Krautrock Towers takes great pride in presenting an interview with a man whose musical CV includes more classic recordings than the vast majority of his peers during the 1970s - Wallenstein, Cosmic Jokers, Tarot, Klaus Schulze and Ash Ra - it would be a fair judgment to say that without Harald's contribution, Blitzkrieg, Moondawn, Correlations, at all just wouldn't have the same class or style.
Not resting on his laurels, Harald created his acclaimed album Synthesist back in 1980 and has since refused to be labelled by empty genres. So, from the crazy 70's to African Drumming via techno...read on!
Which drummers inspired you to pick up the sticks and play?
It was Ringo Starr and Peter Lauenstein, a drummer who lived round the corner. Later I was very disappointed hearing that a lot of the Beatles drum takes were played by Paul McCartney and other studio drummers.
I see from your website, one of the first bands you played with was called The Scorpions. Is that the same Scorpions who became big in the 80s?
Yes. I spent time in kindergarten and school with Scorpions band leader Rudolf Schenker and later some months in the then unknown rockband.
Wallenstein were a multinational band, how did you all meet up?
By accident. In 1970 I shared a little house with some Hippy freaks and drug heads when one day one of my companions brought Juergen Dollase and an other guy to that mad place. Their appointment with a drummer that supposed to play for them had failed. My companion had told them he knew a drummer (me) and a place to sleep. It seemed that they liked me. I could not prove my drumming technique to them because my drums where just taken completely apart during one of those countless wild, spontaneous LSD music sessions in the house. Then I packed my gear and left. "Blitzkrieg" was born, later renamed into Wallenstein. The name was changed because a British band already used that provoking German name.
Any idea what happened to the other members of Wallenstein who played on the first couple of albums?
After another LSD session Jerry Berkers, our Dutch bass player went insane during the recording sessions of his first solo album. He had performed with a muzak playing dancefloor band in Australia when discovered by the US army (!). The band was hired to perform for fighting US soldiers in Vietnam. After one of the GoGo girls was shot by a sniper during one of their gigs and after he had experienced a very bad tank attack he quit the horror and went back to Europe before we got in touch. To be confronted with his own history during the process of writing the words for his album must have broken his spirit. They brought him into a psychiatric hospital. He never became "normal" again. I lost contact.
Guitarist William "Bill" Joseph Barone a US Italo-American went back to Philadelphia after his split from Wallenstein. Our last phone call was in 1980 when I visited Hawaii for holiday .
Dieter Meyer, the another bass player, tragically died as the result of heavy alcohol abuse in a hospital at Mönchengladbach in 1986.
Our third bass player, Juergen Pluta was a very healthy man. I met him again 2 years ago after a break of almost 20 years. He still works as teacher for music and sport is still very fit, looks young and produces Techno music with a well known guy named DJ Hooligan.
Joachim Reiser, our violinist is still living near Moenchengladbach and also still works as a teacher of music. I heard he was struck by a heart attack last year. No contact to him since 1974.
Juergen Dollase, keyboarder, music scientist and band leader had a huge success in the Eighties with his new lineup. He sold 1.5 million copies of a single record. Aged 40 he stopped making music and went back to his other artist roots. Painting. After a long break I met him again 10 years ago. We became friends which we weren't really in these Wallenstein days. Juergen, a fast food freak for long times turned into a gourmet over night. His cooking art is more than fantastic. He started writing food critics for "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung "(FAZ). He has been part of Germany's leading gourmet critics for two years. I like him for his extreme habits.
NB Minutes after dispatching Krautrock Towers this interview, Bill Barone contacted Harald after a 20 year absence, wild!
Klaus Mueller has expressed a lot of negative opinions about the 'golden age of Krautrock', in particular the Cosmic Jokers stuff, how do you feel about the music that was created in early 70's Germany which we all call Krautrock?
I had good times in the Cologne Dierks Studios. I was a twenty year old greenhorn. We dropped a lot of acid and made innocent music. Some of the stuff that later was released was material I would not have released. Bad trip stuff ya `know? It is a shame that most of the material that was recorded then never saw daylight. More than 50 hours of unreleased taped material must be rotting in Dieter Dirks studio cellars. What a waste of art. That treasure should be lifted one day.
You were one of the first drummers to incorporate sequencers in your work, the backbone to a lot of music now called 'the Berlin School', how did that come about?
It was in the summer of 1975. I visited Klaus Schulze in his house near Hannover. He showed me his Moog equipment and turned on a machine called sequencer. I was struck by emotions. The rhythm and extremely tight groove that came out was overwhelming. In lack of drums I took an empty basket and started drumming on it. Klaus told me later that it impressed him so much that he invited me to accompany him on his next album later called "Moondawn".
You've collaborated with Klaus Schulze and Manuel Göttsching on many occasions in the past, will you be playing with either of them in the near future?
No plans made in that direction.
Lots of people who come to this site will be interested to know if you have any old archive material from the 70s that might see the light of day?
Recording music myself came quite late into my mind. Until 1980, when I wrote, played and recorded my first solo album "Synthesist" I felt myself as a drummer. A musician that is meant to accompany others music. I always recorded in studios of high technical standards. I did not want to undergo that audio standard and could not afford such big studio technique until it became virtual accessible. That's why I simply have no "secrets" in stock apart from what I mentioned about those Cosmic Jokers sessions which are not under my access. Apart from that old times I am still active in producing new material. I like Techno, Big Beat, Drum&Bass, Trance, House, a.s.o. My mind is open for all kind of music if it is original. It should surprise my perceptions.
What direction has your new album taken?
I have not spend thoughts about that and simply do not know. We used State-Of-The-Art equipment. It sounds great. The best music I ever created. Decide Yourself in what kind of drawer You like to put it.
Is a release date on the horizon?
Hopefully late August on a British label.
What inspired you to instigate the 'African Drum Making' workshop earlier this year? (The scenery looks fantastic!)
My friend Alexandros Pajatakis. A young Greek-German who likes Techno music and my stuff. He is a gold- and silver smith and spends half the year on Korfu island, where his father was born, producing and selling his products and the materials of an jewellery producing artist group called ILIOS on the island. Since a few years I occasional build drums out of materials people use to throw away. Sometimes I use huge plastic flower pots. Last year he offered me to organize that drum making workshop. We did it in April this year. The drums are made of old, dry cherry wood. The skins are taken from Greek goats. Their sound is outrageous and of high quality. Hopefully that workshop will be continued during the next years. It was, apart from quite strong physical activity, a lot of fun under perfect environmental conditions. Korfu is the most green island of the Greek archipelago, especially in spring time and Pagi, the little village on Corfu`s north west side is not wasted by tourism yet.
How did you meet up with your present collaborators AXEL MANRICO HEILHECKER - guitars, and STEVE BALTES - keyboards, programming?
I met Steve 8 years ago in his studio. After my time in Berlin I went back to Moenchengladbach. Some told me that there are musicians that liked to meet me. I was concerned about it but thought to know a place where I possibly might be able to produce could not be such a bad idea. So I called the studio and had Steve at the other end. We immediately had a good feeling and so I went there and by accident got in touch with the local Techno scene including the young label "LE PETIT PRINCE". Now very successful with their "ALPHABET CITY" label. From that moment on Steve and I started to produce music. We called the projects N-TRIBE (mostly vinyl) and HOLO SYNDROME. When ASHRA got an offer to perform in Japan my first thought was to integrate Steve in the lineup. To be heard on "ASHRA/@shra" and "ASHRA@shra2". Released in 1998 and 2001. I met Axel Heilhecker first time in a friend studio in 1995 and liked him immediately. He is one of Germany's best guitarists. He offered me to produce my third solo album. But he got involved so much with his instrument that we decided to release these recordings under SUNYA BEAT. Later Steve was involved for certain live performances.
SUNYABEAT, your new outfit has a very uplifting name, how would you describe the music of your present combo?
"The first album was completely handmade music and basically first recorded drumming and percussion. So it turned into a quite atmospherical ethno-world beat oriented style. Taking Steve into the lineup added Techno elements to the music. Especially during live performances.
What music do you listen to when you go home after a hard day's work in the studio?
"After 7, 8, 12 hours of studio "noise" I prefer silence. My favourite e-band is UNDERWORLD. I like PETER GABRIEL, ART OF NOISE, MILES DAVIS, BULGARIAN FEMALE CHOIRS, MONGOLIAN FOLK MUSIC, EDWARD GRIEG, GUSTAV MAHLER, JIMMY HENDRIX, PHILLIP GLASS, STEVE REICH, DRUM &BASS, RAP MUSIC...
Do you have any musical ambitions you would like to fulfill?
I do what I like to do and wish to do it until I have to jump in the coffin.
From the history of music, who would you most like to have played drums with?
MOONDAWN with K.S. and CORRELATIONS with ASHRA
Thanks very much for your time and thanks for supplying us with good music over the years!
Interview: www.krautrocknet.com (website doesn’t exist anymore)