AK Musick formed back in the early 70's. They were interested in producing music in a very democratic way. Their legendary LP is now a very rare item of what I would call "German experimental era". More about it in the following interview with Hans Kumpf, clarinetist. Special thanks goes to René Debot for helping me to get in contact with Hans.
There is not much known about your group AK Musick. Tell us about the formation of the band? Where did you find other members?
We all five members were studying at the Teacher’s College (“Pädagogische Hochschule”) in Ludwigsburg close to Stuttgart in Southern Germany. Three of us (Alfred Lell, Winfried Koch, Hans Kumpf) had the same clarinet teacher. The singer Angela Weber I have known already from my hometown of Schwäbisch Hall, where we joined the same pupils’ choir. The Keyboarder Helmut Grab also studied with the famous composer of contemporary music Helmut Lachenmann, a Luigi Nono alumnus.
Were you and other band members of AK Musick involved with any other projects before 1972?
Helmut Grab was busy in improvised rock music; the others were more active in classical music. I was the only one who was really involved in jazz before.
Let's share a few words about your childhood and teen years. You grew up in Stuttgart. What did you study and what influenced you the most?
I was born in Stuttgart in 1951, but the next six years I grew up in Markgröningen in the Stuttgart area. My parents moved then to Schwäbisch Hall, quite in the middle between Stuttgart and Nuremberg, in 1957. There I was impressed by foreign students of the University in Heidelberg who performed in my hometown: I could listen to the original music of Africa, Asia and America. When I was a teenager I was already interested in the music from the whole wide world. In an alternative youth club (“Alpha 60”) I attended interesting jazz concerts (like pianist Wolfgang Dauner and trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff) and later I organized “music weeks” (including classical + contemporary music, jazz an advanced pop/folk music). In my school, which was specialized in music, I as a pupil/student had the responsibility for culture. In May 1969 I organized a bus trip to Stuttgart, where Jimi Hendrix performed – even some months before the Woodstock festival.
When I was eight years old, I began with a recorder (simple flute), later I learned in lessons trumpet, piano and clarinet. Now clarinet is my main instrument.
AK Musick is a really avant-garde project consistent of free jazz influences. What can you tell me about the concept behind it and what does the name actually mean?
We all were eager in new things, we wanted to make music in a very democratic way. Everybody had a classical education – this was the base. Of course we were also influenced by the avant-garde composer Helmut Lachenmann (who also was in the studio during our LP recording). He writes very intellectual compositions, and the parameters are very important (this we learned with the Stockhausen alumnus Johannes Fritsch in Darmstadt, too!). AK Musick? “AK” is a German abbreviation for “Arbeitskreis” (“workshop”), which was used at the universities quite often at that time. “Musick” is a mixture of the English “music” and the German word “Musik”. Even in medieval times they wrote “musick” in England. And in “Musick”, there is included the English word “sick”. We had humor.
Is the musical content a live-recording from the 13. German Jazz Festival Frankfurt, that held on 14.11.1972? Would you like to tell us a bit more about the pieces on the LP?
No, no – be careful! In March 1972 we played at the German Jazz Festival in Frankfurt at the Newcomer’s Concert – with more than thousand listeners and “live” a radio/TV recording. In the same hall the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin performed before, later Miles Davis and many others. On November 14 in the same year we recorded the LP at the famous Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg. We prepared the studio session very carefully – time is money. At least we did it in three hours. The sound engineer was Martin Wieland, who had recorded before the popular cologne concert by Keith Jarrett for the ECM label.
“Impro-Vision” sounds like electronical music – but we used only natural instruments, “Hava” is a feature for three clarinets, “Ron Do” is like a classical rondo, but with solo improvisations as the new parts. The theme we played only once, and it was later technically copied to fulfill the rondo form.
The "composition" of the first track of the AKM LP.
What can you tell me about the label AKM Records. Was this your label? The cover artwork and everything is all handmade. How did you decide to do so and how many copies were released. I believe 200?
We released 150 LP's. We were students and had less money. Therefore it was the cheapest way to make the cover art for our own as handwork – with templates. The booklet we printed with the help of the student’s association. We worked for a December weekend at the floor of the Ludwigsburg teachers college. It made fun. It’s crazy: Today at Ebay they pay more than 700 Dollars for our old and historic long playing disc.
How long did the project last and did you play anywhere else? Are there perhaps any other recordings still unreleased?
Besides of Frankfurt, we only played in the area round Stuttgart. AK Musick as quintet xisted for a decade. In 1980 we did the performances “Spuren einer Russlandreise” („Tracks of a Russian Trip“) after Winfried Koch and me were in Moscow and Leningrad/St.Petersburg. It was a multimedia combination of art and music. We all stayed friends, but we didn’t play in the old quintet ensemble. For instance, Angela Weber, Alfred Lell and me were singing in the choir of the musical “Cabaret” at the Stuttgart State Theater…
Twelve years ago I went with a radio tape of the Frankfurt festival concert to the Bauer Studios for digitalizing the analog recording. Then I burnt CD's for my own. That is all.
'Free Blacks' is your next music project. You joined forces with Perry Robinson. Wolfgang Dauner was also part of this album. What can you tell me about it? This was again a very limited issue?
Perry Robinson was famous as the leading free jazz clarinet player. So he was interesting for me. I heard him several times before, but when he played in 1974 (2 years after AK Musick) at the Frankfurt festival I spoke with him, and soon we settled a duo on a bark bench outside the festival hall. We played in harmony like two brothers. After that I organized a studio recording in Stuttgart. It was after a concert he did with Gunter Hampel – between 1 and 3 o’clock in the night. Because there was time left for the LP I added three solo pieces. There is one (“Mona-a-gogo”) with a little help of my friend Wolfgang Dauner. He had invited me for recordings at the Radio Stuttgart before, and after that I arranged this peace for me as a clarinet on two different tracks. These two tracks he transformed with a ring modulation of his synthesizer. I produced 200 LP's of “Free Blacks” (it means the free black clarinet instruments…)
AKM Records released 'In Time', feat. Theo Joergensmann, Bernd Konrad, 'Jam Session Leningrad', feat. Anatoly Vapirov, Sergey Kuryokhin, Alexander Alexandrov and 'Jam Session Moscow', feat. John Fischer, Leonid Chizhik, Alexey Zubov. What can you tell us about projects you had together with previously mentioned musicians?
You know, I established the AKM label for my own – with no business strength. Just for fun. My clarinet colleague Theo Jörgensmann (we met us in Remscheid - close to Cologne - at a jazz clinic in 1969) had no own label, then I said he could write “AKM” on the sleeve.
My second trip to the passed away Soviet Union was in December 1980/January 1981 when I had my regularly vacancies as a teacher. But then I smuggled my clarinet in and a tape out – Jam Session Leningrad. There I improvised together with saxophonist Anatoly Vapirov, bassoon player Alexander Alexandrov and the late pianist Sergey Kuryokhin. I was the first Western jazz avant-gardist to play in USSR together with resident musicians. I came as normal tourist and had to hide my ambitions against the KGB.
Some months later, I traveled with my New York based friend John Fischer (piano), to Russia and we did a Session in Moscow together with the well-known players Leonid Chizhik (p), and Alexey Zubov (ts). Chizhik now lives in Munich, Zubov moved to Los Angeles.
In 1984 you released ''On a Baltic Trip'' album on Leo Records. What's the story behind it and what followed after this?
Leo Feigin is a refugee of former Leningrad, who worked for the Russian Service of the BBC in London and found the label “Leo Records”. He had presented my LP's recorded in Leningrad and in Moscow already in the British radio. And so he was so friendly to release my sessions done in the Baltic metro poles of Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn as a “real” record company. In Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia I played together with leading jazz musicians there. Of course I was quite famous in whole Soviet Union thanks to the underground propaganda of the free jazz dissidents…
What are you currently working on?
In meantime I am retired as a teacher. I am busier in writing articles and working as a photographer than as a clarinetist. So have no special planes as a musician. If the people ask to perform with my Polish wife Katarzyna “Polish Poetry + Jazz”, I can do it. On other sides I like to play at openings of art exhibitions, and often I play a kind of Klezmer music at events for killed Jews by the Nazi regime.
If you look back in the late 60's and 70's. How did you see this German scene. You were more part of jazz scene, rather than rock experimental scene with acts such as Amon Düül II, Embryo etc. But were you connected with what was happening at the time and what was the scene in your city?
Hitler time was not long far away. We wanted to have a better Germany. We wanted to make a democratic and world open minded music. Of course, I have known and listened to Embryo, Amon Düül, but it was no influence to AK Musick. When we played at the Frankfurt festival Paul and Limpe Fuchs (often partner of the piano player Friedrich Gulda!) joined us as surprising guests on the stage. The best concert of my hometown Schwäbisch Hall in 1969 was “Black Sabbath” with Ozzy Osbourne… They played for 600 Deutsche Marks (approx. 200 Dollars) in a former church.
AK Musick with Limpe Fuchs.
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