MICHAEL HOPPÉ
Amistad
(Spring Hill Music)

 

For New Age / contemporary instrumental music fans that have followed the genre since its revival back in the late 1980s and 1990s, the name of keyboardist and composer Michael Hoppé will surely ring some bells. In fact, even going back to the late 1980s, Michael was already quite active on the New Age instrumental music scene and through the years, he’s released a large body of work as well as collaborating with a number of classic artists including Jon Anderson, Vangelis, Tim Wheater and countless others. Michael’s blend of meditative, instrumental music has always been supremely relaxing to say the least and he sounds truly blessed on his 2018 album called Amistad. Based around experiences in his new home base in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the 14-track, 57 minute CD is wonderfully packaged and features Michael’s keyboard-based arrangements backed up by a number of musicians, including three acoustic guitarists and several violinists that imbues the album with a kind of neoclassical feel. Speaking about his new hometown in Mexico, Michael tells mwe3.com, “San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a most beautiful large town full of interesting and creative people. It was voted for the 3rd time as the “#1 City in the World” by Travel and Leisure, and we are very happy we moved here four years ago.” Legendary electronic musician Steve Roach is also credited as environmental sound designer and harmonica player, Joe Powers gives the album a light, jazzy feel too. Released on the legendary Colorado-based Spring Hill label, Amistad is clearly an album to play and replay though it’s best listened to in the relaxing, creative spirit in which it was made. Music legend Michael Hoppé will make his many fans quite happy with the colorful sound of Amistad. www.springhillmedia.com





mwe3.com presents an interview with
MICHAEL HOPPÉ


mwe3
: Can you tell us what city or town did you grow up in and when did you come to the US to live? What are some of your favorite cities and countries to visit?

Michael Hoppé: I was born in Cairo, Egypt at the end of the Second World War, and moved to London shortly afterwards, where I spent much of my early life. After my education at several boarding schools, I went to Mons OCS and Sandhurst, and became an officer in the British Army until 1968. I then went to work for PolyGram in Hamburg in 1969. My wife and I moved to New York in 1981, and I eventually left PolyGram in 1984 to concentrate on my own music. As for favorite cities, we lived in Montreal, Hamburg, New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and now San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I would say we loved living wherever we were, and every city had its own unique charm, so no particular favorites!

mwe3: You were working in the music business before the CD even arrived. The CD dramatically changed the music business in my opinion.

Michael Hoppé: Yes, in 1969, the LP was the name of the game! Followed by music cassettes, and then CDs in 1983. In the early days, the classical catalog especially benefited from the new technology developed by Sony and Philips. As you might know, the CD size was initially determined by how much recording space Beethoven’s 9th Symphony needed.

mwe3: Was making your own music the reason why you left the biz and what were some of the highlights of your work at Polygram? What was it like working with early New Age artists like Vangelis and rock acts like The Who and Jean Michel Jarre?

Michael Hoppé: Yes, after my time as head of A&R I eventually left PolyGram to create my own music in 1984, and with the encouragement of Vangelis, I managed to find the courage to do so! My 15 years with the company was a godsend because I learnt the “business” of music, and that has proven to be enormously useful in my own career as an artist. I would say working with extraordinary talents like The Who, ABBA, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kitaro, Vangelis and others, my career was a true gift I have always been grateful for. All were trailblazers and to witness their achievements was something I have never forgotten.

mwe3: Your grandfather’s photography is featured on many of your album covers. Interesting that he was German yet achieved success in England way back in the early 20th century. Tell us about your grandfather’s photos and which albums feature his pictures? Do you still have family in the U.K. and Germany?

Michael Hoppé: Both my parents are deceased and my brother Richard lives in the UK and my daughter Rebecca and son Oliver live in Hamburg. Although I was well aware of my grandfather's photography (E.O. Hoppe 1878-1972) it was when living in Los Angeles, I was able to access his work and so could feature his work on many of my albums, like The Yearning, The Dreamer, The Poet, Tapestry, Agnus Dei, The Lover, Nostalgie and Beloved. I now benefit from my daughter’s (Rebecca Hoppé) wonderful photography, for my CD cover art. Grandfather moved from Germany to England in 1912, and he became the most sought after portraitist during the early 20th Century photographing many of the celebrated figures of the day. For those interested, please see further info.

mwe3: Who were your biggest musical influences when you were growing up and are there still artists that you follow? How did these artists and composers influence your own musical direction?

Michael Hoppé: Even from a young age, the music that I adored and listened to was classical music. When I heard the “Adagio” from Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto #5, it changed my life, and I was only ten! In 1969 I was invited by PolyGram to be employed by their classical division, Deutsche Grammophone, the prestigious classical label. However the company then decided I should really learn how money was made in the music business, and it of course it was with pop music… so, I never worked in classical music, and spent my PolyGram career only in pop. As for artists who I still follow, it would have to be largely the people I signed. Vangelis is still my idol, and I buy anything he records. In classical music, it ranges from Rachmaninoff to Bach.

As for my own music, melody is everything for me. As somebody once wrote “Melody is the golden thread through the maze of tones by which the ear is guided and the heart is reached.” And this, I would say, just about sums up my music, and it has been brought to life, as I only imagined in my dreams, by my exceptional collaborators featured on my numerous albums.

mwe3: Your new album Amistad is a masterpiece of New Age instrumental music. Being that it is influenced by your home in Mexico, do you consider Amistad New Age or a kind of transcendent global instrumental music album? Interesting that you list all the album titles in both English and Spanish too. Do you speak fluent Spanish?

Michael Hoppé: Thank you, Robert! Many of the performers are from our new hometown of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Maybe a couple of pieces have a Mexican flavor, but mostly the music has no particular local influence, and frankly, is not really New Age either. I consider my improvised albums, and some of my personal favorites, like Afterglow, Wind Songs and Serenity very much in the New Age category, but the others, probably not. “Amistad”, Spanish for “Friendship”, is my way of thanking the people of this beautiful country for our life here. And yes, my limited Spanish has a long way to go!

mwe3: How do you compare your town San Miguel de Allende to other places you’ve lived? Must be a popular destination as you say in the liner notes.

Michael Hoppé: San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a most beautiful large town full of interesting and creative people. It was voted for the 3rd time as the “#1 City in the World” by Travel and Leisure, and we are very happy we moved here four years ago.

mwe3: How did you assemble all the great musicians who play with you on Amistad and was the album cut live or were there a lot of overdubs? And also was the album recorded in Mexico too? The sound is excellent. Tell us about the studio Amistad was made in.

Michael Hoppé: As I said earlier, most of the musicians are from here, but guitarist Dan Nicholas recorded his performance in Amsterdam, and Joe Powers (harmonica) came to visit us from Portland. There are no overdubs, as indeed all my albums feature tracks only recorded in one take. That is why I have always needed outstanding players! As with all my other albums, I record everything in my home studio, now using the Tascam DP-24 digital recorder and AT4033 mics.

mwe3: The album features your music and keyboards. Was there more of an accent on acoustic piano and less on synths? What pianos did you use on the Amistad recording and were synths also added to the mix?

Michael Hoppé: Actually, there is no acoustic piano. What you are hearing is the Roland RD-800 which has superb piano and synth sounds. As with most of my albums, the acoustic players on violin, cello, guitar, harmonica etc. play live, and I add the string sounds as a bed for them to play over. Really my role, apart from being the composer and producer is to keep out of their way and simply support their artistry with subtle synth washes.

mwe3: Steve Roach is also credited as “environmental sound designer”. Tell us about working with Steve as he also goes back quite a few years. You say Steve captured sounds in and around San Miguel. What other sounds by Steve are featured on the Amistad album? Steve has made quite a few albums over the past 30 years.

Michael Hoppé: Steve and I have known each other for a very long time! In fact he provided the environmental sounds on my very first album Quiet Storms: Romances for Flute & Harp in 1987 As for Amistad, I had recorded the San Miguel sounds on my iPhone, sent them to Steve, and then he assembled them in the way you hear at the beginning and end of Amistad. Yes, Steve has been amazingly prolific for a long time, and he is, for me, the absolute 'real deal'. A superb and unique artist, Steve has always followed his own path, and never deviated from it.

mwe3: The Amistad album kind of sounds influenced by what we called 'exotica' back in the mid 1990s when they reissued all the classic albums by Martin Denny and Les Baxter on CD for the first time. That’s kind of what the lead off track “Beneath Mexican Stars” sounds like to my ears. Did you want to give the Amistad album a kind of vintage feel or is that style prevalent in a lot of your albums?

Michael Hoppé: “Beneath Mexican Stars” is a really a throwback to those glorious old Mexican songs of sweet melodies and tight harmonies. I would say much of my music has a nostalgic almost yearning character, but not sure it is vintage. You’ll have to check out my other albums to see.

mwe3: Guitars are very much featured on Amistad too. Tell us about working with the three guitarists on the album and also the harmonica player who adds some cool jazzy vibes on a couple tracks.

Michael Hoppé: The three very different guitarists on Amistad are Alfredo Muro, who’s a fabulous virtuoso, Billy White, an outstanding local player and Dan Nicholas, a superb jazz musician. All were wonderful to work with. Joe Powers is the remarkable harmonica player and earlier we had made an album together called Nostalgie: Romances for Harmonica. Joe travels the world and I was delighted he could visit us and play on a couple of tracks.

mwe3: Amistad was co-produced by you and Pedro Cartas who adds in some excellent violin work too. How would you describe working with Pedro on the production and how did you meet him? Plus, there’s another violinist on Amistad, called David Mendoza-Diaz.

Michael Hoppé: Actually, I am sole the producer of Amistad, but the superb Cuban violinist Pedro Cartas is the co-composer of two tracks “Dawn” and “The Awakening”. Both were totally improvised on the spot and in one take! Perhaps my favorite tracks on Amistad. Yes, David Mendoza-Dias is another gifted young violinist from San Miguel who also played so beautifully on Amistad.

mwe3: You go way back with Spring Hill Music, back to the 1990s or earlier? How many albums have you done with Spring Hill and is Tim Shove one of the original label people still at Spring Hill? Is the label still as active as they were in the 1980s and ‘90s?

Michael Hoppé: Yes, I have over 30 albums, and many of them are on Spring Hill Music, including my Grammy nominated album Solace. I have several other albums on Hearts of Space. Spring Hill Music is now with the Canadian company Linus Entertainment and Tim Shove sometimes consults with them.

mwe3: As great as the music on Amistad is, the cover art and album packaging is brilliant. The painting by Andrew Osta is very cool and does it make some kind of statement in your mind?

Michael Hoppé: Andrew Osta is a wonderful local artist and a good friend of mine. As we are now in Mexico, I thought it would be appropriate to have a Mexican style cover full of color and charm. So glad you like it, I love it, too!

mwe3: So now with Amistad gaining worldwide acclaim, what steps are you planning to promote it to the global music market and with such a successful new album to your credit are you going to continue onwards making more music in this style and are live shows a possibility in the future?

Michael Hoppé: Well, the album is certainly getting out there! Amistad has also just been released by my label in South Korea, and it includes all the 6 bonus tracks. But now I am on to something very different. My new project is Requiem for Peace & Reconciliation for an SATB (soprano, alto, tenor & bass) choir and string quartet accompaniment. Consisting of 8 movements, and part of the Catholic Mass, the text is in Latin, as used by Mozart, Faure, Verdi etc. It will be premiered, and recorded in June 2019 in Sedona, and I consider it one of my very best works.



 

 
   
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