Amon Düül: Amon For All Seasons

IN THE BEGINNING there was Amon Duul, and A.D. was a musical community of about a dozen people of varied musical backgrounds. Gradually, some of these became more interested in music than others — seven to be precise — and they decided to do their own thing.

So they went off to live somewhere else and they made an album and called it Phallus Dei, which means what you think it means in Latin. And they were known as Amon Duul 2.

People came from all over Germany and the rest of Europe to see Amon Duul 2, and the seven, they made another album, and it was known as Yeti, after the manner of the legendary Tibetan creature. And their fame spread afar, and it came to pass that not three weeks ago they did try to enter the Kingdom of Britain and the Musicians’ Union said unto them that they must push off because they did not have any kind of agreement to work here. And Amon Duul 2 were sorely tried.

But Lo, with the spirit of St Nicholas drawing nigh, they sought once more to enter this land, and it was granted unto them that for two days they should preach the gospel according to Amon Duul 2 to the emissaries of Fleet Street.

Amon Duul 2, in fact, are among the forerunners of the bands playing rock/jazz — for want of a better word — which are springing up like mushrooms all over the continent. They, together with The Can (also from Germany) and Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe from Denmark are the most interesting to have emerged as yet in what could be a wave of new contemporary European music.

The numbers of the band have now been reduced to five. Renate, the chick who sang on the two albums, has now left with the organist, Falk Rogner, and the bongo player, Shrat. They are making their own album. The line-up at present is Chris Karrer (vocals, violin, guitar and soprano sax); Peter Leopald (drums); Lothar Maid (basses and vocals); K. H. Hausmann (sound organ and electronics), and John Weinzierl (lead guitar and vocals). They came over with their manager, Peter Kaiser, producer, Olaf Kubler, and their former bassist, Englishman Dave Anderson. Their music, they stressed, could not be compared with anybody else’s work. Mention of Pink Floyd was quickly pooh-poohed. Comparisons with Stockhausen, apparently, are more acceptable. Certainly, though, they agree, German music was formulating its own approach.

“You see, you have a musical tradition in England as far as rock music goes,” Weinzierl explained. “But in Germany there is not one because it’s more political, and we, the young people, have finished with what our parents stood for. The pendulum (he gestured to explain his meaning) has now swung towards us, and we aren’t concerned with the ideas of our parents. We’re trying to get back to the concepts of Beethoven, but on a popular level, of course.

“Similarly, when we started two years ago, all the English and American stuff had been going for a long time, and so we tried to avoid it and make our own sound. The result is that now a lot of German groups sound like us. When we played in the Paradiso club in Holland some time ago, most of the people there who liked us were Germans. They could identify with our sound. The Dutch did not like it because they prefer English copies.

“The English scene man, has stopped. It stopped when all the English musicians took trips, and the end of the English scene is the beginning of the German.”

Olaf Kubler joined the conversation. “For a young musician in Britain who wants to learn about rock music he just goes into a club and he can see the best guitarist in Britain if he wants to. But in France and Germany they have to figure out their own way to play, ’cause they can only do it from records; there are very few places where a French or German group can play, and most of them, are copying.”

They seem to have gone partly through this process themselves. Their first album was experimental, to get an idea of the right blend for the group, because they never listened to their sound on stage. The second, although it was made in two days, was a fuller expression of their talents, and the third, which may be an amalgam of pure sounds, will, in the words of Weinzierl, “lead ideas to reality, ideas which are expressing life and communication.”

“When the development stops, the group finishes,” he said flatly. “When it becomes commercial and just for business I shall no longer continue.”

The terminal point will not be an altogether happy one, though. “To be a musician is the best way to live in Germany. That was how Amon started, although it became more and more for musical reasons. Now it is the most important reason, because music is a means of communication to the masses. The fact that we’re playing live to people is therefore political.

“Politics are much more important in Germany. In Germany you’re still an animal if you have long hair. For instance, we had a fight three days ago at a banquet. We were attacked and we sent for the fuzz, but they wouldn’t come; they wouldn’t help us.”

The picture of a struggle to get any young music across at all becomes even more detailed when they relate the inadequacies of recording techniques in Germany. Karrer says there are not very many good producers, beside Kubler, and there is not one who understands all the different techniques needed for producing rock music.

“I’ve had to start afresh with the experience I learnt as a jazz musician,” Kubler shrugs his shoulders. “But that is not enough experience for underground groups or rock bands.

“We’ve got to get rid of all those guys who are only used to producing classical music and stuff like that. For production, it is very bad in Germany. They’ve built a studio in Munich and it’s already old-fashioned. When we first went into the studio, and wanted some changes made, they said, you’re the only cats making this kind of music so why should we.”

And this business of the Musicians Union? “Ah!” Kubler spread his hands apart. “In Germany there is no union. Anybody can just go there and play, which is a good and a bad thing. It’s good that really good players get good gigs, but maybe 50 or 60 per cent are American or English musicians. But here we can’t play at all. Maybe, though, we don’t want to now.”

© Michael WattsMelody Maker, 12 December 1970

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