Perfect Sound Forever


Interview by Jason Gross (May 1997)

It's not just the pioneering work that he did as a member of Tangerine Dream or Ash Ra Tempel that has made Klaus Schulze such an important figure in modern music. Even more than that, his solo career has helped to establish electronic music as a strong medium. Calling his music 'classical' or 'rock' or some other label doesn't make sense anymore as it's able to stand on its own as something that he's explored for over 25 years now and still going strong. This has meant playing for heads of state and royalty as well as sell-out crowds across the globe. Just about everything I've heard him do is a treasure. If I'm being really gushy, that's what happens when you're a fan, even if you can't get every single fact straight- I flubbed up on Stockhausen, record companies he's worked with, and the track listing of his latest release. Otherwise, I did get a few reasonable questions in to look somewhat credible!

To Klaus D. Mueller, we say 'danke vielmals!'

PSF: Could you talk about the work you did in with PSY FREE? Are there any surviving recordings?

KS: No, there were no recordings made. Why should we, or someone else? 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 more rock orientated noise. We played in Berlin clubs.

PSF: With Tangerine Dream, how did you come to work with Edgar? What was your, Edgar's and Conrad's idea about the band and its music? What did you think of its later music? With ASH RA TEMPEL, how was this band different for you? What was the idea behind it?

KS: There was no "idea" behind it. Please understand that we did it not with today's retrospect view. We just did it. Then. And we had fun doing it. This goes for both bands, TD as well as A.R.T. For Tangerine Dream: One evening their drummer was absent, and I joined instead. And I kept the drum chair for the following eight months or so. During this time, we also recorded the first album. I told the following story very often: at one of our concerts I tried to play some organ tapes that I had recorded and treated in an uncommon fashion. Edgar didn't like that. He wanted just a drummer for his guitar/bass/drums group, and no "funny" experiments. Therefore, I left. Conrad Schnitzler soon followed. Both of us in a friendly way. Which was no big thing then. Nobody cared. We all were more or less amateurs, beginners, there was no big money involved. Bands came and vanished. People founded groups, joined groups, left groups, disbanded groups, members changed among groups...

Then I founded Ash Ra Tempel. The two guys, Manuel (Gottsching) and Hartmut (Enke), were playing a kind a fast blues rock when I met them. My fast bassdrum style impressed them. From Blues we changed to "Space" rock.

PSF: You rejoined Ash Ra and Tangerine later- maintained good/close relation with bands?

KS: Yes, I'm a musician. I also like to play with others, sometimes more, sometimes less. It happened in 1973 that I played with Edgar and Chris again, and with Manuel and Hartmut. There is nothing special behind it or about it. Manuel is still today a good friend. The others I see rarely, but with Edgar I phone from time to time. I also played with Stomu Yamash'ta and his "super groups" in 1976 and '77. And, in the sixties, I played in bands before T.D. or Ash Ra Tempel.

PSF: What led you to go solo? How did that feel after being in all of these bands?

KS: Thanks, I feel good. I went solo because I could do much better what I wanted to do. I didn't have to ask or discuss things and ideas that are already shaped in my head.

PSF: It's been suggested that John Cage, Terry Riley and Karlheinz Stockhausen influenced your work. Is this fair?

KS: "Fair"? Neither fair nor unfair. Better words would be: nonsense, absurd, false. Everytime a journalist cannot cope (pun intended) with a certain music, he mentions "Stockhausen" as a kind of synonym. Have you ever checked Stockhausen's output? About 5 (five) compositions that could be called "electronic", and they were done about 30 to 40 years ago, made with an oscillator or something like this. He did over hundred of other compositions that have no relation whatsoever to electronic music. Besides, what I heard meanwhile, sounds awful to my ears and to most other people's ears. Stockhausen is maybe a good theorist. But, who's listening voluntarily to his actual music, and who "enjoys" it? I also had and I have nothing to do with Cage or Riley. Not with their music nor with their theories and philosophies (if they have any...). This is simply not my world. When I started to do my music, and before, I was listening to Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd, before to the Spotnicks and Ventures, but not to the names you mention. Nobody in my surrounding and in my age did. This was a kind of "culture" that just did not exist among us. Only many years after, and because every third journalist asked me about "Stockhausen", I finally bought his theoretic books and I read them. Interesting stuff, I must admit, but the results are not my cup of tea.

PSF: I've heard that you've done some work with music therapy. Could you talk about this?

KS: This was because I had a girlfriend then (circa 1973) who was working in a mental hospital. They used musical therapy, and because I was a musician (and the doctors were certainly tired of always the same music) I was asked to make some tapes for them, which I did. It was an, h'm, "interesting" experience. A totally different world.

PSF: Could you talk about the 10-day concert you gave in April 1973 ('sound environment')?

KS: You got all this small info from The Works, didn't you? Yes, I was invited to make the sound environment at a booth of a huge electronic company, during the Hanover Industrial Fair in 1973. It was a job. Slightly good paid. But not as much as my producer then told the press. And they printed this hokum: "First cosmic millionaire".

PSF: Over the years, you've changed the keyboards you've used for your albums. Has it been that the keyboards influenced the music or was it vice-versa where the music dictated which keyboards to use?

KS: It's a kind of reciprocation. Sometimes a new instrument (keyboard or others) is very good or challenging and the influence is large: I use it extensively. But there are also new instruments (keyboards or others) which are not so groundbreaking, and they have not a big influence on my playing. But isn't that normal? With every instrumentalist? Should I mention Glenn Gould?

PSF: TIMEWIND was dedicated to Richard Wagner. What kind of influence was he for you?

KS: I dig Wagner. But I also dig J.J. Cale.

PSF: Could you talk about your collaborations with Stomu Yamashta (Go)?

KS: I talked so often during the past twenty years about it, please excuse me as I'm not in the mood at the moment to do it all over again. If I remember well, some of my Yamashta stories and sentences are printed (if I may say so) in my "official website." Stomu was and is a fine man and an inspiration.

PSF: In 1977, you did shows at the London Plantarium. Do you feel this is an idea atmosphere for your music?

KS: It was the very first time that a concert was given in a planetarium! I don't know if a planetarium is the ideal place for each and every music. I care for a good sound. And some concert places have a good sound, some have not. A planetarium with its hemisphere shape is difficult to play, if I remember well (?). There are echoes and shattering from all sides, if you play too loud. But in fact, I don't exactly remember what it was like, then, twenty years ago, in London.

PSF: There are a lot of 'electronic' and 'classical' elements to your work. Do you see yourself are melding the two or perhaps creating something altogether unique?

KS: You cannot compare these two. First, "electronic" is the way I generate my melodies and rhythms. Just "a lot of" it? This is an understatement. Second, "classical" is a given style in music. I don't interpret "classical" music (there was one exception, where I did exactly this. But I think you don't mean that). I invent and play my own music, and I do this with electronic means. This was sensational once, because it was unusual. Today it's normal, except in "classical" music.

Maybe some of my compositions remind you on some "classical" music? Some of the Beatles stuff remind ME on some classical (baroque) music. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

PSF: You started Innovative Communications and Inteam to control your own music. Did you find the problems with these companies taught you anything about the music business?

KS: Sorry to take away your naive believings: I did not start IC and Inteam to have control over my music. I had control before and after. A look at my discography shows this, because my albums were still with another company when I started IC and after. I never had many problems to do my music and to give it to a record company. Rarely do they try to argue with me about my music, probably because it's still too far-out. Who wants to argue about a thing that he doesn't understand? The problem was the journalists who also did not understand much of my music, but they wrote about it. I think you fell into the usual trap laid out by parts of the press and other writers: that the poor musician has always to fight the evil companies and managers. No. Because, also the world of showbiz is not just black and white, good and bad (There was a book written by a certain Chris Cutler; he sees it this way. Poor man).

PSF: Audentity (1983) was a very interesting project- collaborations, stories and sound effects. How did this come about?

KS: A "project-collaboration"? "stories"? H'm. I used the wonderful cello player before, and also Michael Shrieve's drumming, as well as Rainer Bloss' piano playing. It's nice to hear that you seem to like that album. "How did this come about?" What should I answer? Doing music and albums is my profession. I don't remember today how it "came about" Audentity. Just another fine album...

PSF: Could you talk about the meetings you have with Robert Moog and Pink Floyd in 1995?

KS: These meetings were private. As everyone else, I was a fan of Pink Floyd in the sixties. And the Moog sound is legendary. I met Robert Moog face to face first at an electronic festival in Austria in 1980. I did the opening concert then, and both of us were in the jury to choose which newly invented electronic music instrument would get a prize. Later we phoned, and we met again at a music fair here in Germany. My interest in his new toy, the Theremin, isn't very big. It simply does not fit into my way of playing music. I do not want to fiddle around with my hands in the air.

PSF: You've been using sampling of music in the last few years. How has that changed your work?

KS: Sampling is a much easier way to do what we did long ago with tape loops. The sampling technic is faster, cleaner, anything you want. Because of the digital revolution. I had to realize that the use of samples has its rules, too. If you use "normal" sound samples, nobody takes notice. It's just not very special. If you use sensational good and exotic samples, everybody will notice: Ahhhh! Great! But very soon the same people get tired of it. Therefore, extraordinary samples you can only use once. Never a second time, except maybe for a quotation. Yes, sampling has changed not just my way of playing and composing. For instance, I could store all the sounds of my old instruments into a sampling archive, and could get rid of these heavy, instable tools. If I want to play a Mellotron, I use the sampled sound and a master keybord ... instead of the old mellotron keyboard with its unsteady tape loops cassettes.

PSF: Were you surprised by the recent interest in your work by trip-hop, techno, ambient musicians/DJs?

KS: First, yes.

PSF: Around 1972 and Black Dance, you really starting using synthesizers. How did this change your music/ideas?

KS: This is 25 years ago. It certainly changed my music, and not only mine. But how in particular? This is hard to tell after all these years. Everything changes permantly. How boring if it wouldn't. These are the kind of questions that should be asked not to the actual musician, but to the recipients, the listeners, the historians.

I, as the "doer", the creator, don't think much in the direction: How did this or that change my music? The only time I have to think about it is when an interviewer asks me that. Do you know what I mean? It's a layman's impression or idea. Which is okay, but please understand that I don't have a satisfying (honest) answer. I just did it then, I worked, I made my music. With the available tools. Available at the time and to me, economically. I leave the explanations to others.

PSF: Favorite collaborators- Wolfgang Tiepold, Harald Grosskopf, Arthur Brown, Michael Shrieve. How have they added to your music? What qualities do you look for in collaborators such as these?

KS: I remember to answer quite often to this kind of question when it actually happened, 15 or 20 years ago. But: "How(?) have they added...", this I hear for the first time. Maybe my English isn't good enough, but I don't know exactly what you mean with that. What qualities? This is much easier to answer. As always in a musical collaboration: One has to like each other. As simple as that.

PSF: ANGST was a film that was cut to the music- not vice versa. For soundtracks- how do you approach the work? Do you see the director's work/go through story line?

KS: Of course I have to read the "story line", the script. "Angst", in contrast to all other "soundtracks", was different in handling. Don't mix them up. "Angst" was special, because the director cut the film after my music, which is not the normal procedure. Normally, the composer, the musician, has to follow exactly the director's script and advice, to the point, which can be parts of a second. And all this is written exactly in the script. As: "14 min. 22: door shut, music fade in (strings). 14 min. 38: music stops (abrupt.). Dialog starts. 15 min. 12: dialog ends. 15 min. 14: music starts (congas/sequencer) loud ..." etc.

PSF: For Miditerranean Pads, Klaus Mueller says 'The first album that shows a new beginning' Would you agree? If so, how do you see this?

KS: This was certainly said in a wider and correct context (?) But I don't know which one. Therefore, I cannot say much to it. [NOTE FROM KLAUS MUELLER: And I'm too lazy to check]

PSF: In 1992, you were recording synthesizer interpretations of some 'classical' music on Goes Classic with pieces by Schubert, Brahms, Grieg, and Beethoven. How have these composers influenced your work? You included your own piece on Goes Classical also- do you see yourself carrying on a tradition or being a part of a tradition then?

KS: We are all part of a tradition, at least we depend on the past. How else? These composers did not "influence" my work, at least not more than the Beatles or any other musician's work that I know and heard once. Of course I like the works of these old composers, as many people do, partly since hundreds of years. But the recording I did just because it was fun to do it.

PSF: Is there any particular live CD (or unreleased live concert) that really captures your best work (i.e. Royal Festival Hall and Dome Event)?

KS: A concert is a concert is a concert is a concert. An album is an album is an album is an album. Musically, both have nothing in common. When I was good during a concert, it is the greatest thing (to me) that I ever did. When I released a new album, this is the best album I ever did. My "best work" is always the latest music that I did and/or released. Otherwise I would not have done it.

PSF: In the last few years, a number of compilations of your work have come out- Silver Edition, Jublilee Edition, The Essential 72-93, Historic Edition. Did you feel it was time to sum up your career for now?

KS: The Essential is a sampler that includes parts of already released and available older albums. One among many other KS samplers. They are made by the record companies who own the old rights or who get the licence from the owning companies.

The sets ("... Edition") are filled with formerly unreleased music and they are put together and released by ourselves in a limited edition. For the sets, the idea to do them was Klaus Mueller's, and I'm sure he told the world already why he did it, in his announcements, in interviews, but also in the set's booklet texts. He likes to do the impossible.

PSF: With Are You Sequenced?, your compostions consisted of shorter tracks (as opposed to your earlier work). How did this come about? (ED NOTE: I was mistaken here- as Klaus notes, it does consist of one composition that is broken into sections)

KS: If you see it this way... No. Honestly and seriously: Where do you hear shorter tracks on my Are You Sequenced? Have you actually listened to the nearly 80 minute piece? It's ONE track. Didn't you notice? Funny... Even if I do an album with "shorter tracks" -- and I did in the past -- what's so interesting or particularly about it? A composer composes longer and shorter tracks, a musician plays longer and shorter tracks. It depends on many things: His mood, his ideas, the available duration (of a single, an LP, a CD...), the requirements of a soundtrack (see my "Le Moulin de Daudet" with 21 tracks on one CD) or a concert (main titles between 30 to 80 minutes, encores between 10 to 17 minutes), and other things.

A funny story: There was a guy who only knows pop music from Singles, maximum 3 minutes. One day he discovers that the world is larger and that there is many other and different music made and available, in concerts, on scores, and on million of records, with all kinds of length. And when he gets older he discovers that there's even a piece with a title that gives just the duration: "4:33" -- and when he goes on to study music and life, he'll realize finally what this piece is about.

1998 update:

Announcement of a 50-CD set
The Ultimate Edition
- The edition to end all editions -
série poème 2000

You can imagine that Klaus Schulze and kdm have not much sympathy for some people and dealers why try to sell some surplus (?) Silver, Historic, or Jubilee Edition sets for horrible sums of money, just because these sets are sold-out but still heavily wanted by latecomers or newcomers. Also the amount of incoming inquiries for the sets is large; many ask us urgently for a re-release of the sets. Some people missed it the first time, some didn't know at all about the set, and others just discovered the music of Klaus Schulze recently but too late to put their hands on one of our Editions. Therefore, after long thoughts and discussions we decided to re-release the whole bunch again. I will do it in a different form - for the benefit of all the lucky collectors who still can be (and should be) proud about their originals sets. Also, the new release will not be numbered or signed.

THE ULTIMATE EDITION will contain 50 CD's in five boxes of 10 CD's each. In addition to the 10 Silver, 10 Historic, and 25 Jubilee CD's we will add five new CDs in the last box.

Box 1 - Silver Edition = 10 CD's
Box 2 - Historic Edition = 10 CD's
Box 3 - Jubilee Edition Part 1 = 10 CD's
Box 4 - Jubilee Edition Part 2 = 10 CD's
Box 5 - Jubilee Edition Part 3, and 5 bonus CD's = 10 CDs

The doublets "The Unspoken Thing" on CD 19 and "Ludwigs Traum" on CD 21 of Jubilee Edition will be replaced by unreleased tracks. I will put these corrected two CDs in the last box, so that those people can be satisfied who are owners of the sets and just want the new additional music. They can only buy the last box, number 5. If they want.

Official release date of THE ULTIMATE EDITION is the 1st of January 2000.

Orders are already taken by Manikin Records. Mario Schönwälder is doing again the distribution, collecting the money, and later he will send out the sets. He knows the prices, and he also offers instalment payment (Ratenzahlung).

Manikin Records  
Mario Schönwälder  
Postbox 450274  
D-12172 BERLIN

More info will be in the official KS website

Also see our other Klaus Schulze article about his '70's work.