May 1992 A4 40 pages
PLANET GONG + HERE
& NOW - Live
in Leicester 15/2/92
original (last 9 copies)
Example article extract
Of all composers and musicians to emerge out of the flowering rock scene of the late 60s, few have been as pioneering, single-minded and influential as Klaus Schulze, a musician with a taste for adventure. No one else can claim to have been so important a force behind the music that has become known as "new-age" or the later subculture "ambient-house". But of course, Klaus' greatest triumph as a musician is the almost single-handed creation of "synth-sequencer music" and related cliché genres "cosmic music" and "Teutonic synth" which, now famous, composers and musicians all over the world have latched on to.
The story of Klaus Schulze begins on 4th August 1947 when Klaus was born in Berlin. No doubt the climate for a young lad growing up in post-war Germany would have been unusual and have a big influence. The situation in Germany at that time is often quoted as the reason why German youth was so radical in their musical ideas, being the impetus behind the "Krautrock" scene.
Klaus got heavily into playing music at an early age; at 15 he was playing the guitar in amateur group's doing Anglo-American pop music. Of course Klaus had higher hopes and in 1967 was leading his own band Psy Free, moving from rhythm guitar to the drum stool. Also in this band was Alex Conti who was later to become an important musician in the German pop scene. Klaus also studied composition at the Technical University of Berlin. The courses on psychology and music included seminars on experimental composition: Blacher, Ligeti, Dahlhaus and Winkel are names quoted in one book. Exactly what was involved I'm not sure (to quote Klaus 'it was a long long while ago...') but it is most obvious that the serious avant-garde culture in Germany in the mid-60s (Karlheinz Stockhausen, Roland Kayn, Thomas Kessler, etc.) had a big impact. Even by 1968 Klaus was experimenting with organ and devices, of which tapes apparently still exist. (And, of course, being able to write musical scores came in very handy when later working with orchestras.)
The big step in Klaus Schulze's musical career came in 1969. After a couple of years and many gigs with Psy Free, Klaus was invited to fill in for an absent drummer in a promising new band called Tangerine Dream (who had their origins in the psych-beat scene as The Ones) playing at a Berlin club called the Magic Cave. The music they played was raw heavy psychedelic rock, guitarist Edgar Froese was heavily inspired by Hendrix, but had no aspirations to experiment beyond the rock idiom. An amusing note is that at the Essen Pop & Blues Festival (11th October 1969) Klaus used some 'strange organ tapes' to which Edgar exclaimed in horror that he only wanted Klaus to play drums! But with the untameable experimentalist Conrad Schnitzler in the band as well, the Tangerine Dream sound moved further and further away from conventional rock. By the end of 1969 they had recorded their debut album ELECTRONIC MEDITATION, a challenging and powerful slice of psychedelic or acid-rock bordering on the avant-garde with numerous quotations in the direction of Pink Floyd yet far more revolutionary, as it featured no actual songs, no conventional composition structure as such. And amazingly, despite its title, the music was created with conventional electric instruments and percussives, actual electronic instruments and synths were still a part of rock music's future.
No sooner had the LP been issued by the pioneering Ohr label, Klaus had left to get married. Edgar has been quoted as wanting the musicians in his band to be committed to the group. Obviously Klaus had other ideas. But witness what happened to Tangerine Dream after this! Klaus (and also Conrad Schnitzler) obviously had been a big inspiration.
Barely a couple of months passed and Klaus had joined another band as drummer: the Steeplechase Blues Band, who promptly changed their name to Ash Ra Tempel. After only two months of live gigging they were invited to record a demo at Meisel studios for the Ohr label. More concerts (one being the notorious Eruption with Conrad Schnitzler and Agitation Free musicians) and further Ash Ra Tempel demos (and a Klaus Schulze solo demo) followed. Eventually the magic Ash Ra Tempel formula was achieved and under the guidance of the late Conny Plank they recorded their debut LP. Of course you can read more about the this and the ensuing Ash Ra Tempel story in Audion #20, but suffice to say that this was another pioneering work moving even further onto cosmic realms with dual guitars, percussion and electronic treatments, the two side-long tracks are both magnificent. After several more concerts, but less than six months later, Klaus has left Ash Ra Tempel to concentrate on his solo work.
So, with the aid of a small orchestra (who thought Klaus was mad), several tape machines, electronic gadgetry, an organ, guitar, percussion and various odds and ends, Klaus went on to produce what is arguably the first real "cosmic" electronic album (Tangerine Dream's ZEIT was recorded a month later!) despite the absence of any real synths. What was created is a music that is flowing, spacious, melodic yet also abstract, featuring sequential or systemic type patterns (a touch of Terry Riley maybe) and an overdose of effects taking the listener into the nether regions of infinity. In three parts, yet almost sounding as one piece, IRRLICHT offered a choice of directions for Klaus to pursue: the sequential style of Ebene, the dramatic chance electronics of Gewitter, and the abstract reverse tape cosmic cacophony of Exil Sils Maria. Another track: Land appeared on the KOSMISCHE MUSIK sampler suggesting even more Terry Riley influence. Although recorded three months later, Land was very much in character with IRRLICHT, it further went on to consolidate Klaus' talents as a keyboard musician and engineer, and despite being voted number 5 instrumentalist of the year in German Sounds magazine he still remained relatively unknown in his homeland.
Although Klaus was apparently fed up with playing drums and wanted to concentrate on making electronic music, his days as a rock drummer was not over yet. In 1972 he recorded a 30 minute drum solo tape TOTEMFEUER that was used for a ballet production at the Paris Theatre de la Quest as well as backing for later concert performances. Also he became involved in a project fronted by poet and artist Sergius Golowin (one of the group of friends involved with Timothy Leary during his exile in Switzerland). The resultant album LORD KRISHNA VON GOLOKA is quite a masterpiece, a dense psychedelic rock with a very open cosmic sound, folky and electronic touches, and texts by Sergius. Klaus not only played drums but also organ, mellotron, guitar and electronics. On further such "Cosmic Courier" sessions, Klaus would leave the drums to Wallenstein member Harald Großkopf and concentrate on synths and keyboards. The next Cosmic Courier project: Walter Wegmuller's TAROT would also lead to the reformation of the original Ash Ra Tempel. JOIN INN, of course, was notably more sophisticated and electronic that their debut, particularly Jenseits (in great contrast to the aptly titled jam Freak N' Roll) with its swirling modulated organ and synths. TAROT, on the other hand, was an exceptionally varied album - a testament to the talent of all the musicians involved (from Ash Ra Tempel, Witthuser+Westrupp, and Wallenstein). Undoubtedly a cosmic classic! A few more Ash Ra Tempel concerts followed, at which Klaus played as support as well. The last concert was on 28th February 1973.
As a soloist again, Klaus began to record his next album as well as other commissioned work (demonstrations for IBM and also music therapy tapes). Eventually October 1973 saw the release of the ambitious CYBORG, a double album with one piece per side. Each track is vast, sprawling and spacious. Again with the aid of an orchestra (a much larger one this time) along with organ, VCS3 synth, etc., Klaus went on to create an even more finely balanced and esoteric music full of twisted, modulated orchestral (almost mellotron-like) sounds, shimmering, pulsing and twittering electronics, drifting organ. A music that glides, flows, moves about in an uneasy agitated stasis. Certainly a groundbreaking step forward and quite influential too - witness Adelbert Von Deyen's debut STERNZEIT that owes a great debt to CYBORG.
Also at this time further "Cosmic Courier" sessions ensued. These jams and sessions were never intended for release, but were issued without the musicians being consulted. Of course it's a good job they were released, as they are all excellent (see my article on the Kosmische Musik label in Audion #12), but conflicts about rights and royalties eventually caused the labels demise and deletion of all such releases. Another diversion for Klaus was a short French tour with Tangerine Dream in August 1973. Peter Baumann (notorious for having left and joined Tangerine Dream more times than anyone else) was unavailable and thus Klaus was invited to fill his space.
Not surprisingly, after all this activity, and also with much more electronic equipment (an ARP Odyssey and ARP 2600) the next album PICTURE MUSIC was a radical departure. The two sides here, each featuring one track, featured much percussion along with sequencers, melodies, lead synth soloing, etc. A kind of preview to the later album MOONDAWN. At the time however, Klaus was without a record contract and therefore PICTURE MUSIC never gained release until almost 1½ years later.
Also, whilst in between record contracts, the multi-instrumental duo Timewind were formed. They existed for around two years and recorded an album (as yet unreleased). Klaus named a later solo after this project, though I doubt the music was at all similar! Other projects at this time included working with engineer Manfred Schunke and the newly developed "Kunstkopf" artificial head recording system. A number of albums resulted (on the Delta-Acustic label): Code III's PLANET OF MAN is a particular notable one, with Klaus handling the recording and also playing drums in his inimitable style on one track. An ambitious and revolutionary cosmic album with an elaborate concept, it is now quite rare and eagerly sought after by collectors. (Collectors may be interested to know that there are at least two versions available, one at 40 minutes, the other at 50 minute's duration! - ED.) Sand's GOLEM definitely showed a lot more Schulzian styling, a kind of cosmic folk betwixt folk-rock, synth music and the psychedelic, the spacious atmosphere Klaus created can be quite unnerving when listened to on headphones! Of course, with such unique facilities at his fingertips, Klaus could record a very different album, making the most of the 3D imagery of Kunstkopf stereo. BLACKDANCE revealed Klaus' training as a classical guitarist, featured ethnic styled percussives, richly toned string synths and even an operatic styled vocalist! For Klaus this was certainly very different, and as such, BLACKDANCE has remained an island unto itself ever since. At this time luck was also on Klaus' side! No doubt due to his involvement with Tangerine Dream and growing international interest in the new genres of synth and cosmic music's, record deals were signed with Virgin in the UK, Brain in Germany and Clementine in France, resulting in the international release of BLACKDANCE, and then the release of PICTURE MUSIC in Germany and France.
Along with Michael Hoenig (ex-Agitation Free and Tangerine Dream member) Klaus embarked on another short tour, including one in Paris (in France he was becoming quite a big name). Other recordings with Ed Key (of Code III) ensued, but the project was aborted.
Klaus' next album: TIMEWIND was undoubtedly the one that really put him on the scene proper. When you look back, there was nothing (circa 1975) at all like it, with two very long cosmic dreamscapes almost an hour total in length! On this album Klaus has amassed a whole orchestra of keyboards, he had become a true technophile - but one with a heart and the ability to exude deep emotion, feeling and atmosphere. The influential TIMEWIND was certainly a major factor in defining the synth music of today, particular as influence on early Neuronium, Mark Shreeve, Michael Stearns, Steve Roach, and of course Kitaro!
Talking of Kitaro! Klaus had long been fascinated with Japanese culture and Zen as a way of life. So, naturally he had regularly visited Japan and also caught up on the music scene there. One band he was particularly fond of was Far East Family Band, a cosmic-rock outfit with strong oriental styling and Pink Floyd overtones. Klaus helped them record an English language version of their CAVE DOWN TO THE EARTH album that was released as NIPPONJIN on German Vertigo. (And later in Japan too! - ED.)
Concerts in 1975 included a solo tour of France, others with Michael Hoenig and later: sessions and concerts with guitarist Günter Schickert and vocalist Sybille Greiling. Günter also helped Klaus with the recording of Far East Family Band's PARALLEL WORLD album at the Manor Studios. Due to a hiccup in record contracts however neither this, nor the next Klaus Schulze album MOONDAWN gained a UK release, although MOONDAWN was certainly advertised by Virgin and given a catalogue number. Maybe there are some test pressings? MOONDAWN saw Klaus reunited with ex-Wallenstein and Cosmic Jokers drummer Harald Großkopf. Many people related this album to PICTURE MUSIC in its use of percussion and sequencers, although Klaus himself has said many a time in interviews that he cannot see the connection! As noted on the cover, this took synth-sequencer music firmly into the "rock" idiom with its surging, floating and shimmering synth tones driving along and all over the nimble percussives of Harald Großkopf.
Another Japanese connection was with renowned percussionist, avant-gardist and rock musician Stomu Yamash'ta, who was looking for a synthesist for his project "Go". Of course Klaus very eagerly got involved in this international venture that featured many other big names like Steve Winwood, Michael Shrieve, Al Di Moela, Paul Buckmaster, and various others. Over two years, the Go project resulted in three albums and major concerts in London and Paris. Obvious benefits to Klaus were even wider recognition of his talents, a deal with Island Records in the UK and the start of a long-lasting friendship with former Santana drummer Michael Shrieve. These albums also included some excellent Klaus Schulze synth excursions (not so on the live double which was heavily edited in the studio) which were an obvious influence on Yamash'ta's own series of synth-based albums: IROHA.
1976-77 was indeed a very busy time for Klaus, with at least sixty concerts, including two at the London Planetarium. He was featured on a WDR TV concert program before Can. And in 1977 three LP's were issued! Two of these resulted from recordings made for the soundtrack to Lasse Braum's "porno" movie "Body Love". The actual soundtrack itself can be found with two different covers. The original, which featured stills from the film on the cover, was promptly withdrawn and replaced with more "tasteful" artwork. These complimentary albums featured a blend of the styles found on both TIMEWIND and MOONDAWN. Both featured versions of Stardancer with Großkopf on drums, a shorter ambient/cosmic piece without rhythm or melody, and a side-long excursion that combined both above aspects with atypical Schulze sequencer lines and dazzlingly complex layers of synths. Only the second BODY LOVE gained release via Island, but before that was the ultimate cosmic classic: MIRAGE. Back to the TIMEWIND formula with one spacious opus per side, MIRAGE is a timeless gem. Velvet Voyage with its swirling mists of sound growing slowly, gaining musical direction, drawn out to the point where every new sound, pattern or musical phrase can make its mark. Restraint mastered as a fine art. And Crystal Lake with its fragile crystalline sequences and arpeggios, a dance on the misty waters of the lake just before dawn.
Written by Alan Freeman (full article includes interview by Steve & Alan Freeman)
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