Tangerine Dream
in the Nineties

By: Jorge Munnshe & Montse Andreu.

This year (1997) is the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of Tangerine Dream. This band is one of the most legendary ones within the innovative musics and has been a pioneer one in the use of synthesizers to open up new artistic paths. TD have revolutionized music by using electronic instruments to create a new kind of music, beyond the minoritary experiments in laboratories, while attracting a wide audience eager for new sensations.

Goblins Club is the most recent work by Tangerine Dream, in which the line adopted by the band in the nineties continues to be followed, although this time it enters a somewhat somber, dark path. Except for the movie soundtracks, a terrain which has appeared to be the best vehicle for the most avantgarde, revolutionary musical expression of TD during a good part of the 1990s, the rest of the works by this band can be labelled within a style very much identified with Pop, yet curiously away from Techno, the line that in a most obvious way combines Electronics with the reach to a wider audience. While stepping aside from Kraftwerk and their school in this way, TD write their own signature, unmistakable in the musical world in general, just like their two greatest electronic rivals, Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre, have likewise succeeded in doing.

Within Tangerine Dream there have existed several collectives of musicians. The most durable formation and the one that shaped the prestige of TD as a revolutionary band was the duo Froese & Franke, with the participation of Peter Baumann and Johannes Schmoelling. Since Christopher Franke left the band in 1988, the steering wheel of the band has clearly been in the hands of Edgar Froese, whose son has joined him on a permanent basis in the nineties, besides other more or less occasional musicians.

Given the recent release of Goblins Club, the authors of this article have had a chance to talk to Edgar Froese. The comments he has made in this occasion, plus those he has expressed in several press conferences, reveal different aspects about the path TD have been following since 1988.

One of the questions that generate most interest is that of the status that Jerome Froese, Edgar's son, has within the band. Jerome, who celebrates his 27th birthday this year, being younger than the band, was in the early 1970s the enigmatic child who appeared photographed as part of the surrealist collages by Froese on their album covers. The obvious pride of the father for his son, as well as his obvious wish to have him involved in his artistic projects, appear to have been fulfilled with the presence of Jerome as a member of TD. Nevertheless, it must be noted that the musical tastes of young Froese do not tend to be expressed as much in accordance with the radical ideas that shaped the reputation of the band, or those that his father reflected in his solo works. This circumstance, and the fact that he is, or has been, a fan of such artists and bands as The Cure, The Mission, Siouxie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, and Joe Satriani, just as his father admitted, suggest that the path followed in the 1990s by TD is linked to the presence of Jerome in the band, as well as the obvious need for father and son to find an intermediate terrain between their respective musical ideas, which allows them to compose together in a viable way. However, Edgar claims that their relationship within the band is a purely musical one, without allowing their family ties interfere in any way: "The fact that we both are on the same musical wavelength today is a very positive and seldom circumstance. Musically, it is certainly not a father / son relationship, but rather, we respect each other as individual composers. And without any family sentimentality. Jerome is truly a natural talent." With respect to the instruments in which Jerome focuses his attention most, his father says: "The first thing Jerome got when he was 14 was a complete drumset and he's become quite a good drummer. He was later able to transfer this drumming technique to the computer and thereby comes up with good drumming arrangements. His guitar playing could be very good - unfortunately he is missing more training, which I find kind of a pity. Keyboard is his main instrument for composing and arranging. This is the most useful support at the moment. And since he is an absolute computer freak, he sometimes comes up with totally flipped out ideas, which you'd never find in any book of music theory."

Edgar explains in this way how father and son decided to join their talents within TD: "It was quite simple. He was playing music just on his own before he joined the band, and he gave me a tape one day, just to listen, and I must say that I was pretty much astonished, because I didn't know that he had gone that far already. And so I gave him a first piece to work on, and he went better and better. And finally in 1990, he was a co-composer of a record called 'Melrose', and he did quality pieces on it, and still went on, you know, and so he's been a member of the band since then. It's a very interesting collaboration."

The place the other musicians currently have within the Tangerine Dream of today is basically oriented towards performance and to make some musical arrangements for their respective instruments. About the many musicians that have joined the band in these last years with a longer or shorter permanence, Froese explains that the reason for such a large traffic is due to the fact that TD could not function with a stable formation of musicians since each new project that Jerome and he himself undertake, be it an album or a tour, happens to be very different from the former ones, so that each one also requires different technical and artistic tasks. "So we keep choosing people internationally to colaborate with on certain productions. We simply need this freedom."

Many musicians have joined and left TD since its foundation. Their contributions have characterized certain stages in the history of the band. Christopher Franke is considered by many TD fans the most important creator of the "TD sound", apart from Froese. Franke is mostly known thanks to his elaboration of the rhythmic structure based on sequencers that, in the opinion of many fans, is the most characteristic identity trait in the music of this band. Asked about when the first time was that a sequence like those in Phaedra was played by TD, Edgar explains: "Besides guitar, I sometimes played bass guitar with the formation The Ones in 1966. Back then, we had those bizarre reverb and delays from the German company Echolette. I often played bass through this effect and I could get a sequencer effect by the doubling delay of the bass notes. Even back then, I dreamed of owning a piece of equipment which could be programmed and which could produce notes with different lengths and pitch. And it took seven years for this dream to come true."

With respect to the most recent activities by TD, Edgar comments what follows about Goblins Club: "In this work we have tried to reflect a collective view onto the Earth, as a somewhat critical description of the human race. Sometimes you fear as though there are not many true humans on Earth, as if they all are goblins, judging from the way we are treated, so this is some sort of a description of our race. On the other hand, I must say that some of the pieces in the album have a funny story, as they were composed on a plane trip."

We also asked him which his purpose was in recording new versions of old themes by TD. "When doing these remakes, with their corresponding remixes and their remastering process, we have tried to make the music sound very fresh, and with the best quality we have been able to give it. However, since these tracks come from the earliest stages of Tangerine Dream, it was quite difficult to enter the feelings and emotions of the seventies and the eighties. The atmosphere surrounding a composition is very important, and what we had in the mid seventies, in such themes as 'Stratosfear' or 'Phaedra', was different from what it is today; and so the pieces are sounding different. It is unavoidable that the style of these new versions sounds different."

When asked about the reasons why TD have been doing less movie soundtracks now that a few years ago, Edgar explains: "We decided to stop our work in this field for a while, because within ten years we did over about 64 soundtracks, mainly for American movies. And so, you can imagine, doing an average of six soundtracks each year, it costs a lot of energy, and as a composer, you put all your talent into sountracks, and there was not much time left for our studio records. And so we said, OK, we got to stop there, and move back into live activity, and studio albums and so on, you know, and that's what we did."

About the leading role of Tangerine Dream in the origins of electronic music understood as a generalized cultural movement, Froese states: "Before Tangerine Dream was founded, there existed no music similar to ours, simply because the instruments with which TD composed didn't exist then. TD are actually and factually the original of this musical direction - although many plagiarists today don't want to accept this."

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