Interview with Klaus Schulze  

"We Paved the Way"

January 1996

Q: What was your first sequencer, and what were your initial feelings about it?

KS: The first sequencer that I bought was a custom made instrument with 3 x 8 steps. This was in 1974. You can hear it on Timewind. In December 1975 I bought the Big Moog, which had the Moog Sequencer included. You can hear it on Moondawn. Because I was a drummer before, I could play very easily with this rhythmic device, that many people seem to like.

Q: In 1978 you started your own label, IC. Has it helped you as a creative artist? What is your opinion about the current productions of this label?

KS: That I established the record company IC has not helped me as a creative artist. How? The reason for me was, to help other artists. I put much money and energy into IC !
In 1994, an American magazine asked me: "What is your feeling regarding the current state of IC, which over the time has essentially turned into shit?". I answered: "That's my comment as well." (I gave away IC in summer 1983. Since then I have nothing to do with it.)

Q: What are your different creative approaches to write music? Are there any usual procedures?

KS: I do not "write" music in a classical sense. My kind of working is best described as "improvisation". This is not exactly the right word for it, but it comes close to my kind of working. I play around, and slowly a piece of music emerges out of that.
There are two ways of inspiration. One is the figurative image like in a movie or an opera, the other is just music in itself, with no pictures. Both come from life, from my life, my past, and my present. It comes rarely from other musicians, never from other records.
Very different is my work on soundtracks 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 for hundreds of years.

Q: How do you know if a piece is really done? Have you ever looked back regretfully on a finished album or piece?

KS: I just know it, when a piece is really done and good enough to release. If I look back today on some albums that I made 10 or 20 years ago, yes, I see that this or that could be made differently. But, regrets? No. I have no regrets about my old albums. They should stay as they are, as a document of a certain era. I did them as good as I could at this time. If I have today other, newer, better ideas, I am free to do a new album. I don't have to change my old work. I don't do "re-mixes" just because the daily fashion asks for it. No.

Q: During the course of time, how have you changed as a composer?

KS: Of course I changed during the last 24 years, since I do solo albums. Just listen to my older and my newer music, there is a development. In each era everything is different: Me, my instruments, the audience, the circumstances, the fashions... It is a most normal thing that an artist grows and changes - at least it should be.

Q: What do you feel when listening to new groups or artists that are inspired by your music?

KS: I rarely listen consciously to new groups or artists, especially not in my field, and more especially: I don't listen anymore to the CDs of the copycats. The only chance to hear this stuff is, when a friend plays me some of these CDs, or they tell me about it. I am not so much interested to listen to it voluntarily.

Q: The Berlin School and the sequencer music are the forerunners of the techno-ambient-trance style. Do you feel as a pioneer of trance music?

KS: When I was invited to Paris in January 1994 to give plenty of interviews, the first questions of the French journalists were: "Klaus, you are the Father of Ambient and Trance. What do you think about this?". At first, I didn't know what they spoke about, but after the third journalist with the same question about "Ambient and Trance..." I had my answer prepared. Before, I really didn't know much about the Techno, Trance and Ambient fashion. Of course it is nice for me as an older artist, if the younger generation calls me the father of their music, and that they honour what I did in the past.

Q: What are the main reasons to release Silver Edition and Historic Edition?

KS: Silver Edition and Historic Edition were the ideas of my longtime partner, publisher and friend, Klaus D. Mueller (kdm). He likes to do crazy things. He has hundreds of my older and newer tapes, and he brought some order into this huge collection. When he listened in 1993 to some newer DATs with unreleased music from 1992/93, he realized that most of it is very good, and so he prepared the first set of five CDs. I urged him to make it ten CDs! In addition to the new music, he put two CDs with old concert recordings into the set. Silver Edition (released 1993) was a success, so kdm decided to do a second 10 CD set, with just historic music by me, mostly from the seventies. This set was again a great artistic success. The people: fans as well as journalists loved it.
The first set Silver Edition is sold out. A few copies of the second set Historic Edition are still available from Mario Schönwälder. One journalist wrote: A nightmare for bootleggers. Yes, this was one reason to release all this many music. Why should gangsters make money with my music, without asking, and in a bad sound quality...?

Q: At this point in your career as recording artist, you've spread your stylistic boundaries further than most would ever dream of: psychedelic rock to electronic & experimental music, to classical arrangements, and to opera. What other musical realms awaits a sonic explorer such as you?

KS: I really have no idea today, about what will come tomorrow, next week, next month, next year... I really don't know yet. If I would know, my life would be most boring.

Q: I think that Totentag is a turning point in your career. How did you conceive this work?

KS: To do an opera was an old idea of mine. Already on Blackdance (1974) I used a collage of Verdi songs, sung by an operatic singer. During the years, there were other attempts to do an opera, but for some reason or another, it never happened, ...until Totentag. Suddenly I had the time to do it, had the lyrics (it's about the Austrian poet GEORG TRAKL), had the okay from the record company, and I had the singers (mainly from the Düsseldorf Opera House). So I did it, finally.
Someone asked me once: "Why did you choose the opera to express your ideas?" I can't really say, why. To create a ballet would be stupid, because I'm no choreographer, the same goes for a theater-play, a book, or a film. Of course I chose music. But music in itself has no meaning, it can only create moods: joy, sadness, anger, happiness, fear, and-so-on. If I want to say something with music about GEORG TRAKL, I have to use words. Using words with music can lend to a handful of forms, and I chose the opera.

Q: Tell me about your concerts.

KS: I love to play solo concerts. The feeling I cannot describe. This was said so often, for ages, by many and all kinds of artists. They were and are all right. My equipment has nothing to do with it, but the audience and the situation has. Studio work is different, completely different. In a studio I would never play the Minimoog solo that I play on every concert. I don't do long tours anymore, like I did from 1974 until 1985, in nearly every year. I only do single solo concerts now, in a surrounding and under circumstances that I like.

Q: How do you view the current new music/electronic music scene, and which direction it will go in the next ten years?

KS: Most of today's music is done wholly or in parts "electronic". There is nothing sensational anymore with "electronic" - as it was when I started to play this crazy "new" music. I remember that I had more than once to answer the question of journalists: "What is a synthesizer?". Many people laughed then, and thought that this new tool would never be successful. They were all wrong. It's a fully integrated part of today's music, and therefore it has lost much of its mystic.
I can only say that I don't know too much about the "current new music/electronic music scene", as I don't know much about any music scene. In my humble opinion, the recent Techno/Trance/Ambient fashion brings some fresh air. But, oh my God, how should I know what will be in ten years from now?!

Q: If you had to choose between analogue and digital synthesizers, which one would it be? Do you think that instruments have an influence on the musical evolution?

KS: For some sounds I need this instrument, for other sounds I need another instrument. It depends of what I need to fulfil my imagination. This could be an analogue synthie, a digital computer, an acoustic guitar, hand-clapping, the human voice, or anything else.
Yes, of course, any new instrument also has an influence on the evolution of music. This was so in the past (the invention of the Hammerklavier, of the Saxophone...), it is so today, and it will be so in the future. This is normal reciprocation.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

KS: I did my music when "electronics", "synthesizer", "computers", "trance" and "techno" were not existing, not fashionable, and I will still do it when the recent vogue is gone. At last, my music is now accepted and fulfilled by a new generation who does not have the prejudice of their parents; these kids grew up with electronic music of all sorts. It's normal, that these people: listeners, artists, or journalists look for the roots of this music. And what do they see?: KRAFTWERK, TANGERINE DREAM, and me. We are indeed the only few, who did very consequently our modern music, with "exotic" electronic means, against a lot of opposition and laughter, but with no compromise. We paved the way, if I may say so.