ASH RA TEMPEL
Interview With Manuel Göttsching
In the legends of
the German Cosmic Music era, no name is more revered than
Manuel Göttsching, the guiding light and musical spirit
behind Ash Ra Tempel and Ashra.
Manuel began his
musical life in the Steeplechase Blues Band jamming for
fun. When the late 1960s exploded and the first
rays of the new age dawned on the horizon, Manuel and his
mates, Hartmut Enke bass and Klaus Schulze drums,
transformed into Ash Ra Tempel and burst onto the German
scene like the blazing solar fire of a cosmic comet.
Their name gave them
a larger than life aura and set them apart from other
groups at the time. Their music embodied the spirit of
the times with its free flowing improvisations and
instrumental excursions. The use of cosmological imagery
and the German language for their song titles set them
apart from the pack who only wanted to copy their Anglo
heroes. These "normal" musicians created
something of mythological proportions.
This interview sheds
light on the man behind the music which still today all these years
later has a certain magic that transcends time and space. Listening to
it today can still bring a gleam
into your eyes and make your ears tingle as it embodies the spirit of
a certain time in space when everything seemed possible,
and rock music was the lifeblood of our youth.
Patterson / EUROCK
Q: What was the musical scene
and cultural atmosphere like in Germany when you formed
A: The late 1960s - the
students protest and hippie culture splashed over
the ocean from the USA. Musically, most young Germans
listened to and copied American and, more often, English
rock and pop. It was the era of " Beat",
"Rhythm and Blues" and a little
But, there were a
few bands in Germany trying to withstand the
Anglo-American invasion. They were creating their own
typically German style by turning their backs on common
song structures. This was music, made from scratch. Let
the good times roll. Many years later people described
this music as "Teutonic Railroad Rock n
The main bands came
from basically three areas of Germany:
Dusseldorf - Can and Kraftwerk Munich - Amon Duul and
Popol Vuh Berlin - Tangerine Dream, Agitation Free and
Ash Ra Tempel
In addition, there
were many more groups who appeared and disappeared.
Q: Was there a special meaning
for the name?
A: This beautiful question was
always answered by my good friend and partner, bass
player in Ash Ra Tempel Hartmut Enke. He could expound
for hours about the meaning and symbolism of those three
words. In short:
Ash - (an English
word) the ash, the remains, the final curtain? Ra - the
Egyptian Sun God, the energy, the source of our lives
Tempel - a place for rest and contemplation (written in
the German idiom)
Musically we were
just a three-man band in a traditional line-up: drums,
bass, guitar and heads full of inspiration. I felt
personally that, at least, no other band on earth would
show up with a name as strange as that and music the
Q: Your first album was
released by the OHR Records label. How did you get
connected with that company?
A: Our concerts then were quite
successful, if not legendary. Some of these performances
are documented on the 6 CDs released as THE PRIVATE
TAPES. Klaus Schulze played and recorded with Tangerine
Dream on their first album ELECTRONIC MEDITATION for OHR
Records one year before in 1970. So here we got our
Q: What was the story of OHR
Records. Who founded it? Who decided about what groups to
record? Who did the artwork? Was it a co-operative group
of musical people, or more like a normal company where
the artists only do what the owner tells them to do?
A: Even in a "normal
company" no owner tells the artists what to do. At
least I dont know such a company. Also, I
dont know any artist who only does what the owner
of a company tells him to do. (A sentence by Klaus
OHR Music was
founded in 1970 by Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser and a successful
German "Schlager" publisher and producer Peter
Meisel, as a label for new German rock music, such a
label at this time was revolutionary. Today we are used
to hundreds of small labels for all kinds of music. In
1970, I repeat, this was a revolutionary task. The label
lasted 4 or 5 years. During this time many other labels
were founded by all the major companies in Germany.
The daily business
was done in fact by the driving force behind the label,
Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, whose genuine spirit explored the new
trend a little earlier in time, when all of his
"colleagues" within that branch were still
snoozing. Peter Meisel gave the financial support and
Artwork for our
albums was done by friends. The cover for SEVEN UP was
painted by Walter Wegmuller, who later designed a new set
of Gypsy Tarot cards for the release of a special album
called TAROT. The cover of JOIN INN was made by a painter
from Cologne. For the covers of the "Cosmic
Couriers" series Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser employed a
designer of his choice.
Q: Later OHR Records turned into
the Cosmic Music label and the owners were reportedly
very fond of Timothy Leary. How much did drugs have to do
with the music in those days?
A: "Cosmic Music" was
a branch of OHR. "The drugs" had actually
little to do with the music (nor with the label), but
they were present, as they were present at this time in
general. I speak of marihuana/hashish, which were very
popular in those days. Everyone under 30 smoked this and
that, the elders did so years ago, and still the rivers
flow.......... Drugs have been and will be a part of
life, not necessarily because one is a musician, a
painter, an architect, or a psylocybinien? They were
around and took a great part of my time, but there was
another drug that I fell in love with: *MUSIC*
Q: In the mid 1970s
A.R.T. dissolved and you did a lot of solo work. The
music became less rock and more electronic. How did your
musical ideas change?. What gave you the idea of doing
solo electronic music featuring mainly guitar?
A: The influence of electronic
equipment in producing music grew rapidly in those years.
I was fascinated by these sounds, but even more I was
addicted to the idea of sequencing those sounds into
continuous musical compositions.
I owned just my old
Gibson guitar plus a few effects units, I asked my
producer (Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser) to buy me a 4-track (TEAC)
and 2-track (Revox) tape machines. I began to build my
studio. I needed time, time for experiments, time for
reflecting on the years that had passed, time to call for
What a trip it
became. I created music with a minimum of equipment. The
resulting music resembled the sound of sequencers and
synthesizer, but was played with a single guitar. I
recorded backwards, with the tape machines at double
speed, half speed...... I tuned the strings differently
and fell in love with my dynamic pedals, which could, if
you pluck a string, cut away the attack, and with the aid
of lots of echo, I found my floating sound. Naturally,
the echoes and delays were creating this
"sequencing" effect (thus reflecting the trend
of those days).
For sure, I am not
the only musician at that time who knew about and played
with these techniques. I only wanted to create music that
was strong and profound enough to escort me into my
Q: Not only the sound of your
music changed, but the record company ceased to exist a
short time later. What happened to the "Cosmic
A: From 1973 on, many groups
like Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Popol Vuh wanted to
leave the company. Finally, this led to law-suits that
the company lost. Maybe this story deserves a better
explanation, but "all good things must pass".
I still recorded
STARRING ROSI and INVENTIONS for the label, then I left
in 1976. Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, together with all of his
labels vanished, probably floating into the cosmic zones,
as he never turned up again in music, or any other
Q: Did the music scene and
overall social atmosphere in Germany change at that time?
A: The "Punk" era
began around 1977. Virgin Records signed the Sex Pistols.
Their influence was evident.
In Germany, at the
turn of the decade, the atmosphere had changed
completely. Now, the music was called "Neue Deutsche
Welle", (NDW = New German Wave). But contrary to our
first musical adventures 10-12 years back, this music was
highly successful in a commercial sense.
music, a new trend was the so called
"synthie-pop", mostly led by English bands like
Human League or Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark. Of
course these new trends attracted the bigger record
companies, and many new, small labels saw the light as
Those hippie, cosmic
days were gone. (Funny, but this spirit re-emerged some
10 years later - although in a different costume - with
the rise of "techno", "house" or
Q: After your solo album
INVENTIONS it was a while before you did another album
and then you formed the group Ashra to do several records
and perform live. Why/When did you decide to form another
group and work with Harald Grosskopf and Lutz Ulbrecht?
A: After the release of
INVENTIONS I wanted to reform the band. Lutz Ulbrich
joined me and together we performed a beautiful concert
in Paris in December 1974. We toured then as a duo in
France and England during 1975. At the end of the year
Lutz quit to accompany Nico (the legendary "femme
fatale" of the Velvet Underground) during her
concerts of 1976.
I began recording a
solo album again, NEW AGE OF EARTH, and did a tour as
well in December 1976. These performances as a soloist
were quite an experience for me. In the beginning of 1977
I signed a long term contract with Virgin Records. When
NEW AGE OF EARTH was released worldwide in Summer
77, Virgin wanted a concert in London. I again
asked Lutz Ulbrich and also Harald Grosskopf to join me.
I had known Harald from the Cosmic Couriers sessions and
he had also played on the STARRING ROSI album in 1973.
Q: Your albums NEW AGE OF EARTH
and BLACKOUTS are considered by many as the first
electronic new age albums. How did you come up with the
particular concept or sound for those albums? Was their
any other musician or style who perhaps influenced your
A: I started my musical career
as a guitar player. After producing INVENTIONS FOR
ELECTRIC GUITAR, I decided to expand my equipment in
order to create compositions for keyboard and
synthesizer. This was a new thing for me then.
influence in my style came about in 1974 with the
discovery of so called "minimal music" by
composers like Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Terry Riley.
Especially Steve Reichs music, I have listened to
it for many years. He is a genuine innovator in terms of
creating music that combines the elements of
improvisation with structured composition.
Q: In the 1980s you
seemed to disappear from the scene. What happened?
A: By the end of the
70s the style and politics of Virgin Records
as I mentioned before had changed. After CORRELATIONS in
1978/79, BELLE ALLIANCE in 1980 was the second recording
with Lutz Ulbrich and Harald Grosskopf. I felt it showed
the great variety of styles the band had to offer. I was
rather disappointed with how little attention they gave
to the release of the BELLE ALLIANCE album.
In 1981 I played a
long tour as a guest with Klaus Schulze. Inspired by
those daily live performances, in December 1981 I went
into my studio and recorded the music of E2 - E4. It took
me exactly one hour, no overdubs, no editing. The only
alteration I had to make was to cut the piece into two
parts for the LP format as there were no CDs in those
offered E2 - E4 to Virgin Records in 1982 as I
didnt trust them to promote it properly. I was
lucky, when at the beginning of 1984 my old friend
Schulze started a new label, "Inteam Records"
and wanted to release it. This record gained a great deal
of attention at the end of the 80s in the
"dance-floor" scene as dozens of re-mixes were
made and many parts were sampled (including the very
successful "Sueno Latino" by an Italian group
of musicians and DJs).
Q: Now in the 1990s it
seems you have re-emerged from retirement. You have had
your entire catalog reissued by Spalax in France. Several
albums of unreleased music have also come out and now the
PRIVATE TAPES Special Edition is about to be released.
Does the music you made in the past still sound good to
you today? Do you have any plans to record a new album to
celebrate the coming millennium?
A: From 1985 on, I worked again
with Lutz and Harald. During that year we played a
concert in England and recorded the basic material for
TROPICAL HEAT, which was finally released in 1991.
In between, in 1988,
I had performed with Lutz Ulbrich at the Berlin
Planetarium. The music was especially composed for the
event and included lyrics as well. The four main themes
of that composition (without the lyrics) were then
released in 1989 as WALKIN THE DESERT. In May 1991
I performed again with Lutz and Harald in Cologne. It was
a nice open air concert in the evening, in front of the
Cologne Cathedral. The show also featured Klaus Schulze
(we were only missing Tangerine Dream). It was sponsored
by a radio station and the City of Cologne to honor a man
whose weekly radio program had supported our music for
more than 10 years.
In 1993 I began to
work with Lutz on a new, guitar based album. It should be
in the style perhaps of INVENTIONS, but also incorporate
the techniques of the 90s (reflecting the
"German" atmosphere of today as well).
Yes, I like the
reissues. That music directed my life. When I am sitting,
thinking, wondering how all that came about, I choose an
old tape and I begin to remember.
Well, Im a
king bee, baby. Rollin on and on and
on...........(like a German VW - if you know what I