Interview with Klaus Schulze  

A Musician Does Not Live From the Music But...

November 2005, for a Japanese magazine

Q: I've heard your new album, Moonlake. It is very powerful and colorful. Whenever I listen to your music, I always feel that it is something I somehow feel that I've heard yet I can never find. It sounds as if it were a celestial music, and I love it. First let me ask about your new album. After releasing big albums like Contemporary Works vol. 1-2 and Live at Klangart, the new album is straightforward, and the title is very visual. What is your message in this new album?

KS: Thanks for asking so kindly, ...but sorry, there is no special "message" in this new album. Rarely (if ever) I put a "message" into my music. If I would have a message for the people, I would probably write a story, a book, an article, a manifest. But I'm a musician, and the music that I record for albums and that I play in concerts is mostly even without any lyrics. No text. Even the titles for the tracks and albums I have to find AFTER the whole music is played, recorded, mixed, and ready for release. See, I'm just a full-blooded musician :-) The title for MOONLAKE comes from nice memories that I have of short holidays at Austria's "Mondsee" (= Moon Lake) near Salzburg. I liked the beautiful view.

Q: You used the Mini Moog in this album, and the tracks included are live performances in Poland in 2003 and latest studio live performance. Can we understand that it is a live album?

KS: It is not a true "Live Album". Yes, two of the four tracks from MOONLAKE are recordings from a concert that I gave in November 2003 in Poland. A concert is a unique event, a happening with various ingredients, mainly: an audience. A disc will never capture the same atmosphere, that's impossible. Of course it's a nice souvenir for those who were present, but actually it's (just) a disc, another CD, and people listen to it in a complete different surrounding, place, time, and atmosphere, and mostly they do it alone. People listen to it who were not even at the concert. Therefore, to correct any technical imperfection of a "live" recording, I edit my (concert) recordings for release. I delete the noise, the audience sounds, ...and often the recordings are too long for a release, anyway :-) I also did it with these two Poland tracks. So, these two titles are a mix between the true concert recording and a bit of studio work. The other two tracks (the first two on the album) are genuine studio recordings from early 2005.

Q: In recent years, you have used a large scale set of equipment by Polymorph and Rave-O-Lution. Please introduce us to your main machine, software, computer and other equipment you're currently using.

KS: Sorry, this is too complicated, and in fact: just boring technical stuff. People who have an interest in technical details can check the leaflets of the various companies, they can buy special magazines, or have a look in the Internet. There are certainly many websites from technical fans who discuss all possibilities of these wonderful tools. And, how a computer and software work, I suppose that many (if not most) people know this meanwhile and they don't need my helpless explanations :-) Yes, I can rave for a long time about a (new) instrument, but I cannot explain, within everybody's grasp, the technical side. I'm neither an engineer nor a teacher. Sometimes, better: often, I also don't know why and how it works, the main thing for me is THAT it works :-)

Q: You are a pioneer of electronic music, but you've never excluded acoustic instruments. From my personal opinion, you are more like a pioneer of acoustics. Please give us your comments on plug-in music.

KS: I am "more a pioneer of acoustics"? A strange point of view indeed. But thanks.

Q: In the new album, you worked again with Mr. Thomas Kagermann. You've been with him since Contemporary Works vol. 1. He is known for his violin and flute performances in the field of ethnic music, but we don't know much about him. Please introduce him to us. What is attractive for you to play with him?

KS: He is a friendly guy. And he plays instruments that I cannot play, which adds a new sound to my music. This is daily usage in studios. As if Van Morrison uses Georgie Fame with his special Hammond organ sound, or a special jazz bass player, for a certain recording. Of course, a good personal relationship is always necessary and very helpful.

Q: In the latest album, ethnic factors that were found in Miditerranean Pads and Dresden Performance in the late eighties made comeback again. What is your view about/interest in ethnic music?

KS: The world is large, and there is many many many various different music. Some people may call some of it "ethnic" because for them it's from far-away, and not so often played on their local radio. What is "ethnic" for a German, is probably the daily music for a Japanese ... and vice versa :-)

Q: You have been working with Wolfgang Tiepold since "X" and recently in the making of Contemporary Works vols.1 and 2 and Live at Klangart. What does he mean to you as a musician?

KS: He is a classical trained musician, which I am not. Therefore, he can add some things to my music that I cannot. For instance, he did the scoring for the string players during the "X" recordings. And he conducted them. He can do these things because he has the experience in this field. Also, he's a very nice guy. And I like the sound of a "natural" cello (as most people do). These together are many good reasons to play with him.

Q: In addition, would you please describe Jörg Schaaf you worked in the Wahnfried project and other musicians you have recently worked with?

KS: Sometimes I produce or I feature other musicians. Often on my "Wahnfried" project. Jörg Schaaf was one of them, some years ago. At that time he was more into the modern dance music of young people, more than I was, then. No wonder, I think he is twenty years younger than me.

Q: You've collaborated with a great number of musicians, and among them were musicians who had very different/unexpected musical directions. One of the most illustrative examples of this was the Stomu Yamashita's Go project whose albums were recently re-released in Japan. What kind of event was the Go Project for you? Please tell us about interesting episodes/fond memories about it.

KS: I would NOT say that I worked with "a great number" of other musicians. Since 1971 I'm a soloist. Only sometimes I make use of a studio musician, or I invite a musician to join me as guest on my concerts. Or I was invited, as in the case of GO. The GO recordings were hard work, but it was very nice for me to meet people who became friends, especially Stomu and Michael Shrieve. A few years later, Michael visited me in Germany, and I learned some things from him about rhythm that I didn't know before. And that to me, who started as a drummer :-)

Q: In '74, you produced an album of FAR EAST FAMILY BAND. You also came to Japan and performed a private concert. Were you interested in Japan at that time? What made you decide to produce a Japanese band?

KS: I was asked by the German record company to produce the band. "Why not?" I said to myself. At this time, in 1974/'75, it was a new experience for me, a challenge. It also meant a free trip to a country I did not know much about: Japan. Besides, I liked the group's music, and when I met the boys, I had no problems to become a friend ("Kitaro" was one of them). But I never "performed a private concert" in your country, or elsewhere.

Q: Have there ever been any plan for tours in Japan? Is there any possibility of live performance/concert in Japan in future?

KS: I can plan what I want, but this will not lead to a tour. A concert tour needs a potent local concert promoter who makes a sigificant offer. To make it short: Until now there are no offers for a concert tour in Japan.

Q: The video included in Dig It was quite interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing the live video to be included in Moondawn. Do you have any more plan to include visual works in the re-releases in future?

KS: A "live video included in Moondawn"? MOONDAWN was no concert. And when I recorded it, of course there were no cameras in the studio :-) Nobody could know at this early time, that 30 years later the people are crazy for DVDs and are looking at moving pictures of working musicians. "Moondawn" has no "video included". In general, there are not many "moving pictures" with me or about me. What I have seen so far is just amateur stuff which is not useable for professional release. Your MOONDAWN question still puzzles me. Maybe you mean: MOONLAKE's two concert pieces from Poland? This concert was indeed professionally filmed and broadcast on Polish tv. And therefore, some fans have it on DVD-R in a good quality. The monthly newsletter The KS Circle gave away some DVD-R copies for the members of this fan publication. Also, a Norwegian fan and second-hand record dealer gave CD-Rs of this 30 minute film to his customers, nearly for free (we had asked him, for legal reasons, not to make a business out of it). There are no plans to release it professionally, because most of what you can SEE in this film is an impressive light show, but not so much "Schulze". And the rights to it, oh my God, who has the rights to publish it commercially? The light-show company? The Polish TV? The promoter of the show? Probably all three together.

Q: You have also produced many film works. How do you position collaborations with films in your whole range of creative works? What is stimulating/exciting about film works?

KS: I did I also produce film music, because producing music for all kinds of media is also a musician's job. Johann Sebastian Bach or Mozart were not the first and not the last who composed music for various occasions and bosses :-) Sadly, I did not so much soundtrack music as you state and that I could and would have wanted. Because this is a very lucrative business, there are many musicians who swim in this pool of soundtrack-making. Old pals like Chris Franke and Michael Hoenig, they have specialized in doing soundtracks, and they can live from it much better than just producing CDs for less and lesser buyers of this dying media. Then there are all those many "unknown" studio musicians who have specialized in soundtracks. Of course, with producing film music you are not as "free" as when you do your own music in the studio. But sometimes this restriction is good, because you have to work in a strictly given form. For instance, you cannot play a ten-minute intro and then bath in waves of sound for the next twenty minutes... when the film asks for just ten seconds here, and another 15 seconds there, and so on. It can be a healthy experience, sometimes. Especially for me, who normally likes it boundless and overlong :-)

Q: You have used very German philosophies and literature works such as Trakl and Nietzsche for a long time. If I remember correctly, you were also interested in Slavoj Zizek. I think these are, in a sense, thoughts in very extreme situations. How have they influenced your works?

KS: I like the writing of the Austrian poet Georg Trakl. And I also had an interest once in the writing of Nietzsche, and his interesting relationship to Richard Wagner. But I also like other writers and literature, the Russian classics for instance. I cannot say how much - and if at all - they have influenced my music. If I think about it: how should their writing influence my work? Writing and making music are completely different ways of expression. Sorry, but I never have heard the name of any "Slavoj Zizek".

Q: On the contrary, you have affection for Sci-Fi and technologies. How do these thoughts and your interests that appear contradictory affect each other?

KS: I liked and still like to read sometimes SciFi stories. But sorry, I don't understand your question. I don't see any contradiction. A musician can read SciFi stories, read love stories, or Trakl, or Tintin, or anything else... and can still make his very own music. As said above, in the former answer, I believe more and more that these things - reading and making music - do not influence each other. At least not more than anything else which happens in my life.

Q: Considering your age of 58, your creative power seems to be overwhelming. I have heard that you became sick, but are you OK now? Please tell us about your schedule/plan in future.

KS: Yes I am okay. I just have to do some physiotherapy, some light gymnastics. No travelling at the moment, says my doctor, and my muscles tell me the same. Therefore, there is no schedule at the moment. No concerts (which I do very rarely anyway, during the last twenty years).

Q: You have been interested in environmental protections. I am fond of the atmosphere of Grodek in Totentag, which suggests your respect toward the mother nature. What is your current interest other than music?

KS: I'm not specially known for being very active in "environmental protection". Of course I'm interested in many things that happen on this world, politics, culture, my family, friends, the weather, soccer, .... :-) Also, I don't see that "the atmosphere of Grodek in Totentag" has anything to do with "mother nature". This opera is about the life and death of the Austrian poet Georg Trakl. It was not intended to suggest anything else.

Q: In Japan, interests in electronic music including classical composers like Stockhausen have got higher and higher. Would you please give your comments on electric music in general and modern music scene?

KS: This is a question which asks for a very long answer. Just this: "Electronic Music" is not exotic anymore, as it was when I started to play my music alone on electric and electronic tools. Nearly every music today is produced electronically. Except probably a church choir (but the recording of it is electronic!). Even street musicians play today often on an electronic keyboard. Because you mention his name: Stockhausen's work was and is mostly acoustic, his discography shows it. His wrong "electronic" image is from of one (!) work in the fifties (!), the huge catalogue of his other works are for piano, vocals, trumpet, choir, etc. Maybe someone should tell him that he's a funny man, because he takes himself so very serious and says so witty things at the same time :-) I like this. Many years ago I have read his theoretical work, great books about theories of modern music. He also discovered "synthesizers" around 1986/'87, when I had done already twenty solo albums with those "new" instruments...

Q: Your re-releases from SPV have been released in Japan, too. Please give your message to your devoted fans in Japan.

KS: If you ask so kindly: I love you. And also a necessary message: Please don't steal my music with illegal downloads or copying. Because a musician does not live from the music, but from the money he gets for playing it.