent series of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. That video of Hopkins playing the show’s spine-tingling Laura’s Theme acting as a point of reference.

“Yeah, the new series absolutely blew my mind. Fucking hell. I watched a few series in the last year, there’s some really good ones around obviously. Breaking Bad did some amazing stuff where you were just electrified by it, but Twin Peaks was next level. It worked on a deeper level, tuning into the weirdest, darkest recesses of your own consciousness.

“You’re left reeling, as if you’d been inside some sort of fractal, dreaming, baffling landscape that makes sense only on its own terms. I think it has actually influenced how I’ve been writing music- 18 weeks of this incredibly powerful drama appearing in my life. Particularly his use of inactivity I became slightly obsessed with. You can have ages with so little happening and then suddenly these abrupt interruptions.



“It’s a broader concept you can apply to all art. He also inspires me to be as daring as I can. I’ve spent as long on this new record as I did with Immunity, but nobody was waiting for that one. With this people keep asking ‘when is it going to be ready?’, but I take time away and then come back with a fresh ear. That’s just how it works. Putting as much love and care into it as possible, that’s really important.”

If Immunity was Hopkins’ breakthrough moment- catapulting him into the global electronic music A-list- then what has happened since is perhaps even more significant. When it arrived, in summer 2013, people stood up and took notice of this classically trained composer who had fully realised his long-obvious potential to produce incredible club beats. But the subsequent ripple effect made the artist himself begin exploring further reaches of the musical landscape associated with those beats. If you read Resident Advisor’s interview with him from around the time of the last LP, he admitted to relatively low-volume listening habits; a guy more likely to be found returning to old favourites than venturing down new sonic avenues. Now the opposite is true.

“Yeah that has changed since I started DJing,” Hopkins says. “I wanted to learn to do it partly because when you’ve finished one album and have toured there are no performances of any kind. And performance has been a part of my life since I was a kid.

“So I couldn’t just keep playing out from the last album, and to play new things would ruin the surprise when the next is finally ready. But one of the things I like about DJing is it has forced me to be more exploratory, particularly within the electronic side of things. I wouldn’t have been listening to much before really. Now it has opened my mind up quite a lot.”

THE WAREHOUSE PROJECT AND FLOATING POINTS PRESENT – SATURDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER. BUY TICKETS



While DJing may be relatively newfound ground, the approach Hopkins takes to melding those tracks together is anything but. Describing his sets as ‘euphoric’ and ‘hypnotic’, he’s clear on the fact those two adjectives apply to both his work in the booth and the studio.

“I think I take my sets in a direction where there’s quite a lot of euphoria in there, quite hypnotic. I always land back on those two adjectives when talking about the music I make or play. I like that balance, having some euphoria but not being ridiculous or formulaic.

“I really love tension in tracks. So I love the traditional thing of taking the bass out in tracks and dropping it back in. But you can really play with that. I think when it’s incredibly predictable I don’t like it, but there are ways of giving the satisfaction of a classic build without it being too familiar.

“As long as the payoff happens eventually then it’s fine, I still love that basic concept. I apply the same to the non-bangers on the album, too. The record is shaping up to have a lot of contrasts, with some really quiet moments, but those same principles also work in a very ambient way. Rules that work for me in music can work across any style.”

This attitude isn’t that surprising, considering the time Hopkins spends completing projects. As patient as some of his productions sound, this focus on fine-tuning has garnered incredible results, leading to a back catalogue of work, and reputation as a DJ, that strikes a perfect balance between pure musicality and hedonistic ammunition. The overall goal being to deliver things that won’t be forgotten in a hurry- from club sets to releases.

“It has taken me a lot of years to realise one of the most important tools I have in writing music is not listening to something for a while. And also listening to something, letting it be alive for a very long time, but not committing to it.



“I’ll write a melody or riff or something and be really excited about it, but then return in a couple of days only to think ‘this is rubbish’. Or I’ll have a track live for three or four months and then get bored. If I get bored of it then it doesn’t pass the test that every track on this album and the last album have had to pass. I want to make things that last, it’s much more important to do that than to rush something”

From a personal perspective this point of view certainly resonates. The tracks you own that truly stand the test of time are rarely the most immediate, but are always the most accomplished overall. It’s a point Hopkins agrees with.

“Yeah. It’s funny, there are a lot of tracks I’ve found myself playing in a lot of sets- I’ve DJ'd maybe 15 or 20 festivals this year- and there are some that I play a few times and then feel bored, but others, for some reason, just keep working. Also you get this massive privilege of seeing the impact a track has on people, which is great for slipping your own stuff in, because if it works then you know you’re doing something right.

“But yeah some tracks just have this certain quality. Even if they are really simple. There’s this one called Algoreal by Gary Beck, which I play a lot. It’s basically just one note, with a really good beat, and it gets louder and louder, with this massive bit where the beat falls off. And I never get bored of it. Whereas others with more complexity only work a few times. I really admire when people do something really powerful with less. And I’m not a minimal musician at all.”

With all that in mind, his set here at Store Street can’t come soon enough. A space that is at once utilitarian- built as an air raid shelter-cum-car park, yet somewhere that feels as though it was made for commanding, powerful, ethereal-edged rave moments. Where better to here a bonafide master of contrast? Enough with the digressions, anyway, perhaps it’s best to leave it there; so roll on 30th September.

Jeremy Underground returns to The Warehouse Project this September as part of WHP and Floating Points Present, alongside Daphni, Jon Hopkins, Madlib and more. Final tickets on sale here.

THE WAREHOUSE PROJECT AND FLOATING POINTS PRESENT – SATURDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER. BUY TICKETS

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20:00 – 05:00 | STORE STREET
SOLD OUT