Tag: Ashra (Page 1 of 2)

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1979

While 1979 saw a post-punk revolution with new wave and ska emerge as energetic expressions of youth with the likes of JOY DIVISION, XTC, THE SPECIALS and MADNESS, maturer acts with power pop sensibilities such as BLONDIE and THE POLICE dominated the UK charts.

But the synthesizer had become a new tool of creativity for those who weren’t interested in learning chords on a guitar and preferred to use one finger, thanks to its new found affordability with refined technology from Japan. While electronics had been present in disco, progressive rock and esoteric avant garde forms, following seminal records in 1978 such as ‘Warm Leatherette’ b/w ‘TVOD’ by THE NORMAL and ‘Being Boiled’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE, a new DIY artpop form was developing that would eventually take on KRAFTWERK at their own game.

Among those fledgling electronic acts who released their debut singles in 1979 on independent labels were OMD with ‘Electricity’ on Factory Records and FAD GADGET with ‘Back To Nature’ on Mute Records. Meanwhile on another independent Rough Trade, CABARET VOLTAIRE achieved a wider breakthrough with ‘Nag Nag Nag’, the standalone single accompanying their first album ‘Mix-Up’.

Having experimented with synths on ‘Low’ released in 1977, David Bowie had gone to see THE HUMAN LEAGUE at The Nashville in late 1978 and hailed them as “the future of rock ‘n’ roll”. Alas it was TUBEWAY ARMY fronted by Gary Numan who beat THE HUMAN LEAGUE to the top of the UK singles charts in Summer 1979 with Are Friends Electric?’. However, just a few weeks earlier, SPARKS had taken the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ into the UK Top20. But however history is perceived, a revolution had begun that would lead to the dawn of “synthpop” in 1980.

Here are 20 albums which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK sees as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1979. They are listed in alphabetical order with a restriction of one album per artist moniker, meaning Gary Numan and Edgar Froese appear twice…


ASHRA Correlations

As ASHRA, Manuel Göttsching released what many consider to be his first ambient masterpiece ‘New Age Of Earth’. On 1978’s ‘Blackouts’, he expanded the line-up to include drumming synthesist Harald Grosskopf and guitarist Lutz Ulbrich which continued on ‘Correlations’. Despite being more rock-oriented, it featured sequenced electronics with ‘Club Cannibal’ almost entering Jean-Michel Jarre territory.

‘Correlations’ is still available via Spalax Music

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/manuel-gottsching-1952-2022/


PETER BAUMANN Trans Harmonic Nights

Although he had released ‘Romance ‘76’ while still a member of TANGERINE DREAM, Peter Baumann’s first solo album after departing the band was something of an interim record before venturing into electronic pop with ‘Repeat Repeat’. Mostly shorter instrumental compositions using mysterious melodies and occasional vocoder textures, ‘Trans Harmonic Nights’ remains something of an underrated electronic gem.

‘Trans Harmonic Nights’ is still available via Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/trans-harmonic-nights-remastered-edition/


EDGAR FROESE Stuntman

Away from TANGERINE DREAM and perhaps prompted by the success of Jean-Michel Jarre’s electronic symphonies, ‘Stuntman’ was Edgar Froese at his most accessible with strong synth melodies, particularly on the title track. Elsewhere, new age resonances were developing while on ‘Drunk Mozart In The Desert’, there were atmospherics coupled with a rhythmic bounce.

‘Stuntman’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.edgarfroese.de/


GINA X PERFORMANCE Nice Mover

Produced and co-written by Zeus B Held, the debut album by androgynous art history student Gina Kikoine featured an array of ARP and Moog synths to signal the birth of a new European Underground. Cult club favourite ‘No GDM’ was written in honour of the “great dark man” Quentin Crisp while other highlights included the detached robotic soul of the title song and the feisty gender statement ‘Be A Boy’.

Available on the album ‘Nice Mover + Voyeur’ via Les Disques du Crepuscule

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/gina_x.html


GIORGIO E=MC²

With Giorgio Moroder acquiring Roland’s new System 700 and an MC8 Micro-composer to control it, ‘E=MC²’ was touted as the first “electronic live-to-digital” album. This allowed for an uptempo funkiness previously unheard on sequencer based music to come into play. With the euphoric energy and treated vocals of ‘What A Night’, the sound of DAFT PUNK was inadvertently being invented!

‘E=MC²’ is still available via Repertoire Records

https://www.giorgiomoroder.com/


STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick

As a member of GONG and solo artist, Steve Hillage had a love of German experimental music and ventured into ambient with long standing partner Miquette Giraudy. Recorded for the Rainbow Dome at the ‘Festival For Mind-Body-Spirit’ at Olympia, these two lengthy Moog and ARP assisted tracks each had a beautifully spacey vibe to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.

‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.stevehillage.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Reproduction

With a manifesto of “synthesizers and vocals only”, the debut album by THE HUMAN LEAGUE included ‘Empire State Human’, ‘Circus Of daeth’, ‘Almost Medieval’, ‘Blind Youth’ and a stark cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’. While ‘Reproduction’ was not a commercial success, Phil Oakey, Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware gained valuable experience that would progress their careers.

‘Reproduction’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/martyn-ware-the-reproduction-travelogue-interview/


JAPAN Quiet Life

Although considered a 1980 album, the third JAPAN long player was actually released late 1979 in Japan, Canada, Holland and Germany. Featuring the sequencer-driven title song as well as the rockier ‘Halloween’, despite Roxy rip-off accusations, it was a major artistic step forward as a quality timeless work embracing synths, muzak and orchestrations.

‘Quiet Life’ is still available via BMG

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/rob-dean-the-quiet-life-interview/


GARY NUMAN The Pleasure Principle

Devoid of guitar but using a flesh-and-blood rhythm section, Gary Numan realised his dream of producing a new form, machine rock. Synths were fed through guitar effects pedals to add a more sinister metallic tone and while there was sombre isolation communicated on all the songs, there was a catchy melodic sensibility which turned Numan into the first synthesizer pop star.

‘The Pleasure Principle’ is still available via Beggars Banquet

https://garynuman.com/


ROBERT RENTAL & THOMAS LEER The Bridge

Originally released on THROBBING GRISTLE’s Industrial Records, ‘The Bridge’ album saw Scottish duo Thomas Leer and Robert Rental trading vocal and instrumental duties. Comprising of a side of five songs and a side with four ambient instrumentals, ‘Day Breaks, Night Heals’ and ‘Monochrome Days’ both showcased an avant pop sensibility. Robert Rental sadly passed away in 2000.

‘The Bridge’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/story-of-thomas-leer-robert-rental/


ROEDELIUS Selbstportrait

Best known as a member of CLUSTER with the late Dieter Moebius, ‘Selbstportrait’ was Hans-Joachim Roedelius’ third solo album, a “self-portrait” reflecting the gentle introspective ambience of the record. Something of a sister album to the 1977’s ‘Sowiesoso’, it was more accessible than CLUSTER’s own structurally minimal ‘Grosses Wasser’ also issued in 1979.

‘Selbstportrait’ is still available via Bureau B

https://www.roedelius.com/


KLAUS SCHULZE Dune

After the ambitious double opus ‘X’ which also incorporated strings in a record comprising of “Six Musical Biographies” in honour of figures including ‘Dune’ author Frank Herbert, Klaus Schulze conceived an actual album called ‘Dune’. Something of a diversion, ‘Shadows of Ignorance’ featured the eccentric poetry of Arthur Brown while the experimental ambient title track made use of cello.

‘Dune’ is still available via Bureau B

https://klaus-schulze.com/


SIMPLE MINDS Real To Real Cacophony

Stronger than their debut LP ‘Life In A Day’, SIMPLE MINDS started experimenting with more electronics and a very European austere on its swift follow-up ‘Real To Real Cacophony’ with the title song presenting their take on KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’. Underground and pulsating through on ‘Changeling’, that and ‘Premonition’ really were a sign of things to come in their dark avant disco templates.

‘Real To Real Cacophony’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


SPARKS No1 In Heaven

Following the inspirational success of ‘I Feel Love’, SPARKS were put in contact with its producer Giorgio Moroder who had aspirations to work with a band. The resultant album saw Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto fitting well with the electronic disco template. ‘The No1 Song In Heaven’ hit the UK charts a few months before ‘Are Friends Electric?’ while the follow-up ‘Beat The Clock’ got into the Top 10.

‘No1 In Heaven’ is still available via Lil Beethoven Records

http://www.allsparks.com/


TANGERINE DREAM Force Majeure

Still feeling the void left by the departure of Pete Baumann, following the vocal experiment of ‘Cyclone’, Edgar Froese and Christopher Franke opted to retain drummer in Klaus Krüger. While there was also increased guitar and piano usage, the title song and ‘Thru Metamorphic Rocks’ utilised pulsing sequencer passages to signal the Hollywood direction that TANGERINE DREAM would head in.

‘Force Majeure’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.tangerinedreammusic.com/


TELEX Looking For Saint Tropez

The ethos of Belgian trio TELEX was “making something really European, different from rock, without guitar”. ‘Looking For Saint Tropez’ contained ‘Moscow Diskow’ took the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow by adding a funkier groove while also included were a funereal robotic cover of ‘Rock Around The Clock’ and their deadpan debut single ‘Twist A Saint Tropez’.

‘Looking For Saint Tropez’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsTelex


THROBBING GRISTLE 20 Jazz Funk Greats

The title and the group photo on Beachy Head were tongue-in-cheek statements but THROBBING GRISTLE were still deathly uncompromising as shown by ‘Persuasion’. However, there were glints of light with the glorious cascading instrumental ‘Walkabout’ and mutant disco lento of ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ as Cosey Fanni Tutti’s whispered vocals competed with synthetic whip-crack and drill noises!

‘20 Jazz Funk Greats’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://www.throbbing-gristle.com/


TUBEWAY ARMY Replicas

Whereas the TUBEWAY ARMY debut featured punk tunes with added synth, ‘Replicas’ would see the Philip K Dick inspired dystopian vision of Gary Numan paired with appropriate electronic sounds as the main melodic component on the now classic UK No1 ‘Are Friends Electric?’. But ‘Down In The Park’ and ‘I Nearly Married A Human’ pointed to a future guitar-free follow-up.

‘Replicas’ is still available via Beggars Banquet

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/beginners-guide-gary-numan/


VANGELIS China

Although VANGELIS had never been to China at the time the album was recorded, he had developed a passionate fascination for its people, culture and vast landscape, noting a connection between ethnic Greek and Chinese music. Using traditional elements alongside his synthesizers, the centrepieces were the majestic ‘Chung Kuo’ and the meditative pentatonic piece ‘The Tao Of Love’.

‘China’ is still available via Universal Music

https://elsew.com/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Solid State Survivor

The second and best YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album featured an embarrassment of riches.  It included the glorious Technopop of ‘Rydeen’, the mighty ‘Technopolis’, the moodier ‘Castalia’, the Cossack romp of ‘Absolute Ego Dance’ and ‘Behind The Mask’ which was later covered by Greg Phillinganes, Eric Clapton and Michael Jackson.

‘Solid State Survivor’ is still available via Sony Music Direct

http://www.ymo.org/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
1 January 2024

MANUEL GÖTTSCHING 1952 – 2022

The pioneering German musician Manuel Göttsching sadly passed away peacefully on 4th December 2022 aged 70.

During a career spanning over five decades, he released over 30 albums in a variety of guises, working with the likes of Conny Plank, Harald Grosskopf, Lutz Ulbrich and the late Klaus Schulze who died earlier this year. His website simply said in tribute: “When your fingers touched the strings of a guitar, the world stood still. May it stands still and bring you back to us whenever we hear you play. The void he leaves behind we want to fill with his music and loving memories.”

Having studied classical guitar from an early age but with ambitions to be a drummer, Göttsching began his recorded career with Klaus Schulze in ASH RA TEMPEL; their self-titled album in 1971 was engineered by Conny Plank and seeded from sessions of free-form improvising. Comprising of just one track per side of vinyl, the building eerie atmospheres of ‘Traummaschine’ and the noisier rock of ‘Amboss’, the record was hailed as a Kosmiche landmark.

After Schulze departed, Göttsching continued ASH RA TEMPEL with other musicians and collaborated with psychedelic advocate and acid guru Timothy Leary on ‘Seven Up’ in 1972. But it was obvious that the Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist felt restricted by the band format, as evidenced by a solo record ‘Inventions For Electric Guitar’ which was billed as the sixth ASH RA TEMPEL album.

Signing to Virgin Records in 1977 who also had other German acts like FAUST and TANGERINE DEAM on their roster, he shortened the moniker to ASHRA and released what many consider to be his first masterpiece ‘New Age Of Earth’. Exploring more progressive instrumental territory, Göttsching used an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and his signature keyboard, a Farfisa Synthorchestra to compliment his meditative transient six string style that was for texture as much as it was for melody. The wonderful 20 minute ‘Nightdust’ and the gently percussive ‘Sunrain’ were just two of the jewels on this beautiful treasure trove of a record while ‘Ocean Of Tenderness’ captured a glorious widescreen ambience.

While Göttsching continued solo on 1978’s worthy follow-up ‘Blackouts’, he expanded the line-up of ASHRA to include drumming synthesist Harald Grosskopf and guitarist Lutz Ulbrich on the next two Virgin albums ‘Correlations’ and the more rock and vocal-led ‘Belle Alliance’. In a 2020 interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, Harald Grosskopf remembered: “We never talked about commercial intentions. Our main interest was having fun and producing something original. I liked the freedom of not thinking about whom we could reach or sell to what we had made. The combination of the three of us simply made it what it was. Everybody had ideas and had the chance to put them into the album. Manuel played a very melodic guitar. In those days, maybe Carlos Santana was a bit of an influence on him.”

Göttsching’s next masterpiece came almost by accident; having reunited with Klaus Schulze for a concert tour and returned home, he decided to improvise an extended piece based around an understated Prophet 10 sequence as something to listen to on his recently purchased Walkman for an upcoming flight. Influenced by minimalist trailblazers Steve Reich and Philip Glass, the end result was the hour long ‘E2-E4’ which was eventually released in 1984.

Using a gentle but hypnotic backbone and an extended guitar solo in the second half, despite press criticisms on its initial release that it was inconsequential muzak, ‘E2-E4’ became an influence in the development of Balearic house and ambient techno, so much so that it was sampled for the club track ‘Sueño Latino’ in 1989 which was a favourite at New York’s Paradise Garage. Manuel Göttsching also composed music for fashion designers such as Claudia Skoda and Wolfgang Joop as well as theatre productions like ‘Dracula’ while continuing to perform live; an ASHRA band reunion in Japan with Harald Grosskopf and Lutz Ulbrich resulted in the release of two live documents in 1998.

Previously unreleased archive recordings such as the wonderful ‘Dream & Desire’ collection and the six volume series ‘The Private Tapes’ would also attract interest. 2000 saw Manuel Göttsching and Klaus Schulze return as ASH RA TEMPEL to play the Royal Festival Hall in London for Julian Cope’s Cornucopea Festival and release an album ‘Friendship’. A few years later, there were live performances of ‘E2-E4’ including one at the esteemed Berlin techno club Berghain in 2006 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of its recording. In 2013, Göttsching returned to London to perform at Oval Space with deep house producer Henrik Schwarz.

Manuel Göttsching appeared live as recently as September 2022 performing with Hans-Joachim Roedelius of CLUSTER at the Zodiak festival in Berlin.

https://www.manuel-goettsching.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th December 2022

HARALD GROSSKOPF Interview

Harald Grosskopf is the German drummer who entered the world of electronic music while still maintaining his percussive role behind the kit.

Grosskopf made his name in the rock band WALLENSTEIN, but legend has it that a hallucinogenic adventure led to a voice telling him to stop trying to sound like Billy Cobham or Ginger Baker, as he realised he had been imitating other musicians.

With his mind free from having to drum within a set role, he realised rock music was not the best medium for this mode of artistic expression. Two musicians who were members of the Berliner kosmische combo ASH RA TEMPEL Klaus Schulze and Manuel Göttsching were to become key in paving Harald Grosskopf’s path into the world of electronic music.

Schulze was a fellow drummer who had served an apprenticeship with TANGERINE DREAM and went on to wholly embrace the meditative synthesizer aesthetic; he invited Grosskopf to play drums on his 1976 masterpiece ‘Moondawn’.

Meanwhile Manuel Göttsching had developed a more transient guitar style to compliment his more electronically-based instrumental backdrop as showcased on the classic long player ‘New Age Of Earth’ as ASHRA. Looking to expand his vehicle to a more-band oriented format, the guitarist asked to Grosskopf to join him for the recording of what became 1979’s ‘Correlations’.

Harald Grosskopf took the plunge to go solo with the mind bending album ‘Synthesist’ which was released on the iconic Sky Records in 1980.

A work comprising of eight instrumentals that blended a sonic tapestry of synthesizer soundscapes with drumming that provided colour as opposed to dominance, it musically followed in the exquisite tradition of his Berlin electronic friends.

More recently, Grosskopf has been recording and performing live, both solo and with Eberhard Kranemann with whom he released the experimental cosmic rock album ‘Krautwerk’ in 2017.

For the 40th anniversary of ‘Synthesist’, Bureau B are reissuing the album as a deluxe edition with new remixes provided by the likes of Steve Baltes, Thorsten Quaeschning, Paul Frick and Stefan Lewin among others. From his home in Berlin, Harald Grosskopf kindly spoke about how his career was liberated by electronics.

You started as a drummer, so what got you interested in synthesizers and electronics?

That‘s a long story until I got there. When my friend and colleague Udo Hanten (of YOU who unfortunately died two years ago) asked me in August ’79 “Why don`t you produce solo albums?“

I was astonished and my first thought was “Who will be interested in an album with a line-up of tracks with solo drumming?”. He of course meant working with synthesizers, which I did not have in mind at all. I told him that “I‘m a drummer, I don‘t own synthesizers. All I have is a drum kit, an 8-Track reel-to-reel tape recorder and part of the fee from my work on Klaus Schulze‘ ‘Bodylove‘ album”. So Udo invited me to come to his home, using his equipment.

In exchange, he asked for my 8-Track to record his own album. I must point out that ASHRA never met regularly, like a rock band to rehearse or produce. We never said “We are a band now forever!“. ASHRA always was based on spontaneity in all concerns. There were quite some breaks in between touring and studio sessions. So I had lots of time and my desire for making music was killing me during 1979.

After a few days thinking about Udo‘s proposal, I decided to do it. To tell the truth, I had no clue how to record nor how to operate synthesizers, even though I had worked with Klaus Schulze, one of the godfathers of electronic music. During studio sessions I never had to, nor did I care about studio techniques. The only thing I occasionally operated was a volume fader during mixing.

In that entire era, I felt I was a drummer, nothing else. Even after ‘Synthesist‘ was done and out. Putting it live on stage seemed technically impossible in 1980. So my first album was kinda born out of an emergency situation; no band activities and left behind with a huge unsatisfied desire to making music.

The beginnings of those recording sessions were technically pretty rough. I had to learn all about recording from scratch while I was recording. But conversely, operating synths was an easy challenge. At the end I wasn`t even sure, almost very insecure whether an audience would share the joy and trouble I went through in the process. And what I emotionally and music wise had put into it. But the naivety and emotional innocence behind that album might be the main reason why it seems to have touched people right up to today.

Working with Klaus Schulze on ‘Moondawn’ must have been interesting, given he started as a drummer. What was your brief from him for the recording?

No briefing at all! After my time in the rock band WALLENSTEIN, it was a very unfamiliar experience. WALLENSTEIN, typically German, was very (!) structured and disciplined. We used to work extremely hard on details. Program music at its best!

It never reached the satisfaction and joy I felt working with Klaus and Manuel Göttsching. Klaus gave no advice at all. Never ever! He liked my drumming I guess and he trusted me more than I did doing the right thing.

Other than from Klaus and Manuel, I was not used getting positive feedback from any of my colleagues in those rock ’n‘ roll times. After ‘Moondawn’, I decided to leave WALLENSTEIN and rock music.

The first ‘Moondawn’ take ended abruptly after 5 minutes, I somehow didn‘t feel well. Klaus and I started talking about what happened. After only one sentence Klaus spontaneously said: “I see you know where we going, let‘s do again!”

The second take led to what is heard on the ‘Moondawn’ A-side under the title ‘Floating‘, one long 25 minutes lasting improvisation. No emotional break or technical mistakes. Joy in the clearest mind. After the last note faded, we met in the control room and hugged each other.

‘Correlations’ saw Manuel Göttsching expand ASHRA into a band format, how did you come to be involved?

We first met at Dierks Studios around 1971 and I visited him occasionally when WALLENSTEIN had a Berlin performance. There was ASH RA TEMPEL, TANGERINE DREAM, POPOHL VUH and some other important formations who were on the same record label (Ohr and Pilz) as well as WALLENSTEIN. Compared to my experience in the German rock business, these Berliners had an extraordinary self-confidence, friendly and relaxed dudes.

My drumming style and emotional presence seemed to have impressed them. Klaus was the ASH RA TEMPEL drummer at the time, after he had left TANGERINE DREAM and he just had announced his split from ASH RA TEMPEL to start his solo career which didn‘t seem to shock anyone. So Manuel invited me to put my drums on ‘Starring Rosi‘. Rosi was his girlfriend and she´s been a New Yorker since 1982. I had a few gigs in New York and we met there after a 30 year break. When I left Klaus in 1975/76 to live in Berlin, my first activity was to visit Manuel. That was the beginning of my ASHRA involvement.

One thing that is quite interesting is that the tracks on ‘Correlations’ were generally shorter than other ASHRA works, had this been a conscientious decision?

We never talked about commercial intensions. Our main interest was having fun and producing something original. I liked the freedom of not thinking about whom we could reach or sell to what we had made. The combination of the three of us simply made it what it was.

Everybody had ideas and had the chance to put them into the album. Manuel played a very melodic guitar. In those days. Maybe Carlos Santana was a bit of an influence on him. Lutz Ulbrich had another music background than electronics. He was and still is a brilliant rhythm guitarist and for a change, he liked playing with delays and was open to experiments, even though his main goal was traditional guitar music.

Lutz was in love with Nico of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND and they lived together in Paris, New York and Berlin. He was the only person among all her other famous friends (Bowie, Cale, Alain Delon) that brought her body to Berlin, after she had tragically passed away on Ibiza island, struck by an Aneurysm while riding on her bike. A doctor that was called just said: “I do not treat addicts!”…

The follow-up ‘Belle Alliance’ added vocals and was more aggressive, with your voice on ‘Kazoo’; how do you look back on the approach of that album now?

From my point of view for some reason the “good alliance” wasn`t as powerful as on ‘Correlations‘.

In retrospect, it lacked homogeneity in style. Maybe the reason behind that Virgin Records didn`t want to release ‘Belle Alliance‘ in the first place. So the three of us went to south France to visit the MIDEM in Cannes, that huge music industry fair, to either sell it to another company or have a conversation again with Virgin Records.

The Sony Walkman was just invented and everybody was able to listen to music wherever you were. The visit ended with a longer conversation with Richard Branson who owned the label at the time. Seemed we charmed him, resulting in the release. It‘s still a good album and I liked putting my intensions on ‘Kazoo‘.

As a drummer, how did you feel about the advent of programmable drum machines?

First, I was shocked that machines could replace and endanger my profession as drummer. I could not stand their artificial sounds either. Very unreal and artificial, especially the Roland TR808 that later became cult in techno and rap.

More and more studio session drummers used Linn and Oberheim e-drums to stay in the business and make a living from fast productions, mostly pop productions.

Linn and Oberheim used samples for their e-drums and those sounded quite real. It still took quite some time to programme a fill that a real drummer could do in a minute.

I never really got into programming drum machines until the first machines came up that could be played like an analog drum kit (Simmons and D-Drum). I could not afford a Simmons but bought three Simmons e-modules and built one myself by using old Bongo drums as trigger. You can hear them on ASHRA album ‘Tropical Heat‘. By discovering the fascination of techno music, I suddenly understood the magic machine drums can have like the Roland TR808. I bought a D-Drum but its dynamic and limitation on sound bored me after a while.

I started editing drums parallel to the invention of digital recording in the late 80s. The Atari 1040 was a first step in that direction. I was in my 40s when most people my generation could or would not cope with computers. A few years later, when digital recording of analog signals became a possibility, I felt a huge release. It freed me from dreaming about hiring expensive analog studios as the only possibility to get creative the way I wanted. I couldn´t have afforded such studios anyway. In the beginning, it was pretty complicated getting into controlling the recording software, but once I managed it, it was a revelation that continues today.

The artwork of ‘Synthesist’ sees you pictured with a Prophet 10, which were your favourite synths and keyboards to work with on this album?

The Prophet 10 was an investment of my manager (R.I.P. Peter) and was bought after ‘Synthesist’ was released.

On ‘Synthesist’, you can hear a Korg PS3200 and a Minimoog. The Moog was triggered by an ARP 16-Step Sequencer or used for solo melodies. That was it!

The Moog permanently slipped out of tune and many times, it was more than a pain in the ass to get the bitch stabilized. I had to record the same sequences over and over again.

How did it come together in the studio?

All the basics were recorded during 6 weeks in August and September 1979 at Udo Hanten‘s home in Krefeld, an industrial town in Northern Westphalia, the River Rhine area. Additional tracks were laid at Panne Paulsen studio in Frankfurt, which I knew from the sessions with Klaus and ASHRA. It was perfect for recording my drums and the solo melodies. All on 16 tracks after the basic 8 tracks were transferred.

‘Transcendental Overdrive’ had some distinctive arpeggios but also those very frantic but understated drums?

I take that as a compliment. My intensions lay more on composition and creating magic sounds than drumming. I financially had a week to get it done. It took just 2 days to record all drum parts. There was not much time to think. It just happened.

How do you now look back on ‘Synthesist’ as a whole?

As I mentioned, I was very insecure about what I had done. A negative highlight was a visit to Edgar Froese‘s home where my manager and I asked Edgar to listened to ‘Synthesist‘ before it was released. Edgar listened patiently but did not say a word afterwards. Either he was stunningly shocked or could not stand it. I never found out and the situation led to a bunch of negative speculations.

Back home, I was devastated. The sales after 5 or 6 months also were not super, just around 10,000 vinyl copies. Today that would almost be a hit, but in 1980, it was a massive flop. I did not listen to the album for a very long time until I had several offers from different labels. Young people seemed to have discovered ‘Synthesist‘. DJs all over the world put it on and since I re-released it, they still do. I needed the distance in time to finally to understand and enjoy what I had done.

There is a 40th Anniversary double vinyl and CD package being released by Bureau B featuring remixes, so is remix culture something you embrace and what do you think of the end result here?

40 years flew by! Unbelievable! The remixes on that double album are great.

I was surprised about the spontaneous involvement of young musicians. ‘Synthesist‘ had an influence on them and their own music. I met Steve Baltes in 1994. He was 27 years old, a techno DJ, producer and fan of electronic music, whom I had invited to join in with ASHRA for our first Japan tour in 1997. He made a brilliant remix of ‘Earth’.

Thorsten Quaeschning who toured with Edgar Froese and TANGERINE DREAM for 15 years and is now head of the actual TD line-up did a fantastic remix of ‘So Weit, So Gut‘. Paul Frick remade ‘Synthesist‘, he is member of the well-known trio BRANDT BRAUER FRICK from Berlin which I am a great fan of.

Some famous old Krautrock colleagues who are also on Bureau B. label did a great job too. To mention here: PYROLATOR and KREIDLER. Stefan Lewin, an old friend, musician and quality analog synthesizer producer (ACL) worked on the ‘Synthesist‘ title track. Beside these, a few very young label musicians like TELLAVISION, LOVE SONGS and CAMERA also brought some interesting fresh air on their remix versions.

Your second solo album ‘Oceanheart’ didn’t appear until 1986, were there any reasons for this? How does this album stand up for you compared with ‘Synthesist’?

There was no pressure to put out one album after the other. Like others, I did not want to repeat myself over and over. I also had no equipment to experiment the way I needed. Remember it was the pre-computer time. In the meantime, I had a trio named LILLI BERLIN; I owned a Tascam 8-track reel to reel tape recorder and Manfred Opitz, the keyboarder had a Minimoog and a Roland JX-3P. I used those to lay basics. Drums and other sources were added at Christoph Franke‘s studio. The final mix and master was done there too. I think ‘Synthesist‘ has this first time innocence.

In 1997, you reunited with ASHRA to do some concerts in Japan. The live recordings became the ‘@shra’ album, ‘Twelve Samples’ was a particularly glorious track, how much of the performance was pre-prepared and was there much flexibility for improvisation?

We usually met a week before touring or for studio sessions to prepare some basics. In between, we played ‘Hype‘, a game that was based on the development of rock bands.

From putting a line up together, to low level touring and album recording. The player who first had a hit album won. The game was created by Virgin Records. Manuel and Lutz rehearsed some basic harmonies and melodies, mostly without even being amplified in Manuel’s flat (Studio Roma).

I had a pair of drumsticks, listened and hit on my knees. As I mentioned before had we long breaks in between such meetings. Sometimes for years. So I never knew what will happen next with ASHRA. But I was positively surprised to receive Manuel`s phone call, asking me to join in performing in Japan. A little tour including 4 gigs. Wow! Japan! Great! My second reaction was of technical concerns, which I did not speak out about.

You must know, touring in the 70s was technically quite basic. On stage, it could take Manuel more than 5 minutes in between the titles to tune his sequencer for the next piece, while I was getting nervous just sitting waiting and staring into the audience. That was the reason I wanted Steve Baltes to join in. I knew he was able to recreate all the basic ASHRA sequences and original keyboard sounds we needed with his skills about sampling and sound design.

After I had introduced Manuel and Steve, Manuel liked him from the first minute, so Steve started producing all the required bass and sequencer loops that enabled us to improvise on stage as we always did in the past, with the difference that Manuel was released from that tuning burden. Steve did a brilliant job. We even sounded much better than ever before. The Japanese audience really liked it. We performed twice in Tokyo and twice in Osaka.

You teamed up with Eberhard Kranemann for the 2017 album ‘Krautwerk’, how would you describe your dynamic with regards creating and performing ?

I met Eberhard Kranemann for the first time in 2016 on a local festival at a castle. We performed on different locations. I did not know him, not even that he was an original KRAFTWERK member.

I was very curious about what he did on stage and as we performed at different times, I was able to sneak into his gig. After one minute, I left the performance! Pure loud guitar noise and mumblings with his voice! I could not stand it!

Two weeks later he phoned me, obviously very excited by my performance. He asked me what I thought of a collaboration. Wow! My enthusiasm was not very high but I thought what the f*ck, let‘s try, if turns out bad, I can leave.

Eberhard recorded our session we made in his home, located around the corner where I live with my family. The session output was mainly poor, but in between had some great original parts. I took the session back home, dragged it into my Ableton recording software, extracted those parts I liked and produced loops. In a next step, I took it back to Eberhard where we added some material here and there. He really liked the way I had edited the material.

The result was the ‘Krautwerk‘ album released on Bureau B. We did live performances in England, Sweden and on a festival in China. A second album is ready to be released, but Eberhard preferred to concentrate on his solo work again. Meanwhile Ralf Hütter of KRAFTWERK ordered his lawyers to threaten me in case I would not withdraw my ‘Krautwerk‘ name ownership.

You have new works ready for release, how would you describe them? What musical direction are you heading in?

I work intensely on new material and will soon release an album in co-operation with my old friend and colleague on guitar Axel Heilhecker. Sequencer, guitar loops, melodies. Very atmospheric!

The album will be named ‘Are You Psyched?‘. Parallel to that, I work on new solo material which I hope to release next year. No rush as always. I do not think in terms how to style my music. It`s always spontaneous and unpredictable decisions. The main intention is that I must like it. Even that can change after a few hours, days or weeks and it is always possible to push a piece in another direction.

It’s very hard for me to finally decide when something is finished. I do not listen much to music from others. Mainly only when someone says to me “You got to listen to that!“ That does not mean I´m ignorant but I love most to work on my own stuff.

What are your own favourite tracks and memories from your career?

Definitely ‘Moondawn‘. All the tracks I ever recorded are like own children. You love them all but they are different!

When you entered this world of synthesizers back in the day, did you think that you and your contemporaries would have such a big impact in the popular culture of today?

Not at all. Compared to fast and massive internet activity today, we had very little feedback in those days. National and international. Just a few music magazines existed. And they mostly wrote about pop music or the stars. The only measure we had were sales or live performances. But other than KRAFTWERK, we had no hits.

Andy McCluskey from OMD two years ago shook my hands and said “Did you know how much your music changed my life!?“. I had no idea about that influence when I was sitting in my small Berlin flat trying to figure out how to finance the next week. Since I connected to the internet around twenty years ago, I receive wonderful daily feedback from all over the world. It is a great pleasure to specially get it from a younger generation.

Last year, I had my first DJ appearance in a well-known techno club in Berlin. Right now, all live performances are cancelled or postponed. But isolation is not unusual for me and most artists. That‘s the space where we enable output. I still miss to be on stage. Hopefully it will be soon possible again.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Harald Grosskopf

Additional thanks to Mark Reeder

‘Synthesist’ is reissued as a 40th Anniversary deluxe edition double CD and transparent sun yellow double vinyl LP by Bureau B on 5th June 2020

https://www.haraldgrosskopf.de/

https://www.facebook.com/Harald-Grosskopf-121526524593386/

https://www.instagram.com/harald_grosskopf/

http://www.bureau-b.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
28th May 2020

ALICE HUBBLE Interview

Over four songs and four instrumentals on her impressive debut album ‘Polarlichter’, ALICE HUBBLE makes the perfect synth earth mother.

Behind ALICE HUBBLE is London-based musician Alice Hubley, previously best known for fronting cult favourites like ARTHUR & MARTHA and COSINES. Despite her roles as a lead vocalist, this is the first time she has ventured out musically on her own.

With her forlorn vocal presence and endearing instrumental charm, courtesy of her array of vintage keyboards, ‘Polarlichter’ is an impressive solo debut that is a soundscape of pastoral solace.

Released on Happy Robots Records, home of RODNEY CROMWELL and TINY MAGNETIC PETS, the first single ‘Goddess’ has already been declared one of the singles of 2019 by BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, while the sub-OMD of ‘We Are Still Alone’ with its the lilting bass and elegiac transistorised melody is wonderfully glorious.

Alice Hubley chatted about the genesis of ‘Polarlichter’ and much more…

‘Polarlichter’ as a title is perfect for the album, but what inspired you to use that particular word, as opposed to other variants and languages?

The title track initially came from the artwork from the LP which I bought in a flea market in Berlin a few years ago. I like the way it sounds and rolls off the tongue, I probably don’t do the best job of pronouncing it though!

Some would say this is the album people have been waiting for from you since ARTHUR & MARTHA? Who were your key influences for this record?

That’s very nice of you to say. I do think this LP is very self-indulgent and it’s been the most fun I’ve ever had recording and putting out a record. The tracks were generally influenced by places and people / personal interactions. I don’t necessarily set out to borrow from other artists, I enjoy seeing what people pick up on when reviewing the record. There are definitely some surprises and Googling I’ve had to do, but I know I do wear my heart on my sleeve.

Was it the intention to make a half song / half instrumental album? What do you get as a musician from one form that you can’t get from the other?

I didn’t set out for that initially. When I first started the project, I was really looking to do more instrumental tracks and attack the writing process in a different way to how I have approached song writing in the past. I got a lot out of changing round my processes.

The song tracks developed along the way, mainly ‘cause they just come out of me. I think my instrumental tracks are representative of what I’m trying to get across when writing them, but it’s definitely easier to tell as a story with a song.

You began the compositional process on an iPad before bringing in analogue synths, which particular instruments did you use?

The main apps I’ve used are Tabletop and the Moog Model 15 synth app along with Garage Band and a few effects.

Where do you sit on that hardware versus software debate?

Ha, it is a contentious debate, I created a hushed silence in a room with a band (I won’t divulge who!) once when I said I liked the Moog iPad app! The thing I like about some apps is that they encourage a different way of thinking to playing a keyboard, recording can be quite immediate and you can come up with different ideas when things are more off cuff.

I personally feel if the sound fits the track and is good enough quality then why not use an app sound. I think I re-recorded the majority of the Model 15 tracks ‘cause they sounded better on the Prodigy, but the Tabletop sounds are very prominent on the LP.

‘Ruby Falls’ is a lively opening statement that paints pictures in the listener’s mind. When you go travelling, what sort of places do you like to visit and how does it stimulate your music?

I like to visit places of natural beauty and those more off the beaten path; this year, for contrast this year I’ve visited the Alhambra in Granada and a nuclear bunker in Prague. It’s nice to be taken out of the familiar, I’ve found travelling is inspiring and also triggers creativity for me.

The single ‘Goddess’ has had a very positive response, what was its genesis?

‘Goddess’ was one of the first tracks I wrote for the LP. I’d always liked the idea of writing a song called ‘Goddess’, it’s a word that is bold, beautiful and distinctly female. Through thinking about Goddesses and goddess worship came the idea of the destructive nature of the male gaze when taken to extremes, which the song explores lyrically.

I think the bass riff came in first before the song, it was written over such a long time. I then wanted to go for this chorused / filtering synth sound, which I remember worrying after it was done that it was too intense to listen to on headphones. I’m really delighted by the response it has got though, so I guess I was wrong!

The choral laden ‘Atlantis Palm’ is rather gorgeous…

Thank you!

The key track on the album is ‘We Are Still Alone’, it’s a bit like OMD meeting ASHRA?

That’s very kind, both bands are big touch points for me.

The main melodic theme of ‘We Are Still Alone’ reoccurs on ‘The Golden Age’ and ‘Still Polarlichter’, is this all part of a bigger story?

Ha, well spotted. The solo from ‘We Are Still Alone’ was at one point quite prominent in ‘The Golden Age’. It wasn’t intentional but it does help to pull the record together.

‘Kick The Habit’ goes all electro-glam, like a synthy Suzi Quatro?

Totally! I wrote the track after coming off tour supporting the psychedelic rock band BLACK MOUNTAIN, they have a lot of songs with big guitar riffs in them and this was my attempt at writing a big riff song.

Other touch points for me were second / third LP GOLDFRAPP and LADYTRON.

There’s a lot of flute sounds on the album, are they real ones?

I wouldn’t be adverse to a real flute on a record, but it’s all the beautiful sound of the Mellotron.

Which tracks on ‘Polarlichter’ are your own favourites and why?

I like them all for different reasons, though I’m particularly fond of ‘Still Polarlichter’ and ‘Atlantis Palm’. ‘Still Polarlichter’ because we went on such a journey in the studio with that song, it’s so sinister and also I love playing it live. With ‘Atlantis Palm’, it just feels so different from anything I’ve done in the past, it’s so simple but a big statement.

You are undertaking a headlining tour having opened for DAMO SUZUKI and TINY MAGNETIC PETS earlier in the year. How were those experiences and how will your approach change as you move into the role of headliner?

Both shows were a lot of fun, it was such a great experience playing with Damo and TINY MAGNETIC PETS and they were both very sweet to me.

It is a bit daunting but I am looking forward to the headline shows, I’m not planning on bringing anyone into the band as of yet, but I am looking to expand the set in some ways. Come along and see for yourself!

Will there be more from ALICE HUBBLE in the future, how has the solo experience been for you compared to being part of a band?

Yes, there is definitely more ALICE HUBBLE in the works, I’m actually in the middle of preparing to go back into the studio in September to start recording for the next release.

The whole ALICE HUBBLE process has been a dream, being solo means you can work at your own pace and can be quick at making decisions. It can get lonely at times, but I make a point of working with people I enjoy being around and try to have fun with it.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to ALICE HUBBLE

‘Polarlichter’ is released as a vinyl LP and download by Happy Robots Records, available from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/botshop

ALICE HUBBLE 2019 live dates include:

Manchester Salford Eagle Inn (3rd October), Glasgow Nice N Sleazy (4th October), Sheffield Hatch (5th October), London Servants Jazz Quarters (5th November)

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/alice-hubble

https://www.facebook.com/alicehubblemusic/

https://twitter.com/alice_hubble

https://www.instagram.com/alice_hubble/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/4NWmEXIOna3UpoCp1FQxuP


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
20th September 2019

ALICE HUBBLE Polarlichter

ALICE HUBBLE is the new solo project of Alice Hubley, previously best known for fronting ARTHUR & MARTHA and COSINES.

Taking in the influence of Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram and Sally Oldfield, the avant pop heart of Hubley is now set free on her debut long player ‘Polarlichter’, literally translated in Deutsch as “polar lights” or auroras.

Recorded with analogue synths at home before being mixed at Big Jelly Studios under the co-production supervision of Mikey Collins who also contributed drums and guitar, ‘Polarlichter’ is undeniably escapist.

In keeping with the aura of varying colour and complexity projected by the album’s title, the opening instrumental ‘Ruby Falls’ offers mysterious octave shifts and pagan flutes while picturing North Sea islands painted by hand played keys.

Laced in Korg and Juno, her forlorn vocal presence makes its first appearance on the wonderful ‘Goddess’, a song about male obsession which has already been declared one of the singles of 2019 by BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq. With its moody vintage synths and primitive drum boxes, there are also hints of BOOK OF LOVE, THE CURE, SPARKS and OMD.

Channelling German trailblazers Manuel Göttsching and Harald Grosskopf, both in their solo guises and together as ASHRA, the pulsing cosmic overtones of ‘Atlantis Palm’ offer beautiful synthetic choirs and airy fluty textures for a superb seven minutes of melancholic ambience.

Hubley’s earthy demeanour returns on the sub-OMD of ‘We Are Still Alone’, where the lilting bass and elegiac transistorised melody are glorious.

But when the synth strings respond in that ASHRA style, it becomes perfect avant pop where Hubley sadly resigns to herself that she “couldn’t find the way to make me better”.

‘Kick The Habit’ takes a jump in tempo and schaffels with live percussion for a charmingly enjoyable slice of electro-glam. Meanwhile keeping things to waltz time, ‘Hunt For The Blood Red Moon’ is electronic folk, solemnly dancing around a maypole of Moog.

Filmic instrumental ‘The Golden Age’ has its synths set to toy town, but more haunting Mellotrons weave their way into the wicker lattice with brilliant vibrato swirls before progressing into mutant funk and a collage of album segments to create an uneasy schizophrenic feel.

The chimes of ‘Still Polarlichter’ sees Hubble still alone, again echoing OMD with the string machine playing a variation on the ‘We Are Still Alone’ theme, but with more of a psychedelic vibe. At over nearly seven minutes, the mighty bubbles of synth, drum breaks and Germanic demeanour concoct a recipe of feisty feminine prog.

With the language of melody in common, ‘Polarlichter’ makes a fine voice-assisted companion to OBLONG ‘The Sea At Night’, an instrumental album of rustic organically farmed electronica released earlier in this year.

Over four songs and four instrumentals, ALICE HUBBLE makes the perfect synth earth mother with her endearing array of vintage keyboards. This is an impressive solo debut that is a soundscape of pastoral solace.


‘Polarlichter’ is released as a vinyl LP, CD and download by Happy Robots Records on 27th September 2019, pre-order from https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/product-page/alice-hubble-polarlichter-new-12-lp-pre-order

ALICE HUBBLE 2019 live dates include:

Bristol Radio / ON (14th September), Manchester Salford Eagle Inn (3rd October), Glasgow Nice N Sleazy (4th October), Sheffield Hatch (5th October), London Servants Jazz Quarters (5th November)

https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/alice-hubble

https://www.facebook.com/alicehubblemusic/

https://twitter.com/alice_hubble

https://www.instagram.com/alice_hubble/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
21st August 2019

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