Tag: Klaus Schulze (Page 1 of 2)

KLAUS SCHULZE Interview

The late German electronic music legend Klaus Schulze sadly passed away on 26th April 2022 at the age of 74 after a long illness. 

Literally never one to sit still, he left behind a vast portfolio of work. Among his most lauded albums were ‘Timewind’, ‘Moondawn’, ‘Mirage’, ‘X’ and ‘Dune’.  The Berlin School veteran was set to release his new album ‘Deus Arrakis’ in the Summer 2022 in another musical salute to ‘Dune’ author Frank Herbert.

Featuring three tracks with a combined playing time of more than 77 minutes, ‘Deus Arrakis’ was inspired by his Hans Zimmer collaboration ‘Grains of Sand’ aka ‘Herbert’ for the end credits of the 2021 ‘Dune’ film adaptation.

Poignantly, Klaus Schulze had said in an interview with Albrecht Plitz for the booklets of his 2004 back catalogue reissues when asked about retirement: “…not until they carry me out of this studio in a box!” – the closing piece on ‘Deus Arrakis’ is called ‘Der Hauch des Lebens’ or as translated into English, “The Breath of Life”.

Photo c 1978, Klaus D Mueller, Berlin

A one-time member of TANGERINE DEAM and ASH RA TEMPEL before embarking on a solo career in 1972, the advent of synthesizers and sequencers freed him from the constraints of a conventional band.

Taking him on a creative journey into the unknown, Schulze saw synthesizers as an opportunity to develop original tone colours with his improvised compositions often lasting for almost half an hour at a time and rarely less than a quarter.

Adopting a playful physical approach that encompassed a minimalist groove whether using analogue modulars, digital samplers or the latest computers, one of his favourite phrases was “It’s not about me, it’s about the music” and this was the case until the very end.

In one of his last ever interviews, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK was granted a rare audience with Klaus Schulze to talk about his career and the ‘Deus Arrakis’ album. The conversation transcript from 22nd April 2022 has been published in full with the blessing of his management and publicist as a tribute to the great man and his cosmic legacy.

Photo from kdm archives

How did ‘Grains of Sand’ with Hans Zimmer come about, was it like a rejuvenation for you?

Our mutual friend Lisa Gerrard brought Hans and me together – she was working with him at that time from which I had no idea. One day Hans called me and we talked a little bit about Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ – we both are huge fans of the books – and the film remake by Denis Villeneuve. Hans was inspired by my music, he liked my albums ‘Dune’ and ‘X’, especially the track ‘Frank Herbert’.

Based on that, he asked me for a co-operation and out came that new Hans Zimmer / Klaus Schulze track ‘Grains Of Sand’ – or ‘Herbert’ as it was titled earlier in the end credits of the film. It was a pleasure to work with Hans – he is not only a great artist and one of the best addresses for film music in the world but also just a very nice guy! And yes, the whole ‘Dune’ thing inspired me – once again 40 years after my first ‘Dune’ album – to plunge into Frank Herbert’s universe and the beautiful pureness of Arrakis’ deserts. I just started playing…

So what concepts did you have in your mind for ‘Deus Arrakis’ to inspire you in composition?

To be correct, when I started playing I did not think of anything to achieve or of a certain direction. I don’t play concept albums – I am way too instinctive and improvising for that! The inspiration for ‘Deus Arrakis’ was a general one; it is always the same, when I start playing I got lost in the soundscapes and chords I love so much.

Before that there had been a longer phase where I was too sick and couldn’t work for months. I certainly took my time with it and it was towards the end of the recording stages that I realized the results were pretty ‘Dune’-ish. That was when I searched my archives and picked the recordings I had left of Wolfgang Tiepold’s cello, which clearly was the perfect match. So even though Hans and Lisa and Denis (Villeneuve) may have kickstarted it, in the end it became clear this was in fact another tribute to Frank Herbert the brilliant creator of the ‘Dune’ universe…

‘Osiris’ from ‘Deus Arrakis’ has a beautiful minimal ambience that evokes you’re the best of your past work, did you return to any of your old equipment for the album?

Oh, the old Moogs and ARPs, my Mellotron and even the Korg PS – they are all long gone. What I actually used from the old days was my trusty EMS Synth A – a great instrument to create pure electronic landscapes with. It does not play concrete notes as it does not even have a keyboard – it is not necessary. But everything else I used is the more modern instruments. And also a lot of my favourite virtual synths from the studio computer.

Photo c 1998, Klaus D Mueller, Berlin

Would you say it is best to combine vintage analogue instrumentation with computer controllability to plant the seed of that sound without the practical challenges?

For me, absolutely yes! I have spent many years fighting the various technical aspects from so many different machines that I absolutely enjoy turning on everything – and Boom, it’s all there. I certainly would not want to go back to having to tune everything… or patch my way through every single part of an analogue synth.

I can understand if you are a collector and love the old machines, that’s great, but if I want to work, I want to work… and I am not very patient anymore regarding having to wait for a piece of equipment until it’s ready to be played.

Your followers will be pleased that you are still producing half hour pieces of music, was there any temptation to edit more drastically? Or does “movement, depth and randomness” still apply?

The tracks flow as they flow. Just as it should be… that hasn’t changed. Don’t be fooled by the new “single” as the record company calls it. That is not a single. I never do singles… by the time a single is over I haven’t even gone half way through my first intro phase alone… it is just the beginning of a much longer track. Oh yes, there were quite a few discussions with my record company as they wanted a single to promote the album. The shortest track I did still is about 20 minutes or so. So no single.

It is clear that longer tracks have to be cut anyway in order to fit on one vinyl record side – and that already hurts every time. I do not like that at all, that really is why I still love my CDs. The editing down into split parts is up to my engineer… I couldn’t do that. With today’s streaming requirements they have gone to even splitting up all the tracks for streaming because a lot of money is lost if they don’t do that. That is so very annoying… and clearly it does not serve the music at all… which it should in the first place.

What is your current equipment set-up?

Hardware: Mini and Memorymoogs, 3 x SE 1, EMS Synthi A, PPG Wave. EMU samplers (for all the older libraries), Roland keyboards and expanders (almost all ages), Alesis analogue synths, Access synths, Quasimidi synths. Kawai and Korg expanders. One or two of the more recent synths to try out.

The software synth collection centres around Arturia, Spectrasonics, Steinberg, U-HE and also a lot of smaller and more obscure synth models. All of that goes into my half digital, half analogue Tascam console which uses RME AD/DA hardware to connect to my Mac. Logic Pro still is my favourite DAW – I have lots of MIDI to administer!

Photo c 1976, Klaus D. Mueller, Berlin

Which would you say are your most favourite synthesizers of all time?

Oh… not as easy as it may sound… I guess the good old modular Moog is one of them, as well as the Mini. And the CS80! I still love my EMS Synth and ah, the original Mellotron… well was that a synthesizer after all? Roland’s JD 800 also still is a favourite.

How did you get on with using the first digital era of equipment like the Crumar GDS, PPG Wave 2.2 and Fairlight computer instruments or the Yamaha DX7?

That DX7… never was for me… but the beginning of the digital synth age was very exciting. I remember dragging the GDS and Wave with us on tour was a bit nasty, but I wanted them on stage back then. Always a pleasure when you could load your favourite programmed sound again safely from a floppy disk… and those synths finally never went out of tune again when they got warm! That was a very welcome first!

Fairlight and Wave were first tested in the studio and we got along very well. There were quite a few hiccups in the beginning, especially with the Wave which had its platines upright on end, so we had to take them out and refit them after every transport… but the digital revolution was the start of a new era soundwise and I was keen to try the latest new instruments and the sounds they could create. It sounded totally fresh and new.

Harald Grosskopf has said working with you on ‘Moondawn’ was the highlight of his career, how do you look back on that album?

It was one of those ‘one-night-wonders’ and we really had a good flow together and of course a lot of fun with the Big Moog!

What would be your favourite works from your career and why?

Every album I do is my best – everyone has its time and its own history and circumstances, though there are some albums that are more in my mind than others are! Really, when you work on something it is the latest and best you’ve ever done and so it always is my favourite record. It’s as simple as that. However once a record is finally completed and I hold a CD or vinyl copy in my hands it looks great … but my interest vanishes pretty quickly. It’s always been like that.


In memory of KLAUS SCHULZE 1947 –  2022

With thanks to Matt Benton at Hold Tight and Klaus D Mueller

‘Deus Arrakis’ is released by SPV on 1st July 2022 as a deluxe box set, triple vinyl LP and CD, pre-order from https://klausschulze.lnk.to/deusarrakis

The 450 page hardback book ’Violins Don’t Grow On Trees – The Life & Work of Klaus Schulze’ by Olaf Lux is available in English and German language editions from https://olaflux.bandcamp.com/

https://klaus-schulze.com/

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialKlausSchulze/

https://twitter.com/klausschulze

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Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
30th June 2022

KLAUS SCHULZE 1947 – 2022

The German electronic music legend Klaus Schulze has sadly passed away at the age of 74 after a long illness.

Despite this, his passing was unexpected as Schulze was set to release a new album ‘Deus Arrakis’ this summer on SPV. He had collaborated with Hans Zimmer on ‘Grains of Sand’ aka ‘Herbert’ for the end credits of the new ‘Dune’ 2021 film adaptation directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Trained as a classic guitarist, Schulze took up the drums and was a member of TANGERINE DEAM and ASH RA TEMPEL, remaining with them for only their debut albums.

Disillusioned with both drums and guitars, he embarked on a solo career using keyboards and electronics, simply because it would take him on a creative journey into the unknown. Coinciding with the advent of synthesizers and sequencers to free him from the constraints of a conventional band where the discussions that went on were often longer than any music being played, his own improvised compositions lasting for almost half an hour at a time were the antithesis of modern pop songs and more akin to his musical hero Richard Wagner.

Schulze saw synthesizers as an opportunity to develop original tone colours and saw little point in using them to imitate real instruments like trumpets as Keith Emerson had done, reasoning that if he wanted to have the sound of an orchestra, he would then use one. He even occasionally donned a full face helmet for live appearances in the days when DAFT PUNK were still in short trousers!

Whenever cultural commentators talk about vintage synthesizers stacked up like telephone exchanges in the formative years of electronic music, Klaus Schulze is likely to be one of the key figures they are referring to. Unlike his contemporaries, Schulze had a playful approach with a physical element that encompassed a minimalist groove, a legacy of his earlier explorations as a drummer. During his concerts where he usually performed new material, he would sit crossed legged in front of his complex with his back to the audience while the cosmic trance-like soundscapes poured out.

His 1972 debut solo album ‘Irrlicht’ had been organ driven but its follow-up ‘Cyborg’ brought an EMS VCS3 into the armoury. Acquiring an ARP Odyssey, ARP 2600 and assorted Crumar keyboards, the wider breakthrough came with 1975’s ‘Timewind’ which was released internationally via Virgin Records and its associated imprint Caroline.

Winning the prestigious Grand Prix Du Disque International in France, the success of ‘Timewind’ allowed Schulze to up-the-ante with the purchase of a Moog IIIP modular system and the opportunity to record 1976’s ‘Moondawn’ in a multi-track studio having used just two-track equipment previously; the album was also notable for featuring Harald Grosskopf on drums with the union sparking the WALLENSTEIN sticksman’s own interest in synthesizers to record his acclaimed 1980 solo debut ‘Synthesist’.

Schulze was by now well into what many consider his imperial phase and adding PPG modules to his set-up, released his wintery 1977 masterpiece ‘Mirage’ on Island Records, supported by two lavish concerts at the London Planetarium and planting the seed for New Age in the process.

Harald Grosskopf rejoined Schulze for the ambitious 1978 double opus ‘X’ which also incorporated strings in a record comprising of “Six Musical Biographies” in honour of figures such as philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, composer Friedemann Bach and ‘Dune’ author Frank Herbert. Interest in the latter was developed further on an actual album called ‘Dune’ featuring Arthur Brown on vocals in 1979.

The next two albums ‘Dig It’ and ‘Trancefer’ saw Schulze embrace new digital technology and the Crumar GDS system while 1991’s ‘Beyond Recall’ brought in sampling. A reunion with Manuel Göttsching of ASH RA TEMPEL came on the appropriately titled ‘Return Of The Tempel’ on 1995’s ‘In Blue’. Then released in 1996 on the Eye Of The Storm label founded by the production team behind SNAP!, ‘Are You Sequenced?’ saw Schulze venture into dance music in his own inimitable way with perceptively shorter pieces – “My style of music is always the same” Schulze once said, “but the expression is different with each piece…”

With almost as many live documents as studio recordings, soundtracks, classical, opera and his alias Richard Wahnfried, Schulze’s portfolio contained over 130 albums in many guises including collaborations such as ’The Dark Side Of The Moog’ series with the late Peter Namlook and the supergroup GO with Steve Winwood, Michael Shrieve and Stomu Yamashta, as well as productions for ALPHAVILLE and DEAD CAN DANCE’s Lisa Gerrard.

Schulze even made a cameo appearance in the 2001 German TV murder mystery ‘Klassentreffen – Mordfall Unter Freunden’ as a member of a fictional band THE WANDERING STARS performing at the school reunion, alongside KRAFTWERK’s Florian Schneider on double bass and ALPHAVILLE singer Marian Gold for a cover of ‘Those Were The Days’!

Literally never one to sit still, ‘Deus Arrakis’ was his next musical salute to Frank Herbert, remaining true to his characteristic style and dreamy sheen while remaining open to sonic experimentation. The crystal lake is somewhat emptier tonight but somewhere up there right now, Klaus Schulze is probably having one almighty synth jamming session with Florian Schneider, Edgar Froese and Peter Namlook…


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Guido Harari
27th April 2022

ROBERT SCHROEDER Pyroclast

Robert Schroeder could be considered one of the forgotten heroes of the ‘classic’ era of what is now referred to as the Berlin School of electronica.

Whereas contemporaries such as TANGERINE DREAM and ASHRA are constantly cited and revered, former electrical engineer Schroeder has become somewhat of a footnote within the genre.

This despite releasing a series of critically acclaimed albums between 1979 to 1982 including ‘Harmonic Ascendant’, ‘Floating Music’, ‘Mosaique’ and ‘Galaxie Cygnus A’.

In 1978, Schroeder named his second son after Klaus Schulze and this event, which featured some self-composed music used at the christening placed him on the cosmic synth maestro’s radar, eventually resulting in him being signed to Schulze’s Innovative Communication label later that year.

What differentiated Schroeder from some of the artists of his era was his willingness to build custom-built electronic instruments including his own step sequencer and a less experimental more pastoral melodic approach with guitar textures as well as synthetic ones.

2021 sees the emergence of a new album ‘Pyroclast’ by Schroeder who has constantly released new works as well as revisiting some of his older pieces since his imperial phase. Album opener ‘Pressure’ is a hypnotic piece with analogue drum machine and guitar loops modulating up and down in key through its ten minute length; reversed guitar textures and a 4/4 kick are interspersed with Mellotron choirs and sporadic bursts of live percussion throughout.

‘Plasma’ starts off as a far more ambient proposition, almost like THE ORB with snippets of distant voices and phased strings; at the five minute mark analogue-generated kick, snares and open hats fade in with added Mellotron choir textures.

‘Tephra’ is a delicate piano piece with a time-stretched child’s voice and subtle underpinning strings. Shorter in conception than most of the tracks on ‘Pyroclast’, it features more classic era pad sounds but suffers due to the over repetitive piano figure which is repeated all the way through.

‘Eruption’ is more string-based in nature with pulsing cello and skittering acoustic tambourine loops; the track is pleasant enough and functions well as switch-off chill-out fare. ‘Fertile Soil’ with its monk choral samples recalls a more ambient-sounding ENIGMA; a Minimoog-style solo, live-sounding drums and triplet delayed percussion sample provide an intriguing mix of textures throughout.

‘Exothermic Energy’ is less ambient then the preceding tracks on ‘Pyroclast’ and this upping of pace is welcome. The first five minutes are centred around a two chord sequencer part and laid-back 4/4 drum part with interspersed drum flourishes, whilst the conclusion of the track takes it into ‘Oxygène’ territory with lush pads and echoed synth parts. Closer ‘Pyroclastic Flows’ is arguably one of the strongest pieces on ‘Pyroclast’, again very hypnotic with vocal samples, guitar soloing and a Mellotron choir outro which ends the album in the mood that fits in with much of the ambient aesthetic of the album.

A pyroclast and a tephra are elements of volcanic material which are spewed out by volcanic activity and those approaching this album expecting a similarly ‘wild’ and untamed musical direction will find something which is almost the polar opposite.

If ‘Pyroclast’ has its place, then it is definitely as music for zoning out to and aiding relaxation; fans of THE ORB and the ambient genre will certainly enjoy much of the works here; but those seeking tracks which function as stand-alone listening will probably struggle with the ‘background’ nature of the album.

‘Pyroclast’ suits its demographic perfectly and from that perspective is a success, but just lacks that ‘X Factor’ which would convince new listeners to delve into repeated listening.


‘Pyroclast’ is released by Spheric Music on 1st April 2021, available as a CD direct from http://www.sphericmusic.de/

https://www.news-music.de/index_e.html

https://www.facebook.com/EM.Robert.Schroeder/


Text by Paul Boddy
24th March 2021

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 “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/englisch/home.html

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

The Electronic Legacy of AMBIENT

Ambient electronic music is a much misunderstood genre.

One is not talking about JEAN-MICHEL JARRE or VANGELIS who are far too comparatively lively to be truly considered ambient. And it is not ‘chill out’ that’s being talked about either, which seems to lump in any form of dance music that is under 112 beats per minute.

Modern ambient probably came to prominence with BRIAN ENO. While lying in a hospital room after a car accident in 1975, a friend visited him and put on a LP of harp music. However the volume had been set at an extremely low level and one of the stereo channels had failed. Unable to move to adjust this, Eno had a new way of listening to music forced onto him.

In recalling this story for the sleeve notes of his ‘Discreet Music’ album, Eno said the music now became “part of the ambience of the environment just as the colour of the light and the sound of rain were parts of the ambience.”

Eno may not have been the inventor of ambient, but he was almost certainly was its midwife. With its lengthy gradual processes and unpredictable changes, ambient can be listened to and yet ignored. Going against the Western tradition of music where vocals, melody and rhythm are essential components, ambient music is designed to accommodate many levels of listening without enforcing one in particular.

One of the other beauties of ambient music is that the pieces are often so progressive that it becomes quite difficult to remember individual sections.

Therefore on repeated plays, the music can still sound fresh and rewarding. It was an approach that fascinated many and while they may not have released whole works, artists such as DAVID BOWIE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, BLANCMANGE and RADIOHEAD recorded ambient pieces for album tracks or B-sides.

Comments about ambient music being “boring” are missing the point, because at points of the day where the state of near sleep looms, music with no vocals, no rhythms and not too much energetic melody is perfect.

Restricted to one album per moniker or collaborative partnership, here are the twenty long players presented in chronological and then alphabetical order which form The Electronic Legacy of Ambient. Acting as a straightforward introduction to the genre, it refers to many artists whose comparatively mainstream works may already be familiar.


KLAUS SCHULZE Timewind (1974)

A one-time member of TANGERINE DREAM and ASH RA TEMPLE, ‘Timewind’ was Schulze’s first solo album to use a sequencer, evolving as a longer variation on his former band’s ‘Phaedra’. Referencing 19th century composer Richard Wagner, Schulze transposed and manipulated the sequences in real time, providing shimmering and kaleidoscopic washes of electronic sound using equipment such as the EMS Synthi A, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Elka string machine and Farfisa organ.

‘Timewind’ is available via Mig Music

https://www.klaus-schulze.com


TANGERINE DREAM Phaedra (1974)

‘Phaedra’ was the breakthrough record for TANGERINE DREAM which saw them using sequencers for the first time. Featuring the classic line-up of Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke, the hypnotic noodles of EMS VCS3s and Moogs dominated proceedings while Mellotrons sounding like orchestras trapped inside a transistor radio. Organic lines and flute added to trancey impressionism to produce a fine meditative electronic soundtrack.

‘Phaedra’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.tangerinedream.org/


CLUSTER Sowiesoso (1976)

The late Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were CLUSTER. Having released their first long player together in 1969, their fourth album ‘Sowiesoso’ was CLUSTER’s first fully realised exploration into ambient electronics. With gentle melodic phrasing and unimposing rhythmical patterns, the title track was a wonderfully hypnotic adventure that welcomed the listener into the soothing world of the longer player’s remaining aural delights.

‘Sowiesoso’ is available via Bureau B

http://www.roedelius.com/


ASHRA New Age Of Earth (1977)

ASH RA TEMPLE’s Manuel Göttsching was looking to visit synthesized climes and explored more progressive voxless territory armed with an Eko Rhythm Computer, ARP Odyssey and what was to become his signature keyboard sound, a Farfisa Synthorchestra. An exponent of the more transient solo guitar style of PINK FLOYD’s David Gilmour, this template was particularly evident on New Age Of Earth’, a beautiful treasure trove of an album.

‘New Age Of Earth’ is available via Virgin Records

http://www.ashra.com/


STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

One-time member of GONG, solo artist and an in-house producer at Virgin Records, 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 quality to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.

‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ is available via Virgin Records

https://twitter.com/stevehillage


HAROLD BUDD & BRIAN ENO The Plateaux Of Mirror (1980)

Mostly piano-oriented, its backdrop of shimmering synthesizer and tape loops of voices was conceived in a sound-world that Eno had created via his various instrument treatments. With Budd improvising live, Eno would occasionally add something but his producer tact was to step back if nothing extra was needed. ‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ was a lovely work with resonating ivories of the acoustic and electric variety. A second collaboration came with ‘The Pearl’ in 1984.

‘The Plateaux Of Mirror’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

https://www.haroldbudd.com


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

Recorded as a soundtrack to a documentary film about the Apollo Missions to the moon, one of the inspirations was to react against the uptempo, manner of space travel presented by most TV programmes and news reels of the day with its fast cuts and speeded up images. Eno wanted to convey the feelings of space travel and weightlessness. Although based around Eno’s Yamaha DX7, the album was quite varied instrumentally, featuring his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois.

‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.brian-eno.net


ROGER ENO Voices (1985)

The debut album from the younger Eno, ‘Voices’ captured a sustained mood of dreamy soundscapes and aural clusters with its beautiful piano template strongly reminiscent of Harold Budd’s work with brother Brian, who was also involved on this record via various electronic treatments although it was actually Daniel Lanois who produced.

‘Voices’ is available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.rogereno.com


DAVID SYLVIAN & HOLGER CZUKAY Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability (1988 – 1989)

By 1986, the former JAPAN front man wanted to get away from singing as reflected by the ‘Gone To Earth’ bonus album of instrumentals. Sylvian found a willing conspirator in CAN’s Holger Czukay who had developed several unconventional compositional techniques using devices such as short wave radios and Dictaphones. Through a series of improvisations, the duo came up with two companion long players that conveyed a sinister yet tranquil quality drifting along in complex spirals.

‘Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability’ is available via Grönland Records

http://www.davidsylvian.com/

http://www.czukay.de/


HAROLD BUDD The White Arcades (1992)

Unlike the comparatively optimistic air of his work with Eno, Harold Budd’s solo journeys often conveyed a more melancholic density, probably best represented by the haunting immersive atmospheres of ‘The White Arcades’. An elegiac combination of shimmering synthesizers and sporadic piano  provided an austere depth that was both ghostly and otherworldly, it was partly inspired by his admiration of COCTEAU TWINS whom he collaborated with on the 1986 4AD album ‘The Moon & The Melodies’.

‘The White Arcades’ is available via Opal Productions

https://www.facebook.com/music.of.harold.budd/


STEVE JANSEN & RICHARD BARBIERI Other Worlds In A Small Room (1996)

With ‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri created an atmospheric collection of electronic instrumentals that they considered “Ambient in the traditional sense”. Alongside the three new pieces, there was an appendix of four suitably complimentary tracks from their 1984 album ‘Worlds In A Small Room’ had originally been commissioned by JVC to accompany a documentary about the Space Shuttle Challenger and its various missions.

‘Other Worlds In A Small Room’ is available via https://jansenbarbieri.bandcamp.com/releases

http://www.stevejansen.com/

http://www.kscopemusic.com/artists/richard-barbieri/


VINCENT CLARKE & MARTYN WARE Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (2000)

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ was composed by Vince Clarke and Martyn Ware as part of an Illustrious art installation at The Roundhouse in a circular, white clothed room where the colours referred to in the titles of the six lengthy pieces were “programmed to cross fade imperceptibly to create an infinite variation of hue”. Using binaural 3D mixing techniques, the sleeve notes recommended it was best heard using headphones while stating “This album is intended to promote profound relaxation”.

‘Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle’ is available via Mute Records

http://www.illustriouscompany.co.uk/


WILLIAM ORBIT Pieces In A Modern Style (2000)

Trance enthusiasts who loved Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shocked if they had bought its virtually beatless parent long player. Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was that he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. In that respect, a collection featuring lovely electronic versions of Beethoven’s ‘Triple Concerto’ and John Cage’s ‘In A Landscape’ could not really miss.

‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ is available via WEA Records

http://www.williamorbit.com


ALVA NOTO & RYUICHI SAKAMOTO ‎Vrioon (2002)

Alva Noto is a German experimental artist based in Berlin and ‘Vrioon’ was his first collaborative adventure with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA trailblazer Ryuichi Sakamoto. A beautiful union of piano, synth shimmers and subtle glitch electronics proved to be an unexpectedly soothing and  meditative experience that was gloriously minimal over six starkly constructed mood pieces.

‘Vrioon’ is available via Raster-Noton ‎

http://www.alvanoto.com/

http://www.sitesakamoto.com/


MOBY Hotel: Ambient (2005)

Originally released as part of the 2CD version of ‘Hotel’ in 2005, Moby couldn’t find his copy and decided on an expanded re-release. Inspired by the nature of hotels, where humans spend often significant portions of their lives but have all traces of their tenancy removed for the next guests, the ambient companion progressively got quieter and quieter. The emotive ‘Homeward Angel’ and the solemn presence of ‘The Come Down’ were worth the purchase price alone.

‘Hotel: Ambient’ is available via Mute Records

http://moby.com


ROBIN GUTHRIE & HAROLD BUDD After the Night Falls / Before The Day Breaks (2007)

Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd first collaborated on ‘The Moon & The Melodies’ album along with the other COCTEAU TWINS. ‘After the Night Falls’ and ‘Before the Day Breaks’ were beautiful experiments in duality but it would be unfair to separate these Siamese twins. Serene, relaxing, abstract and distant, Guthrie’s textural guitar and Budd’s signature piano were swathed in drifting synths and treatments that complimented each album’s self-explanatory titles.

‘After The Night Falls’ and ‘Before The Day Breaks’ are available via Darla Records

http://www.robinguthrie.com


JOHN FOXX & HAROLD BUDD Nighthawks / Translucence / Drift Music (2003 – 2011)

A sumptuous trilogy featuring two artists who had both worked with Brian Eno. ‘Nighthawks’ was John Foxx and Harold Budd’s most recent collaboration with the late minimalist composer Ruben Garcia and a soothing tranquil nocturnal work with tinkling ivories melting into the subtle layered soundscape with its Edward Hopper inspired title. Meanwhile, the earlier ‘Translucence’ from 2003 was a close relative and classic Budd, partnered with the more subdued overtures of ‘Drift Music’.

‘Nighthawks’ and ‘Translucence / Drift Music’ are available via Metamatic Records

https://www.facebook.com/johnfoxxmetamatic/


JOHN FOXX London Overgrown (2015)

‘London Overgrown’ was John Foxx’s first wholly solo ambient release since the ‘Cathedral Oceans’ trilogy. With the visual narrative of a derelict London where vines and shrubbery are allowed to grow unhindered throughout the city, the conceptual opus was a glorious ethereal synthesizer soundtrack, smothered in a haze of aural sculptures and blurred soundscapes. With ‘The Beautiful Ghost’, as with William Orbit’s take on ‘Opus 132’ from ‘Pieces In A Modern Style’, this was Beethoven reimagined for the 23rd Century.

‘London Overgrown’ is available via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com


STEVE JANSEN The Extinct Suite (2017)

“I like the effects of calm and dissonance and subtle change” said Steve Jansen; not a remix album as such, the more ambient and orchestral elements of ‘Tender Extinction’ were segued and reinterpreted with new sections to create a suite of instrumentals presented as one beautiful hour long structured ambient record. A gentle blend of electronic and acoustic instrumentation including piano and woodwinds, ‘The Extinct Suite’ exuded a wonderful quality equal to Eno or Budd.

‘The Extinct Suite’ is available via https://stevejansen.bandcamp.com/album/the-extinct-suite-2

http://www.stevejansen.com/


PAUL STATHAM Asylum (2017)

B-MOVIE guitarist and pop tunesmith Paul Statham began his experimental music account with ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Installation Music 1’. ‘Asylum’ was a more ambitious proposition and featured in an audio visual installation created with painter Jonathan McCree in South London’s Asylum Chapel. The eight compositions together exuded a cinematic, ethereal quality with some darker auras and an eerie sound worthy of the ambient pioneers Statham was influenced by, especially on the gorgeous closer ‘Ascend’.

‘Asylum’ is available via https://paulstatham.bandcamp.com/album/asylum

http://paulstathammusic.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
22nd August 2018

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