Interview with Klaus Schulze  

"Music can do just one thing: to show emotions. Just emotions."

June 1998

Q: Most of my listeners have said to me that your music is music of the spirit and not so much a music of the body. Do you agree with this? Is this the feeling that you ever wanted to transmit?

KS: Every music - except dance music, which is for dancing, I suppose - is for the spirit of the human being, and not for the body. Much music is for a not so high spirit (called mostly: entertainment), some music is for a higher spirit (called mostly: serious music ... but this can be entertaining, too... :-)

Q: "Use your Brain!" was the sentence that we could read on your adverts in your earliest years. Can this sentence be used today again?

KS: This was not my advert, it was an advert used by a record company for their whole label. Also, it was not used in my "earliest" years but a few years later, in 1976 and '77, by the record company Metronome for their Brain label. It was an obvious play with words, as it is done so often in advertising: The Brain label & the "Use your Brain". As the Ohr label did a few years earlier with their "Macht das OHR auf" ("Open Your Ears")

Q: What did it mean for you to create an album such as Irrlicht? Did it have some success when released?

KS: The "what did it mean" question is too big, to overall, to give any significant and detailed and honest answer. Also, please remember that meanwhile twenty-six years have passed. What did I think 26 years ago? what did one little activity meant for me, then? Do you remember what you thought 26 years ago? At least I don't remember. The "success" with such a crazy music was not very big. In our website you find a button on each of my album sites, a link to Press Reviews, there you can read the contemporary press resonance, also to Irrlicht. It's an interesting reading sometimes, after all these many years.

Q: Who would have influenced in your music when you decided to work alone? Have you caught some aspects of the classical music in building your masterpieces? I mean, they are not short songs, not pop music, but long themes, electronic symphonies...

KS: Do you mean: "Who has influenced you in 1971, 1972?"? For my music, it was no one special. I listened to the rock music of that time, but as you know and can easily hear: my music of that era had nothing to do with the common music of this era. I was experimenting, I was searching for something new. I still do this today, I hardly listen to other music than mine. At least not consciously, like fans do, and music consumers.

Short titles = pop music. Long titles = classical music (?) No, that is absolutely not the way I see and I listen to music.

Q: What did you want to say with the personality of "Richard Wahnfried"?

KS: If I want to "say" something, I speak. But, as you know, I do music. I don't want to "say" something with my music, neither with my solo albums nor with the Wahnfried albums. If it would be as you suppose, I would write articles, or books, or scripts. I repeat: I do music. And with Wahnfried I do music with other musicians, I try to make a different music, different from my own solo music.

Q: What could you tell about your experiences with voices in operistic ways?

KS: The human voice is the first and most natural musical instrument, also the most emotional. Like many other people, I like to hear singers, be it Willie Nelson or Maria Callas. Sometimes I like to make music together with a singer or with singers. That's all. It started already in 1974 with Blackdance, on which I let an operatic singer sing a Verdi collage.

Q: Another question that many people ask again and again: What instrumentation are you using nowadays?

KS: This is simply too much to count and to tell here. I would have to check the long printed listing that kdm made. Please look in our official KS website. If you click on Studio, there is the long list, and there are also some photos. If you click on those, they will enlarge. Those photos are from May 1996. Meanwhile I have exchanged the Ataris for more Macintoshs.

Of course not every instrument in my studio is used for each and every title that I play and record.

Q: Instruments have evolved since you first started making music yourself. Have these changes helped or influenced your personal musical evolution?

KS: Yes of course, and it's a platitude: Everything changes all the time. The instruments change, the people change, the artists change, the fashion changes, the media changes, the listener changes, their views and opinions change... even the sound carrier changed during my time: from vinyl to digital CD, and from analogue tape to sampling, computer, and harddisk recording.

And of course, all this is of some influence to me, as it is to all people, music makers and music listeners. How else? Just take for instance, that people get older and during all these years they learn a few things about music (if they are interested and open minded). Of course they listen to music differently when they are 50... as when they were 20 years old (But this is just one example of changes). The influences are multiple and mutual ...and normal.

Q: I visited your web site, looking at the inventory of your instruments. It is overwhelming. Let me make one remark. I don't know if you think that instrumentation is so important. I suppose it's more important having the musical idea and enjoying it. It is not important to have an extraordinary technology... if you are not a true artist and if you don't know how to create something. First of all you have to believe in it, and in yourself.

KS: Any of my imitators should read this. :-)

Q: Which is your best album?

KS: This question is always asked to all recording artists. And of course, the musician - if he's serious - always answers: My last album is my best, otherwise I wouldn't have done it.

Q: What were the reasons that led you to found "Innovative Communication"? What did it happened after? If somebody would suggest it, would you try it again now?

KS: I founded IC in late 1978 because at this time there was no other label interested in "electronic music", and I wanted to promote this music, that I had "invented nearly single-handed" (as one English magazine wrote). But all the "electronic" albums on IC did not sell, except my own albums and one rock album: Ideal (700 000 copies sold in Germany. I wasn't the discoverer and producer, it was my friend kdm who managed IC until late 1981).

Then, in 1983 I went on a very long concert tour all over Europe. When I came back I had to realize that IC was not in a very good shape - all the much money that we had because of the huge Ideal success, was gone. I was very upset. And I gave the whole company away, to the man who was responsible for the IC disaster (no one else wanted it). This was in summer 1983. Since that time I have nothing to do with IC and with the "shit"(*) that happens on this label. [* a quotation from an American journalist]

Q: Talking about IC, why do you think electronic albums except yours didn't sell? Were them too different from yours? By the way, why other bands such as Tangerine Dream had success and became popular with electronic music?

KS: This kind of music did and does not sell as much as many other, more popular music that DOES sell, from Michael Jackson to Julio Iglesias.

The - in regard to real pop sellers: still small - success of TD was also because the record company Virgin put in 1974/'75 a lot of energy into the promotion of this product (Richard Branson himself was their personal manager during that time). They had a ten years contract. The first two years Virgin promoted and invested (Just remember the Reims Cathedral event; one third of the audience was invited worldwide press), and the last eight years they collected the fruits, the income, the money. This is normal in record business (and very good for the artist who is chosen). If not suddenly Virgin's Tubular Bells became a worldwide monster hit (because of an American film soundtrack), the TD success would be even bigger. When TD was recording Phaedra, Oldfield's Tubular Bells was already released and nobody at Virgin saw a "hit" in it... until it was used in that American movie (I forgot the film title) and went really big.

Q: Looking back, do you like the electronic music of nowadays? Don't you think that in any point of the path someone would had lost the right way?

KS: Today, there is no extra branch anymore, called "electronic music". Most of today's music is done electronically. Especially the more "cheap" music. ...but also plenty of good and interesting modern pop and dance music. 95% of today's music is done the electronic way with samplers and computers. A classical pianist, Glenn Gould, has seen (and desired) this evolution (or revolution?) already in the sixties.

What I don't like and cannot hear anymore, is "electronic music" made by people who still try to copy what TANGERINE DREAM or what I did 15, 20 or 25 years ago - but mostly without the freshness, the energy and the emotion that we had then. Their doings reminds me on the dixieland revival - also a music I don't like so much and for the same reason. It's really funny to watch today some young Englishmen play à la Tangerine Dream in 1973, even using the same equipment we had in '73. Their doing is not much different from today's dixieland bands who play in front of bearded drunks the once revolutionary music of Armstrong, Morton, Henderson, Ellington, by using just the formula that was revolutionary 70 years earlier.

Recently, the old-fashioned electronic copycats try to incorporate a bit of "techno" and "trance", because they finally realized that they must add something fresh - but even here they are ten years too late (I still remember their dislike when "techno & trance" was new). These people - often amateurs and fans - are not able to do something of their own, they just take what was already established by the true originators ...which meanwhile is historic stuff.

Don't misunderstand me. Generally I do like that people make "Hausmusik" - but is it really necessary that all those many hundreds of weekend musicians pollute the world with their homebrew CDs? And, why is it that too many journalists cannot separate these amateurs from the innovators? Is it because often they do the same kind of electronic hobby Hausmusik?!

Q: How do you see the evolution of many musicians that are considered masters of electronic music, such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Kitaro, Roedelius, etc.? What about people like Enya?

KS: I'm not listening consciously to the music of the people you mention. If I listen to other music, I listen to today's pop or rock music, or to classical music. In fact, I have never listened to any "Enya" - I only have heard that name, but never the music (and, to be honest, I'm not interested in it). Please remember that I am a serious professional musician but not a record-buying fan and teenager.

Some of the musicians and collegues that you mention I know privately and I do like personally, Edgar Froese, Achim Roedelius, Kitaro... but I don't follow in detail what they do musically.

By the way, I know Achim Roedelius as a very friendly man and a good musician, but "electronic" music he's doing not very often ...for quite a while.

Q: People like Steve Roach have thanked to Klaus Schulze "for helping to open the door". What can one say when this happens?

KS: My friend kdm (Klaus D. Mueller, also my publisher) has made a list in my discography The Works which is called "Dedications & Adoptions". Today it includes 103 (one hundred and three) music albums that have a dedication to "Klaus Schulze" on it. Yes, I do remember the name Steve Roach. In 1977 he contacted us and kdm sent him a biography, a discography, and a nice letter. In the American magazine "Synapse" he wrote then a nice article about me and my music. Years later he also did "electronic" music, as so many others who formerly were just fans and letter writers. I never had personal contact to him.

Q: What kind of feelings do you experiment on a concert? What kind of locations do you prefer?

KS: I do like giving concerts. It's very different from working in my studio. I am maybe like a football player: Playing in a real game in front of thousands of people is certainly much more exciting than the daily training...?

I have often told in many interviews about this special and great feeling on stage... I do prefer "beautiful" halls. Also, the sound in those halls has to be good. In the seventies I often played in churches because of the beauty and the sound ...and because they cost not much rent for the concert promoter!

Q: What live performance do you remember with special illusion? Why? And what about some concerts outside Europe?

KS: ("with special illusion"? I think I don't know what you mean)

A simple answer anyway: I do remember always the last concert. Probably because the remembrance is still fresh. As simple as that. All other - older - concerts are just like one bag full of general memories, all very similar. If I am asked for one special solo concert or one tour, I maybe remember this or that... But such an overall question...? Sorry, nothing comes to my mind. And if I would have something, this one story would suppress all the many other memories that I remember maybe on another occasion and question. Any random memory would be suddenly a big story for a journalist, without any reason.

Americans often ask me, why don't you play live in America? ... My friend kdm told me: Beethoven never played in America. Wagner never played in America. Schubert never played in America. Bach never played in America. Mozart never played in America... so, why should I? :-)

Q: Listeners in my country [Spain] may ask: When was your first concert in Spain? Did you enjoy it? What do you think about your Spanish fans?

KS: Besides one TV appearance in 1980 (interview only), I only had one concert tour in España, in 1991, with five concerts. I do remember the wonderful concert hall in Barcelona, I do remember some very friendly local promoters, and I do remember the even more wonderful Spanish audience! I do remember many, many interviews with the Spanish press and I remember the many Spanish TV crews (who filmed during the concert, mostly without even asking for permission!!!) ...and I remember the ugly Spanish concert promoter who invited me to Spain, but did not care at all about my tour and his promises.

Oh yes, and I will never forget that nobody (stage hands, electrician, light men, doorkeeper) in the concert halls spoke any language except his own: Spanish. Which was a very strange experience and made our job not easier. Partly we played in very great, excellent, modern concert halls, where yesterday the Bolshoi Ballet was on stage, and one day after me they had the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. And nobody in that hall spoke any English, or French, or German... but just: Spanish. Even when the hall had a special (!) secretary for the service of the international artists at the stage entrance, as was the case in Sevilla - this lady was useless, because she did not speak or understand one other language besides her native Spanish. I wonder what she was doing (and saying) if the members of the Bolshoi Ballet or the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra ask her: Please, where is the toilet? ...where is a telephone? ...where is the electricity? This was very strange. I still do not understand the politics of the managers of these wonderful modern concert halls.

We bought a Spanish-English dictionary, and wrote down (and learned) all necessary Spanish words for our stage show: mas, mucho, poco, o, pleno, el fin, mismo, despues, solamente, antes, sin, oscuro, claro, hoy en dia, cambio, espera, azul, rojo, blanco, intervalo ... (You see: we still have the notices and the little dictionary).

I also remember when we were standing in a line at an airport counter somewhere in Spain. In front of us was an old man who told his wife, by shaking his head: "I really don't understand how these Spanish people can do next year the 'Expo' - they cannot even communicate with foreigners."

Q: Another repeated question seems to be: What kind of music are you used to listen to?

KS: To all kinds of music that comes from the radio. Sometimes, visitors bring me CDs with the most modern pop music and ask me what I think about it. Sometimes I like it, sometimes not. If I like it, it's mostly because of the interesting sound.

Because it happened that I liked sometimes such a CD, I started to get some interest in the modern "techno, ambient, trance" music. I even re-mixed a few Techno titles for some German labels, and I met and worked with some of these young new artists. These young people play "electronic" music, but they do it much differently from all those old-fashioned "Berlin School" imitators (which I cannot hear anymore). Sometimes I have the impression these young techno people use the instruments exactly as I did 26 years ago. With one exception: For them, these electronic tools, the computer, the sampler, etc. are normal instruments of today. They don't see it as a sensational new invention, but just use it naively because it's so easily available. As my generation used electric guitars in the late sixties.

Q: It is curious to see that you do not listen to electronic musicians nowadays, but you listen to pop, rock or classical.

KS: Yes, but please understand that I do not sit the whole day in my room and listen carefully to pop, rock or classical music. No, I do not. It's just because you asked me about this trivial thing and I wanted to be polite and to give an honest answer.

If I listen, sometimes, then I listen to the normal pop or rock or classical music that comes from the radio. I hope I could make this clear now :-) And if I listen to some pop music of the day, it's the quality of the sound that interests me (sometimes) but not so much the song or a new musical fashion.

Q: Several years ago you have been involved on the band GO. Haven't you ever worked again in a similar way with other musicians? I am not talking about collaborations with others musicians.

KS: If you are "not talking about collaborations with others musicians" (what GO was), what else do you mean? Therefore, I don't understand this question. It's like: "You drive a Mercedes. Please tell me about it, but don't mention any cars." :-)

Q: After all these years, do you think is there anything else to say?

KS: I can only repeat: I am a musician, not a speaker :-)

Q: I mean, music is an universal language. Many artists transmit feelings with it, they actually want to "say" something.

KS: Most of what is written about "what the artists means and what he wants to say with his art" is bullshit, is promotion for the press, is nonsense, often just invented by the record company or the press, because people like to hear such stories, they like to read about such myths. (I don't exaggerate. For Are You Sequenced? the record company hired a special promotion lady. In addition, a journalist was hired to write the story about Are You Sequenced? - which was all invented and nonsense. As a result I had many articles and reviews in the German press with Are You Sequenced? - more than ever before with another album - and 99% of them just repeated the pleasing (but silly) invention of that hired journalist. The promo lady explained to me that these activities are normal in the record industry).

Legends, myths, and silly stories are easier to understand than all words about the structure of a piece of music, about its roots and relations, about the technical side of composing, playing and recording it, and all the other many little and bigger musical things (which most people don't know a thing about, anyway).

Back to "the artist wants to say something": The Wilhelm Tell overture by Rossini was used many times in Hollywood cowboy movies, and we already think about gallopping horses when listining to this overture. But in fact, Rossini and Switzerland's Mister Tell have nothing to do with cowboys & horses or with Hollywood. Or, take "Peer Gynt" by Grieg. Record covers of "Peer Gynt" show mostly a cold winter landscape and people hear it this way (as I did for a long time). But "Peer Gynt" opus 46 is located in hot northern Africa! This shows, that you can put many different images on and into pure and innocent music, especially with words and pictures about its "meaning". But... what music only can do on its own is just one thing: to show emotions. Just emotions. Sadness, Joy, Silence, Excitement, Tension. All this is not much I must use many words about... Because this is indeed a "universal language".

Q: What are your upcoming projects?

KS: At the moment there is nothing seriously that I am working on. I play a bit around, trying out some things in my studio. Certainly I will do another album, and another, and another, but I have not the slightest idea yet how it will sound and what it will contain. After all, the last few years brought so many Schulze music on CDs, if I only think about the 32 hours of Jubilee Edition, ...and the two huge sets shortly before, ...and the two Wahnfried albums, ...and in addition all my "normal" releases...