Interview with Johannes Schmoelling
Berlin, September 22nd 2005
Conrad Gibbons

CG: I saw you on TV yesterday!
JS: (surprised) On TV?
CG: Yeah, Edgar (Froese) was on the Brandenburg TV station, RBB station talking about the Paradiso show. They showed some footage, old footage.
JS: (laughs) Oh really? From what concert?
CG: It was the 1980 East Berlin concert.
JS: 1980? East Berlin, Palast der Republik?
CG: You could hear you playing the piano.
JS: Yeah, this was quite amazing for me!
CG: Yeah, it must have been.
JS: Yeah, because I joined the group in December '79, so it was my first concert, after one month of work with them, and Edgar said “You go first and you start the concert, do what you can do, improvise or whatever!”. So, it was very very unusual for me, this concert because we had no time to prepare anything.
We did it right in the middle of the producing of 'Tangram' and we had parts of

Johannes Schmoelling (JS) & Conrad Gibbons (CG)
in front of the MANZINI
'Tangram' which we could rehearse or we could perform . So Edgar told me “You go write and you play maybe twenty minutes on the keyboard, on the piano” and that is what I did!
CG: Well, it was on TV yesterday, and I saw it in Ireland.
JS: Really?
CG: You recently worked with Edgar for the release of 'Kyoto', can we hope for more collaborations like this in the future do you think?
JS: I don't know, it was quite fun to work with Edgar. 'Kyoto' is more a combination of 'OK, what is in your archive? What is in mine? Let's put it together.' So I haven't met Edgar since March or April, I think he is very busy. So I have no idea what the future will bring in this.
CG: Right. I think a lot of fans would like to see the two of you continuing looking at those archives, most of the fans were quite pleased with the 'Kyoto' release.
JS: Yeah, I think it’s quite a good record but I think, I'm not so friendly with the idea of always looking back, look on the past, what we did twenty, twenty five years ago. But I can imagine maybe Edgar and I will come together and say 'Well let's look at what we can do together in bringing in new material', maybe this is quite possible.

CG: Some of the fans were concerned about how it explains in the 'Kyoto' inlay something about a conflict with certain members of the band at the time...!
JS: (after a pause) Well, I think what Edgar intended to say was that besides Tangerine Dream projects, each of us worked on our own stuff, which was sometimes maybe useful for Tangerine Dream, in the case of scoring films for example, while for film music we often separated in each other's studios. We had no chance to do it any other way, because it was a lot of material, so we said 'this scene is for you, this scene is for you and this is for you'.

CG: Would you meet then afterwards and say 'Here's what I did, what do you guys think?'
JS: Sure, yeah. Sometimes the whole group worked over it . I think this was quite convenient, with the band we were able to produce as Tangerine Dream, with three persons but we were also able to produce each one separately. From this time, I think there is a lot of material in the archives.

CG: On 'The Keep' there is music in the movie that is not on the soundtrack that Edgar released.
JS: 'The Keep' is a very mysterious thing and so I'm not completely in on what happened with the music but 'Legend' for example, we composed a lot of themes, main themes for 'Legend' and only one theme really covered the intents of Ridley Scott, so there is a lot of material for example from 'Legend' or 'The Park Is Mine'.

CG: Did you hear the version of 'The Park Is Mine' that was released? The Silva Screen release.
JS: But, this was not authorised by Tangerine Dream I think. I don't know where they got the material.
CG: Have you heard that yourself?
JS: Yes, I heard it.
CG: I know that maybe the band weren't that pleased with it but from a fan's point of view it is very good, there is some great stuff on it.
JS: Is it the music from the film or is it some kind of remixed or re-edited version?
CG: No, it seems untouched, if you listen to it on headphones, here and there you can hear some dropout but apart from this there is some really good stuff on it.
JS: Because, the band never released a soundtrack of 'The Park Is Mine'.

CG: There are also some great movie soundtracks that of course have not seen the light of day such as 'Forbidden'.
JS: Yeah, I liked to work on this very much.

CG: I have the video and I remember seeing the title sequence which was very different to anything else TD had done. For me that's one of the great things about Tangerine Dream, is that there are so many different styles,…
JS: That’s right.
CG: …particularly from the eighties when you were involved!
JS: (laughs)
CG: It's true!

CG: A question fans are interested in: Would you ever consider playing live again or maybe even rejoining Tangerine Dream, well, assuming Edgar asks you of course?!
JS: Yeah, that’s right, yeah. He phoned and he asked maybe if I could join the band and play the piano. (He sighs) It was a very hard decision for me to say ‘no’, because…
CG: It was nice of him to ask you.
JS: I’m a bit afraid, I’m not so involved in the piano playing as I was in the eighties you see, and I have difficulty not to be as good as I played twenty years ago.

CG: You’re a bit of a perfectionist, I think?!
JS: Yes! Well, that is my problem, everything I do musically, I want to do very much perfectly, and I am very afraid that people who listen to my piano playing are really disappointed because I am not good any more and what I did in the last 10 years for example I did a lot of composing music for German TV, action movies and so on. There never was a necessity to do great improvisations maybe for 15 or 20 minutes, and so I lost my feeling for the piano. What I did for the last 12 years, I played most of my time, on a master keyboard which is a kind of synthetic keyboard (it’s only for feeding a computer and so on). You have to remember when I joined Tangerine Dream in 1979, I studied music for 6 years from ’72 in Berlin, so I played every day, 2, 3 hours of piano, and when I joined Edgar for example I played the piano improvisation for 30 minutes and he said ‘Well, fine, that’s ok’. So, it was no problem for me, but we talk about what was 25 years ago, and today I’m not so involved in piano playing.
CG: Yeah, alright but I hope that you do realise that you have fans out there…
JS: Sure!
CG: …who would love to see you playing again and if you play a wrong note, so what!
JS: It was not easy, when Edgar asked me; it took more than two or three days, where I tried to clear my head, and make sure ‘well, Edgar I can’t do it”, it was very very hard for me to make this decision, but I think this one is alright .So, I’m authentic, I know what I can do, and I know what I can’t…
CG: You know your limitations?
JS: Yeah! Right!

CG: I’m sure you know about the so-called ‘Definitive Editions’.
JS: What?
CG: Virgin Records about 10 years ago released ‘Logos’, ‘Thief, ‘Exit’ and ‘White Eagle’, but they called them the ‘Definitive Editions’.
JS: Oh!
CG: But unfortunately there were mistakes on the covers, for example, “Exit” is down as “Exit Live” and Peter Baumann is credited instead of you on one of them.
JS: (Laughs) Really? Peter Baumann??!! (Laughs again)
CG: You shouldn’t laugh! Seriously, to this day all the most recent releases of ‘Tangram’ has Peter Baumann down.
JS: No, no, no!? But we published ‘Tangram’ in ’80 I think and there were no credits of Peter Baumann.
CG: No, I know, but it came out at that time on cassette and LP, and then at the end of the eighties it came out on CD and that version does credit you, it doesn’t have the mistake, but then about ’94 or ’95 Virgin released the so-called ‘Definitive Editions’.
JS: I never heard about this.
CG: They remastered them, 24 bit mapping, but they made terrible mistakes on the covers.
JS: Oh!? Whew (whistles), so did Edgar recognise these mistakes?
CG: I guess so.
JS: But this edition is not now available?
CG: Well, that was the last time they were put out by Virgin, about ten years ago. I have both versions, I have the version before that and these so-called ‘Definitive Editions’ but it is terrible that they made such a mistake.
JS: Pooh, Peter Paumann, he left the band in ’77 or ’78 I think.

CG: On a lighter note, how often do you get to meet the fans of your music, say like this?
JS: My fans? (surprised) Oh no, I never met my fans!
CG: Because, I have been to a lot of TD concerts over the years, it must be over 20 at this stage, any time they tour since 1990 I have been, many fans I have spoken to, their favourite time is the Schmoelling years!
JS: No, you have to see, I founded my own label in 2000, ‘Viktoriapark records.’ I work with Andreas who takes care of all the fan stuff and so on. He does all the liaising for me and he does all the internet questions and so on. I am not so good in this part so he does the fans pages and so on. He knows quite a lot. Well, I am more in my studio.

CG: And with your family life?
JS: Yeah, and I think more about my music.
CG: Just be aware that you do have fans out there.
JS: Yes, thank you, I know this very much. I like the idea and we see that we got mail from Finland, Australia and Brazil for example. I know that around this globus there are people who know my work, but I am not so involved in getting in contact with them.

CG: What music projects are you working at the moment on?
JS: At the moment I work on hopefully my next release, which maybe I am able to release in Easter 2006. I hope. I changed a bit my instruments, my studio concept. Throughout a lot of connections with a friend of mine for example I heard about new quality of computing music and of producing music.

CG: Are you into the new technology like soft synths and stuff? What do you think of this technology?
JS: Right, yeah. At the moment I work mainly on an Apple computer, a dual processor, about 2.3 Ghz with a lot of ‘plug-ins’ for example. I stepped into this new kind of producing music and I try to get familiar with this. You know, what I did the last 20 or 25 years since I met Tangerine Dream, I bought some kind of synthesizers, keyboards, or whatever, but I never sold these keyboards, so in my studio I have a lot of equipment.
CG: PPG and stuff?
JS: Yes! For example PPG Wave 2.3 or Roland, the Jupiter, or DX7, Yamaha, or quite a lot of expander and rack versions.
CG: Do you become attached to them?
JS: I played the whole stuff maybe half a year ago. I used a lot of this equipment for my TV music for German TV stations or for theatre works and ‘Recycle Or Die’ is completely done with all this equipment. So, what I did at this time with ‘Recycle Or Die’ in 2004, I said ‘well this modern stuff, I never like to work with this’ – but I changed my mind! (laughs)
CG: You’re allowed to do that! Even if you only get one fresh idea from it, it would be positive.
JS: Sure, that is what is behind it. I, for myself said ‘why not start on a new project with fresh ideas and enter in a new kind of project with new technology.’ I am now about 55 years old and now younger people and younger musicians, they use all this equipment, well it’s not equipment any more, it’s just a computer and two monitors and a small master keyboard and that’s it. Well I thought about ‘maybe I get familiar with this equipment, maybe I get familiar with this production of music, and maybe I get new ideas, from my antiquated equipment’ and that is what I did now since 2 months. I only work very hard each day to get into this new equipment and to this new software and maybe I am successful and maybe I like what I do, I’m not sure (laughs) and maybe I can publish my work in a new project, on a new CD in Easter or April or May 2006.

CG: Edgar seems to be a workaholic, he has said that he works 18 hours a day!
JS: Yeah he is!
CG: Are you the same?
JS: I phoned him in the afternoon and he said ‘I’m very sorry but I just got out of bed!’, so he works the whole day and the whole night and he sleeps very very rarely, it is quite amazing. He must be now about 60 years old, he is older than me, 5 or 6 years older, he is more creative than me and I think it is wonderful.

CG: It is great to hear that you are working away too. Sometimes when I listen to your music I wonder, is Johannes composing music these days?
JS: Yes. My problem is that I’m not sure if I have to say anything in music for the future which I haven’t already said. So, every time I do my music I always ask myself ‘well, is this necessary, to do, to produce or did you do this already on Erdenklang ‘Wuivend Riet’ or did you do this on ‘Songs No Words’ and so on and that’s what I’m not sure about. I always ask myself if I am over the top and I am always going down, retiring.
CG: We don’t want you to retire just yet!

CG: As you know I like your solo albums very much. ‘Recycle Or Die’ – interesting title. What was the idea behind the title?
JS: Yeah. The title is from a label - I received some publishing CDs from a label called ‘Recycle Or Die’ in the 90’s. They know my music and they like my music and they wanted that I should join them on this label. But we never stepped into a kind of …
CG: Ok. I was listening to the album yesterday on my way to Dublin and I was just thinking, in the album you re-did ‘Dominion’ and ‘Midnight in Toolah or Tula’?
JS: ‘Toolah’ – we say ‘Toolah’ in Germany.
CG: Right – Toolah – thank you. And, by the way, what is the proper pronunciation of your surname? Is it Schmoo-ling?
JS: Schmool-ing – yes – oe with two points on it, so we say oo – Schmoelling.

CG: Ok. Right. With ‘Dominion’ and ‘Midnight in Tula’ and ‘Stratosfear’, I was just wondering if in a way they were being recycled and was the title ‘Recycle Or Die’ like a play on that perhaps?
JS: Well first of all, the idea was, how can I combine music which I did in the 90’s for TV, for example, for theatres or for Tangerine Dream; how can I combine it to a project and give it an overall name? I had a lot of different styles of music and I had no idea how to combine it to a CD project. Then I thought, well, let’s call it ‘Recycle Or Die’; because what I did was on the one hand I took my own music and maybe I recycled it – I am not sure about this – but what I did on the other hand I took music in which I was involved – for example ‘Midnight in Tula’ or ‘Dominion’, which was one of our own compositions of Tangerine Dream, and to recycle it and put a kind of, how to do you call this, when you like to give a credit to someone, to honour them?
CG: Homage?
JS: Yes – homage. And I wanted to do a homage to Tangerine Dream, because I quite often in my life thought about what happened with myself when I never met Edgar or Christoph, or when I never met Tangerine Dream – maybe I would never have been involved in the music production; so I wanted to do a homage to Tangerine Dream to say thank you, that you gave me the chance to join the band, to explore myself in the band, to put my music into the band’s music and to share a project with three persons, which maybe never will get as successful as we were. And therefore I got the idea, well maybe the most popular song which Tangerine Dream ever did was ‘Stratosfear’; because it is a really great melody for it – I love this song – and I said maybe I could do a homage to Tangerine Dream in the idea of recycling something, and do ‘Stratosfear’ in my version. So I did this and I talked to Edgar afterwards and he had no problem with this, and he said ‘well it is your version’; but I like the idea to say thank you to someone who maybe changed my life, I am not sure. That’s the idea behind ‘Recycle Or Die’.
CG: Okay, that’s very interesting.
JS: Maybe ‘Recycle’ was enough but the label was called ‘Recycle Or Die’ and every time I thought about a title for my project I thought this is a great title. (Johannes signs my ‘Risky Business’ CD inlay cover.)

CG: There are some great tracks on the ‘Risky Business’ CD, like ‘The Dream Is Always the Same’ and ‘Love On A Real Train.’ Great. Right. That is very interesting.

CG: Would you ever consider working with other electronic musicians again?
JS: No. I don’t think so.
CG: No? Okay.

CG: A characteristic of your solo work that I have noticed is the interesting use of samples, particularly on ‘White Out’ and ‘The Zoo Of Tranquility.’
JS: Yes.

CG: I am just wondering, is it difficult to find samples of particular sounds that you want? Do you end up going out having to record some of them yourself? What is your thinking on using samples?
JS: My intention to get involved in music is maybe beside the question, what is music in the end? Is it sound or sound design? Is it music as well? Or only the melody - I do play on the keyboard or the piano - is this only music? I always tried, because I worked in a theatre in 1977 after I finished my studies at the Berlin High School of Music – I worked in theatre and liked the idea that sounds are music as well; it’s not only a note or two or three notes or a melody or a hook line or a chord – a major or a minor chord is music – you can discover music as well in a kind of sounds; therefore in the 1980’s I did a lot of recordings by myself. I had a cassette recorder and a microphone and I went out everywhere I was and made my own recordings and afterwards I went into the studio and fed my sounds into a sampler. At this time we were with the Akai sampler, for example, or the EMU and I did my own samples because I like not to use factory samples; I like to use my own samples. I like the idea to get a sound maybe that is very metallic, for example, but if you transpose it maybe one or two octaves deeper then it sounds completely different and like a sound you’ve never heard before. I was always interested in sounds I had never heard before. But the sounds I usually discovered they are from this world – I didn’t invent them – I took it from somewhere else, maybe where I am on holiday or in Berlin or wherever and I transpose these sounds to a new kind of quality, to a new kind of world , e.g. ‘White Out’ for myself is a creation of a world which doesn’t exist – but in my head, it existed very well; I put all these things together – I had different sounds from movies and from my own recordings and so on, and I put everything together. What I wanted to do with ‘White Out’ was to create a world, which is in my head, and maybe I am able to bring what is in my head to the listener… that is what the intention was.
CG: Well I think you’ve succeeded. It comes across as a ‘concept album’.
JS: Yes? Great - Oh, thank you.
CG: Yes, it definitely does.

JS: I worked very hard on ‘White Out’. It took one year or maybe one-and-a-half years. I have very different qualities like well some people said, this is absolute nonsense while others said this is the best thing you ever did! So I am not sure what it is, but it’s me.
CG: It’s always going to be a subjective thing.
JS: Yes. Sure. Music is always very subjective.
CG: There is one sound in that – it’s like a guitar sound I think.
JS: It could be, yes.
CG: I think it’s a sample, but the melody that you play is very clever, with that sound.
JS: Like a rock version?
CG: Yes.
JS: I know what you mean, yes.
(Conrad hums a piece of melody and Johannes joins in. He laughs)
CG: That’s great – that’s magic.
JS: Magic, eh? (Laughs) Well I worked very hard on the solo.
CG: Yes, and it was nice to hear that sound come back in ‘Recycle Or Die’ – it was on one of the tracks. And on ‘Recycle Or Die’ there are some “scratches” I think you call them.
JS: Scratches, yeah, Italian Scratches.
CG: What exactly are those?
JS: Well, I think scratch is a kind of demo.
CG: Oh right.
JS: You see? I had the offer for an Italian movie to do the music for it and what I did, I did some kind of demos for this movie production and in the end it failed, the production didn’t happen, and I thought about ‘Recycle Or Die’ – I thought, recycle means I can take these scratches and go over it and give them a new face. And that is what I did. I put it into 3 parts. At the time I met one of my cousins who came over from America and I hadn’t met him before and he played a concert in Berlin – he is called Hans Fahling – he is a guitarist and he played a concert in Berlin and I was really astonished at his playing – I invited him into the studio and said can you listen to my music? Are you able to play over it? Do you imagine a kind of guitar solo? Maybe a bit like Hendrix style but not jazzy because sometimes he plays with more jazz feeling but he is also able to play rock or Hendrix or Pink Floyd tradition. And so I invited him into the studio and he listened to my music and said ‘yes, fine’ and so we met in the studio and he played on Scratch 2 or 3 – really wonderful stuff – I was quite amazed at his unique playing you know. And he is a relative of mine!
CG: Is he American?
JS: No, he is German, but he went to Los Angeles to study guitar playing and to become a guitarist, and he lived for about 6 years in Seattle. And then he came back to Germany and now he lives in Berlin.

CG: Right, I see. And were you born here?
JS: No, no, no… I am from West Germany from a small town called Lohne near Bremen in the north of Germany.

CG: A favourite track of mine on ‘Recycle Or Die’ is the Bach piece. I really like it. I noticed that on that track a blend of the old with the new which works very well – the music of Bach with a modern beat. Was this what you wanted your audience to pick up on? Or did it just happen that way?
JS: It just happened I think. The idea behind this is because I am a big fan of Glenn Gould. He was a Canadian virtuoso – one of the most famous performers of Bach on the piano. I saw some of his concerts/performances on Canadian TV, which was brought by German TV, and I bought some of his publications on Columbia Records I think. I think he is one of the most famous performers of Bach’s music on the piano that I ever heard. I myself played Bach when I was very young – when I was maybe 13 or 14 years of age – on the church organ – but I never heard Bach played on the piano as famously as Glenn Gould did. And my favourite concert of Bach’s music is (laughs) this one I did for ‘Recycle Or Die’ – the A Major Concert. Bach notification BWV 1055.
CG: Basically you took one of your favourite pieces?
JS: Yes. Since I recognise music, I think Bach is a unique composer. Maybe he is even the most famous composer I ever heard. The intention for ‘Recycle Or Die’ was maybe I can play a little part, where I can do the orchestra part on the synthesizer and so on, and do the main part of the keyboard on the piano; and that is the idea about this and I did it only for 16 or maybe 32 bars and then I said that is enough – this is a kind of homage to Bach or to Glenn Gould but not more, because it’s a kind of ‘speaks some German words’ - ‘If you shout against God,’ we say.
CG: You over-do it?
JS: Yes, right. So I only took a small part of it and said that’s enough and then I went into my own part and that is why this Bach part is put into two pieces – one original part which after my part I went back to it once again but only to do the coda – the end of it – but the biggest part is my own part where I put a drum loop on it and put my improvisation over it and I played a lot of keyboards and a lot of pianos, which I like very much the idea, when I listen to Cream for example – or to Eric Clapton – I love Eric Clapton because he was able to overdub his own guitar parts in many more parts. He played only one guitar but he overdubbed it for 2 or 3 or 4 times. In the same way, I did with my Bach part – I played the piano for 3 or 4 times and I make it bigger or more unique – it’s a kind of homage to Glenn Gould, and to Johann Sebastian Bach, for example.

CG: Right. You began playing the organ many years ago.
JS: Yes. I started playing the piano when I was eight years old. I am a Catholic. I was educated in being a very strong Catholic – my parents were very strong Catholic – and on Sundays at church visits I listened to the organ, it was amazing. When I was 10 or 11 years old I said, I don’t want to play the piano anymore – I want to learn the church organ because it is such a big sound, and maybe people who listen to my music will recognise that I do a kind of music which is a continuation and a kind of registration of church organ, because I like these unique and wonderful sounds which I heard as a youngster in this church, and so I began learning the church organ at 11 years and when I was 13 or 14 I became the organist in a small church. Every Sunday morning I played two shows, at half past eight and eleven o’clock. It was very hard for me because when I grew older, when I was 17 or 18 we had a party on Saturday night and every Sunday morning I had to be up at seven o’clock in the morning to play in the church.
CG: That is Purgatory in any case!
JS: Right! (Laughs)
CG: Do you still go to church?
JS: No. I gave up when I think I was 18 or 19 years old. Well, sometimes I step into a church for example in Berlin and take it like a meditation for myself; but I am not involved in religion or in the Catholic Church – I am not a proper member of the church community. But, this instrument – the organ – is still in my head and I think it is the most beautiful instrument I ever heard. It is better than the piano, it’s better than the synthesizer. The church organ is like heaven, and to be an organist is like to be very close to heaven.

CG: Aren’t there some organ sounds on ‘Songs No Words’?
JS: Yea! Sure! Every time in my head there are these organ sounds.

CG: Is there a sample from the Wailing Wall on that CD?
JS: Yes. That’s one of mine which I did when I was in Jerusalem.
CG: Is it the sound of a can being kicked?
JS: Yes, for sure. Well done that you recognised this sound!

CG: I am similar to you in that I am fascinated by sounds. I think that is why I like electronic music so much.
JS: Yes. I had my cassette recorder and my microphone. I was sitting near the Wailing Wall and suddenly, from these Muezzin towers, there came this totally strange singing – Arabian singing which I find wonderful, totally exhausted I was – and right where I was recording these sounds there came 2 or 3 young boys and they were kicking cans, right in front of me, and I was thinking, ‘Oh! How could that happen? What a pity.’ But afterwards, when I listened to my recording in the studio and I said ‘well, this is very interesting.’
CG: I think it’s in stereo isn’t it?
JS: Yes, you are right. It is in stereo. From a Sony stereo microphone I always have with me. Yes. And it gave me the input to do this composition which follows with a bass sound which is like a walking bass sound, and so on. And so, I like to start it with my own recording and end it with my own music.

CG: And one of your little melodies is coming in to my head now. I think it is from ‘The Zoo of Tranquility’ – it is like an accordion sound. (Hums)
JS: No, no! This is from ‘White Out’.
CG: Yes, ‘White Out!
JS: Yes! It is called ‘Navigator’s Chatter’.
CG: That’s the one.

CG: Ulrich Schnauss, I must ask you now about Ulrich.
JS: Ulrich Schnauss? Yes.
CG: Have you met him?
JS: Yes, sure! Quite a lot.
CG: He is another guy I’d like to meet.
JS: Sure. He did the remix on ‘White Out 2000.’ It was great. He is a great musician. Well, he and Robert Wässer, they stepped into my studio and they said, we would like to do a remix of ‘Ice Walk’. And I said no! What absolute nonsense! My music should be remixed? This is not in my mind – not in my head.
CG: It was alien to you.
JS: Yes. And then they said, ‘we like what you do and we want to have samples of ‘Ice Walk’. We want to have samples of ‘White Out’.’ And I said ‘well, maybe okay, well, come into the studio and I will give you different kinds of samples.’ So I gave them samples of ‘White Out’ and then it took maybe two or three weeks and they came back and said ‘well this is our final version.’ And I listened to it and I was completely blown away. I was so into it, and I was so convinced that maybe my ‘Ice Walk’ version is allowed to have another kind of version; they are younger than me, they know more about younger sounds and productions and so, and so I accept very much what they did. At this time I was founding Victoria Park Records – my own label – and I said ‘well, I like very much this version which you did and would like to ask you, do I get your rights to publish your version on my Victoria Park Records ‘White Out’?’ And they said ‘sure, why not, we are very lucky.’ So, that was when I met Ulrich Schnauss and from this time we kept in contact and I got his first record and his second record (I like this one very much).
CG: Is he a friend of Jerome’s?
JS: Yes, they are both nearly the same age and Jerome sometimes does some kind of remixes, he is a kind of DJ or something else – I am too old for this!
CG: Not at all!
JS: I have to say this, so, Jerome now maybe he is 30 years old…
CG: He is the same age as me, he is 35.
JS: Ah, 35? You are the same age as Jerome! You see, I am 20 years older and I am not so familiar with this modern stuff but I know that Jerome, he does sometimes remixes of Tangerine Dream or he does some DJ work stuff therefore he knows Ulrich as well.
CG: The two of them were supposed to play a concert together last year in Holland but it didn’t happen.
JS: Oh I didn’t hear.
CG: Ulrich is doing very well, he is doing well in Britain as well. The music press like him. He is playing a concert in October in London.
JS: The last time I met him he told me he liked to move to London. He wanted to get away from Berlin and maybe he moved to London. That’s the last thing I heard about him, so because he knows that England is his main entrance in production or in selling music and I think England still, or Ireland – I played Ireland when I was 31 I think…
CG: 1980 was it?
JS: 1980 or in 1981 I think.
CG: That’s right you did! I have a recording of that you know!
JS: Yea, you do?
CG: I can send it to you!

JS: Have you been at our concert?
CG: No, I wasn’t there, I was only ten, you know!
JS: We played two concerts in Ireland, we did Cork and Dublin.
CG: Yea, a friend of mine from Arklow (David Fox) went to see you in the National Stadium – it was his first Tangerine Dream concert. They haven’t been back since do you know that!?

JS: Conrad, is not a usual Irish name?
CG: No, it’s not.
JS: It’s more a German name?
CG: It is! I was called after a friend of the family, my mother liked the name and that is where the name came from.

JS: I think, sometimes I am asked about the reunion of Tangerine Dream, and I told about Deep Purple for example, old men with big bellies, and I can only imagine Tangerine Dream in the lineup with Christoph and Edgar and me, but I know that Christoph and Edgar they are in trouble, whatever they are, but they have troubles and so, a reunion I think, it’s not possible. And I think ‘Risky Business’ or ‘Tangram’ or ‘Logos’, it stands for a specific period of music production and we should accept this, that it is 25 years ago. You can’t bring this back, I think. You can’t bring these instruments we used at this time, you can’t bring this back. I think when we should perform, at these days, I have no idea what kind of music we like to do. To bring all this old stuff is kind of a mistake…
CG: But, the thing about it was that when you guys were playing, it was so ahead of its time. You guys were ahead of your time.
JS: I agree, I do agree to this!

CG: ‘Poland’ still sounds great, it was one of the first Tangerine Dream records that I heard when I was about 16 and it just blew me away, when I was listening to it on headphones.
JS: You have to remember that the German press at this time when we did concerts in Germany, they shouted against us because we were ‘like machine, like robots’…

CG: You were very productive!
JS: The German press, when we did concerts in Germany in ‘81 or ‘82, they called us ‘robots’, like ‘ice-cold machines’, we are ‘not human beings’ and so on. That’s why we are today, we are without our music so far in front because, we had the equipment, nobody at this time had all this equipment we shared in the eighties, we had all this equipment, it was maybe manufactured in Germany or the USA or wherever, but it was only manufactured for ourselves, so we were ‘owners’ of these sounds and nowadays everything is common. Everything is normal, you buy an Apple computer, you buy ‘Logic’ or you buy ‘Live’ or you buy some kind of plug-ins and everyone is able to do electronic music.
CG: But it was inevitable that that was going to happen at some point in the future, you know.
JS: Sure, sure, quite sure.
CG: But the thing is you still need the talent, you still need the ideas. Computers are only a tool.
JS: We were lucky to have all the equipment at this time. And so every day we were in front of the movement. So today, it is very hard, to struggle.
CG: If you could relive your time in Tangerine Dream, if you had a time machine and you had to go back and do it again, is there anything you would do differently?
JS: No, not any moment, no. I often think about this time with Tangerine Dream. I joined Edgar in ’79 in July or September and I went into his studio in the Schwäbische Strasse. At this time he had in the studio a wonderful Steinway grand piano and I played for him, (not being able to handle all this electronic stuff) I played only the piano, for him, solo. Christoph, he was at Spandau. At this time Edgar and Christoph they were divided, in two parts, so I played only for Edgar and I played twenty minutes, I improvised on the grand piano.
CG: This was like your audition?
JS: Yes, this was my audition or my entry into Tangerine Dream. In the October or November I met Christoph and I did some practice on the Korg polyphonic synthesizer and Christoph listened to my piano stuff and my electronic stuff. In December ’79 we went into Christoph’s studio in Spandau and we started the recordings of ‘Tangram’. This was my entry into…

CG: You must have been very excited.
JS: Absolutely! Because his studio was a famous place, it was a kind of huge cinema place.

CG: The TD lineup of Edgar, Christoph and yourself was a great formula.
JS: It was right for the time. The eighties was a wonderful time.

CG: Can you tell me what the musical chemistry was like between yourself and Edgar and Christoph?
JS: We liked to share our opinion about music, our interests and our ideas for the project ‘Tangerine Dream’. I think everybody must know that Tangerine Dream was always a project. Sometimes it was a band, but Edgar’s idea behind this when he founded Tangerine Dream was that Tangerine Dream was always a project, sometimes five members, sometimes two members or whatever; but the members always changed. Klaus Schultze he sometimes was in the band; Peter Baumann or Steve Joliffe and so Tangerine Dream was a project that had different appearances, but maybe the line-up with Christoph, Edgar and me for six years was very powerful.
CG: It was! It was! You are correct.
JS: Well, what I can remember from this time is that I never worked so hard during these years and we had a lot of concerts and studio works and film music, and it was a great time for me.

CG: Can we talk about the ‘Legend’ soundtrack? There is some great music in that album such as the ‘Unicorn theme’.
JS: Yeah, the Unicorn theme. But it was initialised from Ridley Scott because he came to Berlin and he said ‘well, I don’t like this score from Jerry Goldsmith – the original one – it’s too sweet; I want more atmosphere and more authenticity … not to compose with violins and cellos – more original stuff – which goes maybe two thousand years back!’ So we sampled a lot and we liked to go into the music explorations – we went to, maybe, the Middle Ages or so, and that was what he likes to have, more music from the Middle Ages than from the orchestra or so. And therefore ‘Legend’ soundtrack is a bit dark, sinister.
CG: Ominous?
JS: Ominous, yeah.
CG: Those opening titles with the flute.
JS: Great!
CG: That’s magic! But it’s not actually on the soundtrack.
JS: No? The opening title is not on the soundtrack?
CG: Well, they are; but the flute is not on it.
JS: Oh no! I can’t believe it!
CG: Yes, it’s true. In the film at the start of the film you have the flute melody and then it is followed by the ‘Opening Titles’ piece that appears on the soundtrack, which comes in with a shot of the forest; but the flute sound at the very start of the movie (with the red writing on the screen) actually didn’t make it onto the CD. Now it did make it to a bootleg, there is a bootleg so obviously someone took it from a video or laser disc; but the opening flute didn’t make it to the opening titles.
JS: Really? Oh wow … I don’t know why because it is so much a part of our music.

CG: It’s interesting as well watching films that TD have done the soundtracks for and then actually listening to the soundtracks.
JS: Like Jerry Goldsmith?
CG: No, I’m thinking of other films you’ve done, like ‘Heartbreakers’… that’s one that comes to hand – there are some great pieces of music on that but, in the film, the versions that are played are slightly different – your solo is slightly different.
JS: Well, that depends on how the editor likes to cut the music in the final version and in film music we never know how it will turn out in the end, so we give all the production rights – not the composing rights – to the film company and they can change the music or edit it so you never know how it will be in the end.

CG: ‘The Soldier’ was another great one.
JS: I didn’t like ‘The Soldier’ movie – it was too brutal.
CG: It was, but the music … the sequence with the guys on skis – that was just magic.
JS: (Laughs)

CG: Good. Right. Well, it was really great to meet you after all these years.
JS: Thank you.
CG: I was always hoping that I would get to meet you. I think I have asked you everything for the interview anyway.
JS: So I answered all your questions?
CG: Yes, you did. Thank you very much!

The full version of this interview can be found on Conrad Gibbons's MySpace