Hans-Joachim Roedelius’s work has been a huge influence on us here at Data Garden. We came across Cluster as we were trying to find an electronic language of our own and were surprised to hear so many commonalities with these new 35 year old sounds.
Data Garden caught up with our favorite electronic pastoralist on his way to Moogfest where he performed 10/29/2011.
The Self Portrait is very simple and meditative. What sort of concept were you thinking of when you started writing those records?
There was no concept. I was just doing it because there was not much possibility. There was no machinery to do really good technical work.
At the time, you were also working with Cluster. Was that a big change in terms of possibilities – bringing your personal work into a group setting?
I was always interested to find my own tone language. Not only with Cluster. I started with others. I didn’t work as a soloist in the beginning. I worked with many people in Berlin at the time at the Zodiac. There were 8 people and there’s a record here available. The first ever recorded material from 1968 when we were people just trying to find out what’s going on, what we could do and which way we could do a relevant kind of tone art. So this was the beginning. And then when I got to be with Conrad Schnitzler as Kluster with a K and afterwards as Cluster with a C, every free minute, I tried to do my own music.
Have you always been a full time self-employed musician or have you had other jobs?
No, I am a masseur as a profession. I always had to do it to survive in the beginning of my career. Afterwards, I tried to survive with Cluster in a very rural part of Germany and I tried to be a gardener and work in the woods and bring wood for the stove in the wintertime. And to find food in the forest and mushrooms, and make my own bread and try to be a farmer somehow to get to the roots.
A small sculpture carved by Roedelius while living in rural Germany
Sowiesosso is one of our favorite albums. Between the cover and the sounds, there’s definitely a natural feeling to it. Can you talk a little about where you think that may come from or what your environment was at that time?
I was very very happy at that time. I had a wife. I had a child. I could do gardening. I had to do a lot of hand work and I think that was very good for me because I came from a very big city and from traveling because with Kluster we were on the road for 2 years across Europe. It was a very unstable life, unsafe, unsecure with no money – just trying to survive doing art. Then I settled down and got to know my wife and family and I could work for my own living. I was so happy and I think it is all mirroring in the music.
Have things changed a lot over the years?
No. We have 3 children and 2 grandsons. I am still doing a lot of housework. My wife is a teacher and she is earning the regular money. 3 years ago it started that I could earn a living because of music. It needed that long that people could understand what I am doing. Like you. You know what’s in the music. At the time, nobody knew. We had to learn how to do it and people had to learn what it is we are doing. It’s weird and understandable. Now people understand it and I can make a living from it. I like to tour as well. This tour, I’m supported by my guys who are with me. Chandra Shukla and Jason Scott Furr organized the tour between ATP and Moogfest. Normally I would fly just for ATP and then come back. They arranged it and they are supporting. Chandra is driving and they have a new label. They’re releasing on Erototox Recordings.
So do you have any new solo work coming out on the new label?
Are you just going to keep making records in the hundreds?
It just happens. It’s not by purpose. It just happens accidentally.
On that note of things just happening. When do you find the theme? How do you name an album?
It’s the second process of creativity if you’re doing music like I’m doing it. I don’t know what I’m doing. I have to listen to it and then I have to try to find something equal to the music. It’s the second creative process. Music came out of living and it happened like that because I have no academic education. I had to do it like this. Normally people go from the beginning learning an instrument and rehearsing every day and playing the instrument well. It’s a different approach to music if you really have to learn what is this sound, what is it doing? How does it work? How do people react to it? It’s a long process if you do it like this and I think it’s a good way to make your own music. And it’s really your own because you had to feel what the sound is and what the tone is to be able to work with it in a relevant way.
Who was your main inspiration to start playing improvised music? Any earlier pioneers?
I listened to Xenakis and Pierre Henry and to the old avant garde in France but I never listened to Stockhausen because that was not my thing. I didn’t like it in fact. I never liked very much Kraftwerk. I wanted to do my own thing. I wanted to become able to create my own tone language and I did. I think it worked out well. People know now when they listen to Roedeleus music, it’s Roedelius music. It’s incomparable in a way.
How do you feel that people in our generation think of you as a pioneer in electronic music?
It was not my aim. I just wanted to do myself what I like to do. I was a physical therapist for 10 years and was meant to be working in a hospital or a wellness center or something like that. It was not my aim but it worked out like this and I’m very happy about it. You see because people are coming and listening.