Our Band's Not Electric: Edgar Froese From Tangerine Dream Interviewed
, March 12th, 2010 08:03
Tangerine Dream's Edgar Froese talks to The Quietus about Salvador Dali, the paucity of German music and his straight edged lifestyle. See below for a chance to win classic TD albums on heavyweight vinyl...
Some very exciting news hit The Quietus offices recently. No, we're not talking about the new album by The Fall, but instead the vinyl reissues of Phaedra and Rubycon by experimental German heavyweights Tangerine Dream. With a career spanning over 40 years and an intimidating discography of tip-top albums, the vision of Edgar Froese has been responsible for some of the most important and innovative records of the last half-century.
The Quietus got in touch with Edgar to discuss his childhood in post-war Prussia, his friendship with Salvador Dali and his no drink, no drugs and no meat lifestyle. Just don't call his band 'electronic'...
You were born in East Prussia in 1944, so towards the end of the Second World War. What was it like growing up in Germany at that time? What are your earliest memories of childhood? What was your first exposure to music?
Edgar Froese: People my age have grown up with all the post-war memories. Privations on all levels of a daily life were normal. I personally never felt I was part of a specific nationality. I was a so-called cosmopolitical person from day one.
Musically, I started taking piano lessons at the age of 12 but didn’t follow that sort of “hardcore entertainment”. Turning into lots of guitar playing adventures at the age of 15, I became part of bands performing in Navy and Soldier Clubs around Berlin in the mid sixties.
From all accounts, it seems that originally your creative pursuits were artistic rather than musical - for example, you enrolled at the Academy of Arts in West Berlin. What were your aspirations as an artist, and even now, do you regard yourself as an artist in the traditional sense rather than a musician? And if that's true, how do you regard what you do as being different to other musicians?
EF: Being a trained sculptor I was used to dealing with big rocks - I found it rather difficult to express myself musically. So I built that bridge between hammering on rocks and playing piano and guitar by being a painter also. I used to work on big canvas formats and had several exhibitions even during my time being a student at art school. But finally the music became a stronger focus point in my life. Even today I still try to express myself by painting a lot and working on computer graphics.
I'm really interested in the path your career took after you played at Salvador Dali's villa with your first band The Ones. What happened to The Ones, and why did they split up? What was your first meeting with Dali like, and what was your relationship with him like? What kind of influence did he have on you artistically, and what was he like to be around as a person? I think you can definitely trace a link between the constant surreal experimentation of his work and your own...
EF: The Ones were a two years adventure and the guys I played with had no interest in following my experimental path into the different worlds of music. Dali was quite a big influence in my life because his philosophy of being as original and authentic as possible had touched me very intensively at that time. As he used to be incomparable I invested a lot of time, too, in training myself to follow such a philosophical path. When I met Dali the first time I was 22, a youngster who knew immediately that nearly everything is possible in art as long as you have a strong belief in what you’re doing.
You're back on the road with Tangerine Dream again this year, with a live show planned in the UK in April. Where does the motivation to keep working come from? A lot of your previous live shows were renowned for being pretty intense. What do you have planned this time around?
EF: Live performances are more than just being bread and butter. It’s the musical adventure being face to face with those people who support your ideas, your music and finally even your lifestyle. It’s like giving back something to those who admired our work for more than four decades now. Our UK Show will include a lot of visual effects as well as many sounds and tunes our fans will remember. Some little surprises will go along with a real state of the art high tech performance.
Tangerine Dream have been one of electronic music's most innovative bands for the past 40 years, yet I've read that you're not a fan of other electronic music. Why? And if so, what attracted you to electronic music - and what do you feel you do differently to other electronic bands? Is it true that you're more a fan of music such as Motown?
EF: We’ve never ever created “electronic music”! Such music emphasizes the intellect and is normally produced as a pure studio event. Working with synthesizers is a completely different approach to electrified music. We’re open to all kinds of modern music developments and wouldn’t be interested in the locked up situation you’re into while working in a musical ivory tower. Of course, I love the guitar a lot, Motown stuff as well as modern progressive rock music. Finally it’s all a crossover within all musical landscapes and if you’ve never stopped learning from others, you have always creative inputs for your own work.
I've also read that you're not massively keen on other German music. Why?
EF: That’s very true. There isn’t much music created in my home country I could feel sympathetic with. It’s partly my musical taste as well as my passion for experimental journeys in various directions. So, my fellow people are far too conservative to follow new ideas and structures in music. The only exception is the field of classical music – but that’s mostly historic and has nothing to do with contemporary movements.
Following on from that, how does it feel to be grouped in with bands such as Faust?
EF: Honestly, I never met Faust or most of the other so-called “Krautrock” ensembles. Leaving Germany in the early seventies, after recording Phaedra in the UK, I later moved to the States to become part of the scoring industry. So my knowledge about newer developments in Germany is very limited.
Would you consider yourself a more pan-European artist? what are your thoughts on artists such as Vangelis and Jean Michelle Jarre?
EF: If there is a true possibility of creating modern synthesized music without any mental barriers, I would consider myself as one of the strongest followers of such movement. It doesn’t matter if you call it Pan-European or Anglo-American or Contemporary Asian artistic development – it is always world music if you’re willing to follow not just the ethnic term. As far as Vangelis and Jarre are concerned, I’m of course familiar with what they’ve done during their career. For their serious approach towards an individual musical expression, I respect them a lot.
A few years ago you decided to change to a very clean cut lifestyle - no drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes, and vegetarianism. Why did you make that lifestyle change? Is it not hard to be so straight edged in the music world?
EF: There is no other way to work on all these different platforms of the music business. You can’t work 14-16 hours per day on your musical visions if you're getting drunk or being a drug addicted person at the same time. It would never work. So I’ve been a veggy most of my lifetime and have not smoked or drunk for almost 35 years now. But that’s a decision every artist has to deal with on a personal subjective level.
Tickets for the Royal Albert Hall 'Zeitgeist Concert' on 1st April can be obtained throught the boxoffice – 0845 401 5045 or online through www.seetickets.com, www.tangerinedream.com or www.royalalberthall.com
The classic TD albums Phaedra & Rubycon are being reissued on heavyweight Vinyl by EMI on March 29.
For a chance to win one of three sets of albums answer the following questions:
An early band of Edgar's featured which other mainstay of German experimental music?
A, Klaus Schulze
B, Conrad Plank
C, Michael Rother
D, Holger Czukay