[EM Resources]


Interview with Edgar Froese in Vienna
by John Fulham, July, 1th 1994

John: Are there things that were musically important for Tangerine Dream in the Seventies, by which you still can be recognised today?

Edgar: The reasons for making music will always be the same, regardless of how long you've worked in the business. What does change, however, are the working conditions. With today's technology and the experience of many years of composing, it has become more interesting to carry out ideas. Everything is more direct and today it is possible to translate the ideas one has in one's head fairly exactly and make them audible. This used to be a lot more complicated and often frustrating as far as the old conservative technology was concerned. If you listen closely, you will still discover stylistic devices in the rythms and in the harmonies characteristic of Tangerine Dream's style 25 years ago.

John: At the beginning of the Seventies, you stopped using conventional instruments and proceeded to work with synthesizers only. Have you ever regretted taking this step?

Edgar: No, we never regretted this step, because a further developement in the direction synthesizers took in the Seventies would never have been possible without this consistency. In 1971, when we gave the first concert performed with synthesizers only, no one had ever before seen this kind of a stage setup. It revolutionised the entire music businnes and the result was, that we initialized / initiated a huge industry over the last 20 years. Of course, not everything was positive - but yet synthesizers were the only way to pursue new directions of musical composition and performance.

John: Does Tangerine Dream's music have anything to do with the term »German rock music«?

Edgar: No - German rock music always has to do with German lyrics. Tangerine Dream never set any German lyrics to music. Besides, TD's stylistic devices do not have their roots in German pop music, rather they developed autonomously in connection with the instruments that were employed, especially sequencers.

John: Did a similar music exist before Tangerine Dream, for example in England or in the USA?

Edgar: No, simply because the instruments with which TD composed didn't exist then. TD are actually and factually the original of this musical direction, although many plagiarists today don't want to accept this.

John: When was a sequence played by TD for the first time, like the sequencers which appeared later on Phaedra or Rubycon arranged with Moog sequencers?

Edgar: This can be answered very precisely. Besides guitar, I sometimes played bass guitar with the formation The Ones in 1966. Back then, we had those bizarre reverb and delays from the German company Echolette. I often played bass through this effect and I could get a sequencer effect by the doubling delay of the bass notes. Even back then, I dreamed of owning a piece of equipment which could be programmed and which could produce notes with different lengths and pitch, a Back fugue bass for modern, popular music, so to say. And it took another 7 years for this dream to come true. There is a passage reminiscent of the original idea with the bass guitar from 1966 which can be heard for two minutes on the first side of Phaedra. Perhaps someone noticed this.

John: Have you ever received extra percentages in the last 20 years for your pioneering ideas which turned the entire music industry upside down, especially from the Japanese industry, who are the largest manufacturers of such synthesizers and sequencers?

Edgar: Korg was the only Japanese company who reacted very positively by providing us with hardware - all the other companies' behaviour was embarassing. One should know that copyright laws as we know them in Europe and in the USA don't exist in Japan. In some ways we were shocked about the scrupulous philosophy of the big manufacturers - this was no longer the Japan of spirituality and respectful pride. Business has become undignified. This comes from someone who has always loved the Japanese and when it comes to their old culture, still does today.

John: There has always been journalists who maintain that you couldn't make music without synthesizers!?

Edgar: That's absolute nonsense. Synthesizers have a frequency spectrum which lies above and below the normal acoustic instrument's range. Beside, if a musician has learned over years how to operate a synthesizer, then he is capable of quickly changing the parameters of a sound and discovering completely new possibilities. That's why we use this equipment. But this only makes sense, when the composer is well acquainted with the language of music. TD's musicians are not dummies who only know how to turn knobs - this is an idiotic idea of some journalists. We are skilled musicians on the acoustic piano or on the acoustic guitar as well.

John: Could one say that the music changed a lot with the developement of electronic instruments?

Edgar: Instruments are easier to use today. So the composing process has become quicker. Ideas can be realised more quickly and more directly. Certainly, you come up with new ideas about how music can sound in space, if your equipment offers the prerequisites. On the other hand, the compositions - analogue like the composer - should have an unmistakeable identity, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the developement of technology. Just as the kind of car you drive doesn't reflect if you are a good or bad driver.

John: Will the techno and ambient scene be the new, modern music of the Nineties?

Edgar: The same thing will happen, that always happens to what's fashionable. Maybe it's totally hip for an office worker, a college student, or a druggie to have his arms and legs whirl about at 160 bpm. In time this will be absolutely conservative junk, because in 2 years there will be a completely different trend in music. Anyone who mentions techno then, will be written off as being completely out of it. I personally dislike the uniformed mass trends and this idiotic musical herding instinct. A consumer can still be an indivdualist - there can be creativity in the day to day routine.

John: If it couldn't be prevented - for whatever reasons - and you had to categorize TD's music, what category would you feel comfortable in?

Edgar: Categories tend to be small, narrow, and closed in. TD's music has nothing in common with this. None of the aspects of our music correlates to such a limited category. That's why the music doesn't fit in anywhere - to the annoyance of journalists who keep thinking up new descriptions, which fail to describe the character of the music. We are living in an era, where everything is damned to become uniformed, standardized to the masses. But true creativity doesn't follow standards and patterns, it is completely individual. Truly timeless works of artists - whether there are painters, writers, musicians, etc. - can be recognized on a certain solitariness which accompanies the unique character of their work.

John: Does composing ever become boring - after practicing it as a profession for over 25 years?

Edgar: There are moments of frustration, when one is unable to optimally translate mental ideas into audible musical ideas. But this has nothing to do with boredom. It is causally impossible for music to be boring - perhaps there are untalented composers, which put the buildingblocks of sound together in a boring fashion.

John: Your son is 24 years old and has been working with TD for the last 3 years. Is he able to relate to this music?

Edgar: Jerome was never very enthusiastic about the earlier TD material, e.g. Alpha Centauri, Zeit, Atem, etc. I don't think he's actually listened to them completely to this day. But he understood very early on, that you don't become an artist in order to become famous and make a quick buck. The fact that we both are musically on the same wavelength today is a very positive and seldom circumstance. Musically, it is certainly not a father/son relationship, but rather we respect each other as individual composers. And without any family sentimentality, Jerome is truly a natural talent - and his father didn't need to get stressed out for this to be the case.

John: Jerome plays many instruments - which one is of most importance of TD?

Edgar: The first thing Jerome got when he was 14 was a complete drumset and he's become quite a good drummer. He was later able to transfer this drumming technique to the computer and thereby comes up with good drumming arrangements. His guitar playing could be very good - unfortunately he is missing more training, which I find kind of a pity. Keyboard is his main instrument for composing and arranging. This is the most useful support at the moment. And since he's an absolute computer freak, he sometimes coes up with totally flipped out ideas, which you'd never find in any book of music theory.

John: You are always working with different band members whether on CD or live. Can you still be assured of musical continuity?

Edgar: Whoever has listened to our music will surely say yes. Every production and every tour creates new tasks for us. The skills of a studio musician may be of great importance for a studio production. A year later Jerome and I may be moving in a completely different direction. Imagine a band member always having to go along with our sometimes adventurous directions - meaning mental and of course technical areas - it would never work. So we keep choosing people internationally to collaborate with on certain productions. We simply need this freedom.

John: What direction will music take as this century comes to an end? Will there be a renaissance of emotions or perhaps music technology will dictate the future?

Edgar: Music is only meaningful to us humans, when it acts as a trigger in changing or altering our perception of the world. If our consciousness is not stimulated by the sounds, then the music has degenerated into the sounds of the barnyard. At the border of the third millenium, we are going to experience very strong movements in both directions. The one part of musicians and their audience will concentrate on a new consciousness and new sounds (it doesn't matter if these are electronic or acoustic!). The other category of musicians including their audience will keep stamping their feet around the barnyard, hoping for a petty burgeois entertainment paradise.

John: Thank you for this interview.

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