Spring 1996 A4 44 pages
KRAUTROCK second Top
photocopy reprint (last 8 copies)
Example article extract
There are musicians and musicians. Many go in for flash displays and pyrotechnics. Others - much harder to find - are more concerned to bring about some very specific effects through their music; after all, in the major ancient civilisations music was used as a powerful means of bringing about personal change. Of the latter type of musician, the one who springs most readily to my mind is Florian Fricke, who has put out a steady flow of releases with colleagues in Germany under the name of Popol Vuh.
Since 1969 there has been a succession of striking recordings, all in a very powerful and uplifting vein. Florian has also provided the music to many of Werner Herzog's films, which have a very definite cult following throughout Europe. In "Aguirre, Wrath of God" and "Fitzcarraldo" there are wonderful scenes shot in South America, which are accompanied by music perfectly matched to the majesty of the image. "Nosferatu" has some stunning work which obviously got through to other musicians (more on this later!) whilst "Cobra Verde" from 1987 retains the visual theme of things South American and also African with haunting melodies and undercurrents written by Florian and played by Popol Vuh. Herzog comments: "For me Popol Vuh is a stroke of good luck. Florian Fricke's music always unveils something hidden in the images, something lost in the darkness of our very soul".
Born in 1944, Florian Fricke studied music in Freiburg im Breisgau near the Franco-German border. A craftsman and also a man of great insight into the workings of sound and music, Florian rarely goes in for interviews; the last UK one before this was around 1981!
We sat in his house in Munich and drank tea and spoke of many things. The first question was about this working relationship with Herzog. How had it all started?
Werner Herzog had finished filming "Aguirre" and was in Rome doing the English sync for the film. He was desperately looking for suitable music. He tried with Morricone but couldn't find anything suitable for the film and was very unhappy about it. He was living in an Albergo in Rome and was eating there one evening with a young actress from Germany. The conversation finally got round to this problem, that he couldn't get the right music and she said, "There's only one person, really, and that's Florian". So he rang me in Munich, I went to Rome and he showed me the film. I went home and wrote the music and from that point on I was the composer on Werner Herzog's films.
Was he living in Munich at the time?
Yes! But most certainly would never have thought of using the music!
Popol Vuh itself is quite a fluid structure. There have been many musicians involved. Is it a group, a vehicle for ideas, or what?
When I began to make records in 1969 it was usual for one to give the whole undertaking a name which would convey something to the listener which would cause an association with the music, perhaps the spirit of what was behind it. There were three of us and I gave the name Popol Vuh to that whole.
That's quite difficult to say, but at the time I found an old 1910 translation of the book of the Quiche Indians which isn't identical to the version that's around nowadays, it's quite different. The spiritual background of the book is comparable with the bible with us, the story of the origins of the world and all that and for me that was very meaningful because all the other books I'd read I could understand anew. The book "Popol Vuh" meant a great deal to me and I suddenly had the idea to call it that.
So one knows that something a bit different is coming up, on seeing that name.
A certain spirituality.
Which is to say that you are obviously interested in spirituality.
I wouldn't say "interested", but rather that I think and feel that spirituality.
In a specific way or ....
No, not even that. On the contrary. The first records were trying to display a common kernel to different religions in their content. I was even trying to show that there is no real difference in content between the Popol Vuh and the bible or in the creation stories of the Indians or the Buddhists. All religions have something held in common at their heart.
So you're trying to go in this direction with the music. Is it right to say that, or ....
Well, I would say "to express the Inner Man in music". Simply stated, "Music in which the soul vibrates (schwingt)".
Do you have definite philosophies for the music? Are you trying to bring about a specific effect in us, and if so, how do you approach it?
Yes, I would like it to be that when someone listens to the music they are elevated by it and enter into that Inner Man, not the "I" of the everyday, but rather that "I" which now and then is ushered in, and have the music speak to that.
Do you improvise much now, or is it all planned out and constructed?
Well, I've been making published music for twenty years now and there have been different stages. There was a period where it came out of improvisation and then there was the phase where I composed music from the instrument. Nowadays, when I make a lot of film music, which can't really come from my instrument, which is the piano, I sing from my heart. It starts off really small and a song develops from it. It doesn't matter where I am, whether I'm working in the garden or out for a walk or sitting in an inn; it's all the same to me. I put the song down on the instrument in the final style.
Are you still putting albums out as albums or are you only making film music now?
I do film music specifically for Werner Herzog but also for others if it's right. If the film has the same kind of motivation (as Herzog's have) that is there when I'm making music so that you can see pictures afresh, then the two come together. If I make an album then I have something that I want to say, an idea that I want to put across, without finding that in a title, yet it is a kind of answer to the time in which we are living, or at least how I experience the time. I believe that music can provide a great contribution to what is happening in our time. Just as there is a contribution, though unseen, if say 6,000 people around the world meditate and create a climate to which people in other fields are susceptible, say in politics or civil rights movements or Greenpeace or peace movements, so this climate can also be enhanced and strengthened by music. If I think something beautiful then it's never lost, never. Someone else - they might be in Buenos Aries or East Berlin, it doesn't matter - who is on a similar vibration will pick that up. That is the greatest responsibility then that one has, when speaking, when thinking, when singing, or when playing a note.
I agree entirely! I believe that music is for elevating people, and that's why I think your music will last, because that's what it does. And I can only see that influence permeating through to people who come after us.
Yes! It's a music which is never really destined for an enormous public, but in a strange way, the older it gets, the more it appears to be sold. I'm not the only one to be doing things in this area! But look at what Sting and McCartney are doing in terms of the environment. These are important influences. I prefer to put content and vibration into sound and the structure of music. For me it's a Tantric process, a definite science, and you have to see very clearly what you are doing.
You are still actively involved in music, then?
Beside the albums and film music and occasional concerts from time to time ....
I didn't know you played live!
The last one was two years ago in Munich for a benefit concert for Ladakh, for a development fund to try to alter some of the bad effects of previous aid. Against all the concrete and such like being introduced. On the other side of that, it's difficult to get out that same sound that we can really watch over in the studio. So I'm really no fanatic for playing live!
Was it solo?
Daniel Fichelscher (ex-Amon Düül II) on guitar - he has such a big heart that man! - and we worked with an assortment of female singers, but I suppose that you would say that the core is Daniel and myself. When I've composed the things then he's the next one that I play them with. I love working with him - a spiritual man!
You spoke of singers. I wanted to ask who it was who sang on HOSIANNA MANTRA because she has such a pure voice. On the sleeve in England there were no credits at all.
She is a young Korean, Djong Yun, and she's the daughter of the modern classical composer Isang Yung who's Professor at the Berlin Music School and wrote the Opera for the Munich Olympics. She has an angelic voice, really. She then went to New York because her daughter had an extraordinary gift for the violin. After her, Renate Knaup (also from Amon Düül II) came over to us. She had been with us in the studio before and had listened and joined in. There was always a sort of exchange between the members of the bands in Munich; it was never quite as clear-cut as "Here are the Beatles and over here the Stones, and ne'er the twain shall meet". When you've been making music for twenty years then your style obviously changes. New musicians come along - some go. But the kernel is and remains the guitarist Daniel Fichelscher and myself.
In the beginning, on the first album AFFENSTUNDE and the second especially, IN DEN GÄRTEN PHARAOS, there was a great deal of promotion here in Germany. I travelled around from one radio station to another and realised that there was so much nonsense being spoken. Then the third album, HOSIANNA MANTRA, came out and the record company had the cheek to put out the album (without asking me) with the description "7 Holy Songs from Popol Vuh". At that point I said "No more!". And I've never done any promotion since! I don't think it's necessary. With Herzog's film music I have enough external promotion. It's enough, and I really have no inclination to do it any more.
Do you know Kate Bush?
Yes, well, she rang up and wanted to adapt and record a song from NOSFERATU. At that time I didn't know who Kate Bush was, so I said no! Today I know, of course, and would have helped in some way. She's good!
There is a dedication to you on her THE HOUNDS OF LOVE album.
Really? I have to say that I've been a purist for many years and it's only now when my son is old enough to be up-to-date with all the latest things that I know who Kate Bush is or Tracy Chapman. Before I was uninformed about any of those areas. I wouldn't listen to anything for the reason that a composer is very easily influenced, without noticing it. Without noticing he copies, and I didn't want to do that.
So what are your influences?
I've travelled frequently around the world. I've been to Afghanistan, the Himalayas, India, Africa and this natural, human, un-manipulated music forces its way into your being. Also early Greek music.
Have you studied those types of music, such as Greek music?
No, only heard them, just for myself, for pleasure. But I listen to very little.
Article by Ian Laycock (1989)
To read the complete article - buy the magazine! There are also additional selected page images on Bookogs.
from Revue & Corrigée 29 - 1996-06