KDM Interview ... renewed April 2007|
Q: In America the birth of psychedelic music created an even larger social scene that ultimately changed society even up to today. Was it like that in Germany as well - a social revolution caused by the music, or?
In addition to the beat music and later the bluesrock from England, of course the German young bands also copied the new electric music from America. At least: they tried. You must know that West Germany copied (and still copies, mostly) everything that comes from the US of A, including every silly fashion not only in music.
The San Francisco groups were highly regarded here, as much as British "Pink Floyd" and a lot of the many English bluesrock groups (Peter Green and Fleetwood Mac albums were played every evening in Rosi's apartment). Sadly, the German bands' ability to do the same as the Anglo-Americans was not so prominent. Therefore, some German musicians believed that drugs were the necessary thing needed. Probably they have read it in a music or other magazine. It was the same deadly error that modern jazz musicians made 20 years earlier.
The efforts of some of the young & idealistic German artists led sometimes to an own style. But the huge majority of the German bands still played the usual rock stuff in 4/4 but with that typical stiff rhythm. Groups like Can and Kraftwerk were clever - or courageous? - enough to use a different beat, they took a "boring" and "cold" machine-like rhythm as trademark and as an advantage :-)
Also KS - when he still was drumming - had this special machine-like beat. During his high-time with TD or A.R.T. there was a saying that Klaus could do with one foot at the bassdrum what others need a double-bassdrum for. Klaus' right foot was working automatically as if he has a physical "tic". You can hear this typical KS beat on the concert recordings from 1970 when KS played drums with Ash Ra Tempel (CDs: "A.R.T. The Private Tapes"). Also you can hear it very good in some old concert recordings of Klaus (in my CD sets), when he used a drumming tape (he had recorded himself) as background. KS on drums is marching like a fast machine, tack tack tack tack tack tack... there is no specific accentuation on "the two" or "the four" or "the one", but a constant drive forwards, whereas the other tape that he used sometimes, with the drumming of Burghard (from Agitation Free), has the typical 4/4 Krautrock beat, as if it is following the band: ufftata ufftata ufftat ka-ta-bumm! ...instead of driving it.
Q: In fact was this new form of German rock music really such a big musical movement back then, or perhaps even in those days, the hype was bigger than the reality?
There was other music for the masses that was much bigger, which is a situation not very different from today. Only to the ears, eyes, mind and life of the few interested people like you or me, this small scene and music was important. The majority of common people listened - and they always listen - to other music. Probably even Captain Beefheart's very exotic TROUT MASK REPLICA album sold more than Tangerine Dream of their first three Ohr LPs in the early seventies.
Q: From your perspective, what was the reaction of the German people in general to this new phenomenon called "Krautrock"?
"Don't mention the war!"
No one in Germany called this music "Krautrock" then. Ash Ra Tempel or Tangerine Dream were called "Ash Ra Tempel" or "Tangerine Dream", or "those crazy people" :-) It was the nationalistic British music press that put the label "Kraut" or "Krautrock" on some of the bands, if they noticed them at all; which was only after 1973 and mostly because Virgin released some of them and paid a lot for advertising and promotion: I saw the many hundreds of invited journalists from all over the world in the Reims cathedral when T.D. played their concert to promote their first Virgin album. I was the stage manager, my old friend Assaad - who was the concert promoter - had hired me to come to Reims and take care for the "stage". I was impressed by the amount of invited press people; one not small section of the huge cathedral was reserved for them and they filled it.
Of course, the Brits meant "Kraut" spitefully, then. They cannot forget that Germany - who started and lost a bloody war - is now economically better situated than the winner, them. This label got really large only after Julian Cope's book was detected by an unsuspecting press, sometime in the nineties.
The Germans as a whole didn't react at all, then, when it happened. Some journalists mentioned the band names, some people must have bought the records ...but actually I never met a person who owned a German rock album. German rock music was not highly regarded. Apart from the albums I got for free from the people I worked for, I also never bought a record by a German artist or group! It was just not "cool". Pink Floyd WAS better than TD. Hawkwind WAS better than A.R.T. And the Stones WERE and ARE much better than all the hundreds of German copies. The exception was in 1973 when Kraftwerk hit it big with "Autobahn". People woke up and took notice. And the musical covers started immediately, of course in England, in English studios, with English management, English musicians and singers. Yes, singers. The Brits know that a pop song that should reach millions must have an emotional singer in front (what TD, ART, KS, and Kraftwerk don't have). British synthi pop was born. Still famous today.
Back to the "reactions of people" in the beginning.
Let me take a parallel to the second wave of German bands, ten years later, called "New German Wave" (Neue Deutsche Welle), which started in 1980 and went until '82. The better of those bands sold hundreds of thousands of albums and singles, played concerts in front of many thousands, had TV appearances, won awards, etc. = Ideal, Trio, Nina Hagen... But the first German wave ten years earlier, Can, Amon Düül, TD, A.R.T., Klaus Schulze, they sold one or two, maybe five thousand copies (A selling below ten thousand was regarded as flop, then). Let me repeat: the eighties' German rock bands sold 100 times more! In February 1982 I could give my "Ideal" a Platinum record for 500,000 sold copies of their first album. Meanwhile it's more than a million copies. This is the reality. The bands from 1970 did sell then close to nothing. But, you certainly agree with me that selling is not everything :-) ...but in "pop"(!) music it's not unimportant.
Q: Do you have any idea how much a percentage of the market sales of the new German rock bands accounted for overall - or did "normal" music still dominate the business even then?
If you speak about the early era: the latter. A successful album in Germany was then: 50,000 to 100,000 copies. 250,000 copies was Gold, 500,000 copies: Platinum. Every month there were lists published with the names of Golden and Platinum albums. No Tangerine Dream, no Can, not one of the names you think of, among the dozens of awarded records. Same for radio play: nothing on the main stations at normal playing time. There was a rare exception in a Berlin radio station: My friend Walter Bachauer played every Monday night for one hour some "exotic" music. Besides his beloved Terry Riley or some fascinating Balinese or African or Japanese sounds he also introduced with intelligent and well-meaning words the music of TD, Schulze, and Ash Ra Tempel. Sometimes he also mentioned and praised them in one of his rare articles in Berlin newspapers. Walter was also one of the first who recognized immediately the power of "Mirage" and praised this album with an intelligent article in Berlin's best daily newspaper.
Let me repeat: nothing of this music was in the charts. Only exception was Kraftwerk after 1973. Oh, yes, and there was Michael Rother (originally also one from the Kraftwerk clan), he had a huge success once with one of his film soundtracks (but never again, I suppose). These two exceptions are not really part of the "new music scene" in Germany around 1970. These two had HITS with the wider public because they actually composed a song with a melody, which is the foundament for a pop hit. That's still the key to success in music: a good melody that sticks in the head. You should be able to whistle to it, when you wake up in the middle of the night. Sadly for us, and for the artists, not one TD/KS/A.R.T. album contains such a catchy tune.
Q: In the early days what was the record industries reaction to the music of KS? Over the years what was the largest selling KS album and how many copies did it sell?
Why & how should the record industry react? There was no such reaction. Except, that all (three or four) big companies made their own little label for German rock bands. Simply because they believed the huge (but faked) promotion from Kaiser for his "Ohr" label. As soon as they realized that no one is buying their records, they closed it down again.
Sales figures? Once I discussed with KS if I could publish such figures in "The KS Circle", the monthly publication about Klaus that I write since 1995. I have fascinating statistics (did I say "fascinating"? ohmygod) that I made in the late seventies and again in the early nineties. But we both agreed that these figures are still nothing for outsiders. Because: any statistic would be misinterpreted by most readers because they don't know, or they forget: a record that is for 20 or 30 years available, sold of course more than one that is on the market only since the last six months. An album that is distributed worldwide by a huge label (for instance: TIMEWIND, MIRAGE, or BABEL), sells automatically more than an album released only in Germany. This says nothing about the quality of an album. Readers would only see the figures... and not the prosaic reality behind these numbers. Also, people are used to (and they seem to believe) massively exaggerated sales figures that other artists - or their management - tell them, or that the press freely invents. And IF I would print our figures, I would be honest. Therefore, we NEVER publish sales figures of KS' albums.
Once I did a statistic and I could teach one of our "electronic" musicians a bit about "success" and his own "importance" on the record market. He had complained to me (1981 at IC) that we didn't do anything for him, because he had the very personal feeling that he was important and that everybody knows him, speaks about him, and therefore many must also buy his albums. And we silly record label people put the whole promotion only into that bloody rock group "Ideal". Therefore...
...first, I showed him the files of collected press reactions about our group "Ideal" and then the file about his press reactions. "Ideal" had already twelve full files of printed paper, he had one file which was only filled to a quarter (mostly evidences of our paid advertising for him). Then I showed him a statistic of our IC album sales in every month, that I had done by putting lines on graph paper which I had sticked to the office wall. Both sales lines (the first album from "Ideal" and the first album from that electronic artist) started at the same 1st of November 1980, and it went up a bit every month. After eight or nine month, the sales-line of the electronic musician was four centimeters high, for the "Ideal" line we should have made a hole in the ceiling: it was four meters high :-) In spite of that, we DID spend many thousand Deutschmarks (every month!) in ALL our artists' promotion, including this electronic guy's promo. By the way: years later he tried it on his own, even "remixed" the albums that were produced (and perfectly mixed) first by KS, ...and what happened? Nobody was interested; I don't see or hear his name anymore.
Q: For a very long time now you have worked with Klaus Schulze. What exactly was the nature of your relationship with him?
I worked with him (notice the "with"!), by doing the things he's not able or not willing to do: from bookkeeping, statistics and writing letters, to carrying and maintenance of the instruments. Also I did many photos, covers, textes, did the tour management, the stage set-up, the stage lightning, read through contracts or made them, discussed smaller and larger matters with the record companies. In the early eighties I dropped the care of the instruments.
Officially, and since 1978, I'm his publisher; I "publish" his compositions. And that's my only income. Except if I produce albums, then I get my share from this too. An older interview I gave the heading: "I try to bring order into the chaos." This explained in 8 words my job. If someone wants to know more details about my work then and now, this other interview is to find in the "Miscellaneous" section on the official KS website www.klaus-schulze.com. During the last years, my "control" - my chance to put the chaos in order - got smaller because I live now in Berlin, and KS lives in the middle of a forest, 250 km away from Germany's capital. But he likes that. The countryside silence, I mean.
Q: During the last 30 years together you and Klaus did 2 independent record labels (Innovative Communication and Inteam) to release his albums, and music by friends. Was there a specific reason for you to do this - because of economics, desire for creative control, lack of interest by larger record companies, or?
With both labels I had nothing much to do. They were not my idea and I was against both of them from the beginning. Because KS is not the right person to lead successfully a company (one of his hindrances is that he cannot say "no").
First, he had a good partner in IC, Michael Haentjes. Only when this partner left Klaus and later founded the company "Edel", I had to replace him, voluntarily without any payment (!). I still was only "the publisher" of Klaus. Okay, I said to myself, if I finally accept to do this unwanted job, I'll do it right: I found a rock group here in Berlin, saw and heard their potency, signed them for IC (KS didn't want them - no electronics?! -, and therefore I had to pay half of the group's advance money to convince him!), I produced them (KS was very helpful, here), and 18 month later we had a Platinum rock album and Schulze's electronic label was out of its high depts.
Later, after I had left IC and Klaus had given away the whole company a year after my leaving, he asked me to join his second effort "Inteam". I said no. I saw that the label would be soon bankrupt, for various reasons. Two of those reasons have names: Rainer Bloss and Klaus Schulze. Both are absolutely not able to run a label, a company, let alone successfully. Of course, the bankruptcy did happen. A real musician should not try to manage a company. It's a full-time job, and that includes nights and weekends, means self-exploitation ...and needs special knowledge and interest in non-musical (legal & economical) stuff.
Q: Today what is the situation like for new bands, and more experimental artists in Germany like KS since the market has become so dominated worldwide by the mega-corps?
It's the same as it was 30 (or 50) years ago. Good & interesting & new music has always a chance. It doesn't matter if the record companies are huge or small (I speak generally. In every single case it may differ). With "good & interesting & new" I do not mean: "good" just for a small loony clientele, "interesting" just for those with no taste, and "new" to people who don't know much music. During these many years I've had my experiences with bad taste, with naivity, and with egocentricity. 'Nuff said.
Q: In America, the record stores have become like huge corporate supermarkets for the latest top pop products. The smaller indie stores have a real hard time and often exist only by selling used vinyl LP. Is it the same in Germany, or does a strong independent spirit still exist there in the music field?
I don't know. This is - if it does exist - the game of the much younger generation. They are the ones who buy (or don't buy) pop music on flat discs. I haven't visited a record shop for ages; CDs I buy only by mail order (because what I look for is rarely in the shops anyway :-) Or, if I go with my younger wife into such a place (she still is into the latest pop music on flat discs), I just check if the KS albums are available and how much they cost.
PS anno 2007: I nearly stopped now to buy CDs (and if, then it's some obscure Renaissance music, or another version of a Schubert sonata or a Mozart opera). My son (now 18 years old) does not buy CDs either, and the same goes for all his school friends: they download and exchange mp3 files. For free of course. The days of the CD seem to be over. It's a pity (and maybe a mistake) that the industry had dropped the LP twenty-five years ago - what a wonderful medium it was. At least for circa 30 years. (end of PS)
I remember my last CD shop visit, over ten years ago: I ordered a six CD set by Charlie Christian, on an obscure Portuguese label. When after three weeks I collected and paid for the CDs, the shop assistant in the huge CD market asked me "what kind of music is that?" Ooops?! It came out that he has never heard about the man who invented & popularized the electric guitar (and its use) to the world! Millions of guitar players do what this black man offered, sixty (now: nearly 70) years ago. ... And the sales man in the record shop has never heard his name. This was very different when I started to collect, back in the sixties. Also I know from my contact to KS fans that they have often the same problem: CD shops' people don't know a thing about music and recordings, aside of the Top 40 or their very own and narrow taste.
There are little "problems", mostly the ignorance of some people inside the record business scene, ...but I don't break my head about bigger or smaller shops or labels. Maybe you're right and in smaller shops there would be shop assistants who know a little bit more about music and its history? But are there any "smaller record shops"? And are there enough customers for them?
When I look at all the many small labels that release new electronic music - and I don't speak of those old-fashioned copycats ("sympathische Nachmacher-Musik" I read somewhere), but of a new generation that's doing quite interesting new (but often also very boring or just noisy) stuff - it's rarely on a multinational big label, but mostly on small labels you never have heard before. Which is also very clever by the multis because of the risk involved. If it's a seller, the musicians come to them anyway (& voluntarily!). That's the way the cookie crumbles.
Q: What do you think of the current bit of renewed interest in the old Krautrock artists? Is it misplaced nostalgia by fans, or perhaps rediscovery of some good music that has been forgotten?
What "good music"? :-)
The few good ones from the past were (and still are) always there, and their classic records were always available. The rest (95%) is luckily forgotten. I spoke with German musicians of my generation who suddenly see their old, forgotten bands in the dim "Krautrock" limelight --- and they wonder & just laugh about the journalists who suddenly write that this music was and still is great. See? Not even the original players believe in that myth. After all, one of the greatest admirers & promoters of this (formerly: mercifully forgotten) music is a well-known British drug addict & crazy man (which is not my description, but taken from a rock lexicon. Look under: "Cope, J.").
Q: How has your music taste changed over the years? Do you still like the music of your youth, or do you listen to different things?
Of course I listen to different music than I used to listen to, forty years ago. It's many kinds of music today, except for most pop or rock music, be it today's or yesterday's. For present pop I listen sometimes to the radio, during my work, just to be up-to-date. And I notice: "Ah, another Beatles copy", "Ah, the umpteenth new Bob Dylan", "Ah, the sequencer that KS and TD used already in 1974" :-) ... and so on. Privately I listen mostly to so-called "classical" music that I pull out of my shelves and put into my CD player. I try to learn about this music as much as I learned during the sixties about jazz & blues, until I was an expert. I'm now on the way to become an expert in classical music as well :-) ...and I love it. The music, I mean. My special interest is the "very old" music, before Bach.
I feel nothing anymore when I listen to, for instance, an old Pink Floyd album. One day in 2006 I put on my record player the first King Crimson LP which I liked so much some 35 years ago. ... There was nothing. No feeling. I only heard now pretentious Kitsch in this former "Prog Rock". Probably the many listening to serious "classical" music has sharpened my senses. I deleted immediately the King Crimson entry from my little website where I have made a list of the music that I believe in.
Today, I have that special feeling that I had with some Blues or Jazz recordings years ago, if I listen to Gustav Mahler's 9th Symphony, the last part, the "Adagio", especially by the "Berlin Philharmoniker" under Sir John Barbirolli. Or when I listen to Bach (played by Gould), or Beethoven (played by Gulda), or Schubert, or Mozart... or Alfred Deller singing John Dowland. And meanwhile I know this old music good enough that I can say: pop singer Sting's recently widely promoted version of Dowland songs is unnecessary, avoidable, beside the point, redundant, futile, bad, bad, bad. It is as if Clayderman tries to play Beethoven, which he sadly did.
Besides some nostalgic moments, the only "pop" music I still love to listen to and still buy, album for album, is: Van Morrison. My man, my taste, my age. Also the Grateful Dead is mostly a joy to listen to, still and again. The late Jerry Garcia had roots and he had swing. Which, to come back to an earlier answer, is for me the opposite of "Krautrock". German rock is just stiff and it does not swing.
Q: Now that you have passed the half-century mark age wise, do you ever reflect about what things would have been like if you hadn't made music your love and your life?
"Now"? This mark I passed already over ten years ago :-) Yes I do reflect sometimes, mostly when & because people ask me about little or special parts from the past, and I like to give answers. But, sorry, Archie, I have no answer to the "what would have been" question. Besides music: Literature is my other great love. Yes, even poetry, from Eichendorff to Walt Whitman. And I'm grateful that my dear wife Julia shares my interest in music and in literature, and in the arts generally.