INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Astronauta Pinguim OCTOBER 26, 2012 - by Astronauta Pinguim
INTERVIEW WITH HANS-JOACHIM ROEDELIUS
Hans-Joachim Roedelius was born in Berlin on October 26, 1934. In fact, we can say that Roedelius' career as an artist began when he was a child and acted in some UFA movies in the late-'30s/early-'40s. But it was only after several different occupations in different areas (and living in different places all around Europe) that Roedelius began his career as a self-taught musician and recorded albums that changed lives and artistic/musical thoughts and minds all around the world!
In the late '60s Roedelius, Conrad Schnitzler and Boris Schaak founded the Zodiak Free Arts Lab (a place where a lot of bands were born or performed their first concerts, including Tangerine Dream, Ashra Tempel and Agitation Free) and the music commune Human Being (that recorded a live album at the Zodiak in 1968). The birthplace of Kluster - a trio formed by Conrad Schnitzler, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius - was the Hochschule für Bildenden Künste and the Gallery Hammer in Berlin (at the end of 1969). Kluster recorded three albums: Klopfzeichen (1970) and Zwei-Osterei (1971) - both produced by Conny Plank - and Eruption, a live album from their last performance as Kluster (Conrad Schnitzler left the trio in 1971 to begin a long solo career. Unfortunately Con died on August 4, 2011).
After Schnitzler's departure from Kluster, the duo Roedelius and Moebius changed the band's name to Cluster (spelled with C instead of K) and recorded Cluster 71 (1971) and Cluster II (1972), both also produced by their long-time collaborator, Conny Plank.
These albums show the transition from the initial Kluster sound to a more electronic approach that marked the Cluster sound on their third album (Zuckerzeit, 1974) and also in their new band Harmonia (formed by Roedelius, Moebius and ex-Kraftwerk/ex-Neu! guitarist Michael Rother). Harmonia recorded four albums between 1973 and 1976: Muzik Von Harmonia (1974), Live 1974 (released only in 2007), Deluxe (1975) and Tracks And Traces (with Brian Eno joining the band as a co-composer/musician, Tracks And Traces was recorded in 1976 but released only twenty years later, in 1997 and in 2009 again via Grönland Records).
After the end of Harmonia, Roedelius and Moebius recorded Cluster's fourth album, Sowiesoso (produced by Conny Plank in 1976) and in June 1977, Brian Eno returned to Germany to join Cluster and record the albums Cluster & Eno (released in 1977) and After The Heat (credited to Eno, Roedelius and Moebius, released in 1978). Roedelius and Moebius also collaborated on the track By This River, from Brian Eno's album Before And After Science (1977).
In 1978 Hans-Joachim Roedelius released his first solo album, Durch Die Wüste, begining his solo career parallel to Cluster. Jardin Au Fou, his second solo album, was released in 1979 and his third solo release, Selbsportrait (also from 1979), is the first of the Selbsportrait (or Self-Portrait, in English) albums, most of them recorded at his home (in the '70s) in Forst, Germany. Since that time Roedelius has released more than forty solo albums and several albums in collaboration with other artists (including Conrad Schnitzler in 2001).
Cluster disbanded for the first time in 1981 (Moebius also went on to a solo career) but reunited again two more times (from 1989 to 1997 and from 2007 to 2010). In 2011 Roedelius formed Qluster with musician Onnen Bock and released three albums during this third Kluster/Cluster/Qluster iteration (Fragen, Rufen and Antworten, all from 2011).
All of the albums recorded by Hans-Joachim Roedelius are great and essential to anyone who wants to discover (and rediscover again and again) how far music can go, searching for new horizons and breaking "established" rules! I had the pleasure of making contact with Roedelius for the first time in 2011 and it's awesome how this man is always gentle and kind when I send him an email. When I asked for this interview I didn't know that he was hospitalised after abdominal surgery (he mentioned it in the interview but I knew he was fine via his official Facebook page). Well, a man who finds some time to respond to an interview request when he is in hospital must be some kind of a special man and deserves all my respect and gratitude!
Thanks, Mr. Roedelius! Be sure that you'll be very welcome when we have the chance to bring you to Brazil! And happy birthday, my friend!
Well, here's my interview with Hans-Joachim Roedelius!
• • •
Astronauta Pinguim: I read in some of your interviews and in articles about your life that you were a child actor in the '30s and '40s, appearing in some UFA films. So, I think that was your first step into the world of arts, correct? How did this contact with the movies and UFA come about? And how (and when) did you decide to become a musician?
Hans-Joachim Roedelius: My father was a dentist; he had to do therefore with some directors who worked at the UFA and one of them saw me when he came to our place. He liked me and asked my parents whether they would agree if I would play a child character in a film. They did at the time and so it happened that I played in about six films later on with actors such as famous singer/whistler Ilse Werner, actress Brigitte Horney, actors Willy Birgel, Carl Raddatz and many others.
I first wanted to become a doctor, but because of World War II and the troubles in Germany afterwards I wasn't able to manage it the classical way. I had to go the very practical way. First I became a nurse and guide for the dying, then a physiotherapist and masseur at the University of East Berlin, the Charité. But when I moved to West Berlin, in 1960, everything changed.
When I'm home from hospital next Friday, I'll look for my curriculum and send it to you.
(Note: Roedelius has already returned to his home and sent me his discography/curriculum. You can see it the end of this interview)
Astronauta Pinguim: I contacted Conrad Schnitzler almost at the same time that I contacted you for the first time. It was only three or four months before Schnitzler's death, in 2011. He seemed to be a nice guy (as you are). In 2001 you and Schnitzler released the album ACON 2000/1, your first (and only) album together, thirty years after the last Kluster album (Eruption, recorded and released in 1971). How was it playing and recording with Conrad Schnitzler again after all these years? And did you kept in contact with him in these thirty years between Eruption and ACON 2000/1?
Hans-Joachim Roedelius: Conrad was a very good friend. Even so our perception of so-called reality was somehow extremely divers, which was the reason for Kluster's split in 1971. We kept the friendship and ACON 2000/1 was the result.
Astronauta Pinguim: What was your equipment in Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia? Did you and your band mates build some of the equipment you used in concerts and recordings? And did Brian Eno bring any kind of equipment or devices when he was in Germany with you and played on Harmonia's album Tracks And Traces (1976, released only in 1991), Cluster & Eno and Eno Moebius Roedelius' After The Heat (both recorded in 1977 and released in '77 and '78 respectively)?
Hans-Joachim Roedelius: We used electric organs, cello, guitar, kneeviola, tonegenerators, echomachines and many mostly selfbuilt little electronic devices in the beginning. Brian, when he came to our place, brought one of the first synths that existed at the time but nothing else, so he played this synth, guitar and bass and he sang. It was not him who produced that album - it was the four of us first with/on a four-track tape-machine that Michael Rother provided. About twenty years later I, with the help of Austrian friends, worked on parts of that material and in 1997 the first edition as Harmonia 76 - Tracks & Traces came out via Rykodisc USA and Sony Germany, but without great public interest. Grönland Records took care of a second edition with three bonustracks. Cluster & Eno and After The Heat were/are productions of Conny Plank, not Brian Eno!
Astronauta Pinguim: You influenced a lot of musicians all around the world and your music is still a great influence to new generations. And (thanks!) you're one of the most prolific artists, with more than a hundred records released. How do you see your career and what are your further steps in arts? Any possibility of a reunion with Dieter Moebius again? And any possibility of another Silver Qluster (your concert with Simeon Coxe III from The Silver Apples that happened in the USA in 2011)?
Hans-Joachim Roedelius: I was and still am rather busy working with artists from all over the globe as well as continously with Qluster member Onnen Bock. There's no reason to revitalise Cluster at all for me. With Simeon it might be possible to collaborate again. It's all about budgets.
Astronauta Pinguim: You're the director and producer from a festival in Lunz (Austria) called More Ohr Less. Can you tell us a little about this festival (it's not easy to find informations about it in English...)?
Astronauta Pinguim: One last question... And how about your work with producer and engineer Conny Plank?
Hans-Joachim Roedelius: As for the relationship with Conny Plank: without his creative input as a friend and artist, as well as producer, Cluster wouldn't have got its status and fame.
Not to forget: without his input neither Kraftwerk nor Neu! nor many other groups in the first rank of German and European contemporary music would have been able to become what they became. Thanks so much dear Astronauta for your interest and appreciation.
Astronauta Pinguim: Muito obrigado, Joachim. Thank you so much, Mr. Roedelius!