Recording

Jon Hopkins Releases ‘Immunity’

What does East London sound like at 4 in the morning? Producer/musician Jon Hopkins decided to record that very idea outside his studio door on the final night (er, morning) of recording his fourth f 6/01/2013 5:00 AM Eastern

What does East London sound like at 4 in the morning? Producer/musician Jon Hopkins decided to record that very idea outside his studio door on the final night (er, morning) of recording his fourth full-length album, Immunity (June 4, Domino), to both capture the moment and breathe a little life into a particular section of the album’s title track. “The final thing I had to finish was the transition section between ‘Sun Harmonics’ and ‘Immunity,’” Hopkins says. “This section needed a bit of life—it was sounding too flat. I had the idea to record what was going on outside at that minute, preserving that moment on record. I went outside with my Zoom field recorder and just recorded for about 20 minutes.”

The results were edited and laid over the existing drones and vocals. “[You can hear] footsteps, a car passing, nocturnal city sounds. I find things like that bring electronic sound to life and immerse the listener in a physical world.” The rhythmic creaking, wooden noises further into the track are the sounds of Hopkins’ piano pedals. “I recorded them with two Maplin tie-clip mics—which are great for capturing things where there is no space for a full-size mic—and cut the results into that drum part.”

“Immunity” also features Scottish singer-songwriter King Creosote, whose dreamlike vocals were recorded with a Røde NT2-A going into a TL Audio dual-valve preamp. “The vocal chain in Logic was based around Waves PuigTec EQ and REQ6, with a send to an aux running [SoundToys] EchoBoy going into [Audio Ease] Altiverb 7, [Waves] MondoMod and S1 Stereo Imager. Once the vocal was comped, I put it through Magneto on [Sony] Sound Forge. I always do this. I haven’t found a saturator I like as much as this for vocals, even though it’s about 10 years old.”

Jon Hopkins' piano

Jon Hopkins' piano

A classically trained pianist, Hopkins always reaches for the real deal when recording. “I have never used a fake piano. I use a Yamaha upright that I’ve had since I was about eight,” he says. “I record it with two Oktava [MK-012] mics and a Heritage Audio DMA-73, going into an Apogee Ensemble, then into Logic. All the sound sources used on the record are external; there are no soft synths. I have nothing against them, but I just don’t find them interesting, and I’m way too impatient to learn them.”

“Immunity” also features Scottish singer-songwriter King Creosote, who delivers dreamlike, soft vocals that were recorded with a Røde NT2-A going into a TL Audio dual-valve pre-amp. “The vocal chain in Logic was based around Waves PuigTec EQ and REQ6, with a send to an aux running [SoundToys] EchoBoy going into [Audio Ease] Altiverb 7, [Waves] MondoMod and S1 Stereo Imager and a few other things. Once the vocal was comped, I put it through Magneto on [Sony] Sound Forge. I always do this. I haven’t found a saturator I like as much as this for vocals, even though it’s about 10 years old."

Hopkins also used a Korg MS-20, a Roland SH-09, an old CasioTone 101, and a Korg Trinity to create most of the sounds. “The drums are, for the most part, made by me recording myself hitting or shaking things, with a few classic drum machine samples to beef things up,” he says.

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