Interview with Klaus Schulze  

"I Put my Soul into my Music"

September 1993

Q: How did you get started in the music business?

KS: It was about 25 years ago, a quarter of a century. I suppose you could call it an accident. I had some guitar training at school and played it for about six years, also I fooled around with the electric guitar, playing music of The Shadows or The Spotnicks. Then I started with drums. My brother was a drummer with a jazz band, so I thought that drumming would be more pleasant than playing guitar. After that I was drumming in the avantgarde/free rock trio PSY FREE, then TANGERINE DREAM, and I founded ASH RA TEMPEL. Also, I used some kind of "electronics" at this time. One day I said to myself "okay, it's all pretty and normal music, but if I want to do something special, I should change instruments". That was when I started with keyboards, at the end of '71. I didn't know anything about keyboards, I didn't know which note was A or E. Remember, that "keyboards" at this time meant either piano, electric piano or organ. I had just an old, small, used, electric TEISCO organ. And I had my drumming experiences, and I had a few special ideas: A kind of dream that I couldn't explain then, or now. So I started something new. And then I developed and improved, because I love to make music. At this time I studied mainly German literature, but I said "forget it. I want to do music", which was a very emotional decision. A leap in the dark.

Q: In November '93 you released a 10-CD set called Silver Edition

KS: The resonance on it, from fans as well as from journalists, is great. It's amazing, wonderful, marvellous, extraordinary. It's also horrific: Three people called me "God" because of Silver Edition. What can I play next, after that?

Q: Do you use much of the old analogue equipment these days?

KS: It depends. On the last tour I used the Minimoog. I think it's still a very good solo instrument. I used it on my last few Virgin records, as I used the Midimoog, the ARP Odyssey, and many other synths that I sampled. Also, I put different voices through the sampler to make it sound more lively. Some other old gear, like the Mellotron, I don't use anymore. But the EMU III XS is great for sampling these old instruments, because and of course I do like the sound of the Mellotron chorus.

Q: Which is your favourite album that you have recorded?

KS: That changes from time to time, also because my catalogue gets bigger and bigger. Every artist, including me, will answer on this question, that it's always the last album. Otherwise it wouldn't be made and released. From the older ones I like Moondawn, "X", Audentity, En=Trance. I cannot really say which is my favourite. To be honest, I always listen to the newest record I have made. Very rarely I listen to older records like Moondawn. It is as if you had ten girlfriends during your life, and somebody asks you: which was the best one?
If I do listen to my older records, I always notice that this voice would sound great on that album, or that on this. That is why I never remix my albums. A remix would be stupid, because composing has something to do with my mentality and the tools at the time of recording. Sometimes people are asking me if I can do another Moondawn, or another Mirage. If I would do it, it would never be the same because of the time gap, and because of digital sampling and other technical progress. The memory would be in 1975, but the technology is in 1993. Also, the magic of the original recordings would be destroyed. Irrlicht should be different from The Dome Event. I'm no restorer but a still active musician. I have still enough new ideas and the power to realize them, there is no need to look back and fool around with my older stuff. My direction is not backwards, but always: Go ahead!

Q: After producing so many albums do you find it still easy to compose, to play, to record, to find always new sounds? What about your inspiration?

KS: There are two ways of inspiration. One is the figurative image like a movie or an opera, the other is just music in itself, no pictures. Both come from life, from my life, my past, and my present. It comes rarely from other musicians, never from other records. When I privately listen to other music and even if I think it's great, I cannot help but want to change this or that, here or there. I would never try to copy certain compositions. Very different is my work on a soundtrack for films: I have to make the music fit in with the movie, which means a stronger discipline, especially in timing.
Normally when I compose and play the first note, I don't know what note will follow. Even when it's finished, it isn't, because it happens that I do change some notes or sounds or phrases after I listened to the piece. I think, that is quite normal with composers since hundreds of years.

Q: In 1989 you gave a concert in Dresden and you had some trouble with the authorities who wouldn't let you do the complete concert.

KS: I read that too, in the liner notes to the CD release, and I was flabbergasted. None of it is true. During the two days of my stay in Dresden I did not see one of these "authorities", and of course no real person stopped my concert, but it was the normal circumstances of an open air concert: When I had finished my second long piece of music, it was already midnight, and it was getting moist and cold. Most of the six thousand and eight hundred visitors were just dressed for a warm summer day. Also, they had to catch the last busses and trains. That were the natural reasons I couldn't do any encores. They are in studio versions on the actual "Dresden" CDs.
It was similar for The Dome Event in Cologne, in front of the Cathedral, and in front of about ten thousand visitors. I was "allowed" to play from about 10 in the evening, but not later than 11 o'clock. Because, first, the radio did broadcast my concert, and the news had to start at 11; and second, the Cathedral had its late mass, and they want to do it without that loud musical noise from close by. So, these "restrictions" are quite normal in the East, West, South and North.
Three month after I played in Dresden, the Berlin Wall came down. The Dresden visit was my first and therefore only concert in East Germany. Despite the bad conditions in the former East, the concert was very good, the people were friendly, even the weather was great for the whole concert day (except at the end of that otherwise perfect day, see above). The day I arrived in Dresden was my birthday, and it seemed as if all 6800 knew about it, so often I heard "Happy Birthday, Klaus" (in German of course). It was a really happy feeling, in that open air amphitheatre.

Q: Can you tell me something about your RICHARD WAHNFRIED albums?

KS: RICHARD WAHNFRIED was from 1979 until the late eighties a pseudonym of mine, and it was never a mystery, what and who it is. I told from the beginning on very often the story: At first it was a dedication to my first son Richard, and all my income from these records go to him. All participants got the same share, by the way.
Initially I took the WAHNFRIED idea from the GO project. I liked what Stomu Yamash'ta said: "Let's have an idea of a musicar concept. We have a gloup, but ret the gloup change. Oul concept will be arways firred by othel ideas, mentar suppolt, whatevel...". That was the idea for GO (and if you put the R's and L's in their ploper prace, you'll maybe understand Stomu). The GO idea was to do various records, with a core of musicians, and with changing main characters. We had Steve Winwood on the first LP. On the first concert at London's "Royal Albert Hall" we had Phil Manzanera on additional guitar... But as so often, a great idea was buried before we could really try it out. I thought this idea was brilliant, so I took it over on a smaller base and did RICHARD WAHNFRIED. Every WAHNFRIED disc was different from a typical Klaus Schulze, and different from each other, because of the different participants, from Arthur Brown, via Manuel Goettsching, to Steve Jolliffe. Maybe one day I do another one. Now I do like a bit what is called "Trance", and I can imagine that I do such music under the WAHNFRIED name (if this fashion isn't finished when the CD comes out then). Trance is something that I can really appreciate somehow. It is similar to my own work, I just have to push the rhythm a bit. But it's still just an idea; no concrete steps are done, because there is so many other music I have and want to do.
[A next Wahnfried is finished and released. It was done in late 1993, very modern. The hard-core Schulze fans will yell. Note, that the "Richard" is dropped. It's just "Wahnfried" now, and the CD is called Trancelation]

Q: On the first Wahnfried album Tonwelle you had a guitar player: Karl Wahnfried. Who was this?

KS: Everybody is always asking me this, but I can't and won't tell you.

Q: What do you think of the present Electronic Music scene?

KS: I'm sorry if I answer so straight, but I think, the so-called "Berlin School of Electronics" is just becoming boring after all these years. I don't think that there is anything newly happening since many years. People become aware of that "they are all copying Schulze, or TD", or, in the pop field and mostly in England, that they copied Kraftwerk. But Kraftwerk is just too good for them, and musically too tricky (listen to the poor copycats of "Electric Music"). Imitation is boring, not just for me. These successors should prove that they are different, with their own ideas and everything: But instead, even their covers and titles are all the same... Just very few (I know of three) admit openly that they copy me, and that they do it for reverence. Okay. But when one can hear, that a CD sounds clearly à la Schulze or TD, and the copycat tell in interviews that he plays different, that he found his own way, this is just laughable. Sometimes the same poor fellow even tries to put his master down; this is just regrettable; it gets burlesque when I know on the other side, that the same man was shortly before just one of my many naïve fan-letter-writers.
We are not without guilt, we started to support these people and this scene with many things, not just with the foundation of a school and a record company for them, in 1979.
The younger generation who want to dance, who has no deeper interest in music than using it for their enjoyment on the dancefloor, they push what is called "Techno" or "Trance" these days. I like that, and not just because the producers of such music also the younger journalists call me "Father of Trance". This "Trance" and "Techno" bring back the esoteric "Electronic Music" scene from the blind alley to the main road, to the general public, by starting the whole thing anew. They use again simple analogue synthesizers, cheap drum machines, not so advanced but different studio technology, their music is still understandable, they have no desire -yet- to produce "art". And, last but not least: people can dance to it, and they do. With the former E.M. this was not possible - we "traditional" electronic musicians forgot the dancers, the desire of an audience to get entertained, which was and probably still is the most important reason for doing and for using music. In the late sixties we wanted to go away from this entertainment scene, for the same reasons, that now the younger musicians want to go away from our l'art pour l'art E.M., back to the entertainment scene. Every generation wants to do just the opposite of the former, they want and they have to create their own music. We did the same in 1970.

Q: May I interrupt? You once ran a school, teaching synthesis?

KS: Yes, my Synthesizer School. I did this from 1978 to 1980, after working for some years on analogue synths. About '78 were many people around who were interested in learning about my instruments, the synthesizers. Regular schools taught only piano or violin or vocals, whatever, but not these exotic new tools. In nearly every interview from 1973 until the late seventies I had to answer the usual "Please Klaus, tell me, what is a synthesizer" question. There was a big gap for people who wanted to learn about this type of music. Okay, I said to myself, I will start a school. I employed one teacher, and he and myself, we both split the job. But I had so many other things to do, I gave it up after these two years. I never really wanted to do other things beside my music. Only if I have spare time, it's okay, and as long as it doesn't become bigger than my music.

Q: Go on, about the present music scene...

KS: TANGERINE DREAM and I, we "invented" this new style of music in the early seventies, and if someone takes something from it, this is okay, even great. We're humans, and we also love to be acknowledged. When others just exploit us, miserably disguised behind a poorer sound, it stinks. Hobby musicians are spoiling the market, and not just because they are so mediocre, but because they are so many, just too many, and these men are mostly no green teenagers anymore. Even if every individual E.M. player is surely a wonderful person and a brave family man, and although I'm normally a polite and patient person, and a serious listener, this all is too much for me, it's time for the originator to combat. The old man raises his voice... (smiles). If they use our ideas to create something new, as in this "Techno" and "Trance" dance fashion, this is okay because it is part of the normal artistic evolution. All those "normal" KS & TD copycats remind me for some reason just on boring Dixieland revival groups. They have no balls, if you know what I mean...
BRIAN FERRY made a song with ROXY MUSIC about "flooding my penthouse(!)", I feel the same: They're flooding my electronic music. Because many hundreds are doing it now, it doesn't have the same feel anymore. Not only for me, but as well for the critics: It's too much. No earnest music critic or lover of music, or fan, has the time, the money and the nerves to listen to fifty new boring "Electronic Music" CDs every second month, 45 of them on "independent" labels, which just means that no serious label wanted it. Plus all the MCs... On a good day one can listen to 3 or 5 of them (if you don't fall asleep because they sound all the same), but then your brain is washed. The same happens to me, by the way, with my own music during the process of working on it, or mixing it. After some hours of listening, it's just too much, but for other reasons: I don't produce wallpaper music.
I don't want to blame a special person for this situation, but please could all those who were told that they are copycats, stop to bring their home-brewed preserves to the market. They just take the air from those artists who do their music professionally, who dare to try something new, who risk to fail, who have to live from it and through it. For me it's artistically very irritating when a critic compares my new CD with a third generation hobby E.M. player, who copied someone, who already copied me. I stand not alone. I heard the same opinion from others of my league. Also, I express their feelings; someone has to speak that out. It's high time.

Q: Do you think that's down to the fact it's so easy for a CD to be produced?

KS: Yes. Certainly yes. It is so cheap to get the Midi equipment. They have about three or four synthesizers, multi mode, 48 tracks via 4 for example... It's so easy to make mediocre music. This new wave of equipment has given birth to music produced by non musicians. No longer you need to learn music principles to compose music. Computer programming will do just fine. My manager got from a Romanian fan five MCs with typical electronic music that sounded not bad, it was the normal mediocre stuff. This Romanian wrote that he got the money for this equipment from Danish and German friends, and that he started immediately to do electronic music, although he never did music before (!), and 6 months later he had these five C60 music cassettes produced, and sends them to professional publishers and labels in the West. This is a perfect example how easy it is to produce this kind of electronic music.
What he and all the others are missing, is simply: courage, energy from the heart and the stomach, brains. The sound has to come from the belly, Arthur Brown told me once. When he sings, he sings from the belly. Instead most copycats speak all too often about meditation, yoga, self-finding, as if they have many personal problems. This from-the-belly is something that I'm also missing, if I see a concert of some of those "avantgarde" composers, and he just have all the oscillators on, but no public is there, nobody wants to hear it. I have nothing against this kind of "serious" avantgarde musicians. But if they do it all over again, for 20, 30, 40 years?... is it still avantgarde if they carry their ideas from the fifties into the nineties?... As if nothing has happened: Rock'n'Roll, the Beatles, a new technology?... I do like a person like Laurie Anderson, she had during the first years of her "crazy" own work rarely an audience, but she tried on, went on, and finally had success. It was deserved, 'cause she did her own thing, with today's means. She didn't copy someone else's ideas, and that touches me. I miss today that I'm rarely touched by a new record. The medium is new, the content is too often boringly old. I do like various kinds of music, yes: Prince, or Michael Jackson. "Cream" from Prince makes me trembling. "Thriller" was just beautiful.

Q: In your musical career you never did any concerts in America. Is there a reason?

KS: Shall I answer it straight? I don't like the USA. I had a chat with Edgar (Froese) once, and he just straightly told me: "Klaus, I know you're very sensitive. It is not a place for you". So I said (with a smile) "Okay, I believe you. You can have it".

Q: What was it like working with Stomu Yamash'ta?

KS: That was fantastic, Stomu comes from the classical field of music, and he has a very sensible way of composing. For me it was never a problem to catch up with other artists, be it classical, with GO, or whatever. To work with Stomu was an honour, because I rate him very highly, along with my friend Michael Shrieve who played on some of my own records afterwards. Through the ISLAND Records connection I got to know Arthur Brown. A great singer and person. Many things happened because of GO, not on the actual record, but all the combinations, happenings around were very positive. (Because of my producing records of the Japanese FAR EAST FAMILY BAND I got the contact to Stomu). Stomu is a great composer, but sadly he stopped composing, as far as I know. He should do it again.

Q: How did you meet Arthur Brown and what was he like to work with?

KS: It was at the Island studios in London, during the GO recordings in 1976, and some British manager asked me whom I would like to meet, and I said: "Arthur Brown", because I remembered and liked his "Fire" single. "No problem" I heard, because Arthur was accidentally sitting in the next room having breakfast. I went in and just asked him if he would like to sing on my next album. As you know, he did. He was totally involved, mingled with the recording, and we also did a very good concert tour. We did Dune, the Wahnfried Time Actor, I produced an LP he did with his buddy Vincent Crane (of Atomic Rooster fame), and he is on my ...Live... double LP.

Q: What are your interests outside music?

KS: Is there something outside music?

Q: You have worked on many collaborations such as the COSMIC JOKERS, the RICHARD WAHNFRIED albums, or GO. Is there anyone else that you would like to work with?

KS: Yes, I would like to work with pop groups such as Ultravox, Depeche Mode, or M.C. Hammer. M.C. is a quality singer. It sounds to me as if he were a drummer before he started to sing. He has charisma, like so many black entertainers. I would also like to work with Nigel Kennedy. He invited me, and we already met once. Maybe some collaboration will happen, maybe not. The main thing with all this is, that the quality of the music should not reduce itself to a point where people say, it doesn't matter what you are doing.
I enjoy playing. Can you imagine what the common KS fan would say if I made an album with, say, M.C. Hammer? "Oh God, now he tries to make money!". Although this is a good reason, 'cause it's my job and I have to live from my music. An outsider can rarely understand the real quality and conception, also the fun and curiosity in doing music. Many fans, customers, listeners, are in little boxes. A few listen only to Jarre, TANGERINE DREAM, and me. Another box listens only to KRAFTWERK or DEPECHE MODE. A third box to Techno... Most people are so narrow-minded. Some musicians are the same, I have to admit. Now I am working on my "opera" with some real singers. I use a counter tenor. I could never use him to do a rap, I tried it. He can sing like hell, indeed. But only his stuff. Most musicians are in their boxes. Even if they want, they cannot come out.

Q: Finally, Klaus, do you have a message for all your fans?

KS: I hope that you'll like my new music from 1994, and beyond. Keep up with what I'm doing; do not criticize after a first superficial listening. Listen twice. Treat me not as an artificial pop fashion. After all, I put my soul into my music.