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
Archie Patterson / EUROCK
was the musical scene and cultural atmosphere like in Germany when you formed
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 "Soul".
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 Roll".
The main bands came from basically three areas of
Cologne & Dusseldorf - Can and Kraftwerk Munich -
Amon Duul and Popol Vuh Berlin - Tangerine Dream, Agitation Free and Ash Ra
In addition, there were many more groups who appeared
there a special meaning for the name?
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 same.
first album was released by the OHR Records label. How did you get connected
with that company?
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
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
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 business structure.
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.
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
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?
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
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 future life.
only the sound of your music changed, but the record company ceased to exist a
short time later. What happened to the "Cosmic Couriers"?
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
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 business.
the music scene and overall social atmosphere in Germany change at that time?
"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
Regarding electronic 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 well.
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 "rave" music).
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
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.
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 musical ideas?
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.
A substantial 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
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
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 days.
I half-heartedly 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 "house",
"techno", "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?
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 mean).