Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream Chats with Inquisitor Betrayer

Edgar chats with Alien Ear Music

By Lorraine and Dale Kay

LOS ANGELES, CA – July 18, 2012 – Dale and I met with the founder a sole remaining original member after 45 years, Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream with his beautiful wife and artist, Bianca Acquaye, earlier today in West Hollywood to chat. Edgar shared with us some exciting news about future products and some exciting possible tour opportunities in Asia, South America and the United States. Dale especially enjoyed chatting with Edgar about his philosophy about recording and technology.

LK AND DK–We were privileged to go to the Los Angeles concert last week. It was very exciting and sounded great. The fans seemed to have a great time. How do you think this tour has been from your perspective?

EF and BAF – Very good. Very good.

LK AND DK – Were you happy with it?

EF – What is a good time? What is a bad time? As far as your work and the output is concerned, as far as your health is concerned and as far as the relationship with your colleagues is concerned – We had a good time.

LK AND DK – Did the rest of the band have a good time and enjoy playing and coming to America?

EF – Oh yes, for four of them it was their first time touring through America. I thought they did a good job and have enjoyed themselves.

LK AND DK– One of those, who was here for the first time, I believe, was the newest member of Tangerine Dream, an adorable and awesome violinist, Hoshiko Yamane. Tell us about her.

EF – We saw her for the first time in an orchestra in a community close to Berlin and she was the second violinist in the community orchestra. Hoshiko had a very big presence even within the orchestra. So through a friend of ours we came in contact with her and started talking and all of a sudden it appeared that she was more interested in Avant-garde stuff and contemporary music more than just dying in a conventional orchestra. So that is how we came in contact with her. So, we tried and rehearsed with her a few times. We saw how the sound of the violin would work and how she could manage using the electric violin, how that would fit into the sound of the band but it went pretty well and so that was it. All of a sudden, now we were six.

LK AND DK – Were you looking to add to the band or did it just work out that way?

EF – I never look for anybody specifically because what I always was looking for within my 45 years career was searching for human beings who had a story to tell with their music. And I’ve met a lot of great and well named musicians that were good workers and have been very professional but they had no story to tell. And that’s like reading a book. You could read a book and you can get a lot of information but it doesn’t touch you on a deeper emotional or intellectual level. There is no strong link between the writer and the reader. There is nothing in it that you can associate yourself with, nothing that gets you going to a different mental perspective. So that is the same with people who are working within the musicians’ community. There are just a few people I’ve met that move you musically, from a human stand point. But the most interesting ones I’ve met were already working with another group of people or have a solo career and it is hard to find a working platform because of the different time schedules.

Dale Kay, Lorraine Kay, Edgar Froese

LK – Edgar, you have always been considered to be the founder of the electronic music genre. Your name and Tangerine Dream have become synonymous with the term electronic music. So I think we would like to start there with some questions about technology and your philosophy in respect to that.

DK – When you are creating a new song at your workstation, do you create your own sounds or use the presets and then tinker with them?

EF – I rarely use presets. Simply because I know my neighbor will probably use the same presets. For whatever reason, I don’t want to sound the same. It is so funny, what I heard the other day from a place where they repair Moog equipment,  the fun side of the story was, whenever one of the instruments was brought back in to be repaired, they always had the same preset sounds – nothing was updated, edited or changed in any way, so in other words most of the musicians didn’t change the sounds. When we played at last year’s Moogfest we went to the Moog factory for a visit and talked about such things. One of the guys said, “The musicians are not lazy, our factory sounds are simply very, very good, so why change them?” (Laughter all over the place.) It’s true Moog has some of the best factory sounds on the market, but as a synth player you need to be original, even if you can’t make a sound “better” but make it more original, more like your personal handwriting. Michelle Moog came down the other day to Philadelphia to see the show and we were talking about her father, Bob Moog, the factory and of course the foundation – a very good project to keep the interest in Bob’s body of work alive. But finally back to your question: The synthesizer is there because you can create your own sounds, a new musical identity. That is why all the soft and hardware equipment have all those knobs and switches. It may sound superfluous, but we’re not talking about a musical philosophy – it is more a technical necessity in order to find an incomparable musical basis.

DK– I noticed you were using software synths even more so this time.

EF – Yes, and combining the whole machinery that way with your own samples to create your own sounds by soft and hardware synthesizers. Using such tools in a studio is a part of the day to day business, but I tell you it’s much more fun taking one of the best SD card equipped recorders available and running around different places and recording your environment as it is naturally and then running it through the studio computer creating new sounds definitely no one else has in such originality.

DK – That’s what Alan Parsons does quite a bit too. Tapes a sample, twists it and all of a sudden it’s a bass drum. And all it was a piece of Styrofoam taped to box or something.

Edgar and Bianca

BAF – We just met Alan Parsons. He visited our Santa Barbara concert. We had a very pleasant meeting – yes, since his time at Abbey Road and later with the Floyd and of course with his solo stuff, he always got into sound research and is still a very open-minded person.

EF – Very true – He is a very interesting man and nice person. And he is still going strong. He is about to go on tour in Europe right now. I appreciate the work he did with the Beatles and Pink Floyd and his own stuff.

DK – The band gets on to me while I’m layering my sounds and tweaking and stuff. They say I’m glossing over all the time. I try to get them to understand that first off I’m going through the pre-sets. I’m looking for unique sounds that get into the actual feeling and emotion of the music, before I start tweaking them.

EF – But isn’t it the same with conventional instruments? A different playing technique, an effects box for guitarists, bass players or the new electronic sets for drummers simply exists in order to help a musician to become more original.  Even more important, it’s obviously for synth players, checking the pre-sets to test the overall sound and the capability of an instrument and then starting off for the never ending story of editing changing parameters. But during such process, you should lock the doors and switch off your mobile – because you should be aware of stepping into a different universe. It is not a negative form of isolation – it is the absolute requirement to be creative within the world of abstract sounds. You may lose your contact to your surrounding because sounds are creating a different world. That is, because you´re receiving sound signals through your ears always as a bulk of frequencies, the three dimensional image and what we call “music” is decoded through your electro-magnetic brainwave system. The brain makes it three-dimensional. It’s a certain magnetic phenomena. The experience and education a person has regarding so-called music will make it an interesting or uninteresting event. So while doing the sound research on your synth, the whole situation is like shifting you sometimes to unknown virtual places. A few times when I was into sound research in my studio, my wife stepped in, “Hey, dinner’s ready, come over.” She appeared like an alien from outer space because I was so deeply lost into something unexplainable, that I did lose my contact to the so-called reality.

BAF – So now I built him an alarm system – a visual alarm – with a light flashing, I don’t want to frighten him again when entering into the studio and I don’t want him getting a heart attack J:-)

EF – I do my sound research always through my open headphone system with a special balance between the studio speakers and headphone sound, also the sub-woofer system is adjusted to a special frequency which I call “The Unconscious Vibration”. That is the fundamental construction all other sounds are built on and it has to be very special and solid. .

DK–Which headphones are you using?

EF – I use a Sony MDR-7520 (Closed) and an AKG Q-701 White (Open), also Adam and JBL speaker systems.

DK – Sony? I have the Ultrasones the ones that have the speaker down here so that they don’t fatigue your ears, if there is something I have to record

EF – Yes, I know that one. If I have to react to something outside During sound research I also like an open system, i.e., like rehearsing with someone. During my compositional work I only work with closed headphone systems because I often have to locate sounds within three to four different reverb chambers. Also controlling the balance of ping pong effects and a light phase shifting need a very close and direct control, which, to me is much easier with a closed system.

DK – The only time I can get locked in my cube is when no one else is there. Otherwise someone will come in and disturb me.

EF – In such situations, I become a dictator – except my wife – no one is allowed to disturb me. In the earlier days – with a more “democratic” attitude – I’ve lost a lot of ideas, melody lines and chord progressions, just because someone stepped into the studio and just wanted to “say hello” – a sometimes enervating nightmare. The reason why is simply because everything in your first reality, our waking consciousness has a name. The description of the world, for instance, that’s a table, that’s water, that’s funny or terrible, whatever. As soon as you enter deeply into music – nothing has a name anymore, there are no names for an emotional reaction to a sound event. I mean you can call it a frequency or A minor or C major, but it doesn’t make any sense in the first place. Before you give it a name, it did exist already within a random field of frequencies with no name whatsoever And that abstract emotional or intellectual or mental or whatever surrounding is so immense for a musician, maybe not to a lawyer or cab driver but to musicians and that takes you away, totally. Right now in the summer we are living in the Austrian countryside and there are a lot of mosquitoes, so sitting under the trees with my workstation and a headphone on, I often realized lots of these itching stings after having a break but not during my playing. I know that’s all a bit strange and crazy.

Dale and Edgar

DK–So, Edgar, when you are working with software synthesizers do you put them out as high a quality as you can or do you just let the computer do its software in digital?

EF – Everything is set on 48Hz/24bit within my Cubase 6.0 and Pro Tools 10 system. that is enough for the quality standard I get out of 90% of my plugs. i never got into that digital versus analogue discussion because if you did work with sound tools of any kind for more than 45 years, you call this childish. Simply because you know that there has to be taken the best of the two worlds – as easy as that. How stupid to make a religion out of it. The Digi brothers, having a big mouth about old-fashioned analogue gear – and the outboard junkies running this endless gossip about “the warm side of a sound”. Each beginner playing synths won’t search for a 40hz droning bass note within a plug-in library – as easy as that. The matter of fact is that a piece of music has a story to tell or it’s worthless. What you hear – is much more than 40 – 20.000 Hz. But the way you feel it – the way you can somehow pick up any sort of higher particles within your system of awareness – that is what really attracts people. So you have to realize what is the spectrum you’re working within, what´s your aim, what´s your mission. Within that range I still have all the frequencies needed in front of me. If I´m suspicious about my own sagacity I regularly use my visual frequency meter to check what happens within my composition technically. If you are into synthesizers yourself you know that you never should play chords with the right and simultaneously the bass with the left hand. That way you would make your composition very muddy in the first place because most frequencies within the composition are already occupied. Where to place the other sounds, the melody, the special treatments within the overtone scale? No wonder that most synth compositions sound like an unorganized bunch of apples, potatoes, cheese cake, marmalade and mustard – often unenjoyable. So I rarely use chords played as chords, so my lines are always played as single lines from various sources, that way i have control over all parameters till the final mix.

DK – One of the things I do with my software synths is that I like to run them through Analog filters. I have a couple of old Moog filters that I built from schematics and I have a couple of tube pre-amps so I can get it back to that warm analog feeling, like it’s the real instrument with the sine wave otherwise I can’t mix with my wave correctly or they’re all muddy or get chopped up.

EF – The analogue digital situation has given me a lot of work, which I usually do not want to have but it is necessary to do work that way in order to get the best out of the two worlds. Most of this TD stuff is produced digitally, even the outboard equipment runs sooner or later through your computer digi devices. now one of my little secrets is, how to polish the digital sound with the “dirt” of an analogue treatment. even if it sounds foolish to some readers of this mag, here we´re talking about a very original sound which has nothing to do with the composition or even the mastering. I call it closing the circle between the deepest bass note and your overtone scale. There is nothing more to say here. Last example for everybody to prove: It’s like the tweeter in a huge P.A. system. Listen to the tweeter alone and you will say, wow, that’s horrible. Then you add the high mids, the mids and the bass and sub-woofers. All of a sudden your ugly tweeter sound makes the overall result very “shiny” and you call it a warm concert sound. And that’s the same the way you structure your music. You have to clean up everything and then add a bit of dirt onto the right places sometimes. And that becomes a tiny little something up there in the overtones. No one except yourself will know about it, but it will make a difference to the listener psychologically as well as subconsciously. So there’s a lot of background experience everybody handles differently, everybody has his own way of producing music.

DK – That’s the artistic way. Everybody should be a little unique

EF – Another experience I had with my old analogue 24-track tape machines. Usually they were running for 32 minutes till the end of the tape. My one was just always running for 16 minutes because I rarely used the normal speed. Doubling the speed during recording, getting back to normal, giving the sound some special EQ treatments and then going back to High Speed. We did it this way because we wanted to add some “musical dirt” to the recording. It sounds maybe crazy to some peoples’ ears, but believe me, it works. Even to make a synthesizer “dirty” to give him that tiny shiny bit on the overtone scale you have to get into the “secrets of dirt”. You have to experiment a lot to understand what artificial sound really is, how the parameters are structured against natural sounds. Never forget sounds in its very basic nature, they have nothing to do with what we call music. Music is a term invented by us humans just to describe the variety of possibilities how to “organize” random patterns of frequency noises. It is like in physics, to understand our materialized world you have to dive deeply into the world of atoms and molecular structures. That´s why music will always be an adventure and can never be explored 100%.

LK AND DK – We know that you are a pretty philosophical person, how do you use your music to reveal those philosophies? Or does that matter to you?

EF – Philosophy is more a priority to me than music ever could be, because the music just reflects your entire being. It’s your being, it’s your thinking, it’s your consciousness or digging into the unconscious – that becomes more and more important in your life. Everything else you do is just an outcome of it. And so music is one way to send messages about your own state of consciousness. An artist always sends out messages whether you’re writing or painting or whatever art form you use to express yourself. Everything a person does, reflects necessarily his state of mind. That´s very logical. But music is not just for the business of music or to entertain people. Music sends kind of a message that is not for a specific person or a group of people, it’s for everybody who reflects and reacts on the same level of emotions, intellectual experiences or is just able listening to the music without any preconceptions, pros or cons.

LK AND DK – I heard you explaining to a fan the other night about the genius in the music and how it was his ability to perceive the genius rather than your genius creating it. Can you explain that?

EF – First of all no one is a genius just by himself or through his ego based personality. Everybody who believes he could be a genius just because he is so clever and has a complex knowledge about everything, just shows his awkward mediocrity. But back to your question, I never would call myself a genius. I wouldn’t even call myself a perfect musician, I just call myself a solid servant and I’m trying to be “available” if there is the call to express some musical atmospheres within the tonal environment which is transformed through my human filter system. I am totally open to one or another thing and would always step into the unknown of that sort of life and imagination, rather than playing the safety card of a commercial business. But there are a lot of people who can’t get into it because their consciousness is different, because everything is a matter of consciousness. As long as a person thinks he or she is the great ego and superstar and is controlling everything through their free will, that just reflects the very unconscious situation and it shows a blind person in a dark room. It´s like radio waves, you can’t listen to FM if your frequency is switched on shortwave radio. FM simply does not exist for you. If you are on FM and also on short and long wave radio, you all in a sudden understand that there are other worlds and universes around you – but unfortunately most people have no access to such fields of energy because they are their own enemy. So that is just a little example about the way your consciousness is functioning whether you are receiving or sending art forms.

LK AND DK – Why do you continue to play, record and perform? What drives you?

EF – Nothing drives me really because I feel free to say yes or no – but that´s it, you can see my binary code I have to live with. Yes or no to tour the States again after 20 years, yes or no to record the next album, yes or no to practice on my piano, yes or no to ask questions about the meaning of life, yes or no to believe in God, Facebook or the President of the United States, one day your time is over – yes or no!

LK AND DK – What makes you happy?

EF – Happy? Turn it around and it sounds ‘Yppah’ – what is ‘Yppah’ you´ve never heard that word before but it´s just another sound of the absolute same letters. Because you´re not used to it. If you´re very open-minded to accept it as a new term for the rest of your life – it has no other meaning than ‘Yppah’ – yes, everybody can go the ‘Yppah’ way of turning his life upside down. It doesn´t cost any money, no binding to another brainwave of a guru or spiritual master. You just realize that everything you need to understand yourself and the rest of the world has been given to you by day one of your existence. But no one has trained you to make use of it. Everybody told you that all important affairs in life are outside yourself – what a waste of time and energy. YOU are the bank, you have all treasures of the world and beyond within yourself, you don´t need a credit from anybody. It just matters, if you will end your days very differently than you started them. Same day, same week, same month, same year, the same life – but upside down, that’s important because that means the experiences you had has changed things, has changed your consciousness. YOU have to change it by drinking your coffee out of a spoon rather than drinking a big pot empty within a second. A lot of people think that happiness is because you did not have a certain type of bad experience or you tucked them away, or you´re lucky with a lot of money in your bank account. I am the opposite. I rather like being a feather in the wind, coming and going, than being a solid rock, endlessly waiting for the next move of the mountain. That’s about it.

LK AND DK–It must be gratifying knowing that your fans still want to see you in person and that they still want to buy your recordings. Tangerine Dream fans seem to be quite loyal and just can’t seem to get enough of the band. Like David Gunderman in Los Angeles, he works for the airlines and every time you are in concert he hops on a plane for the day just to see Tangerine Dream. I am sure he must have every recording as well. One such fan in Finland asked if you will ever release Island of the Fay on Vinyl.

EF – We´re all fans of the same source – the only difference between us is that we as musicians have to materialize those frequencies all of us want to hear – we have to do the job – and the audience, the other part of the “fans” are buying the outcome so that makes our living and we can go on.

But back to your question: Yes we will release a box which contains two vinyl records, three CD´s and a thick booklet from that Mandarine tour. We realized that quite a number of people want to go back to vinyl for whatever reason. They like to listen to it and it has for some reason a different quality. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is better. To me it is just different. As I pointed out before – I´m never acting as a judge here – cause I´ve got my opinions towards musically  “felt sense” perceptions anyway. So, it will be a limited edition, quite a thick box. We are hoping it will be available for Christmas. Everybody can go to the TD website to find out about it.

LK AND DK – I see that it seems like you have been recording non-stop since we last saw you in 2008. Do you plan on going back in the studio when you get back?

EF – Of course, the plan is to release apart from the box I just mentioned, one Live CD and DVD from our Budapest concert in April this year and also a Live CD and DVD from the Berlin Concert in May this year. Both concerts had a different program so it makes sense for our people. For late autumn and Christmas there is the forth part of our poem series Franz Kafka’s “The Castle” in the making and finally we´re still hopeful to get our collaboration with Brian May on the Island of Tenerife last year into the shops – so fingers crossed.

LK AND DK–Back to your tour experience – I think you have toured just about everywhere. In what way is it different touring in America as opposed to Europe?

EF – Completely different. I’ll give you just one example, I mean there are more than one, in Europe you have a classical concert audience. Ok, a Springsteen audience or a Madonna audience – they’re jumping around and wave their arms all over the places worldwide, which is absolutely ok. But people who join a TD concert aren´t waiting for me getting up and forcing the audience to clap their hands – it is the plan during such a gig to listen to the music instead of moving around. In Europe as far as our concert experience is concerned, they sit there and they are quiet, they interact, they might clap their hands and jump out of their seats but in general they are sitting once they are in the hall, but in America they are running in and out, up and down while we´re playing. It is distracting. People are always disturbing each other in some way. But obviously they don’t care to stop. I don’t know why. But that’s the way it is. I want to say “Hey, Stop it! Sit Down” When I would go to a concert I want to sit down and listen to the music, that is why I am here. That’s why I paid for my ticket. That’s ok if someone doesn’t like the music, they can get up and get out. But here they get up and down and go in and out three or four times to get a beer or something. They could get a drink before the music starts. In Boston, during our playing, I could see some people fighting in the second row, fighting over who had the right or wrong seats right in the middle of the concert. In Europe they would have been taken out of the theater. Here it is like a festival atmosphere no one complained. But maybe that´s a sort of concert democracy we have to learn about.

LK AND DK – That’s one of the things that I would count on my audience cause if I’m playing live and their all in chaos out there, that makes me feel like I’m in chaos too. Cause I don’t want to feel like I have to tinker with my sound. Now I will tinker with my sound if I can get feedback from the audience “Oh I like that particular bass or I like that feeling coming in and I will go up there and tweak it and get their attention and bring them back in. Well, we draw our energy from the audience.

BAF – Yes, of course. I also think the better the interaction with the performers and the audience the better the performance. I really realized it when we were in New York. There was such a great audience and the band was better than any of the other evenings.

LK AND DK – Where does Tangerine Dream go from here? Any new projects in the works?

EF – We are preparing, they want to send us to Australia, Asia and South America but I am not sure because touring is taking quite a lot of energy away from the person and from the group. And because this was our first long tour as a band, I think we’ll take a few months break before we decide what to do. We’ve also got an offer for another American tour next year, so we will see if we sign a contract for that. We have a lot of things to do but at this point we are not ready.

Tangerine Dream does not seem like they are slowing down at all, if nothing else, they are just getting started on a very busy next couple of years. As a whole new generation explores the music and philosophy of this incredible band, the demand for more and more music and concerts just doesn’t seem to quit. Loyal fans cannot get enough and as new fans find out, the addiction is contagious. To find out where and when Tangerine Dream will be appearing next, visit their web site at www.tangerinedream-music.com There will also be information regarding the latest products like the box set from the Electric Mandarine Tour and other recordings.