Interview mit Klaus Schulze  

(Klaus speaks detailed about older times in this German interview from 1988. Found & transcribed & translated.)


Initially I wanted to become a teacher, and for that you must study German literature; it was also obliged to study in addition a bit of psychology and philosophy. And music I also have studied not professionally, if I may say so. From time to time I was visiting some lectures about experimental composition by Blacher or Ligeti, if they were sometimes in town. But you cannot claim that I have studied seriously music; I would refuse such a statement (amused).

My first group's name PSY FREE tells what kind of music we had played: psycho and totally free, whatever came to our minds at the spur of the moment. Psychedelic music. But of course we had certain models, a bit of Grateful Dead, the old Fleetwood Mac, Jefferson Airplane, ... but then with Ash Ra Tempel we had a real ideal which was Hawkwind. This was the direction that also Hartmut likes much, but this was a kind of music that had nothing to do with the usual American/English pop or rock music that one could hear day in, day out. We didn't like that.

Our music was an all around clearance and relief. Main thing was: not to play what they force us to listen to, every day in the radio. We simply wanted to do something completely NEW. And I suppose or believe that from this position, finally the whole "electronic" music has developed. We also had listened to Pink Floyd. This was also not the usual, the middle of the road stuff. Before, you could make money (as a musician) only if you play the hits of the fashionable groups, English or American groups. If you come up with "own music", oh dear! oh my! English press called us "Krautrock" which already says a lot about the quality of the usual German type of rock during that time.

You only could do, better: you should do what no one else was doing. Which isn't so easy, right? We played in a set-up which at this time was quite the standard, still with bass and guitar. I was the drummer. Sometimes we had a bass player, sometimes not. The guitar player with PSY FREE was, by the way, Alex Conti, who later played with Lake (and other more or less 'famous' German rock groups). We three were just sitting in front of an audience and started to play, to jam.

Edgar had asked me then to play with his group. First, just for one evening because their normal drummer Sven Ake Johansson was not available at this evening. It was in the pub (club, whatever) that had the name "Magic Cave" and Edgar asked: "Could you help out?" "Yes, sure", I replied. "You also will get fifty Marks" ...which was so far the largest sum that I ever had received for a gig. "That's great, of course I do it." That evening came off quite good, and Edgar said "Let's stay together" and suddenly I was with Tangerine Dream. Besides Kraftwerk in Düsseldorf, Amon Düül in Munich and Tangerine Dream in Berlin, there was – often forgotten - XHOL from the Frankfurt area. Kraftwerk aside, we three: Amon Düül, T.D. and Xhol, we always did concerts together, interchanging. One of the groups has organized a concert and invited the two others. During these concerts sometimes we had endless sessions and on some occasions I played drums with Amon Düül. These three groups, they kept the musical thing going. Kraftwerk was something special. I don't mean it negatively, but they were more for the in-crowd (Schickeria-Szene); but nevertheless they had made great things during these early days. I do remember "Ruck-Zuck", this flute piece... they always had good ideas.

The first TD album "Electronic Meditation", with a certain "Claus Schultze" with "C" and with a "t". This comes because the recording was made in a little private studio (in fact: one Revox tape recorder) in Berlin-Kreuzberg's Paul-Lincke-Ufer, during our playing for two or three hours. Shortly after I had quit the group and Christoph Franke joined instead. In the meantime, the OHR label decided to release an album by "Tangerine Dream", but I was already doing something else. And therefore, my name on the album is wrong, the birthday is wrong, I have seen all this only afterwards when I was told that there is an album out with our recordings.

The "free form" playing on this album was not because of some principle, planning or strategy, but simply because we couldn't do better (laughs). Of course there were parts that really went off! But we were still searching to find... what? Therefore we used all the curious things that are mentioned on the cover, we hit on this or that, or take Conny: he just was holding the miked violin in front of the speaker and waited for the loud feedback and we liked it, when he turned the violin to change this queer sound. He never played the violin in a classic way, of course not. And Edgar, well, Edgar was playing his guitar. At this time he was the one of us who still played "proper" music.

The "concept" that was mentioned on the cover in overblown words was – as I see it – just a promotion text. When we played the music we hadn't thought about all this, ...of course not. This was later done. When we did the music, it was the same as before with Psy Free and later with Ash Ra Tempel, it was a clearance, a relief. For me, Electronic Meditation is the first electronic Punk album. And as always..., what later is claimed about the music's "content" and "meaning", ...I mean, I have studied a bit of German literature and I had to read fifty different interpretations of a Goethe poem, and a lot of "what-the-author-wants-to-tell-us-with-his-poem?" nonsense. But maybe Edgar knows more? He was much more part of this release, maybe he had these ideas, then?

Yes, of course we knew about these new instrument, the Moog synthesizer, but we had not the cash to purchase one. They were expensive. Florian Fricke had very early this huge Moog; wait, in what year was his album "Affenstunde"... 1969? We helped ourselves, altered our electric organ, or played around with some amplifiers. Then came what was a bit less expensive, the Synthi A from EMS , and we all started with this little case. Later there were a few Germans like Wolfgang Palm of PPG, or Matten & Wiechers, who, in the beginning have built special instruments for musicians, because they knew what we wanted; the industry was not yet so much interested, they didn't know what we were doing and therefore, could not deliver the right products. From Matten & Wiechers I got my first specially built sequencer. Tangerine Dream were lucky, they got the huge module Moog cheap from the (Berlin) Hansa studio. And I bought from Florian Fricke his Big Moog in December '75. In the meantime I had smaller instruments, the ARP Odyssey, the ARP 2600, which was already a huge step. Even if I got a Grand Prix in France, I couldn't affort a real good synthesizer, because they were still extremely expensive.

Why I separated from Tangerine Dream? Edgar, nicht böse sein (laughs). It was simply: During that time with TD we experimented a lot. But just into the blue. I had already a little electric organ, and at home together with a little tape recorded I fiddled about, with backwards tapes, with echoes, etc. but Edgar just wanted: "you only hit the drums and I play guitar." Yes indeed, he was a real "rock" guitar player. But I said, no, I want to try something else, want to try something out, and once I did it: At the "Essen Song Festival" I have run the tape (with some backwards organ sounds), and Edgar came and said "You don't do this again, or? This is impossible!" And I said, but I'm tired to play drums all the time. Then he got Chris Franke (from Agitation Free). As replacement. But with him exactly the same did happen. Chris played for half a year the drums and then said: "No! Now I don't want to play the drums anymore", and he started to programm sequencers. Then Edgar gave up. For the album "Cyclone" he got again a drummer, Klaus Krieger ...who later produced two solo albums for my IC label.

"Space Rock" is a better description than "New Age" for what we did with Ash Ra Tempel, after I had left Tangerine Dream. Space Rock was exactly what we wanted to do. Hawkwind-like. With guitar, bass, drums, and me also on the organ (& slide guitar). We all three made also a lot of effects with echo and-so-on. But the main idea was that the music must "go off". There must be moments in it where you can fly away, a bit Pink Floyd-like. At this time we were of course full under the influence of Pink Floyd. This was one of the few key groups, ...and not just for us. The concept for both groups (T.D. & A.R.T.) was the same: the search for something new. For me, with A.R.T. it was more..., how to say, more humanly closer connected. We were more a community. Ash Ra Tempel, we three, we were really together, went together to clubs, talked a lot... Manuel was a bit reserved, he kept a little distance. But in some way, all three we had a cute, a fantastic relationship. And it became noticeable in our music. Our music was more together. In the first album, there is more direction within. More than in Electronic Meditation, there was no direction.

Me? a maverick? ... No, I'm not such a lone wolf. It was just the outcome of my doings, it just happened. I'm a very chummy person. Hartmut und Manuel wanted to go back to Blues-Rock, that's where they came from, the "Steeplechase Blues Band". We departed not in anger but as friends. I had told them, I better go my different way, I want to follow and develop what we had already started with. You make this and I do that. No problem. And therefore, it worked so good when we did two years later the "Join Inn" album. It was not an album that we must make because of a deal. After our Paris concert we just met by chance in the Dierks studio and jammed again. The tapes were running, it was for free, and it was a joy. Rosi was also present, it's her voice on the album and she's Manuel's girlfriend.

For "Irrlicht" I had not mentioned "synthesizers" because I hadn't any, but I used the expression "e-machines" on the cover. This was a modified electric organ, also I used an "Echolette" amplifier without speakers; I had connected the input with the output, then turned on the tremolo and the reverb and I got the most stunning sounds out of it. For this recording the amp did it, but after he was broken, ...of course. This kind of tricks with the simple gear was for me kind of "e-machines". I also remember Edgar, when he read this description, that he had asked me: "What do you mean with e-machines? a coffee machine, a refrigerator? or what?" (laughs) and I told him, "Yes, in this direction will certainly be the truth, right?".

The orchester of the "Free University of Berlin" was not against a mention on the "Irrlicht" cover, but it was more the bandmaster who was – after listening to the recording – not sure if a mention on the cover is good for the image of the orchestra. He would like if I don't mention who was playing the orchestra sound. For me, it didn't make any difference if I mention it or not. They also didn't ask for money for their work and I couldn't pay anyway, if they would have asked. And if they don't want their name mentioned, okay then I don't mention it. The recording was unusual if not difficult. They had to play just one certain note for a longer time. But finally, they succeeded. You have to understand, that I was not in a position to tell them: listen, you have to play now this or that. I came to them with my little tape recorder and one little microphone. Between some regular rehearsals they had some free time and they agreed to help me. They could play the static tone that I wanted, for just a short time, but later I could stretch it by doing a tape loop. It was not such a big thing as later when I recorded "Ludwig II" for the "X" album, when we could give all the orchester members their written notes and this time I could even pay the players. This was a true cooperation. And you can hear the differences.

Yes, I would agree: "Irrlicht" was my most radical album so far. Mostly because of a certain impertinence or brazeness which I had when I started this recording. I had abandoned all the musical definitions and rules... But I must add, that later – for instance the "Sebastian im Traum" track on "Audentity" – I had made other radical pieces. Which are not so easy to consume as for instance "FM Delight". Also the intro of DUNE is very extreme. These parts appear from time to time in some of my recordings. Only for "Irrlicht" I was so radical from beginning to end. And an additional info: the B-side of "Irrlicht" is a backwards playing tape.

... An idea that is in my head for many years but haven't realised yet: to do a real electronic Heavy Metal album ... In younger years I was listening to a lot of so-called 'classical' music, but this isn't so much anymore. Generally, I don't listen anymore to many other music. Because of all the video clips I'm already satisfied. But I still like to hear J.J. Cale or things like that...

The title "Cyborg" is taken from a book by Frank Herbert. "Ein CYBORG fällt aus" was the German title, originally: "Destination Void", which I had used as title on the "Mirage" album. I liked this sci-fi story and therefore I had called my album "Cyborg".

It's hard to put my music into a genre, it's difficult to pigeonhole my music. Even it exists now for quite a long time, I'm still caught between two stools. It's not classic, it's not pop, it's not even purely electronic as some avantgarde composer do, it's... hard to tell. "New Age" is absolutely not the proper word for it, this is probably just another label manufactured by the industry to sell some lifeless stuff. Yes, my music can be meditative, but on the other side it is often very rhythmical and driving. A name? I can't say. "Cosmic Music" it was called in the beginning...

No, I never had moments when I wanted to give up, to throw everything away, leave this musical genre and start something completely different. No, never. Music is my purpose in life. It IS my life. Besides, I cannot do something else (laughing). Just sometimes, I have a certain saturation point and I say to myself: it would be great if I could go back to the naivity at the time when I had made "Irrlicht". And of course, sometimes there are little ideas to do also something completely different, a film maybe. But just in addition to the music; I would never give up doing music.

The stamina that I have, the power of endurance, this comes because – now it's really culturally – doing my music is a solution for the permanent stress, friction, tension between me an my surroundings, and therefore I cannot even think of putting it away. I wouldn't know what else to do. Therefore, there is this stubbornness, ...probably.