Artists: Hopper and Kramer

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A Remark Hugh Made
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HUGH HOPPER: Jon Downes talks to Matthew Watkins

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Prog rock

Hopper and Kramer Biography

Hugh Hooper, who died of leukaemia in 2009, started his musical career in 1963 as the bass player with the Daevid Allen Trio alongside drummer Robert Wyatt. There can be few other free jazz bands of the era with such a stellar line-up. Unlike other legendary ensembles such as The Crucial Three  (a Liverpool band from 1977, which featured three musicians who were to go on to enormous success), the Daevid Allen Trio actually played gigs and made recordings. All three members ended up in Soft Machine, which together with Pink Floyd was the ‘house band’ of the burgeoning ‘Underground’ movement, which tried so hard to turn British cultural mores upside down for a few years in the latter half of the 1960s. (Hopper and Wyatt had also been in another legendary Canterbury band called The Wilde Flowers).

Hopper stayed with Soft Machine (and he was initially the group’s road manager) until 1973, playing at least one session with Syd Barrett along the way.

During his tenure the band developed from a psychedelic pop group to an instrumental jazz rock fusion band, all the time driven by the lyrical bass playing of Hugh Hopper. Hugh’s solo career meandered through the next few decades entering uncharted waters and producing some of the most sublime and peculiar records that you could possibly imagine.

In the mid-1990s he teamed up with another maverick talent for a couple of albums. His partner on these legendary recordings is Mark Kramer (known usually by his surname), who is almost equally as legendary as Daevid but in a completely different genre. He was a member of New York Gong and a band called Bongwater, and toured with many famous acts (usually playing bass guitar) including The Fugs and The Butthole Surfers.

In the late 1980s he was sound co-ordinator on Penn and Teller’s Broadway shows and later formed a band with Penn Jilette. He started his own Shimmy Disc records, and in 1992 Kramer sold his Noise New York recording studio and moved just across the Hudson River where he'd found a house going into foreclosure with a state-of-the-art 24-track recording studio built in. He dubbed the studio Noise New Jersey and continued to produce recordings.

The music that these two extraordinary talents made together is a glorious synergy of the most eclectic influences ranging from jazz to world music, all filtered through the hard edged post-punk sensibility that Kramer had developed over the years. The music is completely insane, and has very few reference points away from itself. I have been listening to nothing much else since I discovered it. It is not only massively cerebral but joyous and massively entertaining; the sound of two unique talents having fun and making music like no-one would ever make again. Yes, it's THAT good!

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