Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Sunday Conversation with Colour Haze

It wasn't that long ago that I was turned on for the first time to the amazingly fluid, definitely psychedelic, free form jamming sounds of Colour Haze. Since I reviewed their last album, All, I've done just about everything humanly possible to acquire their entire back catalog, follow everything put out by Elektrohasch records (Colour Haze's label) and basically worshiped at the Colour Haze alter like a drooling fanboy. Imagine my giddy pleasure then, when Steffan Koglek, the main mastermind and guitar hero of the band, stopped by the Ripple Office and took his place on our (nearly) famous red leather interview couch.

When I was a kid, growin
g up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkle, the first time I ever hear Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I looked at music, what it could sound like, how it could make me feel? What have been your musical epiphany moments?

Random things, really: Discovering I really like music with the Rocky Horror Picture Soundtrack and "New Boots and Panties" of Ian Dury and playing air drums to it on the sofa at age 4. Discovering how music can be psychedelic and what a thrilling experience that is when listening to a tape of Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland on headphones in bed at night, age 13. Discovering I can get into a music and really dig it where I didn`t get it before when I just find a "key-song" - with Victim`s Family at age 16, again with Shuggie Otis a few years ago. Discovering the thing I`ve really been looking for with Monster Magnet in 1990 and Kyuss in 1994

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

At first when improvising alone or with the band, we or I discover a riff or melody that really get`s me or us, we stick to it and fool around with it, expand it, transform it - maybe a second theme appears or we take a second theme from a previous idea, we keep improvising the theme through different rehearsal sessions to let it flow where it wants to go, then we dense it up, maybe another part needs to be composed - which I do by will from my mind then - and we let the piece fall into shape. Within this process, I try different vocal approaches by scatting nonsense or non-verbal lyrics and later on I write lyrics matching the vocal sound I made and the atmosphere of the song. This can happen within 5 minutes or can be a process over years. We let the song find it`s actual form and arrangement and then it`s fixed for years, so what you hear mostly evolved from improvisations but was set into a final fixed form (well mostly). The version of "Lights" on All still has free improvised parts, while "Turns" was a song I basically wrote alone within 10 minutes including lyrics (though I invested a lot of work in the all-guitar-backward-forward arrangement you hear on the record) and "All" or "Moon" e.g. are pieces that went through the above mentioned process. In the end it`s just one enlightened moment and then it takes a lot of hard work to do that moment justice.

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

Nothing at all of that - it just has to make absolutely sense musically and express the idea (i.e. riff, melody whatever) the best way possible for us or better to say visible for us at the time.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

That`s a hard issue - I often struggle with it and I`m always looking for input to get me motivated for concentrating and letting loose at once and start real playing that way, get into real musicality. To achieve the later the search for spiritual improvement or even enlightenment is an inevitable source. Otherwise any record or song I hear that really grabs me (unfortunately those are becoming rare over the years, the more music I heard the less really grabs me - sad...) - mostly from different musical directions than any kind of Hard Rock (recently the music of Moondog, 60`s soul, roots music, jazz, classical music and so on) - also books, sometimes even trivia leads to some philosophic insights, news, a good TV-documentary or a good movie...I try to seize the whole world to distill a little lucid moment....

Genre's are so misleading and such a w
ay to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

Oh no, that`s not my job - I pay a promo agency to do that for me! (laughs) For me it`s just the music we can play with our means - it comes from everywhere and through the way of our playing and the instruments we have, and the sounds we like, it turns into what is Colour Haze. Call it Stoner rock.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

Well, hmm, let`s start like this: for me there are two basic views in art. One through a window and the other one in a mirror. The later reflects issues of the time going on or personal issues, and the first is to try to make transcendence visible, try to get to the real thing behind instead filtered and transformed personal views.

At first, I`m convinced you should try to give something, to add something good to the world. This is a selfish view because you get more fun, more reward, more reason that way as well. So what is to give? Well everybody has different abilities so there are so many ways to give something - could be high elaborated tellings as simple entertainment as well. I always get back on this point and try to figure out what is possible for me. I don`t want to spoil the world with my personal ramblings on this and that, I don`t see the point why my point should be worth so much more then anybody else's. I`m so conceited to think I`m more intelligent then most, so for sure I think I could make some good points in stating my views but I also have my doubts if it all would be true for more then a moment. I`m convinced it`s important to keep such doubts. Because you never can seize the true reality, everybody has his own view on the world, his own reality, and I deeply distrust people who all know it so very well and precisely. For my view people with little or no doubts must have a very limited insight in things - they show too little love for the world and their fellow beings in refusing to allow themselves to expand their view. In the end, categorizing and judging everything and everybody by the view of your small lens for the outer world is a sign of little love and a hard heart. Therefore it`s even more important not to trust the "know-it-alls."

Instead we want to open that window, at first for ourselves, and if it also opens for you the better - it`s meant to be an invitation. And I want to share the most positive and powerful experiences I made on the journey. I`m pretty angry and concerned about so many things going on, always stupidity and pig-ism has always been in power. But in reflecting that I don`t want just to add negative to the negative. There`s always so much beauty and the whole universe is such a wonderful miracle, and there are so many good people struggling and really fighting for a better world (if in big scenes or small doesn`t matter) or just a better themselves. So we rather attempt to give some positive power to encourage you. You can see this from the 60`s, there was even more shit going on in the world than today and people started to become aware of a lot of things - this awareness was encouraged by positive music and really a lot was achieved! Think how it would be to live in a society like it was in the 50`s - nobody mentally sane would like to live like back then. Today there are different tasks and as political black/white scenes proved to fail, it`s not so easy anymore to make a political statement in a pop-cultural surrounding without becoming odd. So as we are now in a state where the starting point for the inevitable evolution / revolution became set back in any person's self, I`d rather focus on that - of course I`ll fail all the time, we all do. Failing and losing is one essence of life.

Getting back on my first point: all the reflecting art has been very popular in it`s days while it became pointless already a few decades later - the art that lasted and contributed to our culture mostly had a transcendent point - I`m conceited and stupid enough to care about a matter of my work for future people. So I admit, that I still also have a strong selfish point in my artistic deliberations, anyway I work to get over that as I hope I could make a better contribution if I`m not occupied with egocentric needs anymore.(laughs)

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?
We are not in the business and I don`t care about the business. We ignore it. We are constantly working to help building up a friendly, open, familiar new scene - a shelter for all those idealistic people who love music but can`t stand all the shit anymore. Running my own label, organizing shows, helping other bands where ever it is possible for us (seldom enough though), being in direct touch with the people and trying not to make any "I on the stage - you down there"-separation are some of the things we can do about this. And it works. The scene we are part of in Europe is friendly open and nearly cozy - not brutal at all, not businessy in anyway, a surrounding to create art - and for me personally, also make a living.

Describe to us the ideal (realistic) record label and how you'd work with them, and they with you.

Hah, I am our record label and if I would be somebody else I would have different expectations. If you are filled up with what I call the "Led Zeppelin dream" - there is no ideal label for you but the big industry. If you are a real musician and don`t expect much reward for it. If you really care about the content and quality of what you do and you just have the urge to communicate, to share and give something, a small label - leading it`s books solidly, dealing fair and paying off what is to pay - and tearing it`s ass up to get you in communication with anybody who would listen could be the right thing. 99 % of people don`t want to communicate or listen though - they just want the confirmation of their views. 99 % of people don`t even know how to listen to music - they think if they can distinct the vocals from the rest that`s already it and they can tell what they like. Most people are so exhausted and distressed that they just don`t want to get their minds in labour - and their instinct is right you know - because straying aside from the mainstream roads also causes a lot of trouble - so I`m not angry on them. (laughs)

Do you have a particular sound in your head that you try to bring out? Or is the creation process random and spontaneous? Or both, or neither?

About the actual sound of our band, guitar, bass or drums: yes, we had and we already found out how to produce it.

Where do you see you and your music going in ten years?

Can`t say. The aim is to get better in terms of necessity and musicality, to get closer to the essence and really create something essential - music that is worth listening to, adds something to the world, and is not just the 10th reissue of so-so. Developing taste and knowledge for sure helps. But in the end you can`t force this and it`s hard to keep up the spontaneity needed. We always fail.

What makes a great song? Who living right now writes great songs?

Puh, If I`d know that I`d write one. A lot of artists still living wrote great songs back in their days but don`t do anymorels. Also an issue I struggle with, and am afraid of, is this kind of losing ones antennas... - but anyway there is more great new music around today then anytime before I think. It`s just so hidden. But it must be there, we are more people and more people have the means to make music.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

I think I could even still sing parts of it to you. But this is more than 20 years ago now, I don`t know what to tell about it anymore. Simple chords, picking patterns and lyrics about typical nerdy teenager -looser-angst-stuff or that kind. (laughs)

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Vinyl, for the look, the feel, the sound and the class, and the long life. Digital memory is very short and most people will have lost their digital music collection in 10 or 20 years. CDs are not ideal in sound reproduction (Vinyl isn`t also, a 2" tape is still the best we have but that it`s hard to handle and also only lasts a few decades.) I`m still waiting for a great digital format in look and feel and class and with perfect sound reproduction in a high resolution (stereo is enough, I think surround is somewhat too much for me - you hardly ever sit in between the band or orchestra when consuming music (well apart from our free rehearsal party's...anyway a symphony orchestra sounds better for the audience then for the 2nd violinist) - and it has to have a long life - we are loosing our memory so fast these days, what will be left in 100 years if you even can`t get the data from a floppy disc from the 80's anymore?

What's the best record store in your town?

Mhm, in Munich there is no store featuring particularly the music of our scene - Stoner rock, Psychedelia, etc... - but "Optimal" is a pretty good record store with a wide range of rare stuff, a lot of DJ-stuff of course - anyway: good store. Most likable for me is the Gutfeeling store though.

Stephan, great having you with us. It's time for us to go out and get that beer now. . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello... have a nice day!

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