I first heard of Tangerine Dream in the years 1970-71. My first reaction, I am forced to admit, was one of unreasonable dismissal: "Tangerine Dream? What kind of name is that?" It all rang horribly of sub-Orange Bicycle pseudo-psychedelic hippydom and, prepared as I was to judge a book by its cover (or in this case the group by its name), I expected about that standard of musical ability. On one trip to London, I dropped into Virgin Records in Notting Hill Gate and listened to Tangerine Dream's first LP 'Electronic Meditation' (a title all set to confirm my worst doubts); I felt my suspicions confirmed. Honesty, however, forces me to admit that the shop speakers were turned up so damn loud that I couldn't possibly have heard a thing over the headphones. On the strength of this negligible evidence I subsequently wrote them off as sub-Pink Floyd 'Saucerful Of Secrets', impersonators with a flute. When, later, I listened to some LPs by the group in more congenial surroundings I found them to be a source of a lot of very fine music, and I realised my mistake. Thus it was that a rumour that the group had been signed to United Artists Records under the name of 'Scarecrew' had me eagerly awaiting concrete results. None came though and eventually Virgin Records announced the imminent release of the album 'Phaedra' and later Edgar Froese's 1st solo album.
Although he consistently denies the fact, Edgar Froese certainly seems to be the pivot, if not the leader, of Tangerine Dream. He himself states that he "merely did most of the talking at the beginning". He is the only founder-member of the group still remaining and any compositions not credited to the whole band are usually listed as works by Edgar Froese (viz the whole 'Zeit' album).
Together with his wife Monique he has been responsible for all the cover art-work on albums and he also does most of the talking at interviews. But it is only necessary to listen to the music (especially at a live concert) to ascertain that he is not the leader it is a perfect interplay of all the individual parts; only three musicians of equal stature could weave sound so delicately and so completely.
When the group played their first British concert recently I was lucky enough to be there. Virgin's ad that described their album as "melting music" was right; it was one of those remarkable concerts that you just let flow about you, you just curl up and melt with pleasure. A couple of "Old Grey Whistle Test"-style abstract films were screened behind the band, but they were superfluous, it was best to just close your eyes. The music was beautiful and it appeared that the vast majority of the audience thought so too; deafening, spontaneous applause (no ". . . and let's hear it again for. . . ”was required) lasted for well over ten minutes.
But the path to such success has inevitably not been easy. Admittedly 'Electronic Meditation' is steeped in the influence of Pink Floyd, but it is still a remarkably uncompromising LP. There is enough good original music here to deny them the tag of copyists, and it owes as much to avant-garde jazz as to Pink Floyd. It was a first step; overnight the band had changed (within Berlin's atmosphere of revolutionary political and experimental musical thought) from a rock/blues band to one that stepped onstage each night with nothing planned and just improvised totally. That first album was a product of that change. In 1969 Edgar Froese was looking for a record company to give Tangerine Dream's music wider exposure; he took tapes to all the record companies in London, he even visited Island Records whom he felt lost interest when they found the group to be German. The albums that the group subsequently released in Germany on the Ohr label have sold in their thousands in this country through the import outlets without any promotion whatsoever. John Peel even named 'Atem' as one of the best records of 1973. Although it is easy to list the names of people whose music has influenced the band (Pink Flovd. Grateful Dead, Soft Machine. Liszt, Wagner, Debussy, Penderecki, Stockhausen, Ligeti etc), it is possible to see, through the sequence of their LPs, a gradual distilling of all their influences and the moulding of a new kind of music that is quite unique - definitely something that all ZigZaggers should fold their ears around. In their search for this highly individual music, Tangerine Dream have gradually dropped all the conventional instruments, relying now solely on electronic keyboards and synthesisers (Christoph Franke is reputed to have access to the most advanced synthesiser in Germany, a £10,000 Moog, which he can borrow whenever he requires it, as he is reckoned to be the only person who can handle it!); but their music is far removed from the likes of ELP's electronic histrionics, having a far greater empathy with Terry Riley's gentle format. Lately Edgar Froese has been experimenting with the Gunter Brunschen artificial head recording system, which is an accurate model of a human head... two microphones take the place of ear drums and the sound has to travel through model ear channels to reach the microphones. The intention is to give a three-dimensional location and depth to the sound. At the moment the results have to be heard on headphones, but certainly side two of 'Aqua' has a very spatial feel to it that could conceivably be the result of this system.
Anyway, while Tangerine Dream were in the country recently I managed to corner them in their Notting Hill Gate hotel to ask them a few questions concerning the band's history. Seeing as this was my first attempt at interviewing a band (if you don't count a short conversation with Edgar Broughton for the school magazine), I was feeling decidedly nervous as I walked into the hotel. When I arrived the group had just completed another interview and were watching Germany win a World Cup football match on TV. At the time I seemed to be armed with an absolutely interminable list of questions to put to the band, but as I sit down to write this article I can inevitably think of an almost equal number that I should have asked.
HISTORY OF THE BAND
ZZ: Could you fill in any details about the beginnings of the band at all? What we've had is a little vague.
Edgar Froese (EF): The first thing was around 1964, about 10 years ago, and it was just an amateur group. Around 1967 we were tourinq about Europe with the local group, playing in Spain and France. The biggest change, the first change, was the influence of the West Coast groups, and the influence of acid of course. The first group with the name Tangerine Dream started in 1967. This group split up by 1969, but in that group we found some of the ideas you can see in the group today, not exactly the same, but the improvising aspect of our music was there. We started with normal rock songs, making copies of Doors and Hendrix material. We also had a lot ot changes within the group and we lost a lot of money, until eventually it came to the point when we thought "Why are we having to compose songs?" And then for the first time we just walked on stage and started to play. We were in a normal situation with equipment – bass guitar, flute, drums and guitar and so on, and we started playing without any arrangements for the first time. After that we split up and the first record came out in 1970, that was 'Electronic Meditation'.
ZZ: The band at that time was yourself, Claus Schulze and Connie Schnitzler?
EF: Yes. But 'Electronic Meditation' was really only just a tape from a rehearsal. A friend of ours went with that tape to a record company and sold the rights to produce a record from it. That made it, but it wasn't really big and didn't sell very well. By the time the second album was made the group had changed again . . .
ZZ: What happened to Claus Schulze; he's presumably the KIaus Schulze who went on to join Ash Ra Tempel and to record the 'lrrlicht' and 'Cyborg' solo LPs.
EF: Yeah, he was an original member of Ash Ra Tempel, but he made only two records with them, and then he started to work on a solo project and he's still working on that. Maybe he'll find an English contract in the near future, and a record will be released here; I don't know.
(Time for the inclusion of some additional information: the two Ash Ra Tempel LPs that Klaus Schulze was featured on were 'Ash Ra Tempel' and 'Join In'. The possible English tie-up Edgar Froese mentioned was in fact the impending release of Klaus Schulze's 'Black Dance'on Virgin's cheap Caroline Records label. I think that possibly this guy rates as potential material for another ZigZag article of traditional proportions; there's a lot of good music in him too.)
ZZ: And what happened to Connie Schnitzler from that first band after he left?
EF: He is touring around the country, working on solo projects on the arts side of music. But after Claus and Connie left, I came in touch with Chris [Christoph Franke] who played on the 'Alpha Centauri' record, and after that the group changed again and Peter [Baumann] came in.
ZZ: In fact Steve Schroyder was in the band when the 'Alpha Centauri' record was made wasn't he? Do you know what happened to him after he left?
EF: I believe that at the time we made 'Alpha Centauri', he was a really good influence on the group, but he really flipped out you know; once he said to us that he never wanted to make music again, and just got in his car and drove around Europe. We saw him once a year later and then we never came in contact with him again. I don't know where he is or what he's doing. The third record, the 'Zeit' record ['Time'], was the first one we did with the present line-up of Tangerine Dream.
ZZ: That was the first one you didn't use percussion or electric gear on as well, wasn't it?
EF: Yes. but between 'Alpha' and 'Zeit’ we had maybe the biggest change in the group. We realised that with the way we \/ere set up there was verv little future for us. So we sold a lot of our normal instruments and we bought the first electronic instrument – the synthesiser.
ZZ: Strangely enough I think that. for me, anyway. 'Zeit' seems to have the same kind of feel to it as the work of Klaus Schulze about this time, especially his quadraphonic symphony 'lrrlicht'.
Peter Baumann (PB): Maybe it was the other way round.
EF: You can ask perhaps who was influenced by who, but the truth is that we started together with the first album. We had long talks about music, about anything and everything, so maybe we had the same ideas about it, and that's maybe the reason the sound is. .. I don't think it is the same but it is moving together. you know?
PB: Although I think the 'Zeit' album was released before 'lrrlicht' was.
EF: But we are definitely not a copy of him!
ZZ: On 'Atem', your next album, you in fact reintroduced percussion again, didn't you?
EF: Yes. 'Zeit' was a real big change you know, I can't explain it, although it was right at the time. But for us it was a break, nobody knew that we could work with electronics in such a new way. We had to start from zero again; we changed really to the other side without percussion, without anything.
ZZ: It must have been one of the very first times that percussion wasn't used in what was essentially a rock group setting, albeit an experimental one.
PB: And also, once you split with percussion and start again, it's the same experience as
when we took off all our instruments and started with one tone. lt was a new experiment, building up 'melodies' – or harmonic ideas in a way that are not harmonic ideas in the conventional way.
ZZ: The use of percussion on 'Atem' certainly seems sparing, as though it was only used when necessary, and not to underpin the whole sound. How popular were the band in Germany at this time?
EF: In Germany we have a pop paper called ‘Sounds’, but it is not strictly pop-orientated, it's a bit serious. They really know what they're writing about, and we won their 'Record Of The Year' award twice.
ZZ: Were you playing live much at this time?
EF: Yeah, we played quite a lot in Germany. . . more than we do now.
ZZ: All the records we've talked about so far are only available here as imports; you were on Ohr records in Germany, and judging by rumours they seem to be a very flexible record company, allowing an artist a great deal of freedom as to how he wants a record packaged and presented as well as what goes on the plastic itself. Is this in fact true?
EF: It was a problem we had in Germany because they felt that they had to present us as a package.
PB: All this started after the first record began to sell. About three years ago Edgar described the sound of the group as 'irrational' – some space kind of music, and he mentioned the word 'cosmic' once. From that moment on, the record company jumped at the phrase and exploited it, and after that all the groups they had had to have a cosmic design, a cosmic package and a cosmic everything. It wasn't possible for us to branch out and have a separate identity from other groups, and that's why we had to split with that company.
ZZ: In fact there was a rumour at one time that you were going to sign up with United Artists Records under the name of ' Scarecrew'…
EF: No; it was a big mistake. I don't know where that was made up.
PB: There is no connection between 'Scarecrew' and Tangerine Dream.
EF: No. We read it once, in an English paper; it was the first and last we heard about that. We were never in touch with any such group.
ZZ: How did you come eventually to sign up with Virgin Records in this country? Was it a result of the success they'd had with your import sales in their shops?
EF: Maybe it was a part of the interest Virgin had, because they'd sold a lot of records in the way of imports, but I don't believe it was the most important thing. We were in contact with a lot of companies here and we found out that Virgin could give us the most room for our own work.
PB: lt was the most flexible company.
EF: Because we don't and can't work with a big fat man in charge of us, you know, it's impossible. We really have to work together with other people in the business and the people in the business have to work together with musicians. Without that connection, nothing is possible.
ZZ: Were you surprised at the reception that 'Phaedra' got in this country, especially after John Peel picked up on it?
EF: What I'd like to say really is that I believe John Peel has helped us a great deal in this country. I think he's a really great guy, an intelligent guy, I don't say that just because he has pushed our records, but he is one of the people in this country who is looking to the future all the time and he isn't interested in playing only commercial stuff. He thinks about what could stimulate the listeners, and that's what I like.
ZZ: John Peel is a guy who will also help artists too, as he did for example with Bridget St John, taking her along to gigs where he was playing and paying her from his own pocket.
PB: It's quite amazing to hear things like that. It would be really impossible in Germany, nobody would stand behind an ideal like that.
ZZ: To talk about the solo LP 'Aqua' a minute, I was wondering if you could throw any light on the Gunther Brunschen artiticial head recording system, using it in conjunction with ordinary stereo and mono techniques?
EF: It was developed by the Technical University in Berlin, and Gunther Brunschen is the guy who made the first public performance on a Berlin radio station. It was possible to listen to it with normal stereo headphones and it made a big impression on me and surprised rne very much, so I tried to get in touch with him, I eventually did so and we worked together for about two months. I really think that it could really be a totally new experience in listening. I don't know whether we are going to do some more work in the near future with that system, but I think that if it's developed and can be worked out properly, then it could be better than stereo and quadrophonic.
ZZ: Listening to that record it seem's to have a tremendous clarity and depth to it.
EF: Yeah, you probably get that feeling from the system because normal systems are inside your head (stereo) or on the top of your head (mono) , perhaps moving from one side to the other, and on this system it moves around three dimensionally.
'ZZ: You've just returned from Chichester where you've been doing soundtrack music for the Festival production of 'Oedipus Tyrannus'; this music is to be your next album isn't it?
EF: Yes. I don't know exactly when, maybe around Autumn. We were there to investigate the possibilities with the actors and so on. It was the first time we've worked with a live theatre. We've made some soundtracks for films and TV in Germany but this was a new experience.
(More additional information: Apparently Keith Michell Who is Artistic Director of the Chichester Festival had been discussing the Festival production with Hovhannes Pilikian, the director of 'Oedipus Tyrannus' who had
said he wanted to make the play a tribal version outside of 'Time'. Then Michell heard Tangerine Dream on John Peel's radio show and felt that it had the right timeless quality for 'Oedipus Tyrannus', The director added that he felt that 'Phaedra' represented female music and asked Tangerine Dream to write music that was its male counterpart for the production. And they agreed.)
ZZ: Your London concert at the Victoria Palace theatre was recorded by the Virgin mobile recording truck wasn't it?
EF: That's right.
ZZ: Are there plans ro release any of it as an album over here?
EF: I can't say definitely if it will be but I don't think so at the moment because we have some special ideas for recording. They've done it very well you know, it's a really good sound they've got, but we don't want to go into a studio and overdub it and clean it up. A live album must be a live album...
PB: For this kind of music you need the atmosphere of the audience and you can't put the atmosphere of the audience inside the cover and sell it as well. We play differently at concerts than we do on record, so strictly it would not be a Tangerine Dream album.
ZZ: Have any other recordings been released of Tangerine Dream apart from those we’ve already mentioned
PB: Yeah, There was just one. It was a festival where they had a ten minute 'live' track.
ZZ: Was that released on Ohr as well?
EF: No. This was on BASF I think.
ZZ: With all the albums it seems that you, Edgar, and your wife Monique have been responsible for doing all the artwork and organising the covers, have you seen tire packaging then as an extension of the music?
EF: Well, I started out as a student of art but eventually found that I couldn't do the things that I wanted to do, so my wife and I found some possibilities of working together. We thought about the music and I believe that maybe the covers could explain something about the music.
PB: lt is mostly an extension of the music.
ZZ: Especially with 'Phaedra' and that shadowy cover, I think that is a perfect extension of the music.
PB: Yes. That was one of the best covers we have had.
THE BAND ONSTAGE, IN THE STUDIOS AND AT PRESENT
ZZ: You rely on improvisation in your live shows don't you?
EF: The music that we play is totally improvised, but over the years it makes you a bit nervous. To reveal, week by week, concert by concert, your own feeling, it becomes very difficult sometimes. To bring out what you feel, you have to reveal your day to day experience, of the last 'week, of the last year, you have to bring it out maybe each night, each concert, each week. Years ago maybe we were a bit more relaxed than we are now because it makes you very nervous.
ZZ: It must be very nerve-racking for you to go up on stage and inevitably reveal yourself through your music.
PB: Bit once the concert starts it gets much better. We start on a very, very low basis, there is no dynamics and there is no jump between frequencies, but it is very, very soft and straight. And then we just gather everything together with the audience; from there we start to build up the concert. We lose all our tension in those minutes.
ZZ: I think you can really sense this at a concert, the initial probing between the members, and then something comes and . . .
EF: It's like: discussion between us because nobody knows the answers and nobody knows the questions, but when you know the answer to the question then there becomes a possibility to include it, to answer again
because it is a chain reaction.
ZZ: At a concert everything is improvised; when you go into a studio do you have ideas worked out beforehand or do you start with improvisations and build up from there?
EF: One thing is always constant, and that’s the way of improvising; that's the same every time. The only different thing is that in a studio you have a lot of technical possibilities, of maybe overdubbing and moving the sounds around, that you can't do by and large at a live concert. You can move it around OK but you can't work it out so exactly. So for our records, we just assemble in the studio and we don't know what's going to happen. We start to play and after a week maybe we have ten masters! Or more! And then we have to decide which of them are good enough, and on which one it would be possible to work.
PB: We find it's the best way to start from an improvisation, then we hear it and decide what the best points are of such and such a part of the improvisation. We take the same material and we improvise again and we put more weight on some parts and less on other parts.
ZZ: So, in fact. It is an accumulative process.
PB: Yes, because you can't say "right, we'll start to make a piece of music that we feel right now". In a studio situation this might be possible, but after you listen to it for any length of time, then you realise that you are in a completely different situation. As for instance, the 'live' tapes where we were so much in the situation of Victoria Palace that it wasn't good to hear it in just any situation. For the next Tangerine Dream album we want to have it like 'Phaedra' for instance, where you can sit down and enjoy the music on your own.
EF: Often we have the situation in the studio where we've definitely finished a recording session, and then after listening to it, to the finished tape, we end up deciding that we can't use it. We start off feeling quite astonished at some of the things, and then they turn out to be nothing. It's a problem sometimes.
PB: On our albums, we have to add any new developments on top of the basic idea, because you listen more often to a record than you do to a live concert of course. And so you want to enjoy it more than just once.
ZZ: In the music press in this country you've had a lot of very good reaction, but you've also had a certain amount of criticism because of the lack of guts and aggression in your music.
EF: I should like to ask you, or maybe the people who wrote that, why music must be aggressive? You have only to walk outside your house and there is so much aggression around; or you only have to read the newspapers and you find aggressive things too; why must we have all that in our music? We definitely don't want to have aggressive tendencies in our music.
FUTURE PLANS FOR THE BAND
ZZ: Both Christoph and Peter are formulating solo album ventures, would you care to tell us a little about these?
Christoph Franke (CF): We start them next year, January or February. What I’m doing on this record I’m not sure. It will be similar to the music of Tangerine Dream but it is a chance to present my own ideas that I can't use in the group. I want to use some ideas for compositions for special instruments that I can't use live on stage, only in studio work. Also there is part of a composition made with a computer.
ZZ: Are you going to be playing all the instruments yourself ?
CF: Yes, on a multi-track recorder.
ZZ: And what about Peter's solo album?
PB: Well basically it will be things l want to perform outside of Tangerine Dream . . . something that is very necessary for an artist, because if we put all our ideas into a group then it would explode. It will not be as calm as the Tangerine Dream albums have been up till now. To explain to you in detail would need several hours. I haven't started on the tapes yet, I just make up the album in my mind.
ZZ: Have you any plans to visit America in the near future?
EF: Well yes, they're very keen to get us to America. Of course when we go over to the States we'll have to work a lot, because it's very expensive, but otherwise we are not interested in a full-time job of one or two months. If we had to tour all around the country everywhere, like England, Germany or America for one month, with concerts each night, the group would split, definitely. We have a lot of equipment and things; for example tuning the normal instruments with the keyboards and the synthesisers takes a great deal of time. No road managers can do it for us, they can't tune alI the instruments because it needs a lot of experience and so we have to do it ourselves, for each concert. That's one thing, the technical side of it, The other is that we can't improvise each night. So we have to agree between ourselves when we want to play.
ZZ: Have you any other schemes planned at present?
EF: Yes, we were in contact with some people who would like to make a film about the group, but not a film about three people just sitting there, playing their music. We are trying to investigate the possibilities of making a visual side of the music, and that's the problem. We've seen a lot of computer films,'we've seen a lot of films about groups, we've seen a lot of stuff like that, but nobody sofar has come up with a real combination of film and music.
PB: And that's why we need to hit the American charts to afford to be able to make our own three-dimensional films!
· KENNETH ANSELL
[The Germans' limited mastery of the Queen's English necessitated a certain amount of editing and re-writing of the above interview without altering its meaning.]
From ZIGZAG - The Rock Magazine 44, vol 5 no. 4, pages 39-43
OMM 556 004
EDGAR FROESE (6 & 12 string guitar, organ, piano, broken glass (!))
CLAUS SCHULTZE (percussion, whip, metal stick, burning parchment (!))
(Left to form Ash Ra Tempel, stayed for two albums before quitting to follow a solo career.)
CONNIE SCHNITZLER (2 guitars, cello, violin)
This probably isn't the album to use to introduce your friends to Tangerine Dream. Many cribs from Pink Floyd interspersed with the stylistically anarchic stabs of sound characteristic of the European school of 'free music" and a good deal of fine original material too. A bold, uncompromising debut album. Well worth the investment, even at import prices. A good half-hour can also be spent laughing at the sleeve notes by Hans-Ulrich Weigel.
OMM 556 012
EDGAR FROESE (guitar, gliss bass, ll. organ, voice, coffee machine)
CHRISTOPH FRANKE (pianoharp, percussion, lotos flute, zither synthesiser)
STEVE SCHROYDER (organ, voice, several echo machines, iron stick)
Also: Udo Dennebourg: flute, words
Roland Paulyck: synthesiser
Only Edgar remains from the first LP. Lf your friends don't like the gentle music of the current Tangerine Dream then play them this. A good album for Hawkwind devotees although infinitely superior musically. An album dedicated "to all people who feel obliged to space". This album has a depth and spatial feel that even Pink Floyd's electronic sorties have lacked. The flute work is beautiful in this electronic context (which should not perhaps be surprising as the flute produces almost a pure sine wave) , especially in 'Fly And Collision Of Comas Sola" at the last section of which a very stoned sounding voice begins speaking in German; I don't know what he's saying but i t sounds great! The LP ends as though the needle has been thrown off the
record and only echoes remain to find their way out of your stereo.
(Largo in 4 Movements)
EDGAR FROESE (gliss guitar, generator)
CHRISTOPH FRANKE (cymbals, VCS3 synthesiser, keyboards)
PETER BAUMANN (VCS3 synthesiser, organ, vibraphone)
Also: Steve Schroyder: organ
Florian Fricke: moog synthesiser
Christian Val lbracht, Hans Joachim Brune, Jochen von Grumbcow; Johannes Lucke: cellos
A double album on which the dropped electric guitar and percussion for the first time. Also the first album to bring together the current line-up. It is interesting, however, that Steve Schroyder still guests on the record. lt shows a keyboard-base trio tentatively experimenting with drones and shifting emphasis. It is a much bleaker LP than 'Alpha Centauri'. They build a slowly mobile foundation or base from which swell beautiful flurries of electronic sound that only fall back again. This is seems to suggest areas of total darkness broken by convulsions and slow movement, and any suggestion of light is soon quashed. A record to bore the pants off ageing neighbours, while the converted mutter "... a little self-indulgent.. .". I love it.
EDGAR FROESE (mellotron, guitar, organ, voice)
CHRISTOPH FRANKE (organ, VCS3 synthesiser, percussion, voice)
PETER BAUMANN (organ, VCS3 synthesiser, piano)
Here they re-introduce percussion into their midst as required; they even kick off side one with something within a million miles of a riff/drums format!! This music would have been perfect for Kubrick's "2001 – A
Space Odyssey" and all its astralscapes. One of John Peel's best records of 1973. Another essential purchase.
(1973 - Dec)
EDGAR FROESE (mellotron, guitar-bass, VCS3 synthesiser, organ)
CHRISTOPH FRANKE (organ, VCS3 synthesiser, percussion, voice)
PETER BAUMANN (organ, VCS3 synthesiser piano)
"Melting music" said Virgin Records' ad for this LP (the first album released in this country)', and that phrase sums it up perfectly. Sensuous, liquid, bubbling synthesised music. Perfectly relaxing music that you just close your eyes to and Just let it carry you. And despite Steve Lake's comments in Melody Maker you don't have to be stoned to listen to it! This album mounted the charts in this country without a single appearance here by the band, but with much assistance from the incomparable Mr Peel and steam radio
Also: Christoph Franke: Moog synthesiser and with "special sounds with the artificial head system by Gunther Brunschen "Edgar's solo album, although Christoph guests on one track. It is an extension of the musical ideas found on 'Phaedra' around the theme of water. In many ways there is far more bite to this than to its predecessor. Incorporates the Artificial Head recording system. You should listen to this one on headphones; an amazing experience.