(1947-) Klaus Schulze is a pioneering synthesist and electronic musician of the Berlin School, and a contemporary of the founders of Tangerine Dream. He has released over forty albums, mostly as a solo artist, has owned and operated record labels, and has also worked with an influenced a number of other artists.
Schulze got his start in the late 1960s in the then-West Berlin experimental/psychedelic rock scene, playing drums and guitar for various groups. A chance meeting with Edgar Froese led to his joining Tangerine Dream for their first album in 1970, but shortly after he left that band to become a founding member of Ash Ra Tempel. Again, he stayed for only one album before leaving the group to record his first solo album, Irrlicht, in 1972. This was mostly performed with a combo organ and tape studio techniques. But for his next album, Cyborg, he added a VCS3, and from there the tape studio techniques were rapidly phased out.
Rise to FameEdit
Schulze's music quickly caught the fancy of progressive listeners in Europe, particular France where he enjoyed large audiences. Schulze undertook a busy touring and recording schedule and by 1975 he had released his fifth album, Timewind. This won several awards in Europe and cemented Schulze as one of Europe's top musical acts.
Comparisons were drawn between Schulze's music and Tangerine Dream's. This was not entirely unfair; both were using the same basic approach of layers of synths and sound effects with sequenced backing melodies and rhythms. Schulze did prefer a more quirky approach, however; little of his music was rehearsed or written ahead of time, and there was often a deliberate imprecision in order to achieve the more organic feel that Schulze preferred.
In the mid-'70s, Schulze began working with and assisting other electronic musicians and bands who were attempting to learn the craft. Schulze often worked as an unofficial producer and music educator in Germany and France, showing others how to build patches and use studio equipment. In 1975 Schulze traveled to Japan to produce the Far East Family Band, which included a young Kitaro on synthesizers; the collaboration had a significant effect on Kitaro's musical style and later career.
Schulze made an unconventional career move in 1977 when he agreed to compose a soundtrack for an X-rated movie, Body Love. This was surprisingly well recieved, and it leveraged an unconventional sales channel, being sold at the theaters where the movie was screened, in addition to normal sales channels. The album became Schulze's best seller to date, and it is still a fan favorite (not the least of which because the original cover featured nude scenes from the movie).
Collaborations: Go and Richard WahnfriedEdit
In 1976, Schulze agreed to become a founding member of the world-music supergroup Go, being assembled by Stomu Yamashta, whom Schulze had met while producing the Far East Family Band. Schulze participated in the recording of the band's two studio albums but did not participate in many of the live performances. Klaus Mueller, Schulze's long-time manager and personal assistant, has written that the self-taught and unconventional Schulze clashed with some of the formally-trained band members, particularly guitarist Al Di Meola. However, Schulze struck up a long-running collaboration with Go's drummer Michael Shrieve.
In 1979, Schulze established the alias "Richard Wahnfried" to release collaborations with other artists. The first such was Time Actor, featuring Shrieve and singer Authur Brown. Brown's presence on vocals on this album marks the beginning of Schulze's interest in operatic styles, which woudl re-emerge later. Subsequent Wahnfried albums were made with a mostly rotating cast of performers, according to Schulze's interests at the moment, with the exception of Shrieve who was present for most of them. Schulze recorded Wahnfried albums sporadically through 1997.
Record Label Disasters and AlcoholismEdit
According to Klaus Mueller, Schulze had little interest in business matters and a (understandably) sharp distaste for dealing with music industry people. In 1979, Warner Brothers, the worldwide distributor of Metronome Records (the label that Schulze was signed to) offered him a chance to establish his own record label for electronic and experimental music. Mueller and Schulze named the label "Innovative Communications", or IC for short. IC was to not only record and release albums of electronic music, it would also make pioneering efforts in the area of music videos. Things quickly fell apart with Warner and the label's management, and for a while Schulze was obliged to support the label using his own funds (his own albums were still being released on the Metronome label).
In 1981, IC changed distributors and then struck gold with the synth pop band Ideal. The success of Ideal's first album saved the label, but then Mueller had to leave IC for personal reasons the next year, leaving Schulze to run the label himself. Schulze released two of his own albums on IC as well as some other artists he had signed, but the label was not getting paid many monies that it was owed, and Schulze was not enough of a lawyer or businessman to solve the problems. Schulze disposed of it in 1983, signing over the rights to his own IC albums to Metronome.
For some reason at this point Schulze decided to launch another label, INTEAM. This turned out to be an even worse disaster than IC had been; Schulze was grifted by business partners, and he turned to alcohol for relief. For the next three years he drank heavily, and although he continued his recording and performance output, it is generally considered by fans that the quality suffered during this period. INTEAM was forced into bankruptcy in 1987, and fortunately at this point Schulze had the good sense to check himself into a hospital.
Recovery and New Musical DirectionsEdit
After leaving hospital sober in 1988, Schulze recorded the album En=Trance. As the name suggests, Schulze had begun incorporating elements of electronica, and his previously minimal percussion sound palette began to expand. Over the next several albums, he greatly expanded this and developed methods of building interweaved and complex percussion sequences to improvise around. The albums Miditerranean Pads and The Dresden Performance expanded on this, and also illustrated the changes in Schulze's methods over the decade, from the all analog technology of his early albums, to the extensive use of MIDI and digital synthesizers by the end of the decade.
Dresden culminated an interest that Schulze had had since the early 1980s: performing in the countries of Eastern Europe, which were then under the heel of the Soviet Union, and whose people rarely had the opportunity to experience Western art. This interest had begun with a performance in Warsaw in 1983, at which Schulze found the audience reception particularly gratifying. In August 1989 he arranged to perform a concert at an open-air venue in Dresden, which was then within East Germany. The show opened with several local East German bands some of who performed in the Schulze style, and then Schulze himself took the stage at 10 PM. Two long pieces were performed before the performance ended. The liner notes to the original release of Dresden claim that the performance was interrupted by the Stasi, but Schulze says he stopped simply because the hour had gotten late and dew was condensing on the equipment. In any event, ten weeks later the Berlin Wall fell and the East German government collapsed.
In the early '90s, Schulze went heavily into sample manipulation techniques, taking samples of non-musical sounds and altering them to create musical sounds. Also, during this period Schulze ceased to mix or release albums on vinyl; the 1991 album Beyond Recall was the last such. This was all somewhat controversial with fans, and many were relieved when he returned to a more musical sound on the In Blue album.
In 2007, Schulze once again became interested in operatic music, and began collaborating with singer Lisa Gerrard. Farscape, recorded in mid-2007 but not released until a year later, was the first such album, and credited both musicians on the album cover. Schulze continued this collaboration through 2011, and recordings from this period are still being released.
Schulze experienced a health scare in 2008 which required him to cancel several scheduled performances. After recovering, he returned to touring for a while, but then announced in 2011 that he would do no more live performances due to ongoing health issues. He continues to record in the studio, and his latest release of new material as of this writing is 2013's Shadowlands.