Fact or fiction? Is Clutchy Hopkins an alias? Or is this the true name for a reclusive musical powerhouse? Are his recordings vintage, new, or a mix of both? Some may wonder about these things, along with why some dudes have a long pinky nails or whatever happened to MySpace, others may ask if any of this really matters? While the mystery surrounding the artist is no longer news, the music only gets better, maturing like a fine wine.
Clutchy Hopkins’ upcoming new album “The Storyteller” (release date: 23.04.2010) was delivered to the Ubiquity headquarter on a beaten-up iPod, which was wrapped in what looked like ancient scroll, but turned out to be two paintings of Hopkins by Spanish artist Thabeat Valera. One painting is the album cover, and the other will feature in the booklet. The iPod included all of the album tracks, plus a reading of the story behind the recording, repeated in 10 different languages.
It’s the most varied Hopkins album to date encompassing lots of vocal textures, and a dash of worldly vibes. Check the Brazilian-psyche-like “No Contact … Contact,” and the mad spooky science of “Miles Chillin,” or the shuffling “Thinkin’ Of Eva” which would sound perfectly at home playing in a Parisian café. It’s an album influenced by Hopkins time in jail, where, while in the courtyard, he met many international prisoners waiting to be deported. Lo-fi, acoustic, finger- snapping, hand-clapping, whistle-and-hummed jam sessions gave Hopkins the ideas which he later put to tape. The album booklet will include the entire story, unfiltered.
The tale begins in the winter of 1982. Hopkins had run into some legal trouble in his Mojave Desert hometown and was convicted of insurance fraud. He had been travelling with a friend who developed an abdominal aortic aneurism, a condition which requires immediate surgical intervention or sudden death is inevitable. Hopkins, himself a victim of poor medical treatment due to lack of financial means, knew his only choice was to help his friend by falsifying insurance documents. His friend was admitted and survived, but shortly after the hospital authorities discovered the insurance documents were bogus. Hopkins was arrested and quickly charged due to the high cost of the crime. He refused to admit guilt to what he thought was a selfless act that saved a life, and was ultimately convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term.
Upon arriving at a California state penitentiary he immediately took a liking to, and got along with many of, his fellow inmates. Unfortunately this seemed to aggravate the guards who thrived on controversy and in-fighting amongst the prisoners. Hopkins truly believed in his heart that music and creativity was art that every person could relate to, even mass murderers and insurance fraudsters. He knew that music was a universal language that people from any ethnicity or background could enjoy. He had used music to unite people throughout his life, and decided that prison would be no different. By way of impromptu jam sessions in the courtyard Hopkins even united rival gangs and cliques. The other inmates were able to take music and use it as a common ground to not only break the monotony of every day prison life, but also change hateful relationships into actual friendships. Hopkins taught them that music could be created anywhere, at any time, with no instruments required.
As the days of his first year grew longer, the passing of time became more and more difficult, and so Hopkins decided to turn the nightly domino game into a full-blown beat session. He began banging the dominoes on the table and directed others to use their hands and feet to make a beat that sounded like something out of a recording studio. The louder they became the bigger their smiles grew, and the more they annoyed the prison staff. During one such session a few guards approached Hopkins, yelling at him to stop and separating him from the crowd. They restrained him on the ground. Frail and unable to fight back, Hopkins could only look on as the inmates were inspired to bang whatever they could louder and louder, creating a wonderful rhythmic sound. Now even more annoyed, the guards took Hopkins away and he was ordered to perform heavy physical labor.
What had started as minimal security turned into around-the-clock surveillance of Hopkins. He was being treated as if he were the ring leader of a crime ridden organization running inside the prison. But instead of being armed with weapons and drugs he was armed with finger snaps and hand claps. The only thing he was guilty of was uniting hate-filled, otherwise-hopeless, men and giving them something worth living for.
The mood at prison had now shifted. The guards were aggravated by the newly united crowd and concerned that this now singular group of felons could turn against them. They decided to take Hopkins out of commission, to prove their dominance over the inmates, and to disband the music sessions. After a swift beating Hopkins was dragged to the isolation chamber where he was told that further musical disruptions would only lead to greater punishment and pain.
Twenty days went by in that dark hole. Hopkins was partially broken, but knew that his pain and suffering was a small price to pay for the hope music had given his fellow men. As he was removed from his lonely cell, the guards walked him through the main entrance of the hallway leading to the prison corridor. This was a route never taken by the guards before. He knew he was being turned into an example to show that no one was safe from this type of treatment. He walked with his head down but could feel everyone staring with heavy hearts. Then a faint sound came from down the hall, from somewhere near Hopkins’ cell. Looking up, Hopkins was able to see his cell mate, a 7 foot 6 inch man who had hands the size of bear claws. Previously disinterested in joining the musical jam sessions, Hopkins was surprised to see his cellmate slapping the brick wall and the prison bars as loud as he could. A nice rhythmic beat was established, one inmate turned into two, then two into four, until the entire cell block had turned into a symphony of new found musicians. As the guards turned to drag Hopkins back to isolation the only thing the Hopkins could do was smile, because he knew no matter how much hell he had to endure, the story he had long attempted to spread was now loud and clear.