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Virus interview with Werner Vogt

May 6, 2013

Virus interview with Werner Vogt

Virus formed in late ’60 and by 1971 released two albums. They were quite known in Germany and shared stage with many well known acts of the days. Werner Vogt took his time to tell us history of the band. We talked about recording their second LP, which he was part of. Enjoy reading story of one of the best German Progressive Rock bands.

Were you in any bands before Virus? Let’s discuss the beginning of the band.
Yes, since I joined Virus in springtime
1970 I played in a lot of other groups. I started in September 1964 at the age
of 17 in a band we called The Loadstones. I played the rhythm guitar, my friend
and later even member of Virus, the one who was singing King Heroin, Jürgen
Schäfer, was on lead. Then there was a bass and drums. At first we did some numbers
of The Shadows like many other bands at that time. At the beginning of 1965, I
think it was the 5th of January,  we
took a part at a band battle and made the 4th rang. After that we started to
play our first gigs round Herford and Bielefeld now with a program from Chuck
Berry over to The Hollies, The Kinks, Bob Dylan to The Rolling Stones and the
Beatles. So we got to know a lot of other musicians and styles. This lasted
till the summer of 1966 when I had to change school and went from Herford  to a High School in Bielefeld. There I met
Bernd Rösner and joined his group called Percy and the Goalbirds. Their manager
was a journalist of a big German paper called WAZ. He had lots of connections
in the scene and so we did not only play the normal gigs in bars, but even in theatres. In the band played
Wolfgang Rieke too who later was drummer with Virus. But I didn’t like the
stuff they did, though we recorded a single and had lots of gigs to play. It
was kind of easy listening music and at that time I was a great fan of Van
Morrison
and Them. So when the drummer of The Loadstones asked me in March 1967
to join his new group The People I said yes and started to play bass. It was a
Rhythm and Blues band and I loved to do this kind of music
This went to the beginning of 1968 and then
I started to play not in a fix band but with different musicians only for one
or two gigs till I had join the army in July 1968. 
I believe Virus was formed in Bielefeld, Nordrhein. What was the scene
there?
Sorry, I’m not able to write something
about the foundation Virus cos I joined the band in the early days of 1970. So
I don’t know anything about the musical process which led to revelation. But I
know a lot about the scene round Herford and Bielefeld because I myself was
part of the scene there since 1964.  The
cell of Virus was not directly Bielefeld but a small spot near Spenge called
Bardüttingdorf. There far from other houses in the pure country Virus owned a
cottage where we could practice and make noise as loud as we wanted it. It was
country life as you’ld like it. We made music, we played football, we lie in the sun or played with our animals, dogs and cats. At that time there was a
very famous club in Herford which started in 1966 The Jaguar Club where we got
to see all the name groups of that time. I saw Jimi Hendrix and Cream with only one week between the gigs, entrance
money 8 DM. But most impressed I was
by a group what was later The Arts and then Spooky Tooth. They had a small hit
at that time called “I Wanna Be Free”. I loved the guitar player Luther
Grosvenor, cos it was the first time I heard this singing bluesy guitar. I think
all of the later Virus members had been there and got their influences. It was
kind of big theatre in a small country town. In Bielefeld was a Star Club where
a lot of bands of the second british row had their gigs. Í learned to know
Chris Stainton who played bass with The Knives and Forks from Sheffield. Later
he was the man behind Joe Cocker. We had 14 days of intense speaking and
learning from each other. There was every style you know represented. In the
last month before I had to leave for the army I played in different bands and
we did the charts, soul, Motown, blues, rock’n’roll, Stones, Beatles and nearly
everything you know from that time. But we didn’t compose own stuff. That
started a year later when I came back from the army. A friend of mine wrote
lyrics in english and asked me if I could make songs of it. That was in
December 1969. I started to compose on my old guitar and suddenly Bernd Ròsner
stood in the door of my room in Herford and asked me if I’d like to join
Virus. Monka, Spiegelfeld and Govinda had left the group because of problems
with drugs and they wanted to start a new beginning. They had a contract for a
second LP but they did not have any songs. At once I said yes and asked Jürgen
Schäfer if he would like too. He would and some days later we drove with my old
VW to Bardùttingdorf.
Your second, which appeared also as your last album was Thoughts,
which had quite a significant change in your sound compared to your debut. It
was released on legendary Pilz label founded by Jürgen Schmeisser.
I think it was February 1970 when I got
into contact with Virus. I just had started to study Jura in Bielefeld but
lived in Herford in a small flat with a friend who later became the main roadie
of Virus called Rainer Pampel. Some day, I don’t know exactly when Bernd Rösner
I knew from Percy stood in my front door
and asked me if I would like to join Virus. I was very happy and said yes at
once because I had no band after army time. But I asked if I could bring my friend
Jürgen Schäfer, the fantastic singer of “King Heroin” and even a super bass
player. Bernd agreed  and some days later
Jürgen and me drove to the cottage of Virus in Bardüttingdorf. I brought a lot
of song material with and an old western guitar. The guys who didn’t left
Krahe, Rieke and the new Rösner and Nieling listened to my songs and I think
everybody liked them. There was “King Heroin” too, but the way I performed was a bit like Bob Dylan. I composed only with
my old guitar when I got the lyrics from Gerd Rübenstrunk. I wrote some words
to it on youtube. We decided to do it more rocky and when Jürgen started to
sing it was clear that he was the singer of this song. He also found the
bass line. I sang the last verse at the end. On stage I was always singing the
whole song and it had a hypnotic influence. People were headbanging during the
whole performance. But it took some time till we found the record version and I
think in the star studio where we recorded one week with the famous and really
fantastic Conny Plank we worked on it.
You noticed that on Thoughts real change happened in our music style. But I think that’s not a big surprise because the line up
changed so much. Three very important musicians for the compositions left the
group, only Wolfgang Rieke and Jörg Dieter Krahe stayed with 4 new ones. It’s natural that this change brings difference  And then there was me with a lot
of new material which based on normal song structures with nearly no
improvisation parts.
We had to work hard to get together. Krahe
was the most important part in the game to held the connection to what was
before. His psychedelic organ was the link between Revalation and Thoughts. But
it was just themes we tried to put in the songs in wrote. I like very much “Mankind Where Do You Go To” because for me it’s a unit but has got these
psychedelic moments we wanted to create. I think in may ’71 Schmeisser said he
wanted to come to our cottage to hear what we have done until then. But we
didn’t have much to play with the whole band. So confessed this to him and
asked if I can play the numbers for him on my old western guitar. He didn’t
mind and so I played nearly the whole LP in this way for him. It’s really true,
he was pleased and gave his OK. Then we rented a small fire brigade house and practised there for about 4 weeks before we went to Hamburg. There in summer
1971 we recorded one week in the Star Studio with the well known Conny Plank.
He did a great job and everybody was pleased with output.
What was “King Heroin” about?
“King Heroin” is a song against drugs. Everybody can notice this if they read the lyrics. I got the chords from my
friend Gerd Rübenstrunk in 1969. He had spent some months in New York and there
he found the whole words on a flyer against drugs. I loved the text and so it
didn’t last long and I had the melody. But it took some time till it was “King Heroin” from Thoughts. Mine version sounded like Bob Dylan. In the studio Jürgen Schäfer sang it. On stage I took the singer position. On the LP I only did the
last verse at the end. It was the best song on stage and nearly everybody
started headbanging.
Where all did you tour?
After the release of Thoughts end of 1971
we had a lot of gigs on the big places in Germany. We worked mainly together
with promoter Werner Kuhls from Hannover. He arranged a long tour with the Nederlansk classic rock band Ekseption all through Germany for us. We played in Hamburg in the Musikhalle, in Düsseldorf in the Philippshalle…
U.A. first planned tour with Ekseption was
cancelled cos they had been before in Israel and were stopped at the airport Tel Aviv. So we’ve been told and had to play all the gigs by ourselves. I know
in Lüneburg there was big trouble. First we played and then Yogi the right hand
of Kuhls said that Ekseption can’t come. Therefore should play The Scorpions, but the people didn’t want to hear them and called loud: “Virus, Virus”. We were sitting in the back of the hall when some of the people entered the stage to
destroy the equipment of The Scorpions. The singer yelled: ” Peace, peace keine
Bambule” while just in that moment Kuhls was passing along with the money
cassette and suddenly everybody was running after him and The Scorpions were
saved. But they didn’t play anymore. At that time we often played with The Scorpions and we were good friends because they were another hard rocking band
which was engaged for less money as a foreband from Kuhls. We only got round
about 300 DM for a gig but we did it to become well known. We played with Stud, Beggars Opera, Nazareth, Alexis Corner, Jeff Beck, Roger Chapman, Livin blues, Atlantis, Birth Control, the early Udo Lindenberg when he wasn’t famous, Amon
Düül II, a fantastic concert with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and a lots of other.
I think we had a very good stage performance with two drummers and the double
power which comes from behind. Especially “King Heroin” was the top scorer.
Everybody was headbangig on the big festivals we played too. We were no evening
act but in the afternoon it is much more difficult to get the people banging and
we made nearly every time. It was a really fantastic time for us.

How long after the second LP was
out were you together and when did you departure the band?
The band existed but in different line ups
until the early 1975. I think it was January when we split cos an amp was
stolen and nobody knew who it was. Somebody was drunk and at once started a bad
discussion. So George Kochbek handled and I think did what he wanted to do and formed his own band. He called the band Skyline, took Micki from Virus, another bass player two lead guitarist Udo Lummer and Reinhard Glowazke and the new group was ready. Now
they only played Kochbek stuff. I joined this band a half year later a played
the bass on the LP louise for one night.
Are you still in contact with any band
members?
No I have no steady contact with members of
the Thoughts Virus. Only Wolfgang Rieke is a contact person by phone, cos we are
the persons who answer questions which
come in from all over the world and regulate rereleases. Next time – maybe
half a year – the French record company Malesh wants to bring out a vinyl
version of Thoughts and there we have much discussions on the telephone. Than Garden Of Delights plans a CD release of Thoughts. And then there are many
questions from fans and friends all over the world. I am astonished that there
is so much interest from everywhere. “King Heroin” on youtube has got nearly 220
000 clicks over 2 years and I think that is a good result. People compare us
with Deep Purple, Golden Earring, Arthur Brown and some other well known bands
of the time.
What equipment did you guys use?
I don’t know much about the equipment
because I never was an electronic freak. I only know I had 2 London City 200
Watt speakers and a London City 200 Watt amplifier. Same was the guitarist Bernd Rösner. What the others used I don’t know.
What about psychedelic drugs? Did they
have any impact on the band?
It’s true, but we didn’t use no drugs. No
grass and no heroin. We smoked normal cigarettes and drank beer. 
What were some interesting bands you liked from Germany?
I was a great fan of Missus Beastly and
Aera, cos they came like me from Herford and made a very very progressive kind of music. And then I knew the musicians very well
and saw that they were fantastic artists. Embryo was another group I liked. I’m really not interested what is happening today because I only listen to my own
music. I record very simple but authentic songs only with my guitar and my voice. I
have 2 records only digital on Bellaphon under my name Werner Vogt out now.
What happened next? I know you
were part of Skyline, which were more jazz fusion oriented and you also had a
project called Ente Vogts. Tell us about this endeavors.
I forgot to mention Klangmix, a project with the fantastic guitarist Udo Lummer who played during the German Star Club Aera – the 60s – as a
professional lead guitarist in a lot of bands and even with Skyline. Skyline
was much fun but it was not me. It was a band under the government of George
Kochbek. Then I played about 26 years in a band called Kakadu Combo and that
was party music. I didn’t like that very much but it was bringing us a
little money. After that started Klangmix with a double CD “Mach mal Licht” and
28 songs on Bellaphon. Then under my name “Rock ‘n’ Roll Denkmal” and “Ein Mann”… At the moment I work with Peter Weihe guitar and Achim Meier keyboard on my
next album.
I wrote the songs and the lyrics are like little poems in German.  I’m a little bit proud of. I developed
my song ideas first with Achim Meier who is a fantastic keyboarder and plays for a lot of German superstars and the Sardic band I Muvrini. He contacted Peter Weihe and the session was at the 30.
April this year. What comes after I don’t know but I’m full of hope. Besides I
promote the old Virus and I am the father of six children. The youngest is two
and a half. Now I am a judge pensionist but I work a little bit as an advocate.
I have no real contact to
the other Virus members but I’ve got their numbers. I don’t know if there are any unreleased recordings. But there were some old Virus numbers we recorded in our
cottage studio, but I think the Shamrock tapes are now no more useable. 
Thank you for your interest and here’s the
message: “Please only do what you like and not what others tell you.”
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2013
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http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013
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