I first discovered the music of London’s Jon Hopkins through his collaborative work with Kenny Anderson (a.k.a. King Creosote). Their album Diamond Mine combined the disparate genres of Scottish balladry and English electronica to commercial and critical success.

Moving to Hopkins’ solo work I was surprised how much of Diamond Mine’s emotional heft is present in his instrumental tracks, how effortlessly he finds the humanity in non-organic sounds. His fourth full-length Immunity is one of the most accessible albums the electronica genre has seen in a good while, and may prove to be another crossover hit.

Shortly before his appearance at this year’s Mutek Festival in Montreal, I spoke with Hopkins about the videos made for Immunity, his approach to film scoring, and future work.

You’ve released two videos for Immunity so far, both very different but striking in their own way. What can you tell us about them?


When I landed on the one-word title Immunity I had an idea to get some amazing typography done for the sleeve — the word would be the image, nothing else needed, that was the idea. I was inspired by the work of Craig Ward. He’s famous for his extraordinary approaches to type, like printing a word on glass and photographing it being smashed. We started talking to him and he had this idea to get a biochemist, Linden Gledhill, to grow crystals which would spell out the title. When I saw the undoctored photographs of the crystals, I felt we didn’t need anything more (for the cover).

For the video we explored the idea further, but with all different kinds of chemical reactions. Incredible results, all without using computer graphics.

Are you a science nerd?

It’s not that I’m not interested in it, but I don’t have the brains for it. I don’t have a fully scientific brain. It just means my approach to programming is all done on instinct, without formal training. I can appreciate science when it shows us something beautiful.

What does “Immunity” refer to?

It’s the feeling I get when I’m making music, that no matter what’s going on in my life, if I’m in the studio I have this amazing feeling like nothing else matters. That’s the effect music can have.

I do get that feeling when I’m listening to my favourite music — like it’s a shield of sorts.

That’s exactly the meaning. That’s the why the title track is so lulling and simple in that way. Like a shield.

“Open Eye Signal”:

I wasn’t involved with this one, but I did select the treatment by (director) Aoife McArdle. I loved what she’d written.

The track is like a vehicle, it just rolls on and on, almost without a destination. She nailed that with her treatment. So they went off and filmed it. I did provide a few points about the edit but it was really her work.

You have a unique way of bringing forth direct emotion from you music, despite it being electronic and instrumental. Do you ever find the electronic music of other artists to be more cold or detached?

It seems most of that tries very hard to be as dark and bleak and possible. I like elements of that but I’m more interested in aesthetics and emotion, more like something you’d get from post-rock. Like the emotion of a Sigur Ros track into something more techno. I like those two elements. I guess that’s why I end up doing film score work.

As a writer I tend to focus on dialogue and story when I’m watching a movie, and with that considering how I would handle both differently. As a musician do you pay particular attention to score?

Absolutely. But there’s a trend now — there are no “themes.” The idea of memorable (and repetitive) melodies seems to have fallen out of film scoring. One I loved recently was for The Social Network, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. An amazing mix of modern sounds with memorable melodies.

I first discovered your music through Diamond Mine, your collaborative album with King Creosote (singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson). Do you have plans to work together again in the future?

Absolutely. I think it will be the next album I make. It’s an amazing experience, working with Kenny, and we had a lot of fun touring it around.

Immunity will be released June 8 via Domino. Hopkins will perform at the Mutek Festival in Montreal on May 31.

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