So, sometime over Easter it became exactly a year since, during a chance conversation in the early part of the first lockdown with Matt Parker and John Thurlow at Jazz in Britain about something else entirely, I found myself commissioned to write the biography of Hugh Hopper, provisionally entitled ‘Dedicated To You But You Weren’t Listening’.
I thought it was high time I gave Facelift blogfans and potential readers of the biography an update.
I totted up last night the number of interviews I’d carried out for Facelift and other publications since the early Nineties until the start of 2020 and came up with a relatively miserly count of 14, possibly not much to show for the best part of 30 years on and off involvement in the Canterbury scene.
Well, since the start of the Hugh Hopper project there have been a grand total of 27! – none of them in the flesh, but all ‘live’ through a combination of landline, mobile, Zoom, Skype and Messenger. So far, I’ve interviewed Brian Hopper (4 times!), Harry Williamson, Dave Radford, Richard Sinclair, Joe Gallivan, Theo Travis, John Marshall, Didier Malherbe, Yumi Hara, Trevor Tomkins, Gary Boyle, Mike Travis, Nigel Morris, Steve Kettley, Lawrence Fletcher, Mark Hewins, Dave Stewart, Jakko Jakszyk, John Greaves, Sally Potter, Frank vd Kooij, Sophia Domancich and Simon Goubert
There have been plenty of remote contributions too via email, messenger and associated attachments, extending from short answers to 25 page essays! Thank you to Robert Wyatt, Pam Windo, Dave Sinclair, Pye Hastings, Hoppy (Akeo Kamiyama), Robert Jarvis, Leonardo Pavkovic, Alfred 23 Harth, Henry Franzoni, Derek Styles, Andy Frizell, Jean Max Delva, Micael Gidon, Geoff Leigh, Hamish McDonald, Graham Clark, Nick Evans and Julian Gordon Hastings.
And there are artefacts contributed for publication not just from many of the interviewees, but also from Karen Mantler (on behalf of Carla Bley), Herm Mew, Didi Ward, Joanna Nestor, Bill MacCormick and from numerous Hugh fans and fellow Canterbury travellers, too numerous to list here, but they will be credited in the book.
In the pipeline are promised contributions from Chrystelle Blanc-Lanaute, Frances Knight, Nick Didkovsky, Herm Mew, whilst I am hoping to speak soon to Elaine di Falco, Rick Biddulph and Celia Wellcome, Geoffrey Richardson, Steve Feigenbaum and Jeff Sherman.
And I’ve made contact and had positive offers of help from Frode Holm, Kramer, John Etheridge, Roy Babbington, Geoffrey Richardson, Mark Fletcher, Alex Maguire, Lisa Klossner, Fred Baker, some of which I really need to follow up sooner rather than later, after all, in some cases it has been a year…
And there are so many more people I need to contact, particularly as they are as much a part of the story as many that I have already spoken to. Hugh was so prolific and collaborated with so many different people and I regard the minutae of Hugh’s low-key gigging in Canterbury in the mid-Eighties as relevant as the well-chronicled history of Soft Machine in the late Sixties and early Seventies.
I have arrived at what I believe is the definitive Hugh Hopper discography, extending to around 200 albums containing unique Hugh Hopper material; am continuing to expand and clarify Hugh’s own 60+ page timeline of gigs and recordings. I am also trying to build a definitive bibliography of Hugh-related press articles, Youtube videos, unofficial recordings and covers.
I’ve had copious amounts of help from lots of people, including, as you might expect, the remarkable Aymeric Leroy, who has generously shared much of his own archive. Also Stewart Spaull, writing a parallel Gary Boyle biography, Cuneiform, Moonjune and Gonzo record labels plus many individual snippets of help. Plus much subtler support and words of encouragement from people following the various posts on Facebook, thank you!
It’s all been a steep learning curve, involving a few dead ends, juggling lots of things in what’s been a really crazy year, refining my archaic interview techniques and trying to recall a myriad of facts at the drop of a hat.
One really exciting thing to come indirectly out of this was being asked to write sleevenotes for the NDIO live album ‘Zenith’ featuring Frank vd Kooij, Hugh Hopper and Robert Jarvis alongside other Dutch musicians, which also includes a remarkable improvised studio piece called ‘Ravel’ from the trio. https://www.voordekunst.nl/projecten/11413-dubbel-lp-ndio-met-hhopper-f-vd-kooij#het-verhaal
I intend to continue researching for the rest of 2021, and continue to interview as many people as possible. Then hopefully start writing in 2022.
How you can help…
Please send me your Hugh-related stories, feel free to share artefacts, details of correspondence with Hugh, rare recordings, links to articles and videos, contacts for people etc etc.
Help me repay the generosity of the huge number of musicians who have contributed their time and energies to the project by continuing to support them, particularly via Bandcamp
Keep up to date with Jazz in Britain’s burgeoning catalogue at https://jazzinbritain.org/
Save a few quid for the book when it comes out!
Buy back issues of Facelift if you don’t already have them from http://www.faceliftmagazine.co.uk, any money generated here goes directly into funding research for the book through postage costs, tracking down some particularly obscure releases from the discography, and eventually, trips to various libraries and archives when things open up!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org