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An interview with Manuel Göttsching (1996)

"There's something wrong with an art that needs to be described."

1996, revised in 1997

Q: What were your early influences?

Manuel: I had some years of classical guitar training when I was a child. My interest in music was the same as with most young people when they are teenagers, I think. Influences? When I was a teenager, I was listening to the usual rock and pop music of that era, STONES, BEATLES, SMALL FACES, WHO, FLEETWOOD MAC, YARDBIRDS... and when we started to do music, we tried to copy this music. I wanted to play drums, but we had already a drummer. Therefore, I was the singer. I was then 14 or 15 years old. Shortly after, I also played guitar.

Q: What are your creative approaches to writing music?

Manuel: Creative approaches to writing? I sit in my studio and start to play. An idea comes. I try to play with it. Sometimes, some nice things come out of it, sometimes not, and sometimes something completely different comes out of it.

Q: Why is it sometimes "Ash Ra Tempel", "Ashra" or even "Manuel Göttsching"?

Manuel: I shortened the group name ASH RA TEMPEL to ASHRA when I signed with Virgin Records in the mid seventies. The "Tempel" had always such a religious touch - even if this was not at all intended, it was just a fancy name that no other group had.
Under the ASHRA heading I do mainly music with others (Lutz and Harald, mostly), but also as soloist, and under my own name I do solo music, but also collaborations. You see, there is no strict rule for it. The difference can be bigger between two ASHRA albums than between an ASHRA and a MANUEL GÖTTSCHING. Does this make some sense? No?! Sorry, I cannot help. This is not so important. Sometimes I work as ASHRA, sometimes as M.G.

Q: How do you conceive the project COSMIC JOKERS? Was there any composition process?

Manuel: I did not "conceive the project COSMIC JOKERS". This was a product of the producer and owner of the OHR label, Mr. Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser. He invited the musicians from the label and some friends to big parties in a studio, let them all have fun (and dangerous drugs sometimes), and play. Kaiser recorded it all and later made albums from it, partly by remixing it in a very strange way - and without asking the involved artists. Some of the musicians - EDGAR FROESE and KLAUS SCHULZE for instance - didn't like this procedure and the results at all and went to court. "Composition process"? There wasn't any. It was just a playing around by people who partly didn't know what they were doing, and didn't know that records were made. Even strangers and non-musicians were present and played sometimes.

Q: How do you know when a piece of music is finished?

Manuel: It's the job and the responsibility of the artist: He just knows when a piece of art is finished. Therefore, he's an artist. Got it?

Q: How does your music change in the course of time? What are the influences?

Manuel: "The times they are a-changing". Besides, the fashions are changing, the public is changing. The artist grows, gets older and changes too. It's a normal process in life. Very simple but also very complex. The influences are multifold and mutual. It's not an obvious thing I can tell a big story about.

Q: You are a pioneer of trance music. What do you think?

Manuel: I have other interests than sitting at home and thinking about being the "pioneer of trance music". If people say so, it's okay and fine. I can live with that.
We did what we did then, and we enjoyed it. Today we don't run around telling everybody: "We are the forefathers, the pioneers!" This feeling have people who look at it from the outside, or journalists who never know a thing, but never the people who live in it, and who actually did or do something. And I hope that the music which we did was a bit more substancial than most of what is sold today as "techno" or "trance". It's so easy to make meaningless & boring music and say: Oh, this is intended, it is "trance". Bullshit! One year ago the same was probably sold als "new age"? The loud and fast "boum tsik, boum tsik, boum tsik" of techno just goes on my nerves.

Q: Why did you release The Private Tapes CDs?

Manuel: The main reason for the release of The Private Tapes was Klaus D. Mueller. He had the idea, he asked me if I also like the idea, and then we searched through some of my old tapes from the seventies, copied eights hours on DAT, and kdm did the rest. I got paid good. As far as I know about the reactions from fans and the press, people love it. I think it was quickly sold out. Because by some accident it fell into a temporary "Krautrock" fashion? ...or was it our release who causes this little fashion? ...together with very similar releases that Klaus did for KLAUS SCHULZE using old tapes by my old pal?

Q: How came the E2-E4 album?

Manuel: In November 1981 I was invited by Klaus Schulze to play guitar on his European concert tour. I did so and we enjoyed it (See Schulze's Historic Edition and Jubilee Edition sets). When the tour was finished, and I was back home, I was still in a playing mood. Therefore, I sat down and played one long piece of music. Just for myself. At one go. No multitrack, no replay, no nothing. I sent a tape copy to Klaus Schulze. Three years later, KS had his own label Inteam, and he remembered this tape and asked me if he can release this one hour track on his label... I said yes, and Klaus Schulze released then E2-E4. Of course, the correct title must be with two small "e": "e2-e4", because it's named after the chess game's most common opening move. The expression "e2-e4" was a private joke then among some friends of mine. The album didn't sell well. Three years later, Schulze's label went bankrupt, and then, slowly and funnily, people began to notice E2-E4. It's still a steady seller.

Q: What is your feeling about playing in concerts?

Manuel: After a very long pause we played in Japan last February (1997). It was great, because we decided before not to play "the old stuff" but in a more modern style. It was a wise decision. It was much more fun, for us and for the audience. "We" means: the classic ASHRA trio of Lutz, Harald, and me, and in addition we had a young guy called Steve with us. Good man. There will be more concerts like that soon.

Q: What will you do next? What do you think will be in ten years?

Manuel: At the moment I have to think about the mix of our Japan concerts for a CD release. Then there are these offers to make more concerts, in Germany and in England... and some of them we will do.
But of course, and honestly, I don't know what will be in 10 years. Nobody knows.

Q: Tell me about your very influencial guitar playing style, please.

Manuel: How can I talk about my "guitar playing style"? I do play guitar. That's all. One must not speak about everything. There's something wrong with an art that needs to be described.
Authentical "very influencial" guitar players of our time are maybe CARLOS SANTANA, ERIC CLAPTON, and, above all: B.B. KING. They really influenced thousands of other guitar players. Also, CHARLIE CHRISTIAN, who "invented" the electric solo guitar sixty years ago... and all the black guitar pickers from the twenties to the fifties... What about WES MONTGOMERY? EDDIE LANG? JIMI HENDRIX? They are the names that changed the way a guitar is to be played, and at the same time they changed the course of music, worldwide. Don't forget DJANGO REINHARDT. He was supreme!
And that's "only" the domain of pop & jazz. There is a lot of more music, there is Segovia...

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