Interview with Klaus Schulze  

"You Should Not Bore People"

April 1997

Q: Please talk about the work you did in PSY FREE. Are there any surviving recordings?

KS: No, there were no recordings made. Why should we, or someone else? Nobody ever had the idea then. PSY FREE was a trio consisting of guitar, organ and drums. I was the drummer. We did what the name suggests: psychedelic, free music. Not "free jazz" -- which was in common at this time, but our music was more rock orientated noise. We played only in Berlin clubs.

Q: How did you come to work with TANGERINE DREAM? What was your, Edgar's and Conrad's idea about the band and its music? What did you think of its later music? And: How was ASH RA TEMPEL? What was the idea behind this group?

KS: There was no "idea" behind. Please understand that we did it not with today's retrospect view. We just did it. Then. And we had fun doing it. This goes for both bands, TD as well as A.R.T. Tangerine Dream: One evening their regular drummer was absent, and I joined instead. And I kept the drum chair for the following eight months or so. During this time we also recorded the first TD album. I told the following story very often: At one of our concerts I tried to play some organ tapes that I had recorded and treated in an uncommon way. Edgar didn't like that. He wanted just a drummer for his guitar/bass/drums group, and no "funny" experiments. Therefore, I left. Conrad Schnitzler followed soon. In a friendly way, it was no big thing then. Nobody really cared. We all were more or less amateurs, beginners, there was no big money involved. Bands came and vanished. Young people founded groups, joined groups, left groups, disbanded groups, members changed constantly among groups...
Then I founded Ash Ra Tempel. The two guys, Manuel and Hartmut, were playing a kind a fast blues rock when I met them. My fast bassdrum style impressed them. From Blues we changed to "Space" rock.

Q: You are now a solo player. Do you enjoy working in bands?

KS: I'm a musician. I also like to play with others, sometimes more, sometimes less. It happened a few years later that I played with Edgar and Chris again, and with Manuel and Hartmut. There is nothing special behind it or about it. Still today Manuel is a good friend. The others I see rarely, but with Edgar I phone from time to time.
I also played with Stomu Yamash'ta and his "super groups" in 1976 and 1977. Besides, I played in bands before T.D. or Ash Ra Tempel. This was in the sixties.

Q: What did you lead to go solo?

KS: I went solo because I could do much better what I wanted to do. I didn't have to ask or discuss things and ideas that are already shaped in my head.

Q: It's been suggested that John Cage, Terry Riley and Karlheinz Stockhausen influenced your work. Is this fair?

KS: "Fair"? Neither fair nor unfair. Better words would be: nonsense, absurd, false. Everytime a journalist cannot cope (pun intended) with a certain music, he mentions "Stockhausen" as a kind of synonym. Have you ever checked Stockhausen's output? About 5 (five) compositions that could be called "electronic", and they were done 30 to 40 years ago, made with an oscillator or something like this. He did over hundred of other compositions that have no relation whatsoever to electronic music. Besides, what I heard meanwhile, sounds awful to my ears and to most other people's ears and hearts. Stockhausen is maybe a good theorist. Who's listening voluntarily to his actual music, who "enjoys" it? I also had and I have nothing to do with Cage or Riley. Neither with their music nor with their theories and philosophies (if they have any...). I have nothing against it, but this is simply not my world. When I started to do my music, and before, I was listening to Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd, before it was the Spotnicks and the Ventures, but not to the names you mention. Nobody in my surrounding and in my age did. This was a kind of "culture" that just did not exist among us. Only many years after, and because every second journalist asked me about "Stockhausen", I finally bought his theoretic books and I read them. Interesting stuff, I must admit, but the musical results are still not my cup of tea.

(From another interview, two years earlier:)

I'm really tired of hearing this name: "Stockhausen". Have you ever checked how many "electronic" compositions he did? For the last 20 years not one. This friendly religious man does not even own a mixing desk (Which is no crime, of course. But it shows some things), not to mention that he never searched seriously for synthetic sounds. What he did before, in the fifties and sixties, was not at all "electronic", in the sense we understand it since Robert Moog and Walter Carlos' profound works. I have nothing against Stockhausen and his theories, but his music was and is of no big interest to me, not to mention: influence. When Edgar (Froese) and I started 25 years ago with our wild and weird sounds in the Berlin underground, we listened to Pink Floyd, to some American West Coast bands, or to Jimi Hendrix - but not to any dry "serious" German theoretic composer. Be it Henze, or Stockhausen, or anybody else. There is no "myth" behind Stockhausen. It's just that one inept writer copies from the other this magical word: "Stockhausen". An Italian friend recently told me: There are many journalists who don't know much about a certain music. If those writers try to give a name to a kind of music which is beyond their understanding, they call it "Stockhausen". There are many of these writers.

Q: I've heard that you've done some work with music therapy?

KS: This was because I had a girlfriend then (circa 1973) who was working in a mental hospital. Among other things they used musical therapy, and because I was a musician (and the doctors were certainly tired of always the same therapeutic music) I was asked to make some tapes for them, which I did. It was an, h'm, "interesting" experience. A totally different world.

Q: Could you talk about the 10-day concert you gave in April 1973, this 'sound environment'?

KS: You got all this little info from The Works, don't you? Yes, I was invited, or better: hired, to do the sound environment at a booth of a huge electronic company, during the international Hanover Industrial Fair in 1973. It was a job. Slightly good paid. But not as much as my producer then told the press. And many printed this hokum: "First cosmic millionaire". Nonsense.

Q: Does the keyboard influence your music or is it vice-versa, that the music dictated which keyboards to use?

KS: Indeed, there is a kind of reciprocal relation. Sometimes a new instrument (keyboard or others) is very good or challenging and the influence is large. Then I use the tool extensively. There are also new instruments (keyboards or others) which are not so groundbreaking, and they have no big influence on my playing. But isn't that normal? With every instrumentalist? Should I mention Glenn Gould and his love for a certain piano, even a very old chair...? Not to mention all those guitar heros with their liking for a Gibson Les Paul, or a Fender Stratocaster...

Q: Timewind was dedicated to RICHARD WAGNER. Was he of any influence on you?

KS: I dig Wagner. But I also dig J.J. Cale.

Q: Could you talk about your collaborations with Stomu Yamashta (Go)?

KS: Stomu was and is a fine man and an inspiration. I liked the hours and days I worked and spoke with him. Also I met Michael Shrieve during this collaboration. I also enjoyed work with him at later times.

Q: In 1977, you did shows at the London Planetarium. Do you feel this is an ideal atmosphere for your music?

KS: After I had the idea to play there, I had to learn that it was the very first time that a concert was given in a planetarium! I don't know if a planetarium is the ideal place for each and every music. As most musicians, I care for a good sound. Some concert places have a good sound, some have not. A planetarium with its hemisphere shape is difficult to play, if I remember well. There are echoes and shattering from all sides, if you play too loud. In fact, I don't exactly remember what it was like, then, twenty years ago, in London.

Q: There are a lot of 'electronic' and 'classical' elements to your work. Do you combine the two?

KS: You cannot compare "electronics" and "classical music". "Electronic" is the way I generate my melodies and rhythms (and not "just a lot of it" but generally).
"Classical" is a given style in music. I don't interpret "classical" music (there was one exception, where I did exactly this. But I think you don't mean that).
I invent and play my own music, and I do this with electronic means. This was sensational once, because it was unusual. Today it's normal in most music, except in the "classical" field where they treat music like a dusty fetish in a museum. Which is okay, and if I think about it for a while: could be even good because music mustn't be always "new" and in vogue.
Maybe some of my compositions remind you on some "classical" music? Some of the Beatles' stuff reminds me on some classical (baroque) music. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

Q: You started Innovative Communications and Inteam to control your own music. Did you find the problems with these companies taught you anything about the music business?

KS: Sorry to take away your naive believing: I did not start IC and Inteam to have control over my music. I had control before and after. A look at my discography shows this, because my albums were still with another company when I started IC and after. I never had many problems to do my music and to give it to a record company. Rarely they try to argue with me about my music, probably because it's still too far-out. Who wants to argue about a thing that he doesn't understand? The problems were sometimes the journalists who also did not understand much of my music but wrote about it.
I think you fell into the usual trap laid out by parts of the press and other writers, which is in the meantime a "given truth", yes, a myth: That the poor musician has always to fight the evil companies and managers. No, it isn't so easy. Because, also the world of showbiz is not just black or white, good or bad.
Because I had these record companies, I could clearly see that 90% of a success depends on the artist himself. It is him who has to get active, to get across, to get in motion, to get the best of it. Not many are able to do this. What I saw instead were musicians who just waited that the company will make them famous over night.

Q: Audentity (1983) was a very interesting album. How did this come about?

KS: I used the wonderful cello player before, and Michael Shrieve's drumming, as well as Rainer Bloss' piano playing. It's nice to hear that you seem to like this album. "How did this come about?" What should I answer? It's some years ago. Doing music and albums is my profession. I don't remember today how it "came about" Audentity. Just another fine album...

KS: Could you talk about the meetings you had with ROBERT MOOG and PINK FLOYD in 1995?

KS: These meetings were private. I was a fan of PINK FLOYD in the sixties. And I always loved the Moog sound. It is legendary. I met Robert Moog face to face first during an electronic festival in Austria in 1980. I did the opening concert there, and we were both in the jury to choose which newly invented electronic music instrument gets a prize. Later we phoned, and we met again on a music fair here in Germany. My interest in his new toy, the Theremin, isn't as big as it was and still is for his old Moogs. A Theramin simply does not fit into my way of playing music. I do not want to fiddle around with my hands in the air. Looks silly.

Q: You've been using sampling of music in the last few years. How has that changed your work?

KS: Sampling is a much easier way to do what I did long ago with tape loops. The sampling technique is faster, cleaner, anything you want. It's the digital revolution.
I had to realize that the use of samples has its rules, too. If you use "normal" sound samples, nobody takes notice because it's just not very special. If you use sensational good and exotic samples, everybody will notice: Ahhhh! Great! ...but very soon the same people get tired of it. Extraordinary samples you can use only once, but never a second time, except maybe for a quotation. Yes, sampling has changed not just my way of playing and composing. For instance, I stored all the sounds of my old instruments into a sampling archive, and could get rid of these heavy, unstable tools. If I want to play a Mellotron, I use now the sampled sound on a master keyboard ... instead of the old mellotron keyboard with its unsteady mechanical tape loop cassettes.

Q: Were you surprised by the recent interest in your work by techno and ambient musicians and DJs?

KS: First, yes. Now I'm used to it. It was in Paris in 1993 where I had to give during two days many interviews, one after another. The first three journalists' starting words were "Klaus what do you say that people call you the Father of Techno?". Gladly the fourth journalist was an old friend and I asked him about this and he explained to me a few things. From then on I had not only an answer but peeked a bit into this scenery.

Q: What kind of directions do you see your music taking in the future?

KS: Nearly every interview closes with such a question. Which is okay, but what should I say except: I don't know. It depends on so many things. I hope never to get boring. If an artist cannot amaze people anymore, that's the end. One piece on the coming Jubilee Edition bears the title: Verblüffe sie! which in English is: Bewilder them! And that's all that is necessary in art. You should not bore people.

Q: Could you tell us 5 or 10 albums/CDs that are your personal favourites?

KS: As everybody else, I'm not much interested in other people's record collection. Just because I'm a musician, people have an interest in my record collection? I don't want to bother people with my momentary personal taste. Besides, this changes. Old music, new music... In fact, nothing special or outstanding. If I think about it, I must admit that I don't even own something that could be called a record collection...