10 Reasons Why Jon Hopkins is the Best
We’re celebrating the genius of the unassuming producer as he hits the big 4-0
We like to claim Jon Hopkins in the dance music world because he’s truly one of a kind. But really, he is as adept at producing pop music, playing classical piano or composing film soundtracks as he his laying down devastating bass.
Born in Kingston upon Thames, England, in 1979, he is a unique polymath who started out formally studying music before turning his attention to electronic sounds after the synths of the Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode won him over. Now deep into a hugely successful career, he continues to get better, to confound expectation and defy categorisation. On 15 August he celebrated his 40th birthday, so in honour of his most unassuming talent we serve up 10 reasons why he is the best.
1. His Collaborations
In his earlier years, Hopkins was under the mentorship of ambient overlord Brian Eno. He has said that he learnt immeasurable amounts in those sessions, chiefly that enjoying the music making process is as important – if not more so – than perfecting the technical stuff and getting bogged down in detail. “[Eno] made me a little more loose and more human in how I approached music.” He later went on to work with Eno on a number of projects, including co-producing Coldplay’s Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends album in 2008, and has also linked with artists as diverse as Massive Attack, Herbie Hancock and King Creosote for his Bombshell album, which is an impressive list by anyone’s standards.
2. His Award Nominations
That Coldplay album won Best Rock Album at the 2009 Grammy Awards and became the best-selling album of 2008. Earlier this year, Hopkins narrowly missed out on his own Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album for 2018’s Singularity longplayer, easily the most profound work of his career. He’s also been nominated for two Mercury Music Prizes and an Ivor Novello Award. Despite not picking up the final prize for any of these, even being nominated is great for the wider dance music world as his music continues to cross over, reach ever larger audiences and prove that electronic music can go beyond the club.
3. His Film Compositions
In 2009 Hopkins scored his first film, the Peter Jackson picture The Lovely Bones, with Brian Eno and Leo Abrahams. In 2010, he then composed the soundtrack for British sci-fi and horror film Monsters, and also short film Rob & Valentyna in Scotland, directed by Eric Lynne, which picked up an honourable mention at the Sundance Film Festival. More recently he scored 2013’s Kevin Macdonald film How I Live Now, all of which found him showcase his dizzyingly wide range of skills, from meticulous and deft sound design that draws you in to big, sweeping musical landscapes that wash right over you.
4. His Singular Style
Hopkins has been behind some of the more beautiful electronic albums in recent memory. Combining ambient and modern classical with downtempo and electronic influences, he effortlessly straddles scenes in beguiling, hard to categorise ways. His music is evocative and filled with narrative, and despite being instrumental (or synthetic) can be as moving and emotionally stirring as any ballad or love song. He manages to pull off incredibly complex tricks and techniques, harmonies and progressions that lead to grandiose moments of musical invention that pairs driving techno with delicate pianos, but also leaves enough space in his music to really let you revel deep within it. His sound is as dynamic as anyone’s and continues to evolve.
5. His Love of Meditation
Since his 20s, Hopkins has been a student of kundalini meditation and later took up self-hypnosis. Both are used as ways to relax on tour and unwind at home and have also helped him get out of creative black spots in the past. They have been so valuable to him that he has also taken up the increasingly popular Wim Hof method, a breathing technique that involves hyper-oxygenating the body, which in turn is said to cause some big feelings of universal awareness.
6. His Wild Inspirations
While making music that is a seamless fusion of the organic and synthetic, the real and the imagined, the digital and the played, Hopkins is very much in touch with just as many different sides of his own emotions, senses and personality. In interviews a few years ago he revealed he decided to head deep into a psychedelic space with the aid of some naturally occurring aids. “I’m fascinated by the idea that I can eat a mushroom that grows in the ground and have these crazy cosmic experiences that will then appear in the music and then possibly affect other people,” he said, while also experimenting with psychoactives like DMT during legal psilocybin retreats in Amsterdam. “Ideas for music came flying into my head. The universe disappears, you’re greeted by these extraordinary beings, and it’s all pretty far out."
7. His Spellbinding Albums
Hopkins’ 2018 album Singularity muses on cosmic infinity, the expansion and contraction of the universe and all the thought-provoking imagery that goes with that. It flows through things as dense as rugged techno and psychedelic ambient, intimate piano and visceral drums and manages to be both explosive and vulnerable. Immunity, however, was his hypnotic breakthrough album and one that told the story of an unforgettable night and all its associated thrill and spills. Both are epic in different but equally accomplished ways.
8. His Mesmeric Live Shows
Hopkins doesn’t consider himself a traditional dance artist, and that shows in his live sets. Whether playing the piano or an array of synths and controllers, they are immersive affairs in which he can extend sections and respond to the crowd, all the while loosely sticking to the structure of the tracks that fans can easily recognise.
9. His Moving DJ Sets
If you can catch Hopkins DJ, you should. He has become a fine selector who tends towards fresh and futuristic sounds within the techno realm, but always with an absorbing sense of melody and darkness that has won over even hard-to-impress crowds at cult places like Dekmantel Festival.
10. His Musical Chops
They say you have to know the rules in order to break them, so part of what makes Hopkins so good is his formal musical skills. Aged 12 he began studying piano at the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music, in London. He stayed there until the age of 17 and in that time won enough money from music competitions to start buying his own synths. Inspired by greats like Ravel and Stravinsky, he also won a competition to perform a concert of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with an orchestra and for a while considered becoming a professional pianist before being put off by the formality of the art.
Listen to Jon Hopkin's Top Tunes
A twisted, digitalised groove with a forlorn feeling that lingers long in the brain.
Open Eye Signal
A more clubby, minimal cut but one with a beautifully delicate and tender atmosphere.
Melancholic techno at its finest and most majestic.