It’s been a long road for TANGERINE DREAM that encompassed more than four decades and over a hundred albums, but it’s going to be over soon. The German band’s current concert trek will be their last: Edgar Froese, the ensemble’s only constant through the ever-changing years, decided to retire. A pity, of course, yet there’s a legacy to admire and investigate, and that’s quite a reason to have a chat with the revolutionary artiste.
– Edgar, it’s clear that 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the “Phaedra” album. But why did you decide to tie in your last tour with this one record?
As an artist you are used to work in cycles without repeating yourself. “Phaedra” was a worldwide landmark in popular electronic music and we felt that a short return to our roots could demonstrate the long way we had gone to make the synthesizer one of the most famous musical instruments worldwide.
– With all the styles and instrumentations TANGERINE DREAM have been employing over the years, how do you feel when the band are described as an electronic music group?
We are using electronic instruments both in the studio and on stage but we are not living in an ivory tower, banned from any kind of popularity doing just intellectual research on electronics. So we really like to entertain people in the best way possible to show how modern, sophisticated equipment can be used today in order to create a futuristic sound.
– Once I described your live performance as having an “impeccable unpredictability”… How loose is your concept of delivering a certain piece when you’re always ready to go out on a limb with improvisation?
To work on stage these days with all the advanced tools developed by the electronic industry, you can’t sit down like in the old days and start noodling around on a three-chord basis. Today you need a kind of structure or even a very complex composition for communicating properly between a bunch of people. Nevertheless, there is still room for musical freedom and even improvisation.
It was like exploring parts of a hidden desert or jungle. At that time no one wanted to perform in the Eastern Bloc countries, because you couldn’t make a lot of money and the conditions under which you had to deliver your performances were absolutely poor, far away from any Western standard. But our interest was a pure musical one, we wanted to make contact with those people who usually never got in touch with new and modern sounds. Of course, we lost money on such tours but we will never forget the twinkle and shining in the audience’s eyes. That’s something no dollar, pound or euro can buy.
– You composed some great soundtracks to films and music inspired by literary works, including those by Blake and Kafka. What’s more interesting: to write to the ready visuals or to the imaginary pictures? Of course, you didn’t watch "Sorcerer" before composing but anyway…
The difference is very simple: writing music for a picture means you have to compromise with a given reference to a movie or the advice coming from the director and producer. Working on your own material, you have to be just authentic with yourself, following your subjective perspectives and ideas. There is no-one who will judge what you are doing as long as you are in the composing process. Both ways are very different but can support your input learning about the musical universe immensely.
– One of your first compositions was “Journey Through A Burning Brain.” To what extent can this title be applied to all the band’s history?
Honestly, this title was chosen by the first record company we worked with in the early ’70s. But as far as our long journey goes, we explored not just the technical side of creating new sounds; it was also a lifetime experience within us. Your thoughts about life and music have changed within the 45 years of the existence as a band and so it still can be seen as a burning process in order to transform the entire picture of everything you came in touch with.
– I don’t believe you’re going to stop writing music but, if you are, how do you feel about the legacy you’re leaving? What do you feel you contributed to the world of rock and beyond it?
The essence of what I have learned about writing and performing music is the authenticity you are faced with in your day-to-day work. No matter what other people or even critics will say, you have to follow your own direction which not necessarily has to be a straight line to success; sometimes it will be a curly, dramatic curve you have to go, but that’s the only way to leave a little landmark of brave respect to others and to the dimensions of your own capability.