In 1969, the mighty Krautrock­ers came to­gether and im­pro­vised their star­tling de­but al­bum, Mon­ster Movie. In an Eye­wit­ness re­port, they re­flect on how the im­pos­si­ble was achieved.

Mojo (UK) - - Contents -

Ir­min Sch­midt: “I was in my late twen­ties and I had con­ducted at recitals, won prizes, and I am pretty sure I would have gone on to be a suc­cess­ful con­duc­tor. To give up a con­duc­tor’s ca­reer and found a group with crazy peo­ple was typ­i­cal for ’68. Ire­ally wanted some kind of pow­er­ful rock or jazz grooves, my­self [do­ing] all the clas­si­cal up to con­tem­po­rary, with a rock gui­tarist who maybe can only play four chords but who is just as in­ven­tive. I asked [for­mer fel­low Stock­hausen pupil] Hol­ger be­cause he was crazy enough to join in with the idea, he was a very pas­sion­ate mu­si­cian and he did have a great deal of tech­ni­cal knowl­edge. Hol­ger asked me if he could bring a very tal­ented gui­tar player [Michael Karoli], who had been his pupil, and would love to join us if his par­ents didn’t mind, be­cause he was just start­ing to study law. David John­son [flute] was also a stu­dent of Stock­hausen and lived in my place, he was re­ally into elec­tronic mu­sic. I said to Jaki [Liebezeit, drums], Well, I would love to have some­one able to play polyrhythms like Max Roach, with the ele­gance of Elvin Jones, hav­ing the power of Art Blakey. He said, ‘Yeah I’ll look,’ but he ended up play­ing him­self. We de­cided to meet the very first time without in­stru­ments, and there was an im­me­di­ate sym­pa­thy. Also I had this friend who owned this cas­tle [Schloss Nör­venich], whom I knew be­cause I was very much in the art scene – he said, ‘You can come and play here.’ It had such an in­cred­i­ble re­verb, the sound you hear on the very early Can record­ings, Lit­tle Star Of Beth­le­hem for ex­am­ple, are in fact the hall­way of this cas­tle. So even if I sort of founded the group, the oth­ers founded it too – Can is what hap­pened to us. The first time we played, well, it wasn’t good at all, it was to­tal chaos. We knew we would have to go through a pe­riod start­ing from scratch. So vi­o­lence hap­pened. Jaki start­ing play­ing a groove, and Michael started play­ing some real rock gui­tar over it and I was lost, I didn’t know what I had to play. So there was a lot of fight­ing and, well, giv­ing birth is quite a dirty thing, there is lots of blood and scream­ing. We gave birth to a new idea of mu­sic for us all, so it was full of trauma, un­til it be­came mu­sic. When Mal­colm [Mooney, New York artist] showed up [via Sch­midt’s wife Hilde­gard, who met him in Paris], it gave a sort of ig­ni­tion to the rock side of the sound with his in­cred­i­ble rhyth­mic singing, linked with Jaki. The two of them be­came a sort of rhythm group. The very first pieces we con­sid­ered to be us, you can hear them on the De­lay 1968 record [1981 al­bum recorded around the time of Mon­ster Movie]. Fa­ther Can­not Yell was the very first piece where we all de­cided, that’s where we want to go. It has a fan­tas­tic groove, it has its very own sound world and it has this Hol­ger style of bass play­ing which you would never hear from any other bass player, that comes from a clas­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion, like a chro­matic left hand on the pi­ano. It was right at the time when Mal­colm joined – he came into the stu­dio when we were play­ing this piece and he joined in and it be­came Fa­ther Can­not Yell.”

Hol­ger Czukay: “When we recorded Fa­ther Can­not Yell we didn’t have enough mi­cro­phones. To the left side was a gui­tar speaker, on the right side was the or­gan speaker, all to­gether recorded through an or­di­nary am­bi­ent mi­crowas phone. I edit­ing it af­ter­wards, and I said, Hol­ger, would you have ever ex­pected that you would play some­thing like that? I was sur­prised by my­self, I couldn’t be­lieve it. First of all I only was play­ing bass be­cause I wanted to hide my­self, be­cause my opin­ion was, No­body is lis­ten­ing to bass! I thought we make a group like Stock­hausen. And then Mal­colm Mooney came in and we think, Why not Stock­hausen with a hell of a drive? I think Mon­ster Movie, the very be­gin­ning, was one of the best pe­ri­ods for Can. You are young only once, when you start you fol­low your nose. That’s what we did.”

“THERE WAS A LOT OF FIGHT­ING… LOTS OF BLOOD AND SCREAMS.” Hol­ger Czukay Cologne free: (clock­wise from main) Can at Schloss Nör­venich, late ’68, from left, Jaki Liebezeit. David John­son, Michael Karoli, Hol­ger Czukay, Ir­min Sch­midt, Mal­colm Mooney; Mal­colm at open-air hap­pen­ing; first-press­ing cover of ‘The’ Can’s Mon­ster Movie; get­ting free in the Schloss; cas­tle ex­te­rior; the band look up; Mon­ster Movie reis­sued.

Ir­min Sch­midt (key­boards) and Hol­ger Czukay (bass) talk chaos, sur­prise and fol­low­ing your nose.

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