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An interview with Manuel Göttsching (June 1996)

"The drug was: the music."

June 1996

Q: Please tell us why and how you release these unreleased tracks (The Private Tapes) now?

MG: I'm releasing these tracks now because I have two excellent partners, Mario Schönwälder of Manikin Records and Klaus D. Mueller as the producer. I simply felt that these two people would guarantee for high quality in producing and efficiency in distribution.

Q: Who owned this material?

MG: Me. I kept all these recordings in my archives for the private reason to remember always the roots and the development of my music.

Q: We suppose that there are some more previously unreleased tracks somewhere in the closet. Do you have any plans to release further material on CD?

MG: Yes, at the right time and with the right people.

Q: What kind of musical style was your aim before ASH RA TEMPEL?

MG: Beat and Blues. With my first two bands (before ASH RA TEMPEL) we interpreted popular songs by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Small Faces, the music of the mid sixties. Then we were attracted by blues music. The initial record was by a band called "Blue Cheer" (album Vincebus eruptum, 1968). My favourite guitar player then were Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Our music resembled a lot on the live versions of songs by the Cream (Spoonful, Crossroads...)

Q: Please tell us how ASH RA TEMPEL was formed.

MG: In summer of 1970 we bought huge secondhand sound equipment in London (the dealer told us it was formerly used by Pink Floyd). We met KLAUS SCHULZE in our rehearsal studios in Berlin. He had just quit TANGERINE DREAM, and we decided to form a (new) band. We only played two or three sessions together, we invited some friends, and then we started to perform. The idea was to combine blues influenced improvisations and new sounds, created by our traditional instruments, guitar, bass and drums.

Q: We are surprised by the unreleased material of this era for its musical style. Was that all composed or improvised?

MG: I always tried to play a great variety of styles. I like to combine both elements - composition and improvisation. These early recordings and concerts in the original lineup with Schulze and Enke were radically improvised.

Q: Had your music something to do with drugs?

MG: The drug was the music.

Q: Do you remember something special about the German rock scene at this time? Where there many other bands who played like ASH RA TEMPEL?

MG: In 1969/70 many bands in Germany wanted to create their own style. Only a few were successful and survived. ASH RA TEMPEL always tried not to compromise on a musical or economical premises.

Q: Timothy Leary had passed away. Please tell us how you worked together, and about his influence.

MG: Timothy Leary had written a concept for "seven levels of consciousness". We went to meet him in Switzerland with a (quite chaotic) big band of ten people, in summer 1972. Leary was guiding the session with gentle hands. He even started to sing on some tracks, which was not planned. For me it was a pleasant surprise to see how simple Tim Leary moderated a situation that seemed rather hopeless to me before.

Q: Tell us about the recording of the Tarot and the Cosmic Jokers albums, please.

MG: Because the producer of my record label Ohr was much impressed by the Leary production, he wanted to continue in the same style. A Swiss painter had inspired him to create an album about the subject of the Tarot cards. A selection of Ohr musicians met in December 1972 for the recording. A nice side-effect was that the original three members of ASH RA TEMPEL met again and created the album Join Inn.
In 1973 Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser (the producer) continued to gather those musicians in the studio for jam sessions. Some of these Cosmic Jokers sessions were later released against the will of many of those musicians.

Q: Please tell us how you met Rosi and how she influenced your musical career.

MG: I met Rosi in 1971 and fell in love. She accompanied the band on many occasions but she never wanted to be in the spotlight (but in private!). Finally, I convinced her to record the Starring Rosi album. She was my inspiring muse and took care of the public relation for 10 long years.

Q: Inventions for Electric Guitar has been made only with guitar. Where did the idea come from?

MG: I decided to build my own studio to have more time for experiments. Inventions... was the album that I recorded at the time when my "studio" consisted only of my guitar and two tape recorders.

Q: What made you interested in electronic instruments?

MG: It was just the time... and thanks to my father I always had a special liking for technical devices.

Q: In the seventies most synthesizers had no memory function. We suppose that you spent much energy and time to re-create your material in concerts. How did you play live, actually?

MG: Yes indeed, it was difficult and time consuming to get those first synthesizers to do what I wanted them to do. Much of improvisation was required. I just gave my best and prayed.

Q: Why did you change the band's name from ASH RA TEMPEL to ASHRA?

MG: ASH RA TEMPEL was the name for the original line up with Klaus Schulze/Hartmut Enke/Manuel Göttsching. I continued to use it until 1976 because my music was known under this name. In 1977 I signed with Virgin Records and they recommended shortening the long name to ASHRA. As ASHRA I formed then a new band with Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf.

Q: Please give us some comments about your albums New Age of Earth, Blackouts, Correlations and Belle Alliance.

MG: With New Age of Earth - where I played many keyboards and synthesizers - I wanted to create a contrast to the guitar loaded Inventions.... When New Age of Earth was released worldwide, Virgin wanted me to do a concert in London. There I introduced Lutz and Harald as new members of the band.
Blackouts was again a solo recording with the guitar in the foreground. With the Blackouts material I toured with Lutz and Harald in Europe. Also we decided to record an album together, which was Correlations.

Correlations was recorded under my direction, but our next album Belle Alliance was a true collaboration of all three band members.

Q: We are wondering if a kind of "trance" feeling has been your main concept throughout your musical career?

MG: I never labelled my music. I leave that to the listeners or to the media. Your perception is maybe right, but in relation to my music you should not use the word "trance" since that's a creation of today.

Q: We like to have some comments on your later albums.

MG: Walkin' The Desert was conceived for a concert event in June 1988 at the Berlin Planetarium. The four main themes of that composition were then released in 1989.
Dream & Desire was recorded for a radio play in 1977, but never released on disc before 1991.
With Lutz and Harald I recorded Tropical Heat in 1986, and this was also released only five years after.

Q: You worked with KLAUS SCHULZE on his In Blue album. How did this happen?

MG: Klaus phoned me in December 1994 and asked me to join. I said yes, and one week later I popped in his studio, and we played two days.

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