Interview with Edgar Froese, Feb. 1997

Thanks to Armin Theissen (Are you hanging in there at Armagh?) for posting the web address for two interesting interviews with TD (in German). [you're welcome, Hilmar, and Northern Ireland, especially Armagh, has become a bit more quiet. I even had a look at the marches in Belfast and passed through Drumcree. And I'm still alive!]. After reading both of them, I found the second to be more interesting, so I decided to translate it. Maybe I get to the other one some time....

This second one is a more personal interview, with Edgar alone.

The highlight is a surprising "outbreak" where we learn from an almost furious Edgar exactly how he feels about Chris Franke. All FAQs about Chris on the TD homepage notwithstanding, in this interview he gives us a less cryptic view...

Have fun!

Interview with Edgar Froese
by Uwe Zelt und Astrid Grahe
February 1997
unauthorized translation by Hilmar Kraft

I: Edgar, with Tangerine Dream you are in the music business for thirty years now. What would you have liked to become if you hadn't started a band?

EF: I would have liked to be a cameraman, because I always thought that the most interesting artistic tools for expressing oneself are those that allow you to turn the world upside down. Now I don't mean this in a sense of mass revolution, more a quiet revolution that starts firstly within oneself and then possibly carries over to others.

With "turning upside down" I mean to intentionally face things differently and see them from a different perspective. Music was therefore a good basis for me. And doing visualizations in unusual ways would have been another possible method. I once studied painting and sculpturing for 4 1/2 years, where I felt that there was my limit. I would not have been able to do this with these artforms. But I've been running around with the camera for 22 years. That's a kind of passion for me, but I don't have to commercialize it. It is only for my pleasure.

I: So filming is, next to music, a way for you to express your views?

EF: Yes, it could be one. But it is not like I want to be a director that has to administrate a whole set, keep a script in order and organize sequential tasks in a professional way. Also, there is not the deep insight into cineastic abilities. It doesn't go that far, it is simply a means to capture a short excerpt of this world in an unusual way. This, I believe, can be done quite well with music, but also with a camera.

I: Which positive and negative influences had an effect on you during your time as musician?

EF: Well, one can see this in a social-critical way, in a nitpicking way, philosophically or spiritually. What I mean is, like we always tried to expain this: Nothing that you experience leaves no traces behind. So there is a permanent influence from any encounter with people or event that one experiences on a daily basis.

I believe one can not simply ask for positive or negative influences. Something that is a positive impression for one person, because he can only learn from this, can be completely negative for the next and he would never recommend doing that to anyone else. Therefore I think that both positive and negative impressions have to apply to a given situation, thus a person that keeps the ability to learn until the end of his days. That is very important. I believe the worst that can happen to someone is if he begins to crystallize at a young age. Meaning that he closes up and thinks that whatever his parents, his teachers or his surrounding taught him is the entire truth. If he believes that, he is practically already dead, even if he's only 20. One has to constantly question everything and always continue to learn, to look for new things and to try to view anything "given" from a different corner.

I: Is this also the motor that drives you with your music? Is this what you derive your inspiration from?

EF: Yes, I am trying (admittedly it gets more and more difficult the older one gets) to return to the times between 5 and 8 years of age.

When you remember that, then it is a truly fantastic time, because everything that is new in this life on earth begins to take shape then. Sudenly those questions appear like for example why is an apple round or why is the sun red? It is those simple things. And this looking for questions and answers should never ever stop I believe, because otherwise a human being turns into a petrified object. He doesn't really live anymore, he only lives within his conventions.

I: You often use phrases and mottoes on your covers and you also created a short story "The Coachman Tales" for "Turn Of The Tides". Where do you get this philosophical tendency from, and do you want to maybe publish your stories?

EF: I once studied philosophy on the side for a few years, but that is not really the reason, because what you are given in universities and academies is not the essential point. No, it has to do with the fact that in my life I have always asked myself certain questions, and I believe that all people ask themselves these same questions somehow. Even if they don't admit it, because they think it is embarassing. But I never met anybody who was able to answer the question "Who Are You?". He may say "John Smith!". "Yes, and who is John Smith?" "Well me!" "Yes, but who are you?" You understand? That's the way it goes. It is a simple question nobody can give an answer to. That's what I mean with simple philosophical things, you should never take something for what it seems to be, for how it presents itself. I don't want to publish a book - just a remark on the side - that is something that doesn't interest me.

I: So with your music and a bit of humour you want to encourage people to start tinking?

EF: Yes, I also like to be ironic and I also prefer those writers that output something significant and truly great. When they spit out something really interesting, then just blink with one eye, turn around and say, thanks and so long...

I: In this ironic way you also did the "Tyranny of Beauty" CD. You also wrote a little story for this one, right?

EF: Yes, of course, that was pure irony, about Lagerfeld. But the story came after the CD. That was an idea that nobody understood. The "Tyranny of Beauty" was a comment about the catwalk and all this model business. We even got an invitation and played at a fashion show in L.A. That was the only gala we ever did. (laughs)! We were rolling on the floor with laughter and sent Linda over the catwalk in a wedding gown with her saxophone. That was a totally crazy event. The organizers actually spent a ridiculous amount of cash only to have us play at a fashion show.

I: How long did you play there? One hour?

EF: No way! Thirty Minutes! For thirty minutes, we flew with our full equipment to LA and performed there. We did this to demonstrate the absurdity of such an event and and the absurdity in all things that pass eventually. I believe someone like Claudia Schiffer would not even get a job as a door(wo)man in 10 years from now. This has nothing to do with the fact that as a human being, she may be a very nice person. It is simply the way life goes. And it means that we shouldn't have to make such a big fuzz only because someone is maybe born with two beautyful ears or so.

As an idea for the cover, we actually had planned to use a Barbie doll, but for legal reasons they immediately took that idea out of our computers.

I: So instead you took an egyptian art cover as a hint to this subject?

EF: But almost nobody got it. For example, on almost all TD covers there are so called pictograms, symbolic hints to something, and in the text there are references to things one can find out. There are combinations of numbers, numerology. TD records are full of these.

Some people come and say "I discovered something!". But I have to add: These are always positive hints. Positive in such a way that they encourage in a playful manner to think. We never want to influence anyone, so there are no hidden messages or any of this magic stuff. We have nothing to do with this. But sometimes we don't get a lot of response.

I: Over all this time you have worked with many musicians. What did you learn from them and how do you get along with them today?

EF: Well, we fundamentally learn from one another. I hope they learned as much from me as I did from them. In such a group it is a constant giving and taking. So it is a neutral sum. Where you do have to be careful is when members leave the group. That always happens in a certain manner with us. From the beginning we tell ourselves: Ok, folks, this is not for a lifetime. It is an option to work together with us for a shorter or longer time.

At some point though, this bittersweet moment comes when you say: this cycle is complete. We are very sorry...but it really is over now. We then offer these people any help we can, whether we organize them a new record deal or help them to advance within the industry, if that is what they want. The thing we absolutely don't like, and this happened more than once, is when they continue with the name of TD, and the "Ex-TD!" sign is bigger than their own name on the cover. That is always when we tell them: This will not get you anywhere! Either you build up something with your own individuality, or you will forever have this problem of belonging to the TD corpus. You have to let go of this and we ask all of them: Please, leave us alone! Even when our work together has finished, we want to have a good partnership beyond that time. On all other aspects we can talk...but please not this "joining" of one another!

I: But the chemistry among you, even when the time of being part of the group has ended, doesn't seem too bad. Paul Haslinger for example gives his thanks to you in his CD, and you have plans to release a CD from Johannes Schmoelling on your label. There were almost never any negative remarks about one another. That is actually very rare among bands that exist for such a long time.

EF: Of course there were also remarks that hurt me. For example from Christoph Franke, whom I worked with the longest time. That was when he stated for economical reasons (and since he lives in LA you can draw your own conclusions) that during the time we worked together, I was the one to run the business and he the one to play the music.

That really hits you, because a) it doesn't reflect the truth and there are dozens of people who can testify against that, and b) it is bad style to treat one another like that. Those are things I believe could have been dealt with more intelligently and more sensitively.

I: But surely you can still have that "cup of coffee" together?

EF: The famous "cup of coffee" yes, but in the case of Christoph it probably woudn't be possible to have cake as well.

I: But Christoph is not an unknown person in the area of soundtracks. He doesn't have to put an "Ex-TD!" sticker on his records. Isn't that also more a problem with the record companies?

EF: Well maybe, but people aren't stupid. For example in an interview which I've read in the magazine "Keys", he was asked how much he can compose per day. And he said "well, it used to be 3 minutes, today it is about 6 minutes per day". Roughly that is how I read it. Now I ask myself: If someone composes for 6 minutes per day, how can he come up with music for 4 to 5 entire TV serials within a couple of months? Ok, I don't want to say more about that. But the same Christoph Franke accuses me to have contracted too much work and that he could not work under the stress anymore. Those are facts that can be proven with evidence. So I am not talking nonsense here, and I don't want to break his stride. But I also refuse to be called names here. I was the one who contracted the work, because he didn't have any money, if you want to know the truth! For no other reason!

I: I think the next question fits well with the end of this interview. Originally, the project Tangerin Dream was supposed to be ended after two decades. What exactly was the idea with the "20 year project?"

EF: The "20 year project" was planned as such. It was supposed to come to an end in the year 1990 under certain defined conditions, thus TD from 1970 until 1990.

I: And those conditions have been met, since you are now only working with your son Jerome and guest musicians, correct?

EF: Only in part. It was supposed to first be shifted onto another totally different level. But another colleague whom I counted on has made this impossible. And that was Paul, with whom I actually had a completely different plan. But there were some personal issues going on with him that don't belong into the public. He had some private problems, and his decision to move to the US was probably ok.

But for me came the point where I had to rethink everything. I then extended the project by 10 years. So now it looks like I have to finish the next 3 years. I can't say that I was completely thrilled, since I also wanted to do some other things. But ok, that's the way it is.

Edgar, thank you for this interesting conversation.

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