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Manche Leute nennen mich einen alten Hippy, und obwohl ich nur selten indische Kleider trage, ist das nicht allzu weit von der Wahrheit entfernt, denn ich mag immer noch diese 60er-Jahre-Slogans wie “Love, Peace and Freedom” und “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out”. Zudem habe ich, seit ich ein kleiner Junge war, Science Fiction geliebt – nicht die dümmlichen SF-Kriegsfilme heutiger Prägung, sondern das coole Zeug von Philipp K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Philip Jose Farmer, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert – Autoren mit viel Fantasie und subversiven Untertönen. Psychedelisches Hippytum und Science Fiction – diese beiden Neigungen können vielleicht erklären, weshalb ich mich einerseits so lange und intensiv mit elektronischer Musik auseinandergesetzt habe und weshalb ich andererseits gerne die akustische Nylonsaiten-Gitarre spiele und lange Drum-Sessions an den Stränden von Ibiza liebe.

Mein erstes Instrument war die Basler Fasnachtstrommel gewesen, die ich als kleiner Junge zu spielen lernte. Mit 14 Jahren kaufte ich meine erste Gitarre und lernte bald die meisten Beatles-Songs. Danach packte mich Blues und Blues-Rock, nachdem ich am TV ein Konzert von Big Bill Broonzy gesehen hatte. Als LSD auf die Musikszene traf, wurde ich ein grosser Fan von Jimi Hendrix und Pink Floyd und begann, die elektrische Gitarre mit Wah-Wah, Echo, Verzerrung und Flanger zu spielen, immer auf der Suche nach den abgefahrensten Sounds. Logischerweise landete ich bald bei den elektronischen Instrumenten, ich konnte einen ARP 2600 ergattern, einen wunderbaren Synthesizer, den ich immer noch sehr gerne spiele.

1981 gründeten Stella und ich unser Space-Sound-Studio und während vieler Jahre war elektronische Musik der Mittelpunkt unseres Lebens. Von unseren künstlerischen Projekten anfangs der 80er ist Schaltkreis Wassermann das bekannteste und wird heute als einer der elektronischen Pioniergruppen betrachtet. Das Schaltkreis Album PSYCHOTRON von 1982 ist inzwischen ein gesuchtes Kultobjekt. Im Juni 2012 ist es vom Berliner Label Private Records auf Vinyl wiederveröffentlicht worden. Aber in den 80er verdienten wir kaum Geld mit unseren Schallplatten. In Italien waren wir sehr populär in der Cosmic-Szene, aber wir wussten nichts davon, da es noch kein Internet gab. In England war das Album Nr. 5 der Synth-Charts von Melody Maker, aber auch da kam kein Geld herein. So lebten wir von den kommerziellen Jingles und den Film- und Video-Soundtracks, die ich komponierte und produzierte.

Das meiste Geld, das wir verdienten, wurde wieder in Instrumente und den Ausbau unseres Studios investiert. 1985 leasten wir einen Fairlight CMI IIx, einen der allerersten Sampler. Wir schrieben in einem Prospekt, dass wir Kühe zum Singen bringen konnten, ein Videoproduzent fragte nach, und wir produzierten für ihn einen Track mit singenden Kühen, der schlussendlich in seinem Video gar nicht verwendet wurde, aber ein Verleger hörte den verrückten Sound und sagte: “Das ist ein Hit, ihr müsste eine Platte machen.” Er hatte recht, “MUH!” von Matterhorn Project war ein Nummer 2 Hit in der Schweiz, Nummer 5 in Südafrika und wurde in Japan dem grössten Teil von Europa veröffentlicht. Wir hatten dann eine zweite Topten Hitsingle “Yo-lollo-Diuh”, ein Jodel-Disco-Song, und das folgende Album kam auch in die Charts. Das war das erste Mal, dass wir etwas Geld mit unserer Musik verdienten und darum blieben wir eine Weile auf diesem kommerzielleren Pfad, was Stella und ich später bereuten, denn es führte uns weg von unseren psychedelisch-elektronischen Gebieten.

Mitte der 90er-Jahre hatte ich genug von den Jingles und den Video-Soundtracks. Einige unserer eigenen Produktion waren recht erfolgreich, vor allem mein Goa-Projekt “Eternal Bliss” mit dem Album “Pyramids”, aber es reichte nicht, um unsere kleine Familie zu erhalten. Deshalb begann ich mit Software-Jobs und fand schliesslich meine Nische in der Entwicklung von Datenbanken. Das verlangte viel Zeit, aber nachts arbeitete ich weiter im Studio und produzierte zum Beispiel Stellas zwei schöne Solo-Alben “The Palace of Yin” und “L’Ame de la Lune” und mein erstes Solo-Album “Triple E”. 2008 wurde Stella mit Krebs diagnostiziert, es folgten drei traurige Jahre, und im 2011 hat sie die materielle Ebene verlassen.

Nun bin ich wieder zurück auf der Bühne mit meinen Projekten “Eternal Bliss” (psyTrance), “Schaltkreis Wassermann” (cosmic/minimal synth / space-rock) und der psychedelischen Chillout-Musik, die du auf meiner neuen CD “Space Drone Salad” hören kannst. Dieses Album zeigt, was mir in den letzten Jahren im Studio gefallen hat, ohne stilistische Formel, einfach ein ehrlicher Ausdruck dessen, was mich musikalisch bewegt hat. Ich mag das Album und ich hoffe, es gefällt dir auch. 🙂

An interview made before the Schaltkreis live gig in Antwerpen, October 2013

1. Hello Schaltkreis Wassermann, welcome to this interview
Thanks!

2. Everbody knows you from the „Psychotron“ Album, as well as the „Sex is Out, Ich bin geklont“ 7″. How would you describe your music from that period of time ?

You could call it cyberpunk, electronic rock or just experimental electronic music. In Italy they called it Cosmic and today it would be minimal synth. Actually PSYCHOTRON contains quite a number of different styles. The last part of the „Psychotron“ song for instance could be regarded as a forerunner to Goa / psyTrance with its fast tempo and its driving sequencers. „Schwerkraft“ is a kind of melancholic piece with a mathematical harmony structure. „Spaced Out“ is purely experimental sound tweaking on the ARP 2600 while „Mutanten“ is an electronic pop song with tongue-in-cheek lyrics about mutants dancing and defying gravity. „Weltraum-Boogie“ is an electronic pop song with a very unusual 5/4 metric that most people don’t even notice. „Lux“ has been a soundtrack to an experimental typographic movie.

We had very little money at that time. I had been playing guitar a long time before Schaltkreis and owned some effects. The first thing that Stella and I bought together was the Roland Space Echo RE-201 that I still have. Then came the ARP 2600 that we received from the Swiss distributor and only paid much later. We then started to do soundtracks for all kinds of videos and with all the money we earned we bought new stuff. At the time of Psychotron we had the ARP 2600, the ARP Avatar guitar synth (that never really worked for the guitar), a Roland 100M modular system and a Prophet V. All this equipment is still or again in use except the Prophet that seems impossible to repair. We then had a Roland MC4 MicroComposer as the central sequencer – very clumsy to program but it worked. So we just took what equipment we had, experimented and tried to make the best of it. At that time we were quite into LSD, we were also friends with Albert Hofmann who visited us from time to time in our studio. We often had psychedelic sessions in the studio, every weekend for quite some time.

So all in all you could call it early psychedelic electronic music.
http://pjwassermann.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/lsd-and-musical-creativity/

3. These releases on vinyl date back from the early 80ies, 1981 and 1982 to be more precise. Since then there were no more releases by SW, what happened ?

Basically the usual music business frustration story. PSYCHOTRON was first released on the prestigious Mercury label but from the Swiss branch of the major that is now Universal. The other countries weren’t interested in anything that came out of Switzerland and the Swiss company immediately lost interest, too. Then we re-released it on our own Space Records label, distributed by a Dutch company. We never saw a cent from the sales instead they sent us an invoice for pressing the records. At least we heard from traveling friends that they had seen the album in San Francisco, Tokyo and Moscow. In England it got to Nr. 5 on the synth charts of Melody Maker but nothing happened. There was no internet at that time so we didn’t know that we were hugely successful in the Italian cosmic scene. Especially Stella found this lack of resonance hard to handle.

Later we leased a Fairlight, the first musical sampling computer, and it nearly ruined us financially. But we happened to have a big hit in Switzerland and some other countries with MUH! under the project name of Matterhorn Project. This was the first time we earned a little bit of money with our own records and so we stuck to this project for a while. But it also moved us to a much more commercial style and we later regretted that very much because it destroyed our image as psychedelic electronic pioneers.

4. SW still plays music but it has evolved quite a bit as nowadays you play a different kind of music. Could you tell us a little bit more about it ?

Only in 2003 we really got aware of Schaltkreis again when Swiss/American DJ Alex Gloor (In Flagranti) came to visit us in our studio and told us about the status that Schaltkreis had in Italy, the US and many other parts of the world. We had no idea of that. He urged us to re-release PSYCHOTRON as a CD. First I didn’t like the idea as I’m always busy with new musical discoveries but finally I did it and it set off a revival that’s only getting real momentum now. Thanks, Alex!

Sadly Stella died in 2011 of cancer and also many years before she had kind of lost interest in life and in music, too. She had always been the one who said that Schaltkreis was the best that we had done together and that it was a pity that we hadn’t done more live work with Schaltkreis (at the time we weren’t able technologically to bring our sound to the stage). So in 2008 I thought I could cheer her up by writing new Schaltkreis material and taking it live. In the last 10 to 15 years I had been getting into the guitar again, especially as I had discovered the Roland VG-99 guitar synth. So I didn’t write just electronic music, I wanted to play guitar live. Stella was singing with her wonderful and very special voice and the she was also playing the Kaossillator and some effects. I created in-depth visuals for the whole repertoire. We had a series of concerts in Switzerland, Athens and in Ibiza, some of them triumphant, but Stella always said that this wasn’t the real Schaltkreis, she just didn’t like the guitar. In 2010 she didn’t want to go on stage any more and then some months later she died. These were the saddest years of my life.

When Janis Nowatzki of Private Records, Berlin, re-released PSYCHOTRON on vinyl in 2012, after the release party he took me to a friend who had a 2600 and we started jamming. This really got me back on track again with the old analog synths as I realised that I was still completely familiar with them. I started to clean and repair them all – this process is still going on – and reconnect them into the studio that had otherwise gone mostly digital. So now I have a couple of new tracks that are done with my old synths and I like it a lot.

5. Last year Private Records re-released the „Psychotron“ Album. We love that album, but why should people buy it ?

When we first released the album in 82 I wasn’t really satisfied with it. To me it was just a collection of experiments and explorations we had done and I would have liked something more of a concept album. But today I think it’s quite coherent and I always like to hear it. It’s a fascinating document of the time and the psychedelics we were using. Musically it’s interesting and diverse and the recording quality is astonishingly good in regard to the amateur and semi-professional equipment we had to use. I remember that I always had to fight hiss and distortion. With some proper management at that time the album would have become a hit and Schaltkreis a household name…

6. We always wondered where you got the title from the 7″ „Sex ist Out, Ich bin geklont from“ ? Does it make sense ?

From my early days I had been a big fan of Science Fiction and so I was familiar with the concept of cloning. The title is about a future where human replication only occurs by cloning and sex is completely out. Of course this was ironic because the sex drive is so strong in humans that it will hardly ever be out.

7.You’re gonna play a unique 1 time show in Antwerp the 24th of October at Bar Nadar, Ernest van Dijckkaai 19; What can people expect that evening ?

Currently I have three live acts:
• My chillout live show with visuals by Asteriza and with two dancers when we perform in Ibiza. I have an album finished that’s ready for release.
http://pjwassermann.com/projects/live-guitar-psychill/
• My psyTrance guitar live act Eternal Bliss with the album Full-OM.
http://pjwassermann.com/eternal-bliss/
• And Schaltkreis Wassermann which is basically the oldest but onstage the youngest. I had the first performance of the new Schaltkreis Wassermann in Berlin last year and that was an extended DJ act where I creatively toyed with the old released and unreleased material. I’ll do this also in Antwerpen but I’ll bring along some analog synths (a Mopho, an MFB synth lite and an ARP Odyssey). I’ve been playing around with them quite a bit and trying to integrate them live which is not all that easy.
So the Antwerpen concert marks the beginning of a completely new live presence by Schaltkreis Wassermann and I’ll certainly keep working on it and develop it further. A new analog album is already on its way, too.
http://pjwassermann.com/projects/schaltkreis-wassermann/
http://www.schaltkreiswassermann.com

8. Thanks a lot for the Interview and success with the concert !
Thanks for the invitation!

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