Everything's Gone Green
Hans Joachim Roedelius
Roedelius explains the necessity of home recording and why he's addicted to the colour green!
Chris Everard talks to Roedelius, a pioneer who still believes in the artistic values of home recording.
Hans Joachim Roedelius is scared of flying, a piece of trivia unremarkable in itself, significant only in that we consequently never expected him to journey to the British Isles. When EG, his new record label, managed to persuade him to spend two days travelling across Europe and the English Channel to promote Gift Of The Moment, we thought that the least we could do was listen to what he had to say.
On our meeting Achim gives out an air of quietness and calm and we began by discussing modern equipment technology and the equipment used on his latest album. "This record is almost totally done using acoustic instruments... I play grand piano, accordion, acoustic guitar and electric guitar and bass... and I used the vocoder (Roland Vocoder Plus) and a Korg Poly 61... the vocoder is a beautiful instrument, wonderful..."
Surprisingly he seemed unaware of the advances which have recently fundamentally changed the electronic instrument scene, such as MIDI. He enthused over the Korg MS20 synthesizer, a piece of equipment which Roedelius has relied upon greatly in the past. "I bought an MS20 for 9,000 Austrian schillings in 1980, which is about 1,300 German marks — that's £300, it's a pity because there is no second-hand market in my country..."
So the new album isn't electronic, but it does stand as being probably the most successful attempt at integrating electronically produced sounds with acoustic instruments. In a sense this is a project which is a true Roedelius record, but also is the product of a collaboration in music with two other musicians — cellist Arjen Uittenbogaard and Tjitse Letterie on violin. Roedelius is no stranger to collaborations — having been a part of several of music's most important ones — namely, Cluster, Harmonia and also works with Brian Eno, Holger Czukay, Conrad Schnitzler and Peter Baumann.
He agreed with me that Kluster as it began and Cluster as it ended was a development that had possessed distinctive stages though he commented that the 'end' was overlong, "Cluster should have stopped with Sowiesoso — that was a great album... there is where we should have stopped..."
"Each album has its own parts which when put together go to make an overall feeling or mood..."
To enjoy, one must listen — to the whole, and experience the textures and moods created through the sounds and music all in one go. Shutting yourself away in an open room, with the lights out in the middle of the night, wearing headphones is a great way of feeling After the Heat and Gift of the Moment — especially when you're on the edge of sleep. Commerciality has never been a consideration...
'I've never worried about the music being able to sell well, I know people who have worried and tried to put the music second to popularity... Peter Baumann has tried it since Transharmonic Nights... I do not worry..." It shows, as there are what some would term as self-indulgent chunks in Roedelius' music — the Selbstportrait series of records for one — but never has the music been mismanaged or forcefully moulded into something which is designed to appeal.
How do you approach recording?
"I have a grand piano at home and the basic album tracks were recorded there using a Revox A77 in stereo at 7½ips, I made sure I got 'space' on the tape, then I went into the studio in Rotterdam and transferred the stereo recording onto one track of the 4-track — the album was done on 4-track with dbx — and then I started adding to the music using the different instruments..."
To many of us this sort of technology would only be employed in our bedrooms for sticking down 'demos' ready for the day when someone will pay for you to go into a 24-track — or even 48 track studio to record the material 'properly' — Gift of the Moment does not suffer from what we look upon as being backward and an unforgivable lack of presence — it thrives and nourishes itself on the limitations of such a facility. Roedelius seems to pull all he can out of even the simplest of sounds and come up with something sounding so good that you can hear that nothing else is needed to make the [Line missing from text]
At the top of Roedelius' shopping list is, at the moment, a Mellotron and then ultimately his own multitrack set-up, "It would be ideal for me to work at home... music comes from moments... I have to be looking at the colour green, it helps me to compose... I must be free from outside noises like traffic too... that's a terrible distraction..." I point out the problems with transporting Mellotrons, "Edgar (Froese) offered me his old Mellotron for 500 marks, I would very much like to own one, they are still making them." He assured me that he wouldn't be working with Brian Eno or Moebius again, but he is planning some material with a saxophonist called Alexander Czjzek who has released two albums.
"Nearly everyone at EG likes the music and they pay great attention to it and to me, I feel very secure here and I'm looking forward to the future... the guy in charge of Sky records did no promotion, no public relations, he just had the records pressed and waited to see if they sold... it was all by chance — he didn't even bother about the music — I asked him once how he felt about the music and he said he didn't even like it.
"A ballet group in Vienna have asked me to start thinking about composing some music for them to perform to at an open air festival in Italy. There will be fireworks and the music should go along with them. I won't be playing there though, I want to play live, but just with piano — I'm a pianist now!"
Interview by Chris Everard
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