I spot the widow of Michael Karoli pointing out his guitars to her children. “That’s dad’s guitar”… I wonder how she feels at all this.
Incendiary worship at the feet of Can - Part Two
Now, at last, it's time to wander round the reconstructed studio, which is housed in the upper galleries of the museum.
To say that Team Incendiary is blown away is an understatement. Of course something of the sort would have happened anyway, even in the most run down or badly renovated of circumstances, but to enter the studios past the famous cinema ticket booth is a truly invigorating experience. What strikes the visitor is the feeling of one-ness, the fact that the engineer is right in the thick of the action with the band. There is also a feeling of grubby bohemianism that hangs around; maybe it's the bells and bongos, or the wall hangings... I ask Rene Tinner about it.
IN: Those wall hangings, they've all got planes on Rene, why's that?
RT: Ah that's because we weren't that far away from an airforce base. Jaki's wife, or was it his girlfriend at the time - anyway, she was an artist, and she decided to paint those as a reaction, I suppose. They fitted in with the studio. You could hear the panes flying over, sometimes at low level, so I suppose it was like working at Sun studios.
IN: Do you think the studio feels the same now it's been moved?
RT: Well, you know it's pretty close... everything looks like its here! The only thing that's physically missing is a little platform, opposite the mixing desk, where Damo would "perform". We could project light on him from the old projector (behind the mix desk). And the door used to lead out onto a little enclosed garden, and obviously we can't bring that! Apart from that it's pretty much the same.
Irmin Schmidt hoves into view and we politely grab him.
IN: Irmin, You said earlier that you needed a year to record properly. Do you think bands nowadays could do the same thing?
IS: I don't know; would they want to do something like this? I really don't know about bands today. But everything's changed anyway. I have a portable studio in my laptop, so I think in some ways if you handle your surroundings properly it shouldn't matter. But these surroundings were very important to us as a band. It was our home.
IN: So how do you feel looking round Irmin?
IS: Happy! I mean, its over but it's really nice, it's a vision we've had, to "make an artwork" of the studio... here it is. It still feels inspiring looking at it. And it was very inspiring to work here. You can't separate your work, musically, from its surroundings whilst you "make" it. And we never really got bored or had difficulties over what to do next in here.
I leave Irmin and Rene to wander round their old (the sense of physical displacement must be affecting in some ways to them, surely) and chat to other figures connected with Can in some way tell of waiting around for hours till contact with the band could be made, even if that contact was urgent, "You know, they never stopped playing, for hours and hours. And I had to deliver something from German TV station, I think, and the band were very anxious to have this parcel delivered, it was a recording of a show I think. But you just couldn't go in till they'd finished. And they were playing for hours and hours. So you just sat waiting hearing this endless groove, or bass line, and they would only finish when they'd captured something together. It could drive you wild, dealing with them."
It's time to freshen up before the "party" promised later in the evening. In true German style we go to a café and feast off what seems to be half a pig (in its various processed machinations) and copious draughts of local beer. Stuffed and merry we are, on arrival at the Rock and Pop museum immediately and efficiently handed champagne. Things could turn messy if we're not careful, especially as I have found myself accosted by a very businesslike lady who turns out to be a producer of a national TV programme. Would I, as a foreign "delegate", care to say something about the influence of Can in the UK and Holland? Of course... Making a mental note to keep my hand in my pockets (so as to stop the repeated and slightly menacing attempts to force feed me champagne) I repeat to myself some tired clichés about Can, all the while watching the slightly surreal opening party.
Ah yes, the opening party. Where to begin. Firstly the place is packed with Gronau worthies, lawyers, bankers, in all probability town mayors and heads of the local board of trade. Secondly, the incidental music has plumbed new depths, the Miami Vice-isms of the afternoon being un-righteously upstaged by a god-awful instrumental melange of Five Star, the Blow Monkeys and Van Halen. No wonder Irwin looks like he's been worshipping at the altar of Bacchus as he revisits the stories he told at the press conference. A regiment of TV cameras film and computer generated visuals do whatever they are supposed to do in the background, and all the while the respectable audience sits rather baffled, but essentially respectful throughout. We are talking about Can here... hasn't anyone sussed that?
A man's hands were never designed to stay long in his trouser pockets. As a result the champagne begins to take a deleterious effect, just in time for my scheduled appearance in front of the German nation. Prompted by the producer, I gargle out a string of platitudes, mercifully stopping short, but only just, of comparing Can favourably with Beethoven. For anyone who hasn't had to talk to a television camera, and wonders what it is like, I don't recommend it. Once the ordeal is over I decide to hide in the Inner Space studio and find most "hip" delegates have done similar. It is very, very restful up here. Some shade of confident, calm authoritative creation sees that our spirits are given balm and renewed hope. I spot the widow of Michael Karoli pointing out his guitars to her children. "That's dad's guitar"... I wonder how she feels at all this.
Downstairs there a sort of jazzy band on, which scares the living hell out of me. You could be at Ronnie Scotts. Once that's over, the local worthies leave and a DJ plays lots of Can songs. At last. But why so late? Anyway it's too late to care now, everyone goes home to bed, and in the company of a charming lawyer couple (and the odd miscreant from PR) we step out to find Gronau's night life, which is surprisingly feisty. The lawyer couple admit they've never heard of Can, but were invited anyway by the museum. They do like early Roxy Music though... Politely I suggest they listen to Can and get stuck into the beer and schnapps.
What was that quote about prophets in their own land?
to find part one of this piece, click here
to look at the studio pictures, click here
Words: Richard Foster