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|> Interview: Conrad Schnitzler | Kluster

Conrad Schnitzler - interviewed by David Elliott.
     - Eurock #16
| 6/80

D: When did you first become interested in electronics? Have you any influences, such as Stockhausen?

CS: Yes, it's a central European idea to do this sort of music. When I heard this music first I was 14; music from Stockhausen...all music; I was interested in all music, but I liked very much the new music, because there's not so much melody and I liked the way how it works. I heard this music in a night school in Duesseldorf and Cologne, and there was a person at the night school who liked all this new electronic music.
It was a very funny thing at the time. At that time it was very interesting, but I have forgotten all about this now. I mean, I hear music from this time on the radio and from friends, but it was not such an experience for me I think. I was an artist, a sculptor. I used photographs and films. I was not directly working with people; like now - because I don't do concerts then. I haven't made always make music, as I have learnt nothing from my father. He was a musician, but he hated it, if I
touched anything.

D: Did he play conventional instruments?

CS: Yes, violin and piano. He did some composing for orchestra, but I learned nothing from him. I started doing music without knowing anything. I can't play an instrument. What I do is total improvisation, which is why ?I'm interested in the new sounds you can do with electronics; but I started with normal instruments - piano and cello.

D: Do you still dabble around with conventional instruments?

CS: Yes, but it was a great day, when we included electronics. There was a group of 3 or 4 people who played very quiet music; cellos, violins, tubas; and the guy with the violin was always very unhappy, because it was too quiet. He took a very small amplifier and this was the start of my work with electronics. I was interested! It was fantastic! So I bought the next one up in size. This now comes to a peak with someone like Klaus Schulze. I mean, it's too much!

D: When did you set up the Zodiac Club?

CS: I built it in '69. You know, just at the time when it was almost a new decade. I did concerts together with Edgar Froese and Chris Franke. It was a good club...it was full of experience for me.

D: Was it very loud?

CS: Yes! We got in trouble because of the noise, the smoking and the "scene" - but it was a very good scene.

D: Did you perform here with "Kluster"?

CS: Yes, it was the group I founded. We started with Roedelius and Boris at the "Zodiac". Boris is starting to do music again now, but he flipped around too much at the time.

D: Your first record was with Edgar Froese and Klaus Schulze?

CS: No, the first was with "Kluster", then at the same time I did this other one with Edgar. We did a tape earlier, when we got some machines and lights, but we were fighting a lot about it, because they were rock musicians. They liked to play this kind of rock music. So all the concepts were running away.

D: Did you enjoy playing with Edgar on "Electronic Meditation"?

CS: Sometimes we did fantastic things, but they were playing against me. Klaus didn't know anything about the music. I was much older than him and Edgar was in-between. I found it easier with Chris Franke than with Klaus,
because he was very interested.

D: Then you went on to start "Kluster"?

CS: Yes, it all started at the "Zodiac Club" in 1969 because there was something THERE and Roedelius and me played with Moebius then using instruments, amps and echoes.

D: Did you enjoy doing "Klopfzeichen" and "Kluster Zwei - Osterei"?

CS: Yes, we had a fantastic time. Moebius and Roedelius had all the drums and electronics and they asked me if I wanted to do a record. So I said 'ok' and got a concert planned for 24 hours and it was good from the very first minute on. A lot of feedback and all those crackling sounds. The record was sponsored by the church. I discovered an advertisement in the newspaper from an organist who was interested in new music.
As I knew this guy from the time I lived in Düsseldorf, we went over there and played the tape to him. He said, "this is good, do you want to do a record?" We said, "That's ok." He continued, "But it's for the church; you'll have to include some texts on one side of the record." So we agreed. If you don't understand the German words, it sounds better. It's good for English-speaking people, because they don't understand the German language. Have you heard the record?

D: Yes.

CS: What do you think of the German words?

D: I don't understand them.

CS: That's good. If you know what it means, you'll find it terrible.

D: When did you do "Kluster Zwei - Osterei"?

CS: At the same time. We came into the studio and the equipment and microphones were already checked. Conny Plank did it.

D: Did he do "Klopfzeichen" too?

CS: Yes, he did both of them. We said we'll do two 20 minute-long pieces; just show us the time in between. So we just played solid and saw nobody. We did those two records in one day. Only the voice on the second record had been recorded later.

D: When did you form "Eruption"?

CS: It was during the time after my work with Edgar and "Tangerine Dream". Some guys said to me, "Let's do something together", but nobody wanted to organize anything, so I had to start all this shit, you know - to get people together.

D: Do you get fed up with organizing?

CS: Yes. So anyway we got 10 musicians together; rock musicians, freejazz and electronic musicians - all together. We did some really interesting things.

D: You did a private cassette with "Eruption"?

CS: No, that was the last concert with Moebius and Achim (Roedelius). It was called "Kluster & Eruption", but that was before the "Eruption" group got together.(Note: this recording also known as SCHWARZ has been re-released on CD in 1997 with the correct title as KLUSTER - "Eruption" on "Marginal Talent"/Germany)

D: Then you did 3 solo albums?

CS: No, the first one was with Achim and Moebi, called SCHWARZ (see note above) and then came ROT and BLAU.

D: Do you like the music of "Cluster" now?

CS: Yes, I like it, especially the first record. I would say that Achim and Moebi are the only musicians who are making records that I really like; because I know the way Achim started. He learned from our start, and then I saw the change and worked with others - and he became more popular, I like it. I was in the studio at the time they were working on "Grosses Wasser". There Achim said to me, "If I could work again like you it would be better.."
Because he plays more melodic things today and he states, that he has to do more of it...Probably he's not the chief of his music; it's his wife.

D: When did you do the 50 hour concert?

CS: After I've recorded BLAU I did this in René Block's Gallery. Everyday for 3 hours, for 16 days. It was very quiet there. In Stuttgart I did this for 4 weeks - every day for about 10 hours. The machine was running and if I didn't like what's coming out, I changed the sound a bit.

D: Did you record the concert at the Block Gallery?

CS: Yes, I recorded 100 tapes. The concert included nearly the same music all the time; I didn't change the actual sounds on the equipment that much - just added a few more to it.

D: What did you do between this and the release of "CON"?

CS: I did so much, you know. I'm not only a performer of sounds. If I'm in the kitchen and do some cooking or I do something totally different - it's a piece of my art. It's my life.

D: Do you do concerts and play your videos along with music?

CS: No, not in the way of a music concert, more like a performance.

D: When did you meet up with Peter Baumann?

CS: After his split from Tangerine Dream he started the "Paragon"-studio and it was then that he asked if I'd like to do something and I said ok. So we did
the "CON" LP. I brought in some tracks from home and he accepted it.

D: They were earlier tracks of yours?

CS: Yes, from the "Red Cassette".

D: What were your feelings about doing an album to be released worldwide?

CS: You know, it was kind of funny. I sat in my dark cellar-room - no money, and all started there. It's a good deal, it's not much money what I got, but everybody knows me now. (still debatable 20 years later. Everybody SHOULD know Conrad Schnitzler now.)

D: It was well received in England.

CS: You know the music I do is not so popular.

D: Not for the majority, but the small minority really likes it.

CS: Yes, I like that too. People who go into the record-shop looking for some special record. I do my music for these people. If nobody wants to buy my stuff, then it's no problem, I'll do it for myself, like before.

D: What do you think of "Tangerine Dream's" music today?

CS: I don't hear any music, as I have no record player. I only listen to music from the radio sometimes and if they play TD-music it's just background. For me it's not experimental enough, it's for people who like all this "la..
la..la..la.." I can't do this, because I can't play an instrument. Maybe if I could play and I've learned to play piano, I'd play the same shit. I do music how it comes, more like a direct happening - like catching something I know I want to do.

D: Do you have a certain amount of rhythm though, like on "Ballet Statique"?

CS: Yes, that has a strictly echo-rhythm. That was a funny thing. I went into the studio, carrying nothing with me and Peter said "Oh, why haven't you brought any stuff? - You can use my Synthi." He showed me how it works and
so we started. And probably only being curious about all the possibilities with the machines, I started the echo machine. The melody was finished and we added only one sound to it - a "ping". This came from an earlier cassette. The other rhythms came from a rhythm machine. I just got a sequencer, for testing things.

D: Did you use the sequencer on "Zug"?

CS: No, just rhythm machine with echoes and ring modulation. On "Metall I" I really freaked out using a harmonizer. Peter showed me how to use it; I did an organ cluster, put it through the harmonizer and it came out like that.

D: Do you pick a title according to what the music sounds like?

CS: Sometimes, or maybe just because the words are interesting. On my next record I'm going to use only numbers, because I numbered my tapes for the sounds, since this was the only way I could keep track of them - there are so many.

D: What is the long tube-shaped object in the photos on the back of "CON"?

CS: It's a normal tube with a cassette-recorder inside. The sound changes in the tube. It's a small art piece.

D: What plans do you have for the future?

CS: My future is the same as the world's future.

D: You don't want to be more famous?

CS: I think I'll lead my life like I've done before. Whatever comes - I'll take it. If you're in the "Business" and run after money, it kills you - all this stress. If I don't do music, I do something else: texts, films, performance
- whatever I want.

David Elliott | Eurock #16 | 6/80

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