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Guru Guru interview with Ax Genrich

September 30, 2012

Guru Guru interview with Ax Genrich


Interview:
Thank you very much for doing this
interview. It’s really an honor to talk with you about your music. I would like
to talk about your childhood. Where did you grew up and what were some of your
early influences to become a guitarist?
I grew up in Berlin (West) and my
first contact to live music was at school, when some classmates played guitar
and sang songs between the lessons. It was in the late fifties and Skiffle
music was the big craze. I wanted to join them so bad and I did, but first on tea
chest bass, later on washboard and then on four string banjo. Lonnie Donegan was
the biggest influence. But Skiffle didn´t last long and when ‘The
Shadows’ took over, I played electric bass in our band named ‘Rockin´Chairs’. ‘The Rolling Stones’ opened a new world in
music to me and I started listening to Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin´Wolf
and John Lee Hooker. That was when I wanted to play guitar and I changed
position with our guitar player. After some scepticism from my mates at first it
went well and we went professional for two years. Back in Berlin as a student I
started going to as many concerts as I could afford. B.B. King, James Brown,
Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, American Folk and Blues Festival, Gary Burton Quartet.
But the biggest flash was seeing Jimi Hendrix in 1967 on his first European
tour.
Your first band was ‘Agitation Free’. You
join them at the very beginning and stayed there for about what? 3 months? What
do you remember from it? 
Agitation Free was not my first
band. In the late sixties I played in many bands to expand my guitar playing. ‘Sound Tracks’, ‘Light of Mingus’, ‘Gao Tai’, ‘East West’, ‘Music Transmission’.
When I joined Agitation Free I hoped to get some gigs cause my aim was to
record and play professional again.With them I went into a studio, sadly the
tapes are lost, and had a big gig at the Sports Palace on 04.12.1970, where I
saw Guru Guru for the first time.
After that you joined ‘Guru Guru’. This
was in 1970? How did you came together with Mani and Uli?
To join ‘Guru Guru’ was like
magic. After the Sports Palace they had another gig in Berlin and I went to see
them again. When I arrived, they had already started, but as a duo, no guitar.
During the intermission I asked them, if I could join, which was OK but I had to
bring a guitar. No driving license, but a friend took me home to fetch my guitar
and than back to the event in a hurry. I plugged in and that was it. The next
gig was in Fürth right before “Free” with Paul Kossoff. Uh lala!
Where do you think your improvisational
skills came from? You must had been listening to a lot of jazz and Hendrix?
It was in the air. It started maybe
listening to Paul Butterfields “East West” or Canned Heat’s
“Refried Boogie” or the Rolling Stones version of “Everybody
needs somebody to love”. My first break was in the ‘Rockin´Chairs’ when we played James
Brown’s “Papa´s got a brand new bag” in a extended version. That was
my first improvised guitar solo. The biggest influence was Hendrix “3rd
Stone from the sun” then not understanding what the title really meant. I
went to see Jazz groups in Berlin, mostly free jazz, but seeing early ‘Tangerine
Dream’ or ‘Neue Musik Plus Minus’ or even ‘Agitation Free’ before I joined them, was
more important than listening to Coltrane or Miles Davis.
Do you think ‘Guru Guru’ was kind of more
interesting or suitable band for you, than ‘Agitation Free’?
Yes. They were much more exotic. I
took a look at their painted van and I got this on the road feeling
immediately. They were like musical nomads and they helped me to escape my
boring student home.
You were part of the first five albums. I would like to talk about album per album. In 1970 your first album
was called ‘UFO’. It was released on legendary ‘Ohr Records’. What are some of the
strongest memories from producing and recording this LP?
It took place at the well
established ‘Hansa Studio’ in Berlin. Mani invited some friends, the
“Umherschweifenden Haschrebellen” and they relaxed in the recording
room to make good vibrations and turn us on. We played as though it was a
concert in a marihuana clouded atmosphere and maybe that was the mystery. The sound engineer and the producer were short to fainting, but they did not cancel
the session and Rolf Ulrich Kaiser, the ‘Ohr’ label Boss, did not show up.
This are the songs, that are featured on
the first album. Would you like to comment each one a bit?
A1         
Stone In
That´s my favourite. That´s my Les Paul
sound with Marshall amp, echo chamber and wah wah pedal.                          
A2         
Girl Call
A
bit difficult in the beginning because of timing and then the guitar sound was
dropped a bit too sudden, but in the end I
liked the cut into Dalai Lama.
A3         
Next Time See You at the Dalai Lhama                
I
played guitar without effects straight into the Marshall at full volume. It
sounded very close to the bass, which was distorted from sheer volume, I
remember when Mani recorded the live sounds in the end with the female voice “Guru Guru” with
his cassette recorder at the Tiergarten in Berlin.
B1         
UFO
Uli used his cup bass, a Fender Precision played
with a metal cup as a plectrum. Mani had a contact
pick
up into an echo chamber, which he hammered on the cymbals. I used my echo
chamber a lot with feed
backs of my guitar. I still don’t like
Mani´s flutes, they are too shrill. But I like the sound of the paddles. That was the three of us in a
boat on lake Zürich in Switzerland getting together and making plans for the future. A nice cross
fade to the space sound introduction of LSD Marsch.
B2        
 Der LSD-Marsch
On later live versions Mani had added some
lyrics  to it, which he did not on the
studio version. The title, “Der LSD Marsch” was very catchy.
It’s really amazing what you did with
your guitar playing. A three piece of band and such a magnificent force behind
it. What gear did you use?
I played a´68 Gibson black Les Paul through
wah wah and Echolette echo chamber into a Marshall 100 watts with two 4×12
cabinets.
‘Hinten’ is your second LP, that features
some of the really legendary songs like ‘Electric Junk’, ‘The Meaning of Meaning’, ‘Bo Diddley’ and mind blowing ‘Space Ship’. Would you like to talk about it?
The production of “Hinten” was
very different to the first one. It took place in a small studio in Hamburg and
we had the master soundman Conny Plank for the first time. He brought
interesting sound effects to the mix and produced every title more careful. I
used a Fender Stratocaster for the first time and was very happy with it. And I
started doing guitar overdubs,which was new to me, but I had no problems, cause
Conny gave me much room.
Your third album was on a new label. It
was released by ‘Brain Records’. ‘Känguru’ was again an outstanding album. What is
the story behind making this album?
We did not get along with Rolf Ulrich
Kaiser so well and we thought, it would be much better to be on the new ‘Brain’ label by ‘Metronome’ Records. In a way it was, but it was the last LP with Uli
Trepte. Again with Conny Plank, but in a bigger studio in Hamburg, the ‘Windrose’ studio. My favourite is “Oxymoron” which has some nice guitar sounds
to it. To call it “Känguru” was my idea during a brainstorm session.
The idea for the cover, the artic kangaroo mother, was by Heinz Dofflein.
What impact had psychedelic drugs on ‘Guru Guru’ music or itself on your work? Any favourite acid trips you would like
to talk about?
Well, when I joined them, they were already
known as a “head” band. At first, taking drugs was new to me, but I took the
chance to try it and when travelling in our Ford Fiesta, I could not resist, even
if I wanted. Uli was a strong acid head and he wanted to turn me on, which he
did. I was a bit afraid and felt manipulated, but I liked being with them and
it was their way of life. I would not say, it changed the music, but it changed
the people, who played it. I remember the day in Langenthal,when the whole crew
was tripping and they wanted to start jamming with me. I had to go upstairs for
my guitar and could not decide which one to take, the black Les Paul or the
white Strat. I sat on the floor paralysed, thinking which one I liked best. In
the end they looked for me and brought both guitars and we had a wonderful
jam, which brought us more together.
Where all did you play in the early
70’s with the band?
We played at festivals, town
halls, underground clubs, university events, youth clubs and events like
“Kunst Zone” in Munich or “Art Messe” in Kiel. I remember
the Herzberg Festival, the British Rock Meeting in Germersheim with Pink Floyd
as headliner, when we played just after them in the morning, the Rocking Island
Festival with Tangerine Dream, the German Rock Meetings in Frankfurt, Berlin, Heidelberg and Krefeld.
Were there any concepts behind the
albums?
No, just the tracks. No concept album as others
did.
Later you recorded two more album ‘Don’t
Call Us We Call You’ and your last with them called just ‘Guru Guru’. What
happened next for you?

My last album was ‘Don´t call us we
call you’,which was on ‘WEA’ Atlantic and after that a single ‘More hot
juice’ with ’20th century rock’ on the flip side.
After ‘Guru Guru’ you recorded your solo
album called ‘Highdelberg’. It was released on ‘Happy Bird Records’. What’s the
story behind this album?
After Guru Guru I lived with Sharon in
Berlin. I made demo tapes with my Revox and put them to a cassette. We travelled
to Conny Plank, who had his new studio near Cologne. He listened to the cassette
and was interested to produce the songs. In his spare time I invited Mani,
Helmut Hattler, Peter Wollbrandt, Jan Fride, Dieter Moebius and Achim Roedelius to
Cologne, to record the songs. On three of them I played all instrument
alone, like I did on the demo. At first we had difficulties to find a label, but
then we found ‘Happy Bird’, which was on Bellaphon.
In the 70’s there were two projects you
were part of, but they never released anything. Perhaps recordings still exsist? One was ‘Marktplätzchen’ and
the other one was called ‘Odenwald Express’.
Those groups mainly existed to be on the
record “Musik aus dem Odenwald, der grüne Zweig 50”. It was acoustic
folk music played by people who lived around Heidelberg. From that I started my
group “RIF”, were I played electric guitar again and sang German
lyrics.
What were you doing in the 80’s? In
early 90s you released ‘Psychedelic Guitar’ and ‘Wave Cut’. Then you Mani and Dave
Schmidt came together and ‘Psychedelic Monsterjam’ and ‘The Intergalactic Travel
Agency’ was recorded and released. What can you tell me about this albums?

In the eighties I concentrated on
“RIF”, which was quite successful. We had a cassette out on
Transmitter “Realität,nix bla bla” but now, after so many years, it´s
available on CD. Psychedelic Monsterjam and The Intergalactic Travel Agency were
live recordings from Cafe Cairo and AKW in Würzburg and Jazzhaus Heidelberg.
The band was called Neumeier, Genrich, Schmidt at first but “Psychedelic
Monsterjam” stuck as a bandname. It was brought together by Horst Porkert,
who really wanted to have Neumeier, Trepte, Genrich as the original Guru Guru, but
Uli Trepte had no interest. My favourite track is “Intergalactic”
from the second CD. It was recorded with DAT recorders and mastered by Dave
Schmidt. Sorry there is no chance to record together again.
Your latest record I believe is ‘Axymoron’. What is the concept behind it?

The concept behind ‘Axymoron’ was a
“Werkschau” which I understood in showing all the different styles
which I played during my career. It started with Skiffle music and ended with
“Amber Suite”, which I still play today. Tom Redecker gave me the
chance to release it on his Sireena label. But it´s not my latest. At the same
time I released “Spontaneous Combustion” and then I played on
Gurumaniax “Psy Valley Hill” together with Mani and Guy Segers. In
2011, I released ‘Live At The Finkenbach Festival’, ‘A Trip To Paradise’ and in 2012 ‘Fretboard Jungle’ on CD and on vinyl. The latest
release is on vinyl “Ufo´s over
Ellmendingen” together with “The Pancakes” and “Zone
Six”.
What currently occupies your life?
I´m looking for ward getting gigs to
promote my new CD ‘Fretboard Jungle’, I´m writing down my lifestory and hope to
find someone to release it as a book. I hope I´ll stay healthy to play many
live gigs.
Future plans? Any new projects?
Right now we are waiting for a resonance to
our new CD ‘Fretboard Jungle’. After that we will start another one and we sit on
a lot of ideas but don’t know which are the most important. The band likes
most, to take songs out of an improvisation, like we did with ‘Zaragoza’, ‘A
Trip To Paradise or Death is for Dying’ but I have written material, which
I wanted to try out. Then there is my solo project, “Ax Genrich Solo”, and a duo
with our drummer Steff Bollack which is called “Der Gebo Effect”.
Thank you so much for taking your time,
Ax. Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby
readers?
Thanks a lot for your interest. Stay open
minded, don’t let others take decisions for you.
Ax
Our interview with Mani Neumeier
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/
2012
One Comment
  1. Anonymous

    also a great interview...obscure

    loved the guru guru lps..had all the vinyl..now cds

    rip uli, conny

    "high"delberg..great

    these people u r interviewing were my "obscure" idols

    bravo

    cheers



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