Fireworks Magazine Online 52 - Interview with Tangerine Dream


Tangerine Dream was founded all the way back in 1967 by Edgar Froese. The band has gone through multiple line up changes over the years with Froese the only constant throughout. Given the uniqueness of their sound, involving all types of synth, keys and sampling to name but a few specialties, it is difficult to either categorise or compare them to any other acts past or present. Their debut album called ‘Electronic Meditation’ came out in 1970 with the ground breaking release ‘Phaedra’ arriving in 1974 through Virgin Records. In all, the band has released over ninety studio albums and forty compilations. If that wasn’t enough there have been sixty plus soundtracks and scores including films such as ‘Near Dark’, ‘Legend’, ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Risky Business’. Dave Scott got chance to ask enigmatic composer and central figure Edgar Froese about the upcoming 45th Anniversary show in London and all other matters pertaining to the band.

Tangerine Dream is an interesting name, may I ask is there any story behind it and how did you come up with it?

The name was there before I woke up on 29th Sept 1967; I decided to take the offer of using it for music purposes. That is it until today.

Your sound and style is somewhat unique and difficult to put into a particular genre. How do you describe your sound?

Through the decades people have often been tried to categorize the sound of the band. In the end everybody ended up calling it simply ‘The Tangerine Dream sound’. It is hard to compare it with any other music to be honest.

You have a vast back catalogue spanning many decades, if you were trying to showcase your very best tracks to potential new listeners, what one or two would you use?

We always recommend the five ‘Booster’ releases. They are a brilliant if somewhat complex overview of the past and present Tangerine Dream music.

With such a vast array of different projects, songs and albums; what are your personal favourite songs? Do you have a favourite album and what makes that stand out if so?

Of course ‘Phaedra’, (the first Virgin Records release), was the biggest album of our career because it was so fresh and new to all listeners worldwide. It can’t be compared to any of the later albums. As far as modern sound and the current music is concerned we much prefer the studio albums ´The Angel from the West Window´ and `Finnegan’s Wake´.

What influences the music you make, both before Tangerine Dream was formed and since?

As I have pointed out many times, because of our classical background, Bach´s music and structures have always been a huge inspiration whatever we did in music. Apart from that, modern minimal music and some prog rock stuff is what we usually listen to.

When you first set out all those years ago, what was your original intention or vision? Do you feel all these years later you have achieved what you originally set out to do?

To reach the 100% of your musical dreams is impossible; I think every serious musician would agree with that. All you can do is be as authentic as possible against all commercial influences and temptations to prostitute your goal and make your music just acceptable for the masses. That would be selling your soul; we never did that.

How do you compose your music, from the initial ideas to the structure of the track to the final version? Do you compose most of your music the same way?

By composing the music in our studios, we use the same old-fashioned methods as classic musicians did centuries ago. We work from a note sheet bar by bar horizontal and vertical. The big difference is, that today we can use fast and reliable computer software which allows us to go backwards and forwards, replacing parts with a mouse click and being able to listen to what you compose immediately. An immense comfort when compared to our older colleagues.

How has changing technology impacted on your writing and recording; how have you evolved musically over the years with the influx of various technologies?

We are among the few who survived the analogue age as well as the digital and computer days. So saying this means nothing more than knowing nearly all techniques in writing, recording and performing music within the last 45 years. This interview would need to have some 300 pages just for a proper overview in order to give you the most important cornerstones within the three categories.

Over the years Tangerine Dream has had members who have come and gone with you being the only mainstay. Do you find new members help bring fresh ideas and a new energy or is it a part of the business that just has to be worked round when it happens? Do the new members of Tangerine Dream help you take a different direction from previous incarnations?

When I founded the band in September 1967, it was absolutely clear that it wouldn’t be easy to go on with other band members for more than a couple of years. There are so many reasons why a change or replacement is important it helps to re-create new sounds and music to improve the music. Even when the so-called success has reached a certain peak in your career, you have to look out for new mountain peaks that you want to climb with your colleagues. Unfortunately not everybody in the band has seen it the same way. In such cases I do bring in my so-called 51% of the shares and make the decisions myself. 

You have composed soundtracks for many films including such classics as ‘Risky Business’, ‘Near Dark’ and ‘Firestarter’ which is where most non Tangerine Dream listeners will be familiar with your work. How did you come to get involved in this avenue of musical enterprise?

Everything in Hollywood started with William Friedkin who asked us to write a score for his 1977 movie ‘Sorcerer’ which was a remake of the Clouzot movie “The Wages of Fear”. That is where it all began and it’s lasted for almost 20 years, with more than 60 scores worldwide. I did stop scoring for a couple of years to go back working more intensively on live performances and studio releases. Right now we´re on again and will return to the movies with some picture scoring in the spring 2013.

Do you take a different approach to writing music for a soundtrack than you would for music intended for an album? If the right director or film asked, would you do another soundtrack?

Writing a score for a picture is a complete different affair than the band´s typical studio work. A director or producer is not your partner or colleague who you can easily discuss all parameters of sounds with. Film people most often have a concept in their very stressed brain system. It is your professionalism to find out how to materialize their thoughts. Often the terms they used to work with have nothing to do with music or musical parameters, nevertheless you must find out what is best sound wise to satisfy both the picture artistically and the director mentally. In some ways I think that being a musician, psychologist and technician in one person – is not always easy to deal with.

You have also had your music used in TV such as ‘La Parc’ in the 80’s program ‘Streethawk’; was this written for the show or was it taken from pre-existing material? Would you compose any music for a particular big production TV show if asked?

‘Streethawk’ or ‘La Parc’ was written purely by Tangerine Dream without using other source material. If we were to do did it again today? You mean the tiny little electrified thumbnail theatre where they´re selling gossip drugs with Shakespeare flavour? Oh yeah, we did work on several pieces for TV features and series. The problem here is that it takes even more time working on a TV programme than working for a big picture, you often have less experienced people around you and last but not least you get paid less than a third of what a big studio would give you. Getting back to your question, yes I would work for TV if the story is intelligent and unusual and it would also have to be the right script.

What projects are you working on as a band currently?

We’re back to the big screen with a project which will hit the streets in the spring next year. Also we´re preparing the concert CD and DVD release from our gig with Brian May in Tenerife last year. We are still rehearsing for our world tour and finally working on the next studio album for our poetry special “The Castle” by Franz Kafka, so we´re quite busy.

You have a one off special show in London on 24th June as part of your ‘Electric Manderine’ tour and part of your 45th Anniversary. Are you looking forward to playing for your UK fans again?

Yes we are, we would have liked to have played some shows in the North of England, Scotland and Ireland as well but the promoter advised against it this year which was a shame. When that’s the case there’s nothing you can do about it as a band unfortunately.

Given the importance of being an anniversary, can the fans expect anything extra special during this show?

The speciality is the music itself. So at least 90% of the material each diehard Tangerine Dream fan will recognize, we have never performed such a big selection before. It’s intended to be kind of kaleidoscope of memories and emotions that both the fans and band grew up with.

Do you still have a passion for touring after all these years of gigging?

No one can suppress us or has to convince us to hit the road again. Because of that it´s a good feeling being totally independent and therefore we can set up a tour any time we like and when we feel comfortable. We still love looking into our fans’ faces, they are often long-time followers and part of our life as well; our music is part of theirs. As far as the performance goes, most of the stuff we´re performing is composed; it’s hard to improvise those arrangements every night especially with six people playing, so they all play their organized structured parts. That said we did purely improvise our music for more than 12 years at the beginning of our international career. So it´s proven that we can do it both ways.

Do you have a particular place or venue that you love playing live?

We love the summer season and playing outdoor gigs, especially amphitheatres in the South of Europe or in the States.

How did you get into music originally, what was your musical foundation before Tangerine Dream? If you were not a musician what would you have done as a career?

I got my first piano lessons, which I was totally unhappy with, at the Berlin Academy of Arts there were various classes for Painting and Sculpturing as well. I was also travelling round the world in my youth. Very late, at the age of 20 I made the decision to make music my first love in life. My second affair is being a cameraman, shooting during touring with the band all the time, they hate me for that, but I´ve got over about 900 hours of uncut material out of 45 years. All of it for any kind of historical documentation, for when I change my universal address…

What do you like to do away from the music scene, how do you relax and escape the demands of composing and performing?

Apart from arts, I´ve got together with my wife quite a big philosophical library with very rare books from all over the world; we also have a strong interest in astrophysics with the focus on quantum gravity. So there is no need to escape, we´re never chased by anything or anybody.

What do you think has been the secret to yours and the bands longevity in the music business? Are you as driven and enthusiastic about music and the band as you were all those years ago?

As far as my relationship to music goes, I always felt just a servant for a completely unlimited art form. I never ever had any kind of intension, sitting in the spotlight and polishing my ego, that´s totally absurd to me once you´ve understood what music really is in its full complexity. I’m still learning how to serve the unexplainable, that´s the whole secret.

Throughout all the years, what would you say are the highlights of your career, the moments that you treasure most? On the other side of the coin, what moments have you found the hardest and wish maybe you could have changed them or made a totally different decision?

To answer that fully would take me 300 pages or more to count all those types of moments, good and bad ones. One would be moving to the UK, leaving Germany was a very good key decision in the early seventies. There is also getting surprisingly fast into the Hollywood scoring industry in the late seventies and to learn everything about music and technology right from the early start in the late sixties. These are just some of the 100’s of positive highlights I went through. As for the negative ones, they’re very hard to remember right now.

What do the next 5 years hold for Edgar Froese and Tangerine Dream? How many more albums do you feel you want to make? Do you have any musical challenges you still have yet to achieve?

No one knows if he or she will get up next morning or if they are already on a bigger journey so to be honest planning five years ahead sounds absurd and bizarre to me. I always try to arrange things for the best moment in life – and that´s NOW!

How do you view the current generation of musicians with the genres you work in, and do you feel the future is in safe hands? Who do you currently rate and enjoy?

I´m not in a position to judge any kind of development, I obviously have my likes or dislikes. Everything humans do, including their behaviour within a social environment, depends totally on their different levels of consciousness. So that means there is absolutely nothing to complain about specifically in the music world. If I don´t like things, and there are quite a lot, I do not spend a minute to get into it. If I´m interested in the sound and message of a talented young band, I`ll get my ticket and carefully watch and possibly enjoy them. Just to give you one example, I had music from the extraordinary Islanders ‘Sigor Ros’ on my I-Pod years ago, at a time most people didn´t even know how to spell their name.

When you finally do call it a day with Tangerine Dream and music, how would you like your career to be remembered?

The vibrating pulse of our music hopefully will find some open-minded heads and hearts for a long time to come. The rest isn’t that important.

Is there anything else you would like to say or add to your UK fans and our readers?

Stop thinking that all the others are the big fishes and I´m just the small fish. In reality all of us are just worms or ashes. After a cup of coffee in the morning think about it and go to work or back to bed – it won’t make any difference for the universe, but please don´t call me, if you´re broke.

Edgar, thank you so much for your time and your thoughts.

Thanks for the interview Dave.



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Michael said:

The older Edgar Froese gets, the more pompous he sounds in nearly everything he says. It's a pity really.
January 08, 2013
Votes: +0

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