"Making music in the long run is a matter of character, not talent" - U.T.
A couple of month's back I had the pleasure of talking to one of the pioneers of German rock: Uli Trepte. He turned out
to be one of the most sincere, dedicated people I've come upon in the music field. Unlike most who are in it for the money,
ego or vicarious thrills, making music gives his life meaning. This is a rare quality today. True commitment is strength
and gives strength. I hope a bit of the feel has come through in this transcription.
hello yeah good thankyou
thankyou good yeah hello
yeah good hello thankyou
Good thankyou yeah hello
A - To start off why don't you give a short rundown on your personal musical history.
Uli - The first group I played with professionally was the Irene Schweitzer Trio which played free jazz in those days
'66-'67. There was Irene Schweitzer on piano and Mani Neumeier on drums. In 1968, Mani and me formed Guru Guru.
A - What were your main musical influences in the early days, like what were you listening to? Who influenced what direction
your music took?
Uli - With the Irene Schweitzer Trio it was so called "Free Jazz". On the other hand, I had heard also classical
and contemporary music. There were several influences among them Indian music and others. I found out with Free Jazz I couldn't
express it. I had to leave the scene and go electric. The beginning of Guru Guru was like Free Rock. The continuing of
playing free music, only electric. After a while we found out to play absolutely free is also a restriction. I then came
back to structures.
A - Did Hendrix have an influence on what you were doing?
Uli -There were different influences: Hendrix, Velve t Underground, early Pink Floyd. We thought this was the way to
go, there lays a new quality of sound - music.
hey hey you
have you already heard
what on the radio
they do bring
hey hey you
just listen turn-on-turned
the asses are talking
and the tits
A - The early Guru lp's seem pretty drug influenced. How much of a role did drugs play in recording them?
Uli - We were turning on for some years at that time. We really tried to bring the experience, the feeling we had while
using so called psychedelic drugs into the music and express a certain lifestyle, a feeling. They were quite a strong influence
for sure. Nearly all of the first groups that played in Germany during '68, '69, '70 were on psychedelic drugs.
A - What was the rock scene like in Germany in the early days? Was it easy to get gigs?
Uli - It was very heavy. It started in '68 when you could only get gigs in jazz clubs or those underground clubs that
were popping up and down. It was small. It increased a little in '69 when places that only booked Top 30 music tried out
new music. In 1970 we could even produce our own concerts.
A - Who were some of the pioneers of the new rock?
Uli - Only a few: Amon Düül, Guru Guru, Embryo, Tangerine Dream, Can, who had the first record out, and Xhol. Only a
few in the first years who played as live bands played the new sound.
A - OK, after Guru you played with Faust. You played live gigs; did you play on any of their albums?
Uli - No, I think there is a live album recorded but never released.
A - Today are there any people in Faust still creative musically that you know of?
Uli - All I know is that they split. I've never heard from them since.
A - After Faust you formed a group with Carsten Bohn from Frumpy called Kickbit Information. Who was in the group?
Uli - It was five piece. There was a violin/viola player, a saxophone/clarinet/flute, a keyboard player, and Carsten
A - Did you do any recording?
Uli - No, because the music we did had no chance with the industry. So, we did some live gigs only. It was a controversy
in the concept, so we decided to go our own way.
A - After Kickbit, is that when you started doing concerts as Spacebox?
Uli - After that I decided to do what I really wanted to do. And I had to do that alone, because I was alone. So, I
started to develop a solo act where I was playing bass, singing and using the Space Box.
A - What exactly does the Space Box entail? Electronics? Tapes? Mixing?
Uli - The Space Box is a unit containing a short wave radio, transistor AM/FM radio, a tape recorder, a mixer, equalizer
and an echo. That's all. No electronics, no synthesizer, nothing. Just four inputs, a filter and echo. The material on
the tapes is generally artificial or from natural sound sources, which I mostly modify by changing the speed: faster or slower,
forwards and/or backwards. I also do a lot of splicing and use endless cassettes. The actual playing is done by mixing the
different sources together. The macro-structure is composed, the microstructure improvised. So, I can get a lot of freedom
on a solid ground. Basically in my style I bring a lot of elements which were until now reserved for so called "contemporary
music"into popular music: a harsh affair.
A - You have performed this live with this haven't you?
Uli - Yeah I did. When I had worked out the program I went to Berlin for three months and played a lot of small gigs.
It was quite OK; some people really dug it. Then I went to England for half a year to see how it was over there. Then I
went back to Germany.
A - Were the reactions in England good or bad?
Uli - It was mixed up. Some people really liked it and some really didn't like it. There was always a heavy reaction
in the audience. Which I thought was quite good.
A - Either way, any reaction is better than no reaction right?
Uli - Yeah, it showed me that my music meant something.
A - Have you done any recordings of your music yet?
Uli - There was some cat who did some recordings in England. But my act is a live act. There has been yet a sufficient
recording to really bring it out. Maybe it needs videotape or something.
A - So your future musical plans include more live performances, developing your concept and someday getting something
down on record?
Uli - For sure, it's the only way. It was always like that with Irene Schweitzer, Guru - playing in the clubs to see
how people react. Then coming up with that.
A - Switching away from the music a bit. Why did you come to the US?
Uli - Well I wanted to have a look. To see if I miss something by staying in Europe. I know the level there and I don't
know anything about America. So I thought it's good in time, I can afford it right now, so lets do it once in your life and
go over and check it out.
A - Can you make any comparisons so far in the week you've been here?
Uli - The social attitudes, the people are quite good. It feels very different from Europe.
A - So you kind of like it?
Uli - Yeah, I still want to go to NY I want to stay for some weeks in NY Then I'll go back to Germany and try to get
some people to play my music.
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A - Well, I'm all for ya. What you're trying to do sounds very interesting. Creative. I'm all for that as opposed to
the business. Art over money anytime, right?
Uli - Hey..
P.S. As a footnote, just recently Uli has settled in Munich and is trying to get together his own band. As he wrote me,
"It's the only way to realize my concept: creating a new kind of German pop music".