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, hes 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. Michaels
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 Michaels 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 its 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
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
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 Beethovens
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 grandfathers 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 grandfathers 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
daughters (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?
Hoppé: Even from a young age, the music that I adored and
listened to was classical music. When I heard the Adagio
from Beethovens 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
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 youve 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
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. Thats 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?
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. Youll 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, whos 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,
theres 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
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!
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
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.