Archie Patterson interview
by Jason Gross
Back in the Me Decade, rock fandom broke down into two distinct camps- Stones-lovin' bar-rockin' trad fans and the stoner art-rock boosters (there were plenty of other but for the sake of our story, we'll stick with these for now). For the arty-types, the rise of Brit prog was a blessing but of course the trad folks saw it as a curse. I startled both camps, moving back and forth, before deciding that ELP/Yes/etc. was a pox on music. But thanks to a publication and distribution service called Eurock, I had my head turned out quite a bit, as did thousands of other music fans. Suddenly the world of Krautrock/komische was being spread in the States as well as all manner of smaller/stranger English varieties of pro-rock in addition to all sorts of literally/figuratively foreign music from around the European continent including Magma, the Plastic People of the Universe and the Rock In Opposition (RIO) movement among others. Archie Patterson, Eurock's founder and guiding light, took the brand from a radio show to a magazine to a distribution service to a record company to a series of books in its span of over forty years now, and counting. After the massive, exhaustive 1992 tome The Eurock Book- European Rock & the Second Culture, filled with over 700 pages of interviews, articles and reviews, the publication has been on a roll as of late. Its website operates under the auspices of Rock's Back Pages, plus there's a podcast and to top it off, there were two milestones last year. In July, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reached out to Patterson to include Eurock's book publications and catalogs in its archives. Then last November, Patterson released a 2nd Eurock book (also now in the Hall of Fame archives)- Music & Second Culture Post Millennium: Eurock, which include new interviews and essays. To help celebrate and honor this streak of much-deserved respect, I interrogated Patterson via e-mail about Eurock's history and how it intertwines with the history of the music he's been covering for decades now.
PSF: Could you talk about your teen years and what kind of music you were listening to?
AP: In high school (1962-63) we had a strict dress code and closed campus. By 1964-65, things had opened up a lot! A friend and I were two of the three on campus who had longish hair and wore sort of offbeat clothes. Citywide there may have been 100 of us out of a total population of 200,000. I got called into the office a couple times and was told to get a haircut as it had grown over my ears. However, the Dean of Students (Dean Bray) liked me and often teased me about my “look." When compared to the late ‘60's and today, it was very tame, but early on, I definitely had young Boho tendencies.
That was ultimately clearly articulated for me when I chanced upon the 1st Mothers of Invention album, Freak Out, at the local K-Mart of all places. Suddenly I realized there were others out there who felt out of place in the mainstream as well and were searching for answers. The first and Absolutely Free albums by Zappa had an indelible impact on me.
I was also lead singer in a band for a year. We played a few parties- sorry no records or groupie stories to tell. ;-) In addition, I went to the Rainbow Ballroom every Friday and Saturday night for concerts featuring an incredible array of diverse artists and bands. To namedrop a few - James Brown, Bob Diddley, Righteous Brothers, Chocolate Watchband, 13th Floor Elevators, early Santana Blues band, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Sparrow (later Steppenwolf) and hundreds of others, the list is endless.
One of the main things that got me addicted to records however was a small record store called Lightning Music. It was located across the tracks on the West side in the heart of the town's small “red light" district on the corner of Tulare & “F" Streets. It was owned by a couple of Asian brothers Bob and Walt Mah. Bob ran the record store side of things and made bi-weekly buying trips to various SF & L.A. One-Stop distributors. I made weekly Friday night pilgrimages taking a walk on the wild side to the store. Bob would always turn me on to promos of things yet to be released (the Doors' 1st album, Stooges' 1st album, Velvet Underground's 1st album, etc.). I'd have a couple friends over to the house and play all the new “weird music" that was soon to come out. They were often skeptical that what I liked would be hits! Bob would also special order regionally released singles and albums for me. The constant flood of wild and wonderful music me really stoked my fire for more. Music had become my religion by the end of high school.
PSF: Were you interested in being a musician yourself or was it always writing that you wanted to do?
AP: My mom tried to give me piano lessons when I was younger, but I didn't have the discipline. In addition, my parents divorced when I entered high school so the family dynamic completely changed for me. I knew I could never be as good as my early idol Pete Townsend on guitar, whose early Who singles were my life's template. So instead, rock concerts and Lightning Records became my weekly ritual and shaped my adolescent consciousness.
PSF: How did you get started with writing? Did you do any work before Eurock?
AP: When I graduated high school, it was on to college at the local State University and my life was changed forever.
I studied English and Philosophy. John Milton became my literary icon, Paradise Lost my bible. Robert Bly's Light Around the Body and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot ushered in my next decade of existential angst. A philosophy course, “Contemporary Conflicting Morality," sparked my political activism. There were countless more concerts locally and trips to the Fillmore West in SF and The Whisky in L.A.. I was active as well in anti-war organizing of demonstrations locally, also attended the massive Mobilization Against the War in SF and People's Park in Berkeley. I wrote lots of literary and philosophical papers, plus political propaganda newsletters.
For money during college, I joined the working class. I was the janitor at a children's clothing store before opening in the morning, and a woman's shoe store at night after closing (6 days a week). Ultimately, upon graduation I went to work full time at a Levi's outlet clothing store. I today am the proud possessor of a college diploma with Ronald Reagan's signature on it!
I offer here only a sketch. The whole story is really something else, another book perhaps… I finished college in January 1971 in the aftermath of students in 1970 being shot to death at Kent State and Jackson State. I realized after that real life was going to be a very different kind of adventure and my dreams of being “Minister of Culture" in a “People's Revolutionary Government" were unrealistic (laugh). Instead, I had to get a real job and pay the bills.
PSF: What made you want to get started working on the radio?
AP: I ended up doing a radio program purely as a result of happenstance. I was friends with Ray Appleton, another of the few “other people" in Fresno who had radio in his bloodline. Very early, after he finished high school, he had gotten into radio and become the music programmer at KFIG-FM. He was also a true rock ‘n' soldier who was involved in concert promotion as well.
At one point, he was over for a BBQ and I played some of the strange and wonderful import music I'd discovered. In Sept 1971, he suggested I do a program for KFIG. I asked the owner of the place I worked if he'd sponsor an hour program and he said yes. I called it ‘Eurock' and there I got to host my own 60-minute radio program every Wednesday night at 10PM in prime time.
That was the first in a long series of events that came to me by happenstance leading to serendipity.
PSF: How did you first arrange to do your radio show?
AP: From the beginning, Ray and I always went into the station's production studio and cut promo-spots. We “DJ'd" the records – jump-skipped over tracks and picked riffs, song bits, melodies we liked. I wrote copy, he recorded it and spliced it all into 60-second spots that played all week hyping the program. His voice and engineering skills resulted in pure radio magic. It was a how-to learning experience for me.
PSF: When you did started your show, did you see yourself as filling a gap for a certain type of music that you didn't see as being served otherwise?
AP: There was nothing on the air remotely like that then featuring music from the new music emerging from Europe. I simply saw it as a way to do something that I loved, expand the range of a listener's musical experience, and have fun.
As the program progressed, I realized just how much media could affect people lives and music in particular could mean to people personally, especially me.
Two short stories really demonstrate this; one had to do with playing Popol Vuh's Hosianna Mantra album. A woman called the night I was playing it and told me her young daughter was teething, had been fussing all day and was unable to nap. She herself was worn down. However, when the music came on the baby began to calm down and drifted off by show's end. She would be eternally grateful for that.
The other was when Manfred Mann's Earth Band came to town for a concert. Ray had Manfred over to his house and they were listening to my program during dinner. Embryo's Rocksession album was playing at the time and Manfred asked him who was doing that program and playing such incredible music. Ray told him about me and relayed the story.
I never made tons of money, but always have had enough. All along the way however, I got great personal validation early on, and still today.
PSF: In the midst of this, you started the magazine. How did that come about and what was your initial vision for this?
AP: The idea to do a magazine (actually “fanzine") came to me via Greg Shaw, one of the all-time great rock ‘n' roll historians, writers and original fanzine pioneer who put out Who Put the Bomp. I met him in L.A. at an ELO Press Party during the bands very first U.S. tour, and we kind of hit it off. We kept in touch off and on after that. At one point he told me I was doing something interesting that no one else was, so I should start my own ‘zine. I thought, hmmm... why not.
My basic idea was simply to turn people on to all of this radically new music coming out of Europe. In retrospect, maybe it was my own small act of cultural revolt against the more mainstream-style music of the 1970's. In any case, that really wasn't a conscious idea in my head.
PSF: When you moved and started doing radio shows in Portland and L.A., did that change anything about the program? Did you find audiences in those cities more receptive or less receptive to the music?
AP: The programs in Portland & L.A. were quite different. The music was very similar, but they were not so self-created. In Portland, I simply chose albums I had imported from Europe via Intergalactic Trading Company and did track lists used by the DJ, Gene Oberto, who worked at Music Millennium. He did either 2 or 3-hour programs alternating Saturday nights on KINK-FM, entitled ‘Other Worlds' sponsored by Music Millennium. The great thing about that was Sunday & Monday we saw the direct impact as albums by totally unknown artists would literally fly off the shelves at the store.
In L.A., I was contacted by the program director at KPFK FM Anita Frankel. She had heard about Eurock and the music it promoted and was intrigued. At that time, I was working for Greenworld Distribution, running their Paradox Music Mailorder operation. Eurock was rack-jobbed on newsstands around L.A. and some issues were displayed on the music store set of the popular TV sitcom Mork & Mindy. She invited me to be a special guest on her mid-afternoon 2-hour program. She and I hit it off as well, so we did it several times. I brought in music by the likes of Samla Mammas Manna, Plastic People, Sven Grünberg, Magma, Can, etc. She played it and loved it. I talked about it and she asked questions and commented. It was very synergistic and lots of fun. Hilariously, one time I did get called a CIA stooge for promoting the Plastic People and helping to subverting the Communist government in Czechoslovakia.
Actually, be it Portland or LA, audiences most always loved the music played. With my program today on San Francisco Community Radio, in SF, I am DIY creating all the content, which encompasses a much broader musical spectrum than before.
PSF: What set Eurock apart from other magazines at the time when it started?
AP: The obvious thing was writing in depth about music from Europe that had very little press in any English language publication. There were a few previous articles in the UK, but Euro rock was the raison d'être of Eurock.
Perhaps another was the actual production of at least the first few issues. It was rudimentary and hand to mouth, typed on a manual typewriter, copied on a Xerox machine by a friend whose father was a lawyer, while he cleaned his dad's office at night. The pages were then spread out on the floor of my apartment and hand collated, 3-hole punched then brass fasteners inserted to bind it. I was a little simple minded perhaps…
The first issue sold out ultimately and a friend who at the time worked for the Public School District did a second run this time on an offset press, he again did it in the evenings after hours.
As I often say, I always got by over the years with a lot of help from my friends.
PSF: What kind of rules/parameters did you come up with not only about what you would cover, but also how it would be covered in the magazine?
AP: If I liked the music or group, or one of the writers did, I would include it. Their music interests were somewhat similar to mine. The focus initially was Germany, but it expanded exponentially as the experimental music scene developed around the globe. In addition, the name ‘Eurock' became known as well, so music started coming in from artists and fans all over.
In a sense, I viewed Eurock as a propaganda organ for the music I liked. I wouldn't write about something I didn't like. That was my stated intent with Eurock. I wanted to promote and share what I thought was good music with others.
PSF: Did you get a sense of what the early readership was like?
AP: To some extent, it was fans of experimental or progressive music obviously. Later on, Eurock became more personalized and people related to that. I had countless interactions with people over the years on a human level about music and other things. I had subscriptions from rock stars, lawyers, mostly men, a few women, and a whole cross section of people.
For me music is a very personal thing, so Eurock developed that way and facilitated that sort of communication and interaction.
PSF: What did you learn about the publishing/magazine world as you started with your own title?
AP: In a sense, I operated outside the professional realm. It was also very different back then. “Fanzines" were a new subculture, which had just began – Who Put the Bomp, Transatlantic Trouser Press, Jamz, and others, all of which fell outside the world of normal publishing. They were done for the love of the music, thus the name.
I did take out one paid classified advert in Rolling Stone for the 1st issue and got some response. Outside of that, Eurock continued to exist and grow due to word of mouth.
Of course, the situation is quite different today. Doing a print publication is economically problematic now. Web publishing has superseded that. That opens up positive avenues for creating multimedia magazines. It also has created music and cultural overload. It's relatively easy to create a blog and everyone wants to be a media star. Many however don't have any depth of experience or knowledge.
PSF: Did you see the ‘70's as a golden age for the type of music you were covering in Eurock? If so, why?
AP: From 1950 thru the 1970's, it certainly was a time of amazing musical change. To paraphrase Plato, ‘when the mode of the music changes the walls of the city shake,' and they shook worldwide. What Eurock tried to do was document the music, which shaped the new culture. Amazing things happened everywhere, it was phantasmagorical! That could never happen again. The future now is dictated by technology and in the end, the planetary ecosystem will have its say. You shouldn't mess with Mother Nature.
Marshall McLuhan wrote about the aforementioned media change phenomenon in Understanding Media. He later developed it further, in his book titled, “The Medium is the Massage, even produced an LP of the same title. If you listen to that album, you can literally experience what he is saying. We simply are bombarded by too much. That situation only serves to obscure what is truly important and manipulate you, confuse you, conditioning you to over-consume. Cognitively you cannot evaluate and appreciate what is “special" because information technology creates a maze that is virtually infinite and impossible to navigate. The false idea that everything is subjective rules the day. Pandora's Box has been opened with all sorts of unimaginable collateral effects. Welcome to today, and a future of “yadda bytes."
Back then, certainly not all music or art was great, but it was created via the human creative process. Today, music, art, life, virtually everything is controlled and facilitated by machine technology. All I have done up to now with Eurock amazes me, I could never have imagined it back then. I think I've kept the original spirit alive however.
The questions and my answers I think illuminate my conception of a “Golden Age." It involves more than just music, but also big ideas, and a vision, with music as a sort of Holy Grail soundtrack. The things that are happening now with Eurock seem to me a miracle. Personally, after 40+ years, this too is a “Golden Age," in more ways than one.
PSF: Where there are any particular articles or interviews for Eurock during the 70's that stood out for some reason?
AP: There were actually several. The first was Uli Trepte. He was visiting the USA and we hooked up. It was like synchronicity. First, we had a pre-interview and after a bit of language adjustment, we got into a long discussion about music, life and his career. The stories he told were eye opening and mind blowing about the nature of the early Krautrock scene. The next day we did a recorded interview broadcast on the KINK “Other Worlds" program. Subsequently, we stayed in personal contact via phone and letter until he died in 2009.
Then there were the Malcolm Mooney & Damo Suzuki interviews. Malcolm called me down in LA and asked me up to his house. I think he was teaching art at the time. From the stories about him, I wasn't sure what to expect, and as it turned out from the strange Eurock magazine cover art at that time, he felt the same. When we sat down it didn't take long to break the ice and our conversation went into all kinds of different areas. We have remained in contact ever since and I recently did a radio program featuring the latest release by Malcolm Mooney & the 10th Planet.
Damo came over to dinner when he first played Portland in the early ‘90's. He was a gentle soul and deep thinker. After dinner we went upstairs and sat on the floor to have a great talk about music, and his other passion – cooking. As he explained it, he would use a form of color therapy in his cooking – combining many different foods of diverse colors to create a healthful, nutritious meal.
In a completely different musical direction, I also had the pleasure of interviewing one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters, Elliott Murphy & Derek Shulman of Gentle Giant thanks to their PR woman Anne Leighton.
I first met Elliott on the last leg of a 30-day road trip with his family. He was doing record in-stores and small club dates (in the mid-late 90s?). His then-6/7-year-old son Gaspard was going stir crazy on the road so I invited them over to the house to let our kids run around in the back yard together while we talked about France and how his career led him to move over there. Flash forward to 2009 and Anne set up a phone interview with him in Paris and we had a great chat. Gaspard graduated from recording school in the U.S. and produced Elliott's 2010 self-titled album.
With Derek, it was Anne again who set it up and he turned out to be a great guy. I liked Gentle Giant, who (IMHO) was one of the more unique UK “prog" bands (using that term loosely). Ultimately, the conversation went far afield and I got him to confess to a couple of his guilty pleasures. I'll not tell you what…
You can listen to them all except Damo, digitized from cassette @ www.eurock.com.
PSF: Did your work with the show and the magazine intersect at all? If so, how?
AP: The magazine brought in lots of music for me to review and play on the programs at various times, along with good information. That made the program interesting and informative. I‘d also did occasional interviews, so I guess it did.
PSF: Did you see Eurock as filling the gap of coverage that other music magazines at the time were missing out on?
AP: In the beginning, I'd say yes. As I said before there was no one else for the most part covering what I did. Later on not so much as others started writing about Euro rock as well. I retain the same mission statement - music as culture - I have adhered to for the past 40 years, which I think is unique. Now, my purpose is to document what I've done along with covering other newer artists/music that I discover that seems to me retains a bit of cultural resonance. My invitation for the works of Eurock to be in the Rock ‘n' Roll Hall of Fame Museum & Archives assures that is retained for posterity.
Honestly, at times, I wonder how much that's worth in this new tech-age. Downloading MP3's, texting, tweeting is now mainstream culture where everything is a commodity, serving as instantaneous and disposable diversion. There is no sub culture anymore. That said, I also think your work with Perfect Sound Forever serves a great historical purpose with the in depth pieces you do on a wide variety of music, artists and styles.
Aside from the new and unique music it often featured, the thing of value from my viewpoint is how Eurock was created and published by me, but honestly might have never happened if some people didn't serve as enablers for my Quixotic musical crusade. I give great credit to countless people for making Eurock happen. There is a long list of credits in both books. Aside from that however, some were essential in the process. I think they also feel that being part of creating Eurock made their life a bit better during that time.
As I said earlier, Ray Appleton firstly got me on the radio and Grew Shaw encouraged me to do Eurock magazine. That led to my big break when Don Macleod hired me to run ITC (mail order service) in the beginning, later he also initially helped me to found Eurock Records. Then there was Robert Carlberg, who literally created the first book - OCR'd some 500,000 words from Eurock magazine issues, helped design the layout out and created the PDF print master. My #1 son Aaron designed the template for the web site and created it. Then there were Robert & Anny Frances who hooked me up with the full spectrum of French artists and contacts. He owned a record store in Montpellier that exported to ITC the first French import music into the US. There are many people in France I remain in contact with and work with, for example Urban Sax whose photos have been on the covers of both books. Bryan Chandler, I knew way back decades ago via WKSU at Kent State, he called me one-day out-of-the-blue and offered me a 60-minute program slot on San Francisco Community Radio. Lastly, Dr. Robert Trelease, my techno-wizard guru, Anatomy professor and publisher from UCLA. He converted me from a Luddite to a functionally illiterate creator of multi-media productions.
They all came to me and offered their help, allowing me to realize my dreams.
PSF: What led to the creation of Eurock Distribution? Was it an outgrowth of your radio or magazine projects?
AP: Strangely, I would say it was frustration. As time went on and I put out each magazine people would get in touch, saying the issue was great. I'd ask them what is your favorite article. The reply was I haven't read it yet, but the EP, cassette you reviewed by - you name it - sounds great. Can I buy it from you? I got frustrated and so did they.
While working for ITC or Greenworld I could often sell people much of what the magazine covered. However, I loved the strange, exotic, esoteric music, LTD ED releases and I received a lot of those sorts of things, so I wrote about them.
In addition, working for those companies understandably had built in limitations – ‘can we sell enough to make it worthwhile,' ‘they have to offer us 60-90 days to pay,' ‘we don't have enough money to buy the fringe stuff,' and ‘we can sell more copies of the mainstream releases better.' In the end, it was always,' we have a cash flow problem, so can't afford that stuff.' They told me ‘you can't make a living selling only what you like.'
Eurock Distribution started initially as an outgrowth of the magazine, only offering what I couldn't sell via either of those companies through Eurock. In the 1980s, Indie DIY music was booming along with parallel importing of domestic releases on import vinyl. That ended up causing huge cash flow imbalances from selling to chain stores who ordered large amounts of “product", did returns and always paid late. In addition, Eurock magazine distribution was expanding and printing cost were higher. I had a few related adverts, but didn't want it to be a commercial magazine. I could see a moment of reckoning was coming.
In a sense, it was out-of-the-blue. By understanding financial realities, after seeing the film Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio and having a tarot reading, I took a vacation to Arizona. During that time, I decided that ‘life out of balance' was not for me. With a 6-month old son, living in an apartment in L.A., I tempted fate and decided to quit working for other import companies and run Eurock Distribution full time. If that didn't work, I'd go to work for the post office. I never had to…
That was the second time a vacation had led to a change in life. The first was a trip to Death Valley and a night spent sleeping in a VW Bus to the accompaniment of braying donkeys. When I returned home and found a telegram taped to my door. Thirty days later, I moved up to Portland, OR and helped create Intergalactic Trading Company (ITC). That was the first U.S. mail order to specialize in importing all the strange and wonderful new music coming out of Europe. The beginning of my real music career had begun…
PSF: Did you get the sense that the magazine was helping to enrich the music scene you were covering by giving artists more exposure or helping to revive some careers? If so, how?
AP: The evidence Eurock had an impact was in how many artists began sending me materials to review. In some sense, that's why Eurock went from covering primarily “Krautrock" in the early issues to music from everywhere. The amount of new materials I received astounded me and the places they came from did as well.
Later on artists began coming to the U.S. visiting me, telling stories about how musicians they knew liked Eurock. The funniest example of this was when I went to NYC for Giorgio Gomelsky's ‘ZU Manifestival'. I walked in the door and met Georges Leton. He took me downstairs into a rehearsal session to meet the musician he was then working with, Yochk'o Seffer. A former manager of Magma, he then told me a story about a recording session when one of the band members had joked that Eurock had announced the new album was due out soon, so we had better hurry up and finish recording it. It was at the ‘ZU-Fest' that I met Chris Cutler and we had a meeting of the minds, which led to me importing the first REC REC titles.
Living in L.A. at the time, I had a visit from Daniel Schell, leader of the Belgian band COS. He gave me a photo of an issue of Eurock on top of an amplifier during the band's recording session. Roman Bunka, guitarist of Embryo, came to visit, gave me video and music documenting the bands worldly tours and expressed their great appreciation for my playing their music on radio. There are also several interviews, now digitized, that you can hear on www.eurock.com with musicians from that era I met.
To me, it seemed like word about Eurock was spreading like wildfire. For the very first issue, I did only one classified advert in Rolling Stone. From then on, it was all by word of mouth. The Internet today perhaps offers such impact, back then however; there was no Internet, only snail mail. It was people inspired to make human contact, by any means possible, due to their love of the music.
PSF: You also got a number of artists in the field of progressive rock to contribute writing to the magazine, i.e. Klaus Schulze, Chris Cutler. How did these kinds of pieces come about? How did you find the artists to work with as writers?
AP: At that time, many artists did their own promotion. This was the beginning of indie productions and networks, as Giorgio Gomelsky details in the book. I had direct contact with many of them early on, sometimes their fans, friends contacted me to arrange for interviews, articles etc. It's hard to describe how everything came together so alchemically in those days… One door after another opened. Eurock served as a catalyst, encouraging artists worldwide to share their music and ideas with people in other countries where they could have never imagined people even know about their existence. They were open and willing to help out and most often very appreciative. It seemed there was something different in the air back then- personal ego was suppressed more than it is now I think. It felt like we were all in a crusade to have music conquer the world. Well, at least get people to hear it ;-)
PSF: Could you talk about the coverage of music that the magazine did in Eastern Europe? I think it was very important in bringing that to light to a Western audience.
AP: Among the many places that word about Eurock spread, perhaps the Eastern Bloc countries surprised me the most. When I first received enquiries about the magazine from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania and the USSR, I wondered how in the world they heard about it. Labels in all of those countries were government owned, but there were hardcore music fans there. I got letters from them offering to exchange LP's, 2 for 1. I accumulated an incredible library of albums. I also got offers from them to write overview articles and Eurock published many album reviews. Some of them ended up ultimately helping me get copies to sell during EUROCK's distribution phase.
Aside from the incredible story of the Plastic People of the Universe in Czechoslovakia documented in the book, the other country where Eurock had a big impact was the USSR. That's a very interesting story. I had two contacts that helped me.
The first was a man, Mikhail Nikitins, who was a deep-sea diver in the Soviet Union for the Navy, I believe. He sent me more than a hundred LP's over the years, as well as original Soviet posters and children's books. One of the artists I exposed to the West with the help of “Mike" was the amazing Estonian musician Sven Grünberg. He sent me Sven's first three recordings done for the Russian Melodiya label, along with a couple albums by perhaps (IMHO) the premier independent Russian artist and modern music composer of our time, Mikhail Chekalin. Both artists played a part in gaining larger exposure for Eurock as well as their music over the years.
I sent a copy of Grünberg's second album, OM, to Stephen Hill, producer of the Music from the Hearts of Space program in San Francisco. He played it on his nationally syndicated PBS program and I began to receive letters from all over the U.S. and places far beyond. One of the letters came from an artist, a woman in Sweden, who knew Sven and visited him often in Estonia (I can't recall her name now). She offered to obtain for me copies of the album that I could sell in the U.S.. That led to her ultimately sending me a couple hundred copies a few years. She would go to Estonia every 6 months and smuggle 25 LP's at a time back across the border into Sweden, then post them to me.
After that Ulrich Rutzel, who I had extensive contact with at the time, released 2 fantastic Grünberg albums on his Erdenklang label, as well as a series of 6 Looking On electronic music compilations, featuring music by various artists from 6 different Eastern Bloc countries, including Mikhail Chekalin.
Sometime after the fall of the “Iron Curtain," I was told by a Russian journalist who came to the U.S. to interview me that I was known there as, “the man who broke the Soviet blockade." I laughed as I thought he was joking, but he earnestly assured me it was true.
This all ultimately led to me receiving a letter from Mikhail Chekalin himself and working with him to release his entire catalog of recordings on CD in the US. In addition, he digitized for me, for release on DVD, his personal archival audio/visual installations, plus various films by Russian experimental filmmakers done during the Soviet era. His works epitomize artist creativity and independence under circumstances unimaginable in the West, vividly documenting an almost forgotten period in history now.
PSF: How much, if anything, did the magazine change as it proceeded into the ‘80's?
AP: Its scope expanded exponentially and the distribution aspect increased as Eurock became an independent company, slowly expanding the market for Indie artists from everywhere. In addition, other small companies came into being here to capitalize on that growing interest.
PSF: Related to that, how do you think the music scene changed for progressive rock then?
AP: The dawn of rock ‘n' roll in general had tipped the earth's axis in many ways. Instruments became electrified; music became a ritual for the young fuelling our primal urges, minds expanded and new doorways opened. People discovered the DIY spirit, which led to myriad personal and collective changes in society, for the better and worse.
The quantity of releases exploded, but I think there was less creative innovation as the decade of the ‘80's wore on. Ultimately, today the mode of the music has become a soundtrack for the commercials of tomorrow. “Progressive" now is mostly music replicating a style that transcended boundaries stylistically during those early years. That doesn't mean it's all bad, but it's not progressing anymore. It's formulaic.
In the 1980's, a “New Morning in America" dawned, ushering in the “New World Order." The ultimate result was a fundamental change in the way media, music & culture has evolved today. Paradoxically, that quest for independence and more freedom has led to less of both. Today, the new technology and global economy manipulates and controls virtually everyone and everything, music included.
PSF: Why did you decide to concentrate on European music in particular?
AP: As a long time music fan (to put it mildly), I discovered “Krautrock" via UK music magazines like Melody Maker & New Music Express. The original Virgin Records in London's Notting Hill Gate area specialized in Euro rock at that time. It was a flagship store for Richard Branson, before he got into the record business big time. Virtually no one else was writing about it outside of a couple articles in those magazines, or selling it besides that shop in the UK.
Euro music lit a fire under me like none other. I was an Anglophile at the time, but after I got my first big mail-order shipment from the Virgin Records store I was born again, immersing myself in first Germany and then music from the other Euro countries, followed later by places far beyond.
I simply decided to cover what virtually no one else did at the time. There was already coverage of the UK prog bands and the like in the rock press. Eurock simply evolved as it did from that point on into the radio show in '71, magazine in ‘73, up to this day.
PSF: How do you find it different from American (progressive) rock?
AP: IMO (in my opinion), UK Prog was born out of a fusion of Art School Pop Art (Psych) and Classical music, which filtered into British culture and education due to geographical proximity to the continent. American fans loved it and occasionally emulated it, but the roots of music in the U.S. derived from white country folk and black blues/jazz. When those various elements were juiced by electricity, it fomented a cultural schism during the 1950's-'60s, enabled by media and drugs, ultimately leading to continual periods of social fracture and upheaval.
PSF: Why did Eurock distribution stop in the ‘90's?
AP: I started selling import music and helped found Intergalactic Trading Company up in Portland OR in 1976. In 1979, I moved to L.A. and helped found Greenworld LTD & Paradox Music Mailorder. Ultimately, in 1981, I stopped working for others and began Eurock Distribution. People wanted to buy the music Eurockreviewed and wrote about and the companies I worked for had lost interest in the smaller Indie artists Eurock supported. So, I simply arranged with artists directly to sell their music. That ease of transition amazed me. I learned how to run a business during those early years, and then did it.
I moved back up to Portland, OR in 1984, and Eurock continued importing/selling music, to and from all around the world, until the end of 2009. At that point, I officially closed Eurock as a business.
Eurock could have continued as a business for a couple more years as it was still profitable. However, at the end of 2008, my financial adviser (who had been consulting with me since 1984) sat me down at his desk and pointed out a better way to do what I had been doing when I turned 62 years old. He had never steered me wrong, so I took his advice. He was absolutely correct- one door closed, another opened. I am now back to doing what I love, in ways I could never have imagined.
PSF: When you put together the first book (early 2000's) and CD-ROM, were you hoping to sum up things? If not, what was the motivation to compile those?
AP: It was The Millennium and I wanted to begin to document what I had done over the past 40 years, as well as do something no one else had done. I have an amazing friend, Robert Carlberg up in Seattle, who literally OCR'd (scanned) every page, of every issue, of Eurock. I then had a programmer work with me to create the Golden Age CD-ROM, in 2000. In addition to the content of Eurock magazine, it contained artist videos by Popol Vuh, Amon Duul 2 and Urban Sax as well as a special audio album by Japanese electronic band Heretic. The first book, European Rock & the Second Culture, followed that in 2002. People kept asking for a book in addition to the CD-ROM, so we did one, with Robert and me collaborating on layout and him creating the master print file.
Both of those projects now basically exist as reference sources, featuring materials created in real time as it all unfolded. All the people who wrote, created art and contributed in other ways simply did their thing out of love for the music Eurock wrote and covered. It made each issue of Eurockan incredible creative and spontaneous collaboration, much more than just my thing.
PSF: What do you think of European progressive rock in the new millennium? How is it different or the same from what you've covered before?
AP: I still get exciting music from Europe as well as other unique places around the world. Some of the original musicians are still making amazing music, as are a few newer artists. I create special programs for my weekly radio program in SF and also write special features for the Eurock Webzine featuring new and old music to share all kinds of music I hear and like.
Life now is completely different in every way. Musically back then, there were far fewer people making music and quite a bit of it was of interest, some was not. Today there is so much music; and the technology of media is so pervasive that some of the best music and art inevitably remains marginalized. Today a sort of cultural ADHD exists due to over saturation by media and mixed messages constantly bombarding people. There is still great music out there however. To name a couple, some recent discoveries like albums by 18ème Boudoir from France & Bosch's With You from Russia, contain some of the most interesting music I've heard from any time period.
Archie Patterson 20(+1) Desert Island Discs
Van Morrison Astral Weeks
Love Forever Changes
Velvet Underground Velvet Underground & Nico
Procol Harum Shine On Brightly
Zombies Odyssey & Oracle
John Cale Fragments of a Rainy Season
Jon Mark Standing Stones of Callanish
Donovan From A Flower to A Garden
Nada Surf The Weight is A Gift
Travis The Invisible Band
Tom McRae From the Lowlands
Counting Crows August & Everything After
Ryan Adams Heartbreaker
Matthew Ryan May Day
Mark Kozelek Perils from the Sea
Bee Gees Odessa
Tim Story In Another Country
The Who The Ultimate
The Move Shazam
Gil Scott-Heron I'm New Here
Conway Twitty Looking Back
Amon Duul 2 Tanz der Lemminge
Can Monster Movie
Popol Vuh Hosianna Mantra
18eme Boudoir Le Cycle des Lumieres
Hutch Demouilpied Otherness
Tangerine Dream Zeit
Ash Ra Tempel 1st
Klaus Schulze X
Sven Grünberg OM
Stomu Yamasht'a Listen to the Future
Luis Paniagua Nanas Do Sol
Rene Aubry Refuges
Agitation Free Shibuya Nights Live in Tokyo
Camera Obscura Camera Obscura
Nico The Classic Years
Peter Michael Hamel Nada
Asia Argento Total Entropy
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