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Harmonia

Not content with being a member of two hugely influential Krautrock outfits, Cluster and Harmonia, and an enormous influence on what would later become known as ambient electronic music, Hans-Joachim Roedelius must also rank as one of the most prolific solo artist’s of all time (by our reckoning we’re talking in excess of eighty albums). However he is currently in the process of looking back, something he seldom usually does, due to the recent release of the definitive version of the excellent Tracks & Traces album, Harmonia’s 1976 collaboration with Brian Eno. With this in mind Andy Basire decided to take him way back to his childhood where he began his artistic career as a child actor although did not, as it transpires, actually come from an artistic family background.

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “No my father was a dentist, some of his clients were artistst and directors at the UFA at the time, one of them asked him whether he would allow me to act in some films (altogether six)."

In 1968 Roedelius co-founded the music commune known as Human Being and also the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, the center of Berlin's Underground Culture at the time, with conceptual artist Conrad Schnitzler. It was at the Zodiak that he met Dieter Moebius and in 1970 Roedelius, Schnitzler and Moebius formed Kluster - later changing the name to Cluster when Schnitzler left.

Total Music: This must have been a hugely exciting time to be in Berlin?

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “Oh yes, especially for [someone like] me who came from the east, who had some experience in being brainwashed by the nazis and afterward the communists.”

Total Music: The music that was created by you and many other bands in Germany at that time owed little or nothing to the US/UK music scenes, was it important for you to create something specifically your own?

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “It was most important for me to do what I was able to as a non-academic composer/musician, to be able to experiment with whatever was available at the time (beginning with hitting cooking pots, playing self made bambusflutes, working with mechanical alarm clocks picked up by mics etc.). It was not my aim to create great new music, it was my aim to become aware what was possible to do for me, something in correspondence to myself, to my life-experience, to find my own tone-language, because since I found this was my profession nothing else was possible anymore."

Total Music: Is Krautrock an offensive term to you?

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “Of course, Kluster/Cluster isn't Kraut at all, it's the beginning of a new period in making art, composing music, a new concept set into the world by Josef Beuys at the time, a part of the Fluxus-movement and it was Conrad Schnitzler, Beuys' first pupil, who took that concept in re-composing music out of the moment and I was his first pupil. But whoever invented it, it was part of the change of the paradigm at the time, part of something really necessary after Hitler and Stalin."

Total Music: How did Harmonia come together?

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “Michael (Rother) came to the community in Forst to ask Cluster to play with Neu!, which didn't work out, instead Harmonia was born."

Enter Brian Eno - on his way to Montreux to work with David Bowie on Low - hoping to re-aquaint himself with a band he had encountered two years previously in Hamburg only to find Harmonia had ceased to exist, however Rother, Roedelius and Moebius all lived in the local area so Harmonia '76 was born although the results of these sessions wouldn't see the light of day until twenty one years later its release more or less entirely due to Roedelius.

Total Music: Michael Rother has said of the first release of Tracks & Traces in 1997 which you remixed alone that 'due to discord within the band [you] put the music together on [your] own and [is] therefore an expression of [your] personality' and that he and Dieter Moebius weren't happy at the time although he did go on to admit that you 'had done a hell of a job'.

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “I didn't remix the Tracks & Traces that came out first via Rykodisc and Sony at all. I went through the material that was available, (one stereo tape) and decided what to use. There was no manipulation only technical refinements, the tracks were mastered as they were played by the four of us at the time, no additons at all. The two others were okay with it."

Michael Rother, Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius

Total Music: Michael Rother then dug up even more of the ’76 sessions and the album was released once again with three extra tracks over thirty years after its initial creation. How involved were Dieter and you in the addition of the three extra tracks on the re-released Tracks & Traces?

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “Michael asked us for our agreement to use the three tracks he'd found on the cassette that he'd made from the tapes before Brian left Forst at the time."

Total Music: Is there any chance at all we might ever hear the album played live by all three of you?

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: “How could we play an album by three that was made by four?"

Tracks & Traces is available now on Groenland Records, and you can find out more info about Hans-Joachim at www.roedelius.com Dieter Moebius at www.dietermoebius.de and Michael Rother at www.michaelrother.de

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