August 1998 A4 40 pages
IGOR WAKHEVITCH "Donc..."
original (last 313 copies)
Amongst the most innovative, prolific and seminal of bands to grow out of Krautrock, Guru Guru have long challenged and perplexed anyone that has tried to follow their output. And, for those wanting to follow all the offshoots and interconnected projects it all adds up to a dizzying array of music that in itself could define Krautrock as an entity in its own right. Exploring Guru Guru history you'll find almost every progressive and/or experimental music possible, from free-jazz, to really weird acid-psychedelic music, through cheesy samba jazz-rock and off-beat pop music.
It's all there! Guru Guru have something for everyone - that is unless you like only ordinary conventional music, Guru Guru have never (well, hardly ever) done that!
By the time you read this, Guru Guru will have been celebrating their 30th anniversary as an ongoing band, with a series of special festival super-sessions and concerts. I've heard Guru Guru live recordings from several incarnations of the band, from the late-60's through to the 80's, yet I've never been able to get to see them in the flesh. Finances and time have never worked-out right to be able to do this. It's ironic really, that where Guru Guru are better-known (so I believe) nowadays, in Britain, they never play here. I guess, again it is down to time and finances. Even in the open EEC it all comes down to the limiting factors of travel and organisation - and someone confident enough to invest their money in such a venture!
So, to bring us up-to-date on a few matters, and to get things from Mani Neumeier's perspective (as leader of Guru Guru for some 25 years) I decided the best thing was to get in touch and do some sort of interview. This would also help to fill-in some of the sketchier historical points. The interview below is compiled from both a written exchange (via fax) and a telephone conversation with Mani (back in June), in which he raised some of his finer off-the-cuff points, the two being mixed into a logical conversational order.
Mani Neumeier interview...
It's quite a cause for celebration, that Guru Guru are now 30 years old. Not always constantly though I think?
It was the only German group that was founded in 1968 and always constant 'til now. Every year we had 25 to 50 concerts! I did not play anything else (or do jobbing) until 1982.
I always got the impression that Guru Guru kept splitting and reforming over the years, with some big gaps.
With records, yes it may seem like that. But we always kept going.
How do you see the development of Guru Guru over the
First (in 1968) we came from free-jazz, going in the direction of Hendrix. We picked up influences of Rock 'n' Roll (1974), picked up funk, ethno/world‑music, space - everything. We did lots of shows from 1976 to 1980. And, besides that, we were the music-commune that lived the longest together, from 1971 'til 1982!
Uli was in control in the early days?
He wanted us to keep on doing the same thing. Uli will probably say different, but in the end we had to ask him to leave. He wanted us to do this and that, with him in control. We couldn't do that.
So, Guru Guru moved with the trends of the time?
We had to, to make a living. We moved with the time, but always kept doing our thing.
You've gone from underground, via jazz and pop and back again, with Guru Guru! Even at the most commercial phase there was still some experimentation going on.
We just tried out a lot of what's possible, how to combine music styles, how to keep popular - and survive - and still get out of it a lot of fun!
Is being a drummer in control of Guru Guru difficult?
It is not so easy, to explain to the musicians the ideas and songs without reading notes. But, now it is better, 'cause I found ways to explain and I am accepted.
In the 80's you've worked with other bands: Moebius & Plank, Spacebox, L.S. Bearforce, Radio Noisz Ensemble, etc. Some thoughts?
The Moebius-Plank-Neumeier LP ZERO SET is a legend, miles and years ahead. But, this was not a live band. I still work with Möbi! L.S. Bearforce and Radio Noisz Ensemble were just two recordings and a bit of fun. Real bands were: (1986-89) Unknownmix and (1988-91) Blauer Hirsch-Cyberpunk (both Swiss bands) with 1 LP and 1 CD.
I only just recently heard Unknownmix, and found out that you worked with them. About L.S. Bearforce, for me this is the spirit of old Guru Guru revitalised in the 80's.
I remember L.S. Bearforce was just a day or so of my life, and not so good musicians, except one, Edgar Hofmann.
What about your solo's?
My solo's started in 1981, when I had the wish to make live music possible without the aid of other musicians. I would hide away for weeks in my house, with all the instruments around me and try everything (drums, percussion, synthi's, etc.). At the first solo concert my knees were shaking, but people liked it. So, I developed on this, after all these years.
And Tiere Der Nacht? Radical like the early Guru Guru?
This is my favourite group. I never met a guitar player like Luigi Archetti, he is a great improviser - radical, melodic, noisy. And, we do all the music here and now - no programming. It's a bit like early Guru Guru, but we know better how to play. And, there is much fun and power.
WAH WAH was a big surprise. An amazingly fresh new twist.
It's a nice CD, I still like it. It was the first time Guru Guru worked together with engineer Chris Lietz and Jürgen Engler from Die Krupps.
MOSHI MOSHI resulted from the Japanese trip?
MOSHI MOSHI is dedicated to our Japanese fans, and also a world trip. It's a trip through different styles and grooves of Guru Guru. On the first track and on Koto you can hear Japanese influence. We wanted to say "Thank You" with this CD for the enthusiastic and warm feelings we got on our 1996 tour in Japan.
What about Damo's Network?
Damo called me in March 1997 "Hello Mani - here is Damo Suzuki. Can you come in May to Japan?" So, I said spontaneously "Yes". We played one night together in Köln - to see how it worked - as it's all improvised. That's what I like. It was a nice thing to meet Michael Karoli after 25 years again. And, the music moved well. So, we went to Japan for 10 days, and had three nice concerts, which we recorded on CD.
You've always been amongst the most creative of drummers.
Thank you. And, I still love to experiment, try out new things, sounds and combinations.
You've invented your own instruments. An early one often noted was the "Mani tom" - what was this? Any other inventions?
The "Mani tom" was my invention to vary the pitch of a tom by blowing air in it (with a tube and pedal). Another one was the "Maniscope" made out of brass and aluminium parts. It sounds like a deep electrified marimba.
It amazed me that you can still drum 20 minutes +, and constantly (as on the Damo's Network) without let-up! Do you get tired?
I get so much cosmic (or, whatever) energy from drumming, and from people, that I can be constant and pumping for quite a long time. Of course I get tired (after 40-60 minutes) but, before I get slower, I change the rhythm or stop!
Article by Alan Freeman
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