Monday, July 14, 2014

Interview with Klaus Schulze

Paris, 1973 © kdm archives

1968/69, playing drums with Psy Free
© kdm archives
Klaus Schulze was born in Berlin, Germany on August 4th, 1947. He learnt guitar in his childhood and then moved to the drums soon after that. As a drummer, Klaus Schulze formed Psy Free, a trio consisting of organ, guitar and drums, that played in venues in Berlin. One of this venues was the now famous Zodiak Free Arts Lab, a club founded in 1969 by Boris Schaak, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler. At this time, Schnitzler was a member of the newly formed Tangerine Dream, with Edgar Froese on guitar. In one occasion their regular drummer was absent for a concert, so Klaus Schulze joined the band and remained as their drummer until the release of their first LP, "Electronic Meditation", on summer 1970. So, Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler left the band soon after that - Schnitzler formed Kluster with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, and Klaus Schulze joined Ash Ra Tempel, a band formed by guitarrist Manuel Göttsching and bassist Hartmut Enke (the three members of Ash Ra Tempel had played in some occasions as "Eruption", with Conrad Schnitzler and others). With Ash Ra Tempel, Mr. Schulze recorded their first album, "Ash Ra Tempel" (1971), and soon left the band, in his search to find his own and unique sound.

1973 © Max Jacoby
In 1972, Klaus Schulze recorded what would be the first title of his extent and magic discography, "Irrlicht", using an electric organ and tape manipulations of a recorded classical orchestra, with some filters and effects, to achieve a marvelous and unique sound. "Irrlicht" is a little different from Schulze's style in his next solo albums, being more connected to the musique concrète and tape music than to the "electronic music". To his second album, "Cyborg" (1973), he used an EMS synthesizer, what helped him to go further into a more "space" sound. From his third album - "Blackdance" (1974) - on, Klaus Schulze added more and more synthesizer, electronic keyboards and effects to his music. At this point, he was already one of the main names of electronic music, not only in Germany but all over the Europe! In 1976, a Moog Modular System was purchased by Klaus Schulze and its sequenced sounds became a kind of trademark on his music for some time (even, as he explains in the following interview, that the equipments are not the most important aspect of his music, one must agree that the Moog equipments - and other analog synthesizers available at that time - were an important subject during his search for a specific sound, as we can check throughout his discography, concert recordings and concert photos and footage from that time. Of course it was the only equipment available at that time - digital technology only arrived in late '70s - but Klaus Schulze made one of the best usages of the analog synthesizer, creating atemporal and "unearthly" sounds.)

Klaus Schulze's discography is huge, counting with his solo albums (all of them released on CD, sometimes with bonus tracks), box sets, concert DVDs, bands in which he played (like Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel, mentioned before, and Stomu Yamashta's Go), albums released as Richard Wahnfried (Mr. Schulze's pseudonym for his side project, from 1979 on), and albums he recorded and produced with Australian singer Lisa Gerrard, from Dead Can Dance. You can check his full discography on his website:

Mr. Mueller & Mr. Schulze, November 2008
© kdm archives
I sent the questions for this interview via email, and the answers came soon after that - what explains that he already answered my second question in the first question, for instance. And this interview wouldn't be possible without the help from Mr. Klaus D. Mueller, a long time friend of Klaus Schulze and the music publisher of most of Mr. Schulze's works (Mr. Mueller is also the producer of some of Klaus Schulze's albums, like the multi CD sets released in the '90s, "Editions", and their recent re-release as "La Vie Electronique"). Klaus D. Mueller was very kind in replying my emails before and after the interview, and provided me that nice photo of himself and Klaus Schulze in 2008, shown here on the right. I am very grateful to Mr. Mueller and Mr. Schulze! Thank you! And here's the interview with Mr. Klaus Schulze!

Brussels, 1976 © Klaus D. Mueller
ASTRONAUTA - How did you discover music in your life and what were your first musical influences, in your childhood and teenage days?

KLAUS SCHULZE - As a kid I had some guitar training at school and played guitar for about six years, also I fooled around with the electric guitar in the sixties, playing music of 'The Shadows' or 'The Spotnicks'. My interest in the pop music of the day was not so much the 'songs' or the singers or Rock'n'Roll, but it was the SOUND. The new, unusual, exotic sounds that some of the popular bands or musicians tried out. This was my interest.

1973 © Marcel Fugère 
Then I started with drums because my brother was a drummer with a jazz band, so I thought that drumming would be more pleasant than playing guitar. In the mid sixties I was drumming in the free rock trio PSY FREE. "Psy Free" was a trio consisting of guitar, organ and drums. I was the drummer. We did what the name suggests: psychedelic, free music. Not "free jazz" - which was in common at this time, but our music was more rock orientated noise. We played only in Berlin clubs.

Then, as the huge and accurate discography THE WORKS states quite correctly: Late '68/early '69, first gig of KS with TD at Berlin club Magic Cave for absent regular drummer SvenAke Johansson. From then on I was a member of TD, until summer 1970.

Also, at this early time I used some kind of "electronics": I fumbled around with the inside of an old cheap electric organ and a Fender guitar amp, without knowing what I am doing, bit the exotic sounds that came out sometimes, because of this, they were interesting (to me). When I had read some days ago in your website the interview with Ron Geesin, I was surprised, that we both - independently - were doing the about same thing at this time. Geesin: "I used: speedchanging on tape; fine editing; backwards playing; feedback; noises from radio; just about anything that I could wire up." Exactly. After these experiments, sometimes an instrument was beyond repair.

Tangerine Dream, 1970: Schulze, Froese & Schnitzler
I left Tangerine Dream because Edgar didn't like my experiments with organ and backwards tapes (he wanted a straight drummer for his Hendrix-like guitar playing. Soon after, Conny Schnitzler also left, because he also had 'crazy' ideas about music), ... and then I found two guys who had played blues rock as the "Steeplechase Bluesband" and had lost their drummer. With these two I formed ASH RA TEMPEL and I moved them far away from bluesrock, into "space rock". Still I was the drummer, but I also played my special lap guitar with an echo machine, for steady rhythm or for "cosmic" sounds. One day I said to myself "okay' it's all pretty and normal music, but if I want to do really something special, I should change instruments". I started with keyboards, it must be around the end of 1971.

ASTRONAUTA - You were the drummer of some bands (some very well known bands, by the way) before changing to tape manipulations and to the synthesizers and electronic keyboards, and before you became one of the biggest names in the electronic music field. How was this transition in your life and career?

KLAUS SCHULZE - This happened just as I told before.
I should mention, that at the time when I was playing with these groups they were not "very well known". A very different type of music was "well known" and popular at this time.

ASTRONAUTA - In the mid-70s you purchased a Moog Modular synthesizer that became a very characteristic instrument in your music. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of this specific instrument, your Moog Modular synthesizer? And how about other Moog Music Company instruments you had in your career?

1976 © Klaus D. Mueller
KLAUS SCHULZE - I cannot tell anything about "the history" of the Moog. Please understand that I use these instruments, but they are not a fetish to me. I like them when they work perfectly (what they did not always) and when I can use them in the way I want, and when they do finally exactly what I want from them. When better possibilities are at hand, then of course I use those. I can cite again Ron Geesin from his interview with you: "The IDEA is everything, and can be realised in many different ways. The changes in audio technology, mainly sampling and digital manipulation, have given a wider 'palette' from which to paint my sounds, but they don't choose the IDEA." I don't know this man, but he is absolutely right. It's me, the artist, the musician, who has the idea for the music and who plays this music. The instruments are just the tools. Musicians like me sometimes wonder why 'fans' adore these tools so much, especially in pop music, or, more especially: in "electronic music". No lover of sculptures, paintings, or literature would adore a hammer, a brush, or a typewriter.

ASTRONAUTA - What was your favorite synthesizer in the '70s? And, looking back, what is (or remained as) your favorite synthesizer from the '70s, nowadays?

Winsen, 1979 © Klaus D. Mueller
KLAUS SCHULZE - I always liked the instruments that had a special sound: the 'Minimoog' oscillators have this great deep and full tone; the 'Farfisa Syntorchester' had this 'female solo singing voice' in the higher register, at least the instrument that I owned; the Moog modular system had the wonderful sequencer; the 'Yamaha CS 80' had this and the 'EMS Synthi A' had that... I used every instrument for a certain & special part to create the sounds of my music that I needed and wanted. Also not unimportant were the effect tools and the method I made use of them: echo, repeat, flanger, phase shifter, etc. and not to forget: the recording and mixing technique: building 'rooms', left, right, back, front... (besides all the musical techniques of composing a piece of music, with intro, various parts, tension, breaks, chaos and beauty, rhythm and calmness, repetition, sounds, melodies, surprises, etc, etc, etc...)

ASTRONAUTA - In the late '70s and early '80s, how did the differences from analog technology to digital technology changed or how they affected your career and your music?

KLAUS SCHULZE - In 1979 I got the first music computer, the "G.D.S." and I tried out many things then, with the help of an American technician from the company, who showed me how to use it. It was - for me and for everybody - a complete different and NEW way of creating and storing sounds and music. The DIGITAL era was knocking at the door. The whole musical programme of the first 100% digitally played and recorded album, DIG IT was stored on digital disk. I didn't use traditional analogue synthesizers for it. For the release I 'invented' the slogan for the record label's advertising for my DIG IT album: "The era of analogue wheelchair electronics is over."

Derby, 1996 © kdm archives
ASTRONAUTA - What instruments from the seventies you still have in your studio, nowadays?

KLAUS SCHULZE - I still have and I still use sometimes the 'Minimoog' and the 'EMS Synthi A', but more often in concerts than in my studio. In the studio I work more or less - and for many many years now - with computer and its programmes.

ASTRONAUTA - Thank you, Mr. Schulze

KLAUS SCHULZE - I Thank you!

Tangerine Dream: Froese, Schulze, "Happy" Dieter
and "Hippie" Kraesze as announcer
© kdm archives
Linz, Austria, 1980 © kdm archives
Barcelona, Spain, 1996 © Dom F. Scab
Warsaw, September 2009, with Lisa Gerrard
© Piotr Sulkowski
1983 © kdm archives
Photos used by courtesy of Klaus D. Mueller/Klaus Schulze official website.

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