Interview with Klaus Schulze  

"It's the Player not the Tools"

November 1994, USA

Q: Why are your classic works not available on CD? Is your music not trendy enough? How you did The Essential sampler?

KS: Since many years my "classic works" are almost completely available, of course on CD. The recent sampler "The Essential" was originally a French Virgin release, and those guys in Paris did a very good job, indeed. It was the first time for them that they could license a genuine French disc to many companies in a variety of countries. Those French really cared. Also I have to thank a friend in Paris: Assaad Debs, who told Virgin to do what they did then. Assaad was an amateur when he organized his first concerts in France for young turks: Agitation Free, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze. This was 1972, 1973, 1974. He's now the biggest promoter for rockmusic in France, and the manager for some well-known and more advanced French rock groups. And he is as charming, friendly and helpful as twenty years ago.
My main audience, my public, is not dependent on any recent trends. But of course it's great to see that a new generation knows about my music. I did my music when "electronics", "synthesizer", "computers", "trance" and "techno" were not existing, or fashionable, and I will still do my music when the recent vogue is gone.

Q: Do you know the news bands such as... [followed by names of Techno bands] Are you influenced by them? Some say that you were influencial to them and these young bands will carry the torch to the future... Or is it just a retro-garde?

KS: I've never heard of "Ultramarine" and of most of the other names you mention. If I am, or was, an influence on them, that's nice to hear. Great. But because I don't know much about all this dance (?) or pop (?) scene, I cannot really judge, if they carry on any torch or whatever. And if they just sample some of my older sounds, without a deeper interest in other of my music, I'm the last to blame them. They do their thing (hopefully), and I do mine.
There exists indeed, what you call perfectly "retro-garde", mainly in Europe: All those many Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze copycats. Forget them.

Q: Was the mythical Karlheinz Stockhausen influencial to you?

KS: I'm really tired of hearing this name: "Stockhausen". Did you ever checked how many "electronic" compositions he did? Since over 20 years not one. This friendly, religious man does not even own a mixing desk (No crime, of course), not to mention that he never searched seriously for synthetic sounds. His world is totally different. What he did in the fifties and a bit in the sixties, was not at all "electronic", in the sense we understand it. I have nothing against Stockhausen and his theories (that I studied) but his music was and is of no big interest to me, not to mention: influence. When Edgar (Froese) and I started 25 years ago with our wild and weird sounds in the Berlin underground, we listened to Pink Floyd, to some American West Coast bands, or to Jimi Hendrix - but not to any dry "serious" German theoretic composers. There is no "myth" behind all this. It's just that one inept writer copies from the other the slogan "Stockhausen". An Italian friend recently told me: There are many journalists who don't know much about a certain new music. But they write about it. These people always mention "Stockhausen" as kind of "code" for a music they neither understand nor like.

Q: What are your objectives to do music?

KS: My "objectives" to do music were: I hate to do boring work. And, musicians get much easier a lot of girls. (I borrowed this honest answer from Peter Hammill)

Q: Your titles show that you are psychologically oriented.

KS:. My music was never "psychologically oriented". Please don't overestimate a few words in music titles. There are hundreds (!) of other titles.

Q: Here in America your music is sold as part of the New Age movement. Do you like that classification? What are your goals?

KS: I don't feel "sold as part of the New Age movement". If my records are being sold along with silly meditation tapes or along with popcorn in a dirty blue movie house, I don't care. I just wonder, but it doesn't move me at all.
There are no "goals" in any honest emotional music. There are, for example, goals in Muzak, and in religious music. I do music which is different from both.

Q: Do you listen or like Techno, Ambient, Hip Hop...?

KS: I feel closer to a singer like Willie Nelson, to a guitar picker like J.J. Cale, or to a violin player like Izak Perlman, and of course to men like Mozart or Wagner, than to any of the genres that you mention.

Q: You did an album with cover versions of well-known classic compositions... Why?

KS: I did re-works of some Brahms, Beethoven, Smetana, Schubert, Grieg and von Weber compositions, because it was fun to do. It brought me joy. As simple as that. Doing music is also a handicraft. And doing a variety of music in my profession is more fun than doing always the same. Of course I love the music of the said composers, no doubt about it.

Q: Has technology changed your music?

KS: Today I work mostly with computers. Technology did change in the course of time, and certainly my music did change during the last 25 years. This is a most normal mutual relation: I change, the audience change, the instruments change, the fashions change... even Bob Dylan is a-changing. That's normal in live. Wouldn't it be most boring without a change?
During a concert I still like to play the old Minimoog, and the audience loves to hear it. The sound of a Minimoog is like a sign, a recognition signal for my Electronic Music, like the electric guitar is for Rock'n'Roll, the honking saxophones for R & B, the Hawaii-guitar for Hula Hula music...

Q: Some people say, modern technology sounds cold and the old instruments sounded much warmer.Are there shortcomings with the new technology?

KS: The "warmths" that you can hear in my music comes from the player, not from the tools, if I may say so, in my humble discretion. The prime idea of music is to set some emotions free! This is of course done by the artist, and not by his tools.
I do blend older and newer sounds into my music. The old instruments are all in my private "museum". I sampled their sounds, and play today with these samplers.
Shortcomings? The old analogue stuff had a lot of this: They were very instable. Everytime a cold breeze touched them I had to tune all those oscillators anew. These old instruments were also heavy to carry, and they were expensive. This has drastically changed.

Q: Rarely you use singers on your albums. Arthur Brown was such a rarity. How you met? Will you use singers again?

KS: For one record - Dune, in 1979 - I used Arthur Brown as a singer, right. This came, because I was an old fan of him since the sixties. In 1976 I met him in London, inside the Island studio's cantine.
I seldom repeat musically what I did already. And I have no idea what the future may bring. Another singer? I really don't know. Recently I used opera singers. Sidenote: I find it most interesting, that fans of electronic music generally hate singers but love the Mellotron sound, which is just tapes, especially tapes of human voices (!)

Q: I know that you did the soundtrack for the movie "The Man Who Fell to Earth". How came this? Is your thinking visually when you do soundtracks?

KS: You may "know" it, but it's still not true. I did not the music for "The Man Who Fell to Earth". Sorry, here's another wrong guess: I don't think "visually".
But indeed, I do think that my music is particularly well-suited for film. That was probably the reason I was invited to Los Angeles, some months ago, to discuss a maybe Hollywood soundtrack. Still, no decision is made, from Hollywood... and from my side (and I'm far from being sad about it, if it doesn't work out. Hollywood is no place for me).

Q: What do you like more, studio work or being on stage with your equipment? Why don't you play in the USA, as Tangerine do? What country has your biggest audience, anyway?

KS: I love to play solo concerts. The feeling I cannot describe (all over again). It was said so often, by many and all kinds of artists, and since ages. They were and are all right. My equipment has nothing to do with it, but the audience, the situation. Studio work is different, completely different. In a studio I would never play the Minimoog solo that I play during every concert.
Tangerine Dream's new style is perfect for the USA. My kind of music is not. I spoke with Edgar [Froese] about America. He told me that this country isn't made for my sensitive soul (He was right! Remember: I was in L.A. in August). We joked a bit and decided: Edgar gets America, I get Europe :-)
"The biggest audience" - that certainly depends not on countries but on the event, on the efforts of record companies and promoters, and on other non-musical things.

Q: It is said that you are influenced by Japanese culture. What do you think about KITARO?

KS: Strange things you hear. No, I'm not "influenced by Japanese culture". I had to read this error only once in the (otherwise great) British "Audion" cover story about me in May 1992. I told the otherwise competent writer, Alan Freeman, immediately about his error.
I do like what I hear in Kitaro's music. You certainly know that I produced two LPs for a Japanese rock group in 1975 - one of their keyboard players was then the unknown Kitaro. A friend of mine met him in Quebec on the 5th of October '94, and asked him backstage if he remembers me, Klaus Schulze. Yes, Kitaro said to my friend, he "still thanks Klaus for his initiation to synthesizers", but he still put the year wrong. No, it was not 1972, dear old friend. It was August 1975 in Tokyo, and in November 1975 in the English Manor Studio.

Q: You once said that sampling is a revolution.

KS: Have I said so? Yes, the sampling technic is a radical step. And if I think a while about it, yes, it's more radical than the step from analogue to digital sounds. Why? Because, in the change from analog to digital, just the sound quality was changed, was improved. Sampling is completely different. It's a new way of creating a piece of structured noise, of music. It's another step. Suddenly, the sounds are very easily available. During the seventies we had to create them by doing it the hard way, with heavy and expensive equipment.

Q: Isn't it disturbing to know that your very special music is being played among completely other, cheaper music on radio and "Greatest Synthesizer Hits" samplers?

KS: My music is (hopefully) played on a multitude of radio programmes, TV programmes, film soundtracks, at homes... It is beyond my influence to tell people what other music they should play or listen to, before and after mine. This sourrounding music was different in the seventies, different in the eighties, and is different in the nineties. Who cares?
When I have sold my music to a record company, they have the right (and the duty!) to use it on samplers too, etc. - all kinds of samplers. If my music do fit, or not, is based on the knowledge, the sensibility, and the courage of the responsible person in the record company. This is beyond my influence. I like more, if my music is not put together again and again with similar music on just another "Greatest Synthesizer Hits". I like if it finds its place on samplers that contain completely different music. It's less boring.
Thanks for listening.

PS: I do music with electronic instruments, but I don't do "Electronic Music".