A Short Bio:
At the start (and at the heart) of the so-called Canterbury Music scene was The Wilde Flowers, a band which was an outlet for the rock ambitions of several musicians who grew-up together, among them Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge and the Hopper brothers - Brian and Hugh. Jazz improvisation and many other musical forms preceded this venture in their early playing careers, but the 'lure' of the sixties revolution tempted them to look in a more 'commercial' direction (or that is what they imagined in those far-off, heady days !).
"My own part in those early years and beyond into the Wilde Flowers period was, besides being a playing and writing member of the group, somewhat unusual in that being slightly older and the only one with a 'regular' job, I was able to afford transport of sorts. I was able to provide a certain stability and direction to the group and in a more practical sense move it around for rehearsals and gigs".
The Wilde Flowers, as with many bands, underwent a series of personnel changes whilst building up a small but dedicated local following with their self-penned material and made a few demo records along the way (since released on Voiceprint VP123CD). Brian on guitar and saxes and Hugh on bass (and later, saxophone) were the only constant factor through their three-year life, with Robert Wyatt, Richard Sinclair, Kevin Ayers and Graham Flight moving on to pastures new and others including Pye Hastings, Richard Coughlan, Dave Lawrence and Dave Sinclair joining at various stages.
After Hugh Hopper's final departure in March 1967, The Wilde Flowers carried on for a while, but "the heart and purpose had gone out of it". Dave Lawrence started playing with his brother John, while Pye Hastings embarked on the writing partnership with Dave and Richard Sinclair that later evolved into Caravan and of course, Hugh, Mike Ratledge, Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers would find themselves in the legendary Soft Machine.. "And I was moving back into the more mainstream modern jazz idiom", remembers Brian Hopper , "through a variety of gigs and sessions with local musicians". Of particular note was a trio featuring him on soprano and tenor saxophones and flute, alongside John Hawkins on organ and Bob Gilleson on drums.
Publishing demos recorded sometime in 1968 with an early version of Zobe (a band named after the original title for Mike Ratledge's Soft Machine composition "Hibou, Anemone And Bear") resurfaced on the Wilde Flowers CD released on Voiceprint in 1995. They featured Dave Lawrence on vocals and bass, John Lawrence on guitar and Dave Smith on drums. Other publishing demos for songs by both Brian and Hugh Hopper were recorded the following year, this time with an all-star line-up involving Robert Wyatt, Mike Ratledge and Pye Hastings alongside the Hopper brothers. At the time, Brian Hopper was virtually a full member of Soft Machine, playing on the Volume Two album, as well as gigging with them on their British dates and recording sessions for the BBC and the legendary Spaced project.
Meanwhile, Zobe carried on, with several changes of personnel until the final version which consisted of Brian on saxes and flute, all three Larner brothers - John on guitar and vocals, Frank on organ and Gordon on trombone - plus drummer Ron Huie. "With this line-up we played a selection of my compositions and arrangements of standards, including some by Chicago and Frank Zappa. We played a few gigs alongside the early Caravan [recordings of these were included on the Canterburied Sounds collection]... This continued until late 1971 when the soul was blasted out of our lives by the untimely and tragic death of Ron Huie. None of us had the motivation to pick up the pieces and the band drifted apart".
Another band Brian Hopper was involved in at the time was Beggars Farm, consisting of ex-Earl Gutheridge Explosion members John Lawrence (guitar) and Dave Smith (drums), and ex-Crimson Lace Blues members John Tilley (lead vocals and flute) and Dave Holman (bass). Recordings of original compositions (most of them by Lawrence) made in late 1969/early 1970 were converted to a limited vinyl LP run, and several record companies approached, unfortunately to little interest. As part of Brian's subsequent Canterbury archive series of projects, the tracks were released on Voiceprint in 1997 under the title Brian Hopper with Beggars Farm. Beggars Farm split up in May 1970 following the tragic death of John Tilley in a road accident as the band was returning from a gig at Toft's, Folkestone.
Growing somewhat disillusioned with the music scene and with self-doubts about his ability to contribute significantly at that time, Brian concentrated more fully on his 'day-job' in agricultural crop protection research and development which over the following twenty years took him away for long periods overseas - Africa, Central America and especially the Far East, which included living in China for two years. These wanderings virtually precluded any active participation in music although the interest was always there and one of his earlier enthusiasms for ethnic musical forms could be indulged at first hand.
In the early 1990s the traveling became much less frequent and once more saxophones were put to lips and he got to grips with the complexities of midi sequencing, sampling and use of modern synth technology enabling him to start writing and recording new material. Also at this time Brian teamed up with ex-Runstones ambient guitarist and keyboard player Robert Fenner and the two collaborated on a series of joint projects combining ethnic and ambient sounds with jazz overtones resulting in a Voiceprint release entitled Virtuality. Further projects are nearing completion with percussion and stronger rhythmic elements being the driving force.
During the last twelve or so years Brian has also been heavily involved in many audio archive projects, most of them for the Voiceprint label, partly using his own collection of 60s and 70s 'Canterbury' related material (the Canterburied Sounds volumes) and also coordinating and legitimizing (especially as far as the band members were concerned) the release of formerly officially unavailable performances by Soft Machine.Playing and recording continues currently with a jazz quartet (Jazzmatazz), the riotous and inventive Happy Accidents musical collective and various solo projects, one of the latter culminating in a CD issued in 2005 (If Ever I Am - VP338CD) consisting of all self-written songs and instrumentals and being a mixture of older numbers with updated treatments plus more recent material featuring different guest artists, including Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper.