· During their recent UK tour, Johnny Black breakfasted with Edgar Froese (and wife Monique who designs their record sleeves) Christopher Franke plus new boy Paul Haslinger, at the curiously titled (because it's actually in Shepherd's Bush) Kensington Hilton Hotel.
DESPITE HAVING BEEN declared officially unhip and abysmally wet 'n' weedy by the
music press somewhere about 1974, German electronic musicians Tangerine
Dream release albums frequently, tour regularly and have provided soundtracks for several major movies.
They have consistently avoided presenting themselves as rock stars, preferring to keep their heads down and work, work, work. They've outlasted progressive, punk, new wave, new romantic and show no signs of slowing down. The band and various ex-members, including Klaus Schulze and Peter Baumann, have released over 40 albums.
Jive Records has just re-released their first four albums, plus the previously unreleased Green Desert, in a boxed edition. How do they feel about those albums now?
ELECTRONTC MEDITATION (1969)
ALPHA CENTAURI (1971)
Edgar: Those early records were influenced by Pink Floyd. Zeit was probably our most avantgarde album, but it was a direction we chose not to follow. Life has to change.
Chris: Floyd's Ummagumma was the first really experimental rock album. Until then you simply had improvisation like Hendrix and Cream.
GREEN DESERT (1973)
Edgar: There are literally hundreds of hours of unreleased Tangerine Dream music. We own three studios in Germany, and when we're not touring we work in them ten hours a day making music. We have to do music, we can't stop ourselves.
Green Desert should have come out before Phaedra. We'd just acquired our first analogue sequencer and were playing around with it, but we got an offer from Virgin Records to use their Manor Studios in 1973, so we abandoned those tapes and started from zero.
Edgar: We've always been interested in Greek mythology, and the titles on this album come from there. Not just Greek, but Egyptian, Indian, European, philosophy mixed with a bit of humour.
I have to say that, although I liked the recent Virgin compilation, Dream Sequence, it includes a very strange two minute edit of Phaedra which shocked us. It's as bad as the rest of the compilation is good.
There are people who think Phaedra was the last decent piece of music we recorded, but fortunately there are others who think Tangram was our first record.
Monique: I think Rubycon is my favourite cover design, because it is so simple, just one single droplet of water splashing onto the surface. I also like Tangram, because that's even simpler.
Edgar: Monique likes simplicity in all things. We've rarely put our own image on our record sleeves, not because we think we're so ugly, but our faces cannot explain what the music is about, so why put them on? Just because people like to identify with the personalities? They should really identify with the music.
RICOCHET: live concert (1975)
Chris: Ricochet is probably my favourite, because it proved that when we create live music, it is always different. When we create in the studio we pursue particular directions and we experiment, and it becomes more polished, but somehow the live work remains more classic. Ricochet still says something to me.
EPSILON IN MALAYSIAN PALE: Edgar Froese solo (1975)
Edgar: I don't like choosing favourite albums. lt's as if you have ten children, you love them all, and someone asks which one you love most. Still, I loved doing Epsilon, because it was so simple, just took three days. I played it right away with the mellotron, no tricks, no effects, just played what I felt.
The title refers to a couple of journeys I took to Malaysia and Australia, so it's very personal to me. Even a bit mystical.
Edgar: Somebody said Stratosfear has a sort of atmospheric circle round the music. It's hard to explain with words. Every music can do this, but that record has a particularly strange, mysterious atmosphere. Here again, some of the titles relate to Greek philosophy.
Chris: Normally, when we go into the studio, there's no music written and we work by a system of trial and error. We work like Salvador Dali, so we're more like developers than composers. We don't write music, then memorise it, then play it. No, we play little bits, record them on tape or in the computer, decide immediately if we want to keep them or change them. It's a kind of composition that could not have happened before, because you would need an orchestra to be playing all the parts.
Edgar: This was the first time we'd been asked to do a movie soundtrack. William Friedkin, who produced The Exorcist, just gave us the script and told us to write music. The film hadn't even begun shooting! We were astonished, but some of it
worked well, some of it didn't.
Chris: Making a film soundtrack is different from recording a studioalbum. You have to follow ideas of characters, plot, action, the meaning behind the film. You have to take into account the feeling of the producer and director
ENCORE: double live concerts (1977)
Edgar: There's a piece on here. Monolight, which shows our classical leanings. We tend to listen to classical music, and feel very close to Bach because of the counterpoint, the use of sequences and the masterpieces he wrote in terms of basslines. Jack Bruce said Bach was the greatest bass-player ever, and I completely agree.
Chris: The comparison with classical music is difficult, but we do write long, instrumental pieces, very dynamic, partly aggressive, partly lyrical.
FORCE MAJEUR (1979)
Chris: There's one piece, Cloudburst Flight, which I still enjoy playing. Sometimes doing something again and again, it loses its power, but this still means a lot to me.
It's hard to say what you try to achieve when you make music. Different words come to mind like...room, landscape, painting, A combination of all the things that make up life.
Edgar: Another film score. The producer, Michael Mann, had very definite ideas about how the music should sound. We had already composed the music, so we explained to him about recording techniques, mixing, musical terms and so on, then we gave him the tapes, sat him at the mixing desk and said "O.K. Do it yourself." He spent three days trying then gave up. Film producers know as much about music as I do about 35mm cameras.
Chris: One piece on this album, Kiev Mission, feels different than the rest. We were using some new instruments, and it still sounds very modern to me.
Edgar: We've been called a political band, but when we played East Germany and Poland it was not for political reasons. We just wanted to play to the people there.
Chris: We are political only in the sense that music can be used as a trigger impulse to start people thinking about society.
Edgar: After all, what is politics in our time? You might call it crime, Mafia, whatever, instead of politics. Everybody knows that. And not just in some countries, but all of them.
From thisBEAT, APRIL 1986 No 17, page 30.
Also featured in this magazine is a review of "Japanese Butterfly" from former TD member, Steve Jolliffe (page 26), and a review of the TD-scored, so-called "film" Heartbreakers. (page 28).