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Hugh Hopper, portrait of an happy man with the bass
by Claudio Bonomi
hopper foto01.JPG
photo by Naujo Nakamura
Hugh Hopper is perhaps, as superexpert Aymeric Leroy writes on the Calyx website, the central figure of the whole Canterbury scene. Fluid, circular and geometric as his bass guitar, he has crossed for the long and wide the musical universe that takes its name from the city of Kent. His first band is the Wilde Flowers (1964-66) with his brother Brian, Richard Sinclair, Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers, but the group where he leaves an indelible mark as composer and bassist (designing memorable melodic lines with his fuzz bass guitar) is the Soft Machine, with whom he had begun to work in 1968 as a roadie. From 1969 to 1973, he lives as a protagonist what is considered the golden age of the band: from the psychedelic Volume Two until the Jenkins-styled turn of Sixth (read reviews in “Quaderni d’altri tempi VII”). And, once stripped from Soft Machine’s apparel, he starts, in a parallel solo career (starting in the 1973 with 1984, album that consacrates him as investigator in distortions, phaser, wha-wha and loops: read review in “Quaderni d’altri tempi V”), a wise and dense web of partnerships and projects.
It’s impossible to tell them all, but we must mention a few: Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, Cruel But Fair (with Elton Dean, Keith Tippett and Joe Gallivan), Gary Windo’s Steam Radio Tapes, Carla Bley Orchestra, Two Rainbows Daily (in duo with Alan Gowen), Phil Miller’s In Cahoots, Pip Pyle’s Equipe Out, the”dutch period” with the Hopper Goes Dutch, the transalpine co-operation with the guitarist Patrice Meyer, Mashu with Mark Hewins and Shyamal Maitra, Lindsay Cooper’s Oh Moscow, the U.S. intersection with Kramer, Caveman Hughscore, Bone and, jumping to most recent times, Clear Frame (a cd released by Continuity with Lol Coxhill, Charles Hayward, Orphy Robinson and Robert Wyatt as a special guest), Soft Machine Legacy, Brainville3 (with Daevid Allen and Chris Cutler), Delta Saxophone Quartet and finally Humi (a duo withYumi Hara Cawkwell, a UK based Japanese experimental vocalist-keyboard player).
Always active, therefore, except a reflective break between 1978 and 1984, always showing a lucidity out of the town to stay in step with the times and talk with a wide variety of partners. All of this without denying a past that perhaps better than others of his generation has been able to metabolize.

You’ve been very busy in the last few years. You’ve been involved in many projects and recordings (e.g. many “loopscape cds” under your own name released by Burning Shed). Musically speaking could we say that this is your happiest time?
Yes, I think that’s right. When I was younger, life in music had much more conflict, young men in a band all trying to get their own agendas on top.

Continuity, Charles Hayward’s label, has just released a Clear Frame cd with special guest Robert Wyatt on cornet. Is that a spot project? Are you planning live concerts with the cd line up?
We have been playing together for more than two years, gigs in London, also recently in Switzerland and Austria. We invited Robert Wyatt to add some cornet to our studio record. Robert almost never wants to play live, so it is unlikely that he will do gigs with us.

And what about Humi (a duo project involving Hugh Hopper and singer and multi-instumentalist Yumi Hara Cawkwell)?
We just played our first gig in London, 1st November. There is a possibility of more gigs, in Greece and Japan.
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