An interview with Danny Fichelscher, member of Popol Vuh, Gila, Amon Düül II and Niagara

November 1, 2014

An interview with Danny Fichelscher, member of Popol Vuh, Gila, Amon Düül II and Niagara

Berlin born musician Danny Fichelscher is a man with a very rich musical history. He was part of today’s well regarded bands among them are Popol Vuh, Gila and also Amon Düül II. Florian Fricke, who formed Popol Vuh in 1969, taking their name from a sacred book of the Quiché Maya, was a friend of Fichelscher. The band was originally
founded by pianist and keyboardist Fricke, Holger Trülzsch
(percussion) and Frank Fiedler (recording engineer and technical assistance), but on their fourth album, Danny Fichelscher was invited to be part of Popol Vuh. They managed to change boundaries of music with their incredible albums, influenced by various of classical music and Indian music. They were also invited to be part of many film projects. Before joining Popol Vuh, Fichelscher was a part of Niagara, Gila and Amon Düül II. We are very happy, that Danny Fichelscher took his time to share his part of the story.

You were the most stable partner in Popol Vuh with Florian Fricke. How did you
join them? You were a bit younger, than most of the guys.

I started with Florian recording Seligpreisung in 1973, but
the first time we met was during the recording for Gila album Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Florian heard about my work with Amon Düül II, who I joined for
playing guitars and drums since 1970.
Were you part of any bands before starting to work with Amon Düül II?
My talent started as a child while working with my father
Toby Fichelscher, who was a famous blues singer in Berlin at that times.
My first band was “Sameti” and so people could hear about me.

Was anything released?

Sure they made records but without me. They started to
record in ’72 when I was with Amon Düül II.

You grew up in Berlin. What would you influenced you?
My first fascination for music started with drummers like
Gene Krupa, fantastic Max Roach playing with Miles and Charlie.
I was listening to blues like I was listening to AFN in
Berlin. And for sure the biggest influence has been the whole stuff from the
early ’60s from GB and USA. It would take too long now to tell all the details.
Berlin had it’s own scene in the late ’60s and ’70s. What
can you tell us about the scene? There were clubs like Zodiak Free Arts Lab. In a
recent interview with Roedelius (Cluster) he told us, that a lot of very young people came there and
experiment on their own. Were you a part of this and how did it looked like back then?
Zodiak was like a copy of “Paradiso” in Amsterdam. That was
the place! There were the newest releases.
I believe Niagara was the first band you recorded with
and I want to get into some details about it. You formed around 1971 in
Munich? Were you a part of Amon Düül commune?  I know you were later a
big part of the band and you still are. How was it to arrive in Munich and
to meet all this people? 
This story is too long to tell. Short Version: People
from Amon Düül heard about the best drummer in town and so they came to “Sameti”.
Two weeks later I had the job. What a joy to play in Paris! Wow!

We had 2 gigs in Paris in 1972, one live for the radio,
the other in famous Olympia. In those days the ’68 Revolution was still going
on and these politicals groups used our stage as platform. Therefore, we
suddenly had the police with water cannons in the music hall. Because nobody could stop the aggressive mind
we decided to blow it away with our music.
Peter Leopold gave me the biggest drumsticks he had for the
first and last time (we were a great team but also a little bit competitors on
the drums). The performance was brilliant – and loud – and the audience was
happy. And of course we had a great time and we enjoyed the french
lifestyle. What a crazy time!

Niagara has been my
first recording as a percussionist. We met because of the connection of
Doldinger to my father. And Doldinger was close to Klaus Weiss of Niagara.
Niagara were very
percussion oriented band. The first album is really hypnotic. Where did you
record it and what do you remember from recording it?
Studio 70. I met all the best drummers of Germany there.

I played with Keith Forsey, one of the first who did
Discobeat, winner of a Grammy for Donna Summer production. With Udo Lindenberg, best drummer of Doldinger, with George Green, one of the biggest big band-drummer in
Germany and also with Klaus Weiss, jazz-drummer in the sixties, band-leader
of quintets and quartets.

Klaus Weiss was founder of the band and you recorded two
more albums, right? Did you ever perform live?


Let’s talk also about Amon Düül II. You played drums and
congos on two very amazing albums, released in 1972, “Carnival in Babylon” and “Wolf
City” on which you also played guitar. Tell us about recording and producing
these two albums? What are some of your favourite memories from it and how was
it to be a part of the band?

Short version: I have been protected by Spiritus Rectus Falk
Rogner and Chris Karrer. I could work out my talent with these guys. One of the
best moments was to record Wolf City, because I played on a high level all my

Together with Florian Fricke, you also played in Conny
Veit’s group “Gila”. You were part of their second album,
“Bury My Heart in Wounded Knee”. Band members of Gila’s first line-up
lived together in a flat-sharing community. Was this in Stuttgart? In 1972
Conny Veit (the forming member) decided to work closer with you and Florian.
How did that happened?

Conny and me met before I played with Amon Düül and Popol
Vuh. We played many festivals with Sameti and Gila in 1970.
Then Conny started to play for “Hosianna Mantra”
and I played with Amon Düül. Conny asked me to play on “Bury My
Heart”. This was my first connection with Florian Fricke. This was the
beginning of Trio Infernale and hold
for one another production, Seligpreisung. After this I had two
Conny was my best friend, I will never forget how we played 8
days a week! Wonderful!!

Meanwhile I did one of the best productions with Florian: Einsjäger & Siebenjäger, and I did live performances with Amon Düül II. I was very creative
in that time.

Veit’s girlfriend at the time, Sabine Merbach was on
vocals and I think she did an amazing performance on the album. Main concept behind second Gila album was Dee Alexander Brown’s novel about Native Indians and their suffering. 
The idea of this production was to show the problematic
situation of the Native Indians that time.
So let’s go back to the main theme of this interview,
Popol Vuh. Florian Fricke largely abandoned electronic instruments in favour of
piano-led compositions, by the time you joined on their fourth album called “Seligpreisung”. How did the recording sessions looked like for this
album? What are perhaps some of the strongest memories from recording it?
The strongest memory
was the recording inside a church, like Holy Halls. The acoustic sound was
Dieter Dierks had one of the first mobile recordings in
Germany. The mixing was in Cologne.

You released plenty more unique albums in the following
years and major thing in Popol Vuh music are well painted soundscapes with spiritual and religious themes. You drew from many diverse cultures. Would you
mind tell us about Fricke and yours interest at the times. What inspired you
the most and what would you say as far as religion/spirituality goes were you
the most interested in?
The spirit general was high. We took inspiration from Greek
to Africa and all the Gods. We felt response to the word is given to us.

Great film director Werner Herzog was very close with
the band and you recorded soundtracks for a lot of his films including “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”, “Nosferatu”, “Fitzcarraldo”, “Cobra Verde”, “Heart of Glass” to “The Enigma of Kaspar
Hauser” in which also Florian Fricke appeared. How did you got to know him?
Werner and Florian knew each other from student times.

We witnessed how your music provides an amazing and intense atmosphere. Great example can be film “Aguirre, the Wrath of God”. While working with Herzog did you follow film concept, or did you manage to produce music under some other key? 
Concept arranged and produced
especially for the films.

How about performances? Did you play often live and how
did audience respond?
Of course, I play a lot of live-gigs until now and I love
it!!! By the way, isn’t it beautiful when a guy came with all your recordings
of 40 years to a concert like in London and wants an autograph? I love it!!
Let’s move to the present time. You said you are
currently working with Amon Düül II again. Can you reveal some details
regarding this? 
Still playing.. Would be nice playing in your place. By
interest please contact John Weinzierl.
Only a few years ago we lost Florian and Klaus. Is there
anything you would like to remember?
Florian is one of the highest inspirations of my life. He is
still in my heart.
What are some other future plans for you, Danny?
To play on and work with good constellations of friends and
musicians, why not in your country…

Before we end this interview, I need to ask you
what is on your turntable and perhaps what are you reading? 
I’m listening to Robert Johnson,
Jimi Hendrix, Chilli Peppers, Captain Beefheart, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Billie
Holiday, Ray Davies, Taylor Swift.
I’m reading Thomas Bernhard “Der Untergeher”, Bio Keith

Thank you a lot for your time. Would you like to share
anything else with us? Perhaps a message for It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine

People, I hope you won´t loose the connection to the giving
past because it belongs to the future.
Love to all,
Danny Fichelscher

– Klemen Breznikar
© Copyright http://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2014

One Comment
  1. Sergey

    Much thanks for the interview, but the problem is that you are talking more asking Danny the questions than Danny - answering them :)

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