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Rainer Wahlmann

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    Posted: July 15 2010 at 09:46
                                          Early Krautrock, Dies Irae and the Green Wave Concept Albums

Rainer Wahlmann was a founder member of the German psych/prog band Dies Irae. Formed in 1968 they released a single LP in 1971 simply entitled "First " which met with some controversy as result of Wahlmann's lyrics and he ultimately he left the band in 1972 and by 1973 the band was no more although there was a brief reunion and an attempt to reform the band in 1992. In 1975 Wahlmann along with guitarist/vocalist Marc Fournelle formed another band called Green Wave that was initially heavily influenced by American R&B, rather unusual for a German band at the time. They were exclusively a touring band playing on concert bills with the likes of Guru Guru, KRAAN and Embryo and only released  their first English language album,The Inner Garden, in 2000 which by this time contained a mixture of styles. Another double album followed in 2009 that sounded even more progressive. They are currently working on another project that will be sung in the  German language.

Both Dies Irae and Green Wave are represented here on PA. Since I wrote both of the bios with the assistance of Wahlmann I decided to ask him if he wouldn't mind doing an interview for us. He graciously did not hesitate to say certainly. So..............

VB :
 
Hi Rainer
RW
:
It's really funny,how the stories of yesterday return, whe somebody asks for them.

VB :
 First off, how did you get into music in Germany back in the 60s? How did your musical trip blast off?
RW :
 It's been a strange post-war scene that I grew up in a village near Saarbrucken.The adults always used to  keep discussing the shame of having lost another world war, at family parties, in drunken moments, the started singing their German folksongs again, that they used to sing while marching throughout Poland, Russia, holland or France and they tried to tell us kids stories about all our ( still ) enemies in the world : the French, the Russians, the English, the Americans and all the others .We kids playing in the corners of our attic or basement, found the old  nazi--propaganda books and papers our parents had forgotten to burn and we played our own war games in the back yard. Like afterthe First World War in our home region Saarland was occupied by the French and had to pay back war reparation debts in coal and steel. I had two older cousins, living in the same hous. If I remember well. theystarted messing and upsetting the whole house in the late 50s/early 60s with, what my father called American negro music : music of our "enemies". They played Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Bill Haley and others. One of my cousins saved all his money to buy an old adler motorbike and with that bike he caused some trouble as one of the first teddy-boys in our region. I was honestly impressed : this kind of weird music really disturbed the adult world so much and was able to make them really angry! My father played the guitar and healways tried to teach me the songs he used to sing. I hated those songs and as a result I never really learned to play the guitar. Later, about 1963/64, I started to listen to early British beat bands like The Searchers, The Kinks, The Animals,The Who etc. My first records were of the ( then really weird looking ) Rolling Stones and my record player got thrown out the window by my father. The war had started : I decided to to fight with music for freedom of thought and against tintolerance. With some schoolmates we began practicing. I couldn't play anything, but I thought I had something to say. I pretended to be the singer.

VB :
 Legend has it that the early Krautrock or kosmishe bands were spaced out on LSD and other mind altering drugs. The music certainly reflected that. They were pretty  "out there" when compared to American or British bands that appeared during the summer of lov of 1967-69. Bands like Guru Guru, Amon Duul and your own band were much darker and not as happy. In Germany it was more like the summer of "freakout", Could you offer some thoughts & comments.
RW :
Yes indeed, we were pretty " out there ". Different from Great Britain or American rock 'n roll and beat music had no real roots in Germany. Since the 19th century Germany has always been an authoritorian country we had no democratic tradition like other coutries. We even had to be forced to democracy by wars. Many of them Krautrock bands such as we were involved in a political process too. We tried to escape from the system of boredom people in gray, of adaptation to the modern capitalist way of life with a barely hidden fascistoid background, that' why the called us communists ( It was so easy ) we had been born as the children of the world's biggest murderers. No, of course we were not guilty - but we felt like it. Beautiful losers ( I really love that Leonard Cohen expression  ), that's what we were and, at least I think so, we still are. We were no winners, like some of them happy Californian acid freaks. We made music with a dark cloud hanging over our heads an hoped to biuld a better new world. I got influenced by the summer of love very much, but inside if me there was a lot of anger still.

VB :
With some exceptions why did most German bands sing in English? I've heard various explanations for this. Some say it was for commercial reasons while others day their music souded better in English than German. In 1980 one of the members of Grobschnitt joked that it was nice to understand what he was singing about when they wrote a few songs in German. Could you give your take on this ?
RW :
I myself never wanted to be German out of the reasons mentioned previously. I wanted to be part of a tolerant global English speaking community ( sounds rather naive when I'm looking at the crimes of globalization wowadays) In the early sixties I really considered emigrating to Holland. The German music on the radio sounded mostly like the songs my father used to sing. Childish songs with silly lyrics supposed to put everyone to sleep, so they would not notice that there are wars and riots in the streets. Even when we played the Amsterdam Melkweg I didn't agree that they wanted to anounce us as a German band. I insisted that the band came from Saarland which is I sadly have to admit meanwhile part of Germany and no autononomous country like Luxemburg or Leichenstein. Sometime in the late 90s Stefan ( VB, Green Wave's keyboard player ) suggested maybe to get a bit more commercial to sing in German. We compromised in starting a German dialect project called d' hemm in the language of our home region "Saarlandisch one of the most disliked dialects in Germany.

VB :
I'd like to talk a bit about Dies Irae because there would not have been a Green Wave had there not beeen a Dies Irae. You were banned from German radio ( with a few exceptions ) because of your anti-establishment lyrics and this contributed to the end of the band. Youactually wanted the lyrics printed of the one and only Dies Irae album "First" that was released in 1971. Could you be specific on what it was that really ticked people off about your lyrics because personally I thought they were pretty cool when I first got a hold of the album in 1977.
RW:
A part of the answer already lies in your question. You are Canadian with a long liberal tradition behind you, since the early days of rock the English speaking world got used step by step to lyrics dealing with sex & drugs by hearing songs they understood immediately what was meant. On German radios you could hear songs with sex & drugs lyrics as well, but not too many understood the lyrics and the songs came as chart hits from the US or Great Britain. The late 60s/early 70sin Germany were determined by a yellow-press caused McArthy-like persecution complex for sex addicted drug-taking-long haired communist ( sometimes ) street fighting musicians. I guess, if I had not insisted on printing the lyrics on the cover no one would have taken any notice of the lyrics at all. But I desparately believed in what I said then and I wanted to be understood, so it happened that way. I found it somewhat ridiculous to imagine that some people thought that we were a threat to society even if I hoped we were! Georg Kreisler, a very famous Austrian singer once sang "but the world even shoots sparrows with cannonballs" I felt a bit like a sparrow then.

VB :

You're a big fan of British punk and new wave bands. Would you consider Dies Irae an early incarnation of punk?
RW:
Yes, I felt like a punk ( and I still do ) even if it started years later. I tried to be different in many a way I had benn listening to many groups then that had kind of a punk spirit. So I liked The Pretty Things, Downliner's Sect, MC5, The Electric Prunes, Iggy & The Stooges and many others. Even The Rolling Stones were rather punky in the beginning and I adored the work of Bob Geldof in the late 70s and what he politically achieved with music worldwide.

VB :

We have to talk about the "Trip" video. It gets thousands of hits on youtube. What made you go out to an excavation site and go crazy. Were you "tripped" out on something and decided let's go out to the sand pit and film ourselves going crazy or was it though out ? It blew my mind when I first saw it and everybody I show it to freaks right out. Could you tell us how and why it was made and where it was shown back in 1971 and what the heck is it supposed to mean??
RW :
The location where we filmed it has a WWII military background. It had been a drilling area for soldiers, SS and police during the war. Nearby, about 1km away, there had been a concentration camp. At that time they had just started to remove the remnants to build up an industrial area. The only "plan" for the movie was : the war is over and crazy long haired hippies desecrate "this holyground". Th television crew had no idea what they should do with us so Bonny our "natural high" drummer suggested that the camera man should bind his camera to his hand and shake it all around to make it more psychdelic. To make it even more freaky we entered the bus. I had found a plant that had got removed by one of those catepillars ( VB' excavation machines ) and we planted in the sand and watered it to let it grow again ( maybe this was the beginning of the Green Wave idea ). I had smoked a joint before filming but it was stronger than I thought. Unfortunately the guitar player was only a substitute for Harald Thoma and like I told you before for that reason and for Jo Schiff's grimacing I didn't like the video too much.

VB :
Now Green Wave. Why the name Green Wave and how did the band get started?
RW :
In !975 our California guitar player Bernard Ayling suggested to give us the German name Grune Welle which means that all the streetlights should turn green when you're in a hurry. My then girlfriend didn' like this German name so she suggested "Green Wave" and I as a real friend of nature prefered the idea that a greeen wave is necessary to prevent this world from drowning into a sea of grey So we had the green in our name. I believe 3 years before the German environmental party "The Greens" started. With the somewhat arrogant slogan " The Last Rock Band Before The Border " we enentered the scene and played  a lot of late hippie festivals and left wing parties.

VB :
Green Wave was a live band for almost 15 years before you even recorded your first album in 1999. This is rather unusual and I never heard of it before before I started researching Dies Irae for Progarchives in 2006.Could you briefly tell us why it took so long to produce an album. 
RW :
When I left Dies Irae in 1972 I felt deeply frustrated as well by music industry as by my former musicians. Most of the people who I thought were my real friends turned out to be real fans and followe the still performing group for one more year. With Green Wave my only wish was to build up a band os friends not caring about the commercial thing. So we did played live gigs all the time and loved it. Fact was also and till today is same like in the Dies Irae days in our home region of Saarland there is no kind of music business at all. To be noticed you had to leave for the big towns like Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg. We made some efforts to interest some major companies and played some big towns, but muicians came and went and so we finally decided to save all our money to build up our own independent recording studio and do whatever we wanted to do. !999 I finally thought we were ready to record a CD so we started our independant recording and producing. Looking back I must admit. I was never quite aware how fast the years had been passing by.

VB :

When you finally did record the Inner Garden which was the second part of a trilogy entitled " Green Days On A Blue Planet " that began with the rock opera "We Used To Cut The Green Grass " I was a bit confused because I heard the double CD " We Used To Cut THe Green Grass The War Is Over" first. Why didn't you just record the three parts in order?
RW :
At the time we decided to record our first CD we had been playing " We Used To Cut The Green Grass " live with changing musicians for about 9 years and the songs did not excite us very much anymore. We had raw  material and fresh songs ready for "The Inner Garden " Part II and though it would be much more exciting to start with the songs we never played live before and so it went. With the death of our drummer Hans-Gerd Schafer it took us 10 years more till we finally recorded parts I & III. First time in my life I had realized that" time waits for no one".

VB :

How did the whole concept evolve? Did it take form in your head or was it based on something in real life? Why did you choose Great Britain and Spain as the settings for the trilogy? While listening to the last part "The War Is Over" I found that some of it could have been interpreted as the state of gErmany after the second world war. Wer you thinking about this or is the trilogy a completely fictional story?
RW :
I the early 90s I read an article about how they set free genetic mutated bacteria into the Californian atmosphere in order to change the climate for their strawberry harvest in the environmental magazine Nature. The bacteria delayed the forming of ice crystals in the clouds what meant a lot of money could be saved. I swear I'm not joking this was and still is the true story. This was the basic idea in my head, the rest took time to develop.I chose Great Britain's sellafield as one of the greatest senseless symbols for nuclear pwer in the world. Still I strongly believe we'd be better off without such an indomitable energy.I was so glad to see the Sellafield cooling towers fall some years ago on youtube ( I saw the movie ) because I had been hitchin' through that part of Great Britain in my youth and walking through the lake district for one week following the paths of some great British poets. By the way I love that Shelley poem you chose for the biography. I'v also been travelling through the Spanish part of the story, the Costa Verde, and the landscape of the Picos de Europa, a beautiful place to start anew. The war is over impression you get sure is not limited to Germany after the war, it is the same all over the world. Too many people have died, life goes on, the soldiers are forgotten and pretty soon there are new soldiers marching through the streets and people shout hooray! f**k it!

VB :
How would you categorize the music of Green Wave today? Alternative? Progressive? There's a lot of influences that can be heard from The Talking Heads to Pink Floyd,
RW :
I declare every musician who's not satisfied with the way the human race behaved towars the planet in the last decades is my friend even if he doesn't know me or likes me at all. If you've been listening to to rock music for about nearly 50 years there's a lot of fantastic bands, musicians, melodies and lyrics floating through your head. I guess we got influenced by all the bands we liked. I don't know exactly how to categorize our music. I like the true sense of alternative, but in the end I like to say it's simply music, you have hear it and feel it to see if you really like it.

VB :
Stephan Richter, the keyboard player, writes all the music and you write all the lyrics. You interact very well. The music is very descriptive of the lyrics. Could you reflect on this close knit creative process.
RW :
Srephan and me that's a real long time companionship, everytime we meet in the rehearsal room or in the studio something new gets on the way, we share a similar point of view on music, politics and life in general. But to put it right, on "The War Is Over" there are also a lot of ideas from Sven Gross and all the others on the team. Sven and the others had not yet been members of GEMA, the German royalties society so we had our separate way to deal with that. Some of the brand new material that we're working on at the moment is written by one of the guitar players Daniel Minnerath.

VB :
Where did you find that hot lady, Andrea Bettinger who does female vocals on a couple of tracks on both albums and appears in the Hope video from The Inner Graden? She's got a very unusual voice that complements your own unique voice.
RW :
I always went crazy about Andrea's voice every time I heard her. so when we started writing songs for  "We Used To Cut The Green Grass" I asked her the first time to take over some vocal parts in a our songs, but she was tooobusy with other projects. Second time I asked her was with "The Inner Garden ". You can hear her on Hope and Morvan. Since then she is with us on every project as guest singer . She's really great and you're right, we fit together pretty well.

VB :
Any last words. What does the future hold for Green Wave and what's the best way to obtain your music which has been independently released on the Leico label ?
RW :
We hope to get our new video " Let's Make Up & Be Friendly" finished until autumn. Marc Fournelle guitarist from our first lineup in 1975 who's living now in France  is probably bound to return as gig manager so we hope to play som gigs over there in France pretty soon. New song material is already on the way. We plan to get the new CD ready in 2011 we really are independant. Sometimes that's the problem and no solution at all because it means it's not easy to get our music or CDs but if you get them you can be sure that we sent it ourselves. At the moment you can order the CDs via our German label www.leico.de and you can hear our music on our myspace www.myspace.com/greenwavesaaor onthe US internet radio www.imradio.com
Last word? If you're not ready to fight for peace, then forget it.


                                    



Edited by Vibrationbaby - July 16 2010 at 14:23
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote memowakeman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2010 at 14:35

Though I have to admit that both, Dies Irae and Green Wave are still unknown to me, I really enjoyed reading this great, informative and sincere interview.

Great job VibrationBaby, thanks!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toroddfuglesteg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 16 2010 at 16:04
An excellent addition to our collection of great interviews. Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vibrationbaby Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 22 2010 at 13:57
Many more to come. I love talking to these guys.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rfears Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 02 2011 at 20:12
Its great to see Rainer getting recognition outside the Saarland. I was a drummer in Dies Irae when it was still an unknown Saarland rock band, and I still reckon the main guitar riff in "The Trip" was invented by Harald during the practice session after Hendrix died, in some basement somewhere. I also remember the midwinter trip to Heiligenwald in the Speergebiet where my drums fell off the stage and I signed my drumsticks for the fans. Heiligenwald very loosely translates as Hol(l)ywood ...

I was also drummer in the band Frisco Fire with Bernard and Randall Ayling, also in the Saarland at about the same time (late '60s) 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vibrationbaby Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 03 2011 at 13:23
I would let God cut my both arms off to spaek persoally with RAINER. Thank-You so much for the comment. A great man he is. And will check out these bands as well.
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