This interview with Hugh Hopper was conducted by mail in May 1999, on the occasion of the release of Hughscore's "Delta Flora" album.
Hughscore is an occasional project with an
existing American group (originally Caveman Shoestore). Generally,
your bands and projects in recent times associate you with people
from far away, and as a result seem more and more "virtual", I mean
this in opposition to the classic idea of a band with everyone living
next door to each other. Is this a further evidence of the world
being a true "global village" at last, or more prosaically of England
being a shittier place than ever before for musicians like you to get
together and make music?
Hughscore started after a chance connection with Fred Chalenor, who asked for the music of an old piece of mine, 'Sliding Dogs', that he wanted to play with Caveman Shoestore in Oregon. I am very open now to chance beginnings of projects. The records with Kramer began in the same way - I didn't know his work but Macioce the photographer introduced us.
Doing projects this way - working only
occasionally and over a long period of time -, would you say this is
a totally different way of making music than with your previous
bands? What new perspectives does it offer to your creative process?
Is it only made possible by the new computer technology, which
enables you to work on compositions and arrangements on your own
before the actual collective process?
Musically, the 3 Hughscore records have evolved: the first was based almost totally on my compositions (and they were Cubase-evolved computer compositions for the most part that I had never played live). Fred, Elaine di Falco and Henry Franzoni worked hard to arrange, rehearse and record the basic tracks after getting my written parts (printed out by the computer - thank you Cubase!). I then went to Oregon for a week and added some Hopperfuzzbass and other madness; the second record was more loosely based on my Cubase sketches with more and more input from Fred and Elaine and Wayne Horvitz as producer; finally the new CD, "Delta Flora", continues that evolution - by now we are all involved in composing, arranging and playing. I often can't remember which parts of some tunes were written by me - Elaine writes melody lines over ideas of mine that have already been rearranged by Fred ...
There is a more "trippy" quality to this album
than previously, with in particular more use of repetitive rhythmic
patterns, which almost make "Facelift" something one could dance
along to! Was new drummer and producer Tucker Martine influential in
that evolution? Would you say it makes the music more in tune with
current musical trends?
Tucker Martine has had a very important influence as producer - he laid down the basic drum tracks/loops that give the pieces their feel and texture. Cuneiform Records are getting excited - they think some of the tracks will get a lot of FM radio play in the States because although the CD still has that Hughscore weirdness, it has a contemporary sound. Overnight radio fame for old grey fox from the 60's... (smiles)
Have you played live a lot with Hughscore? Do
they play without you when you're away? How do you see this
collaboration evolving in the coming years?
I have played exactly one gig with Hughscore! When we finished recording the first CD in 1995, we did a short gig in a bookshop in Portland. They did one other gig, I think, after that. I don't see it as a live band, although Elaine always says she'd like to do some gigs. But with two bass players...? Anyway, I like to have it as a studio project, to do things that are impossible live. I like both sides of music - studio construction music and live adrenalin playing. Composition and improvisation.
Why did you change labels from Tim/Kerr to
Cuneiform (which in recent times has been your main label, and is
more generally the leading label in this field of
Caveman had a contract with Tim/Kerr Records to do more records, so we did the second CD with them. But I have a much closer relationship with Steve Feigenbaum at Cuneiform - I can call him in the States and have an honest conversation. He's an old Soft Machine fan, but if he doesn't like an idea he'll say so. I've released a lot of records during the last four or five years with Cuneiform in USA and Voiceprint in Europe - many more than in all the early days of my career...
(c) 1999 Calyx - The Canterbury Website