An update on the Hugh Hopper biography, ‘Dedicated To You But You Weren’t Listening’, to be published by Jazz in Britain. More to be published in the next few days!
Lots more research in 2022 with no less than 45 interviews or contacts with various musicians who collaborated with Hugh over the years. There were a few dead ends, and other exchanges were no more than a couple of sentences exchanged by email about fleeting collaborations, but there were plenty of extensive interviews too over Zoom extending to a couple of hours. A number of recordings which included Hugh performances also appeared in 2022, whilst the Facelift blog included a number of reviews of gigs involving people who have worked with Hugh over the years. I’ll include details of all of these things in my round-up below…
The year started with an exchange of messages with guitarist Fred Frith, my interest piqued because of a one off concert in New York in 2006 alongside Chris Cutler. Fred told me not just about this but also of Hugh’s influence on his bass playing, and of reviewing, anonymously, Hugh’s work, for a British music paper.
A day later, I received the first of a series of emails from Julian Raphael. Julian, who now lives in New Zealand was the co-ordinator of the Maridadi Singers, a Canterbury vocal collective who Hugh recorded a couple of tracks with for a limited release CD of the project in 2000. As some of Julian’s original files are now corrupted or lost, we managed to piece together the complete album thanks to the help of pianist Frances Knight, who composed the track ‘Singing My Way Free’, which Hugh contributes bass to.
The Maridadi Singers
Next up was a long anticipated conversation with Steve Feigenbaum, head honcho at Cuneiform Records and Wayside Music, personally responsible for producing and distributing high quality releases of a huge portion of the HH discography over the years. We talked about everything from his involvement in putting out the first Phil Miller album ‘Cutting Both Ways’ all the way through to Steve gaining the rights to release the (then) forthcoming Soft Machine 3 disc album ‘Facelift France and Holland’, and there is a fabulous story of how a well known rapper unwittingly helped support Hugh financially in his final days…
Orphy Robinson, the renowned jazz vibraphone player and percussionist gave me an entertaining interview in early January about his work with Clear Frame, the free outfit which combined the talents of himself, Hugh, Lol Coxhill and Charles Hayward, (as well as, from a distance, Robert Wyatt).
To finish off the month, one of the best and most informative interviews of the entire project: Hugh’s right hand man on so many of his European projects in the 80s, 90s and Noughties: the unique guitarist Patrice Meyer: Patrice spoke with love, insight and humour about his lengthy association with Hugh.
In January there also appeared the latest of a number of Hugh related recordings from the Phil Miller Legacy website. This one, although not personally featuring him, is poignant as it contains footage of a benefit gig held to support him and his family at a critical time not long before his death – it also features many of the members of projects he was working on in his final years. https://philmillerthelegacy.com/videos/hugh-hoppers-benefit-concert-2008/
Many of the people reading this will be aware that there were a number of websites over the years containing Hugh’s ‘timeline’ of recording sessions and gigs (one of which is still contained in part on the Calyx website here: http://www.calyx-canterbury.fr/bands/chrono/hopper.html) and will know that this remarkable document contains a number of anomalies and question marks about projects, in part as some of the 1970s dates were assembled long after the event. One such query was regarding a Stomu Yamasht’a gig in 1974 at the Drury Lane Theatre with an extended lineup. I contacted singer Maxine Nightingale, who performed at this gig, and trumpeter Henry Lowther, (who may have done), but neither could recall any specifics. Meanwhile minimalist composer Terry Riley was contacted over in the States, as I was curious as to whether his path crossed with that of Hugh on his visit to Paris to see Daevid Allen in the early Sixties – although interaction between Terry and Daevid is well documented, it would appear that Terry had left Paris by the time Hugh arrived on the scene. Terry was kind enough to reply to confirm this, and also left complimentary comments on Hugh’s bass playing with Soft Machine.
February started off with a lengthy interview over the ether with Norwegian (but for many years resident in the UK musician and head of Compendium Records) Frode Holm – Frode told me the story of the label from record store to Oslo and London offices, the release of the ‘Hoppertunity Box’ and ‘Cruel But Fair’ albums and background to the subsequent Hopper Dean Tippett Gallivan tour of Scandinavia.
During the 90s I was lucky enough to be on the mailing list for Carbon 7 records in Belgium, and more recently have come across the work of Univers Zero bass player Guy Segers, including some excellent Hopper-inspired bass playing on Mini Hugh for Dave Newhouse https://guysegers1.bandcamp.com/track/mini-hugh-dave-newhouse-2016-06-24 Guy talked to me about Hugh’s influence on his own playing, as well as his involvement, as a promoter or audience member, for various Cahoots, Equip Out, Short Wave, Mashu and Hugh Hopper Band gigs in the Low Countries in the Eighties and Nineties.
In early February, the third of a trio of previously unreleased albums by the Cortex, the three piece combining the talents of Hugh Hopper, guitarist Mark Hewins and saxophonist Frank van der Kooij, appeared on Mark Hewins’ bandcamp platform here: https://markhewins.bandcamp.com/album/the-cortex-tr3o
Next interview off the rank was fellow bassist Fred Baker. Fred succeeded Hugh in both In Cahoots, and, after a long gap, in Soft Machine Legacy/Soft Machine, but for the purposes of the biography we mainly talked about the Progman concerts in Seattle in 2002/3 where both musicians appeared, indeed, alongside each other… As this interview also coincided with the release of the ‘lost’ Miller/Baker album ‘Double Up 2’ and Fred officially joining the Soft Machine, Facelift published parts of the interview here: https://canterburyscene.com/2022/03/18/an-interview-with-fred-thelonious-baker-for-the-launch-of-phil-miller-fred-baker-double-up-2/
Another little diversion in February was managing to track down Austrian trombonist Radu Malfatti to talk about his involvement on the Soft Heap album in 1978. Radu could remember little about the recording session other than the origins of the track ‘Fara’ which he appeared on.
The release of ‘Facelift France and Holland’ in March seemed particularly relevant as on the 21st of the previous month I had a short but illuminating interview over the phone with none other than Lyn Dobson, stalwart of Soft Machine septet, quintet and occasionally quartet lineups from 1969 and 1970. Lyn gave me his own version of events…
A couple of days later came the first chance to see a former collaborator of Hugh’s in action, as Guy Evans (who played with Hugh in Mother Gong) took his customary seat behind the drums to play for Van der Graaf Generator at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. Guy had given me his thoughts last year about those Oxes Cross sessions. The gig is reviewed here https://canterburyscene.com/2022/02/23/van-der-graaf-generator-bridgewater-hall-manchester-22-02-22/
Right at the end of the month, the prolific Greek drummer Chris Stassinopoulos, who performed alongside Hugh on one of his last live appearances (in Athens in 2008) gave me his thoughts on that concert (which also featured David Cross).